Mamta's Kitchen

Shallot or Small Onions Bhaji/Sabji With Coconut

Pyaz ki Sabji

Mamta Gupta

I had this simple dish at a south Indian restaurant. I loved it and having never come across it in north India where I come from, I decided to give it a try. I have added the dals in tarka, along with mustard seeds and curry leaves, which the original dish did not have. In the restaurant, it was made with red onions but I have made it here with shallots, which have much better flavour.

Shallots, though members of the same family as onions and garlic, look and taste different, they have a stronger flavour. They are long, rather than round, unlike onions (see picture). They have a reddish colour, not unlike the Indian red onion. When peeled, their bulb often divides into two halves, again, not unlike Indian red onions. Their stronger flavour suits this dish, because there is no other vegetable in it.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Edited September 2023


  • 500 gm. shallots or red onions

  • 2 tbsp. oil

  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp. skinless chana dal (Bengal gram)

  • 1 tsp. skinless urad dal (black gram)

  • 2 hands of curry leaves (about 20 leaves)

  • 1/4 tsp. or a large pinch of asafoetida (hing)

  • 2 tsp. curry powder

  • 1 level tsp. turmeric powder

  • Salt to taste.

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. jaggery or gur, grated. You can use dark brown sugar like muscovado sugar instead.

  • 2 full tbsp. tamarind pulp (you can buy ready pulp or make it by soaking, mashing and straining the whole ripe tamarind which has been soaked for an hour or so)

  • 2 tsp. ground poppy seeds (it is worth keeping a small jar of ground poppy seeds to add to some rich curries)

  • 3 tbsp. fresh grated coconut (or use desiccated coconut)

  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped


  1. Top and tail and peel shallots. Halve if too large.

  2. Soak tamarind in water for 10-15 minutes. Extract juice, keep aside.

  3. If using fresh coconut, grind it to a fine paste with poppy seeds and a tablespoon or two of water. If using desiccated coconut, soak it with poppy seeds in a couple of tablespoons of warm water. This will soften up the coconut.

  4. Heat oil in a wok or karahi.

  5. Add mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering/jumping, add curry leaves, asafoetida and stir for 5-10 seconds. If leaves are wet, keep a lid handy to cover, to avoid burning yourself from splashing oil.

  6. Add the dals and stir fry until light brown.

  7. Add shallots, curry powder, turmeric and salt. Stir everything in.

  8. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes on medium heat, stirring from time to time. The shallots will soften, turn translucent and soft.

  9. Add jaggery and strain in tamarind extract on top. Stir these in and cook covered on low heat for a further10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

  10. Stir in coconut/poppy seeds paste. If shallots look dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. The finished dish should have a clingy gravy. Cook for few a couple more minutes.

  11. Turn heat off, transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with coriander leaves.

  12. Serve with fresh Chapatties or Plain Paratha or as part of any Indian meal.


  • You can add a few green chillies or sliced red chillies or capsicum for colour.

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