Wednesday, June 04, 2014

How to Make An Authentic Pappucharu

Several years ago, I caught my aunt taking down a recipe from my grandmother. What recipe are you discussing, I asked my aunt. Pappucharu, she replied, with a slightly embarrassed giggle, and I burst out laughing. This thin stew-like concoction is a staple in Telugu homes. By then my aunt had been running her own household for almost 20 years and I found it funny that she had not picked up this basic dish.

Soon enough, I didn’t find it so funny. I found myself in the same position.

Worse, my attempts to make pappucharu were turning it into sambar or sambar-like affairs. Many of you know I am no fan of sambar though I acknowledge its convenience. I love pappucharu, though, all the more so because it remained elusive to me all these years. No amount of advice that it’s sambar without as much dal and sambar powder could help me get it right.

So when I went home to my parents recently for vacation, I pinned the cook down, notebook and camera in tow, and learnt how to make it.

 So here’s a classic recipe, to serve six

Toor dal: 1 teacup
Tomatoes: 2, quartered
Green chilli: 1
Garlic: 8 cloves, peeled, crushed
Onions: 4 (2 chopped and 2 peeled, halved or quartered. If small, use one more and leave it whole after peeling it)
Tamarind: 4-5 1-inch pieces, soaked and juice extracted
Salt – to taste (our cook used about 2 tsp of crystal salt)
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Sambaar Kaaram (this is not sambar podi – use red chilli powder if you don’t have this) – 2 tsp

Red chillies – 2-3
Mustard seed: ½ tsp
Cumin/Jeera: ½ tsp
Gingelly oil: 3-4 tsp
Curry leaves – a sprig


1. Pressure cook the toor dal with 1.5 teacups of water, the turmeric and cool and mash it well. Add the sambaar kaaram as you are mashing it. Add some water if you have to make it easier to mash.

 2. Heat the oil and pop the mustard and cumin. Add the red chillies and the curry leaves.

 3. Fry the onion and garlic.

 4. Now add the rest of the onions, tomato, green chilli, salt and 1.5-2 cups of water. It has to boil really well.

 5. Once it has boiled for 15-20 minutes, add the tamarind extract and boil for a little longer.

 6. Add the dal now and add some more water till it’s as thin as you want it to be. Boil for about 20 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.


It needs a lot of boiling for all the flavors to meld.

Add other vegetables if you like at stage 4. I added some recently and I did not like the result though the Spouse did. I am going to stick to this barebones version for a while.

 I don’t dare make an all pressure-cooker version till I master this version.

For the differences between chaaru, pappucharu and sambar, see the comments section of this post. Also, our cook tells me that the composition of the sambaar kaaram and sambar powder is quite different, which makes pappucharu and sambar very different from each other. No chana dal and toor dal are used in the former.

Here is a pappucharu attempt I made earlier.

 I am sending this off to My Legume Love Affair, now managed by Lisa, and created and hosted this month by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.



  1. Looks so very appealing. I heard the term pappu charu but was never sure what it was. Also I always thought that dal preparations in southern India are always some form of sambhar. Thanks for that clarification. Going to make this soon

    1. It was your question that prompted me to explain the differences in an older post as well, which I linked to in this post. We have a host of dals too (not stew/soup) which are nothing like pappucharu or sambar.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! Let me know if you try it.

  3. I always thought that pappu charu was plain, mashed tuar dal, Sra.

    1. That is muddapappu, Jay! Anything charu is liquid.

  4. Hi, Nice to go thru this post. The title prompted me to view and I spent quite a long time, going thru ur older posts. I agree that such discussions and queries alone can bring some clarity after confusion to people like us who opt to blog. We can research on "rasam/charu/saathumadhu".
    I think we shd have a separate blogspot for RASAM. I am going to try Pappucharu. Recently we
    (sisters) are into trying Vysyas cuisine. Foremost was this Charu. My childhood friend gave me recipe for chaaru-podi and how to prepare charu with that. It had no dal or tomato. If you are familiar with Goddu rasam-it was that sought. But was sooo yummy. Then we asked for pappucharu, but she told their authentic charu is prepared without dal and tomato. Now after seeing ur post I am convinced. Munagakadala charu of Gayathri vantillu is popular in our home.
    I will try pappu charu with onion now.Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Hema, thanks for the detailed and involved feedback, it's very nice to receive such comments. I have only heard of goddu rasam. In our home, miriyala charu is made without dal or tomato. Maybe I should attempt that next. I just went and had a look at your blog,

  5. I thought pappu charu is dal cooked with tomato and garlic. someone on the web told me that long back. love this simple recipe and another eye opener is the sambar karam. so many new things to learn and explore.

  6. Sayantani, we have a separate body of dal. That is called pappu or tomato pappu/gongura pappu - takes the name of whatever vegetable is added to it. It is thick, not liquid.

  7. Sra,
    I just made this for lunch. Am in the process of taking pictures, but couldn't help tasting a big spoonful and I must thank you for sharing this, a very different and welcome alternative to my regular sambhar. I have a podi that is nearly as this from the in-laws side that they use in their coconut milk based gravies. i chose to make your sambhar kaaram in reduced quantities. I am going to try the 'more vegetables in it version sometime', for today it was this barebones one.

    1. Yay! I am so thrilled you tried it. Please send me a picture, I will broadcast it all over! I remember long ago you made my tomato pappu too! Thanks!

  8. Interesting, I've never tried this, but your description has me intrigued !!. Bookmarked, hope to try it soon :)

    1. Let me know what you thought after you made it, Usha!

  9. I was rereading this post and noticed that sambar kaaram is NOT sambar podi! Do you have a recipe for sambar kaaram? I would like to make this simple dal. Post the link on Twitter! :-)

    Just the other day we were having a discussion how making "sada varan" is also an art - I though it was just well mashed tuvar with some hing, turmeric, and a pinch of sugar! Yet, not everyone gets it right!

    1. - the link is in the recipe, Anita, it's not highlighted brightly enough, I guess. My gran would pronounce it as sumbaar kaaram, which sounds rather different from sambar, which, I read, comes from Sambhaji the Maratha king who ruled Tanjore.

      When we made sada varan, it's just well mashed tuvar with salt. Ghee and mango pickle mixed with that and rice is a great combination!

  10. These dal-based soups are among the best soul-soothers on the planet. Never mind that I just barely get the difference between sambar and rasam. ; } Shall add your previous post to my research to help enlighten me.

    Thanks, Sra, for your MLLA recipe.


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