Plain Salna – a delicious street-side dish from Tamil Nadu made with onion, tomato and few basic pantry staples. Popularly known as parotta salna or empty salna that gets ready in less than 30 minutes and makes a great side-dish to go with parotta, Idli, dosa and idiyappam. Flavourful salna is extremely easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious and addictive. Once you taste it you are sure to love it and it makes a regular appearance in your meals.
As always, you will find the full ingredients list with measurements and detailed recipe instructions in a separate recipe box. To bypass the text section choose “SCROLL TO RECIPE” or “PRINT RECIPE” or click the “SCROLL TO VIDEO” option to watch the full video of this recipe. All options are located at the beginning of the post.
Plain salna is neither a curry nor a korma but a kind of onion-tomato based thin gravy. It is also called with various names – plain salna, empty salna, tomato salna, chalna. In hotels and road-side stalls, big buckets of salna are kept on a table. People pour a couple of ladles of gravy over shredded parotta/dosa so that the main dish is submerged and soaked completely. Unlike Tomato Kurma or Bombay Chutney, this is not a typical side dish that one uses as a dip rather it is meant to be poured over whatever dish you choose to eat it with.
Parotta Salna recipe variations
You may swap cashews with roasted gram dal or peanuts.
Desiccated coconut can be substituted with freshly grated or frozen coconut.
If you like your gravy to have some texture rather than smooth, then grind half tomatoes and cook rest of them in oil before you add the ground paste and dry spices.
Watch how to make plain salna
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How to serve plain salna?
Serve it with parotta. A glass of Masala Lassi, parotta and salna makes a complete meal.
This gravy tastes equally good with idly, dosa, idiyappam and chapati.
As it’s a plain gravy kind of dish, it tastes great with pulao and biryani.
Can I freeze leftover salna?
Absolutely! you can freeze left-over salna. Alternatively, make a big batch of plain salna, divide into appropriate portions and freeze. Use each portion when required. This makes a stress-free weekday freezer-friendly meals. You can freeze it in two ways:
Freeze the ground paste in portions and use each portion as required. You can either freeze ground masala paste in ice cube tray or wrap individual portions of suitable size with freezer-safe cling flim and store in a freezer bags or containers. It stays good for up to 3 months. Take out each portion and thaw in the fridge the night before you plan to make this dish. This method not only saves freezer-space but cut down prep and cooking time.
Alternatively, freeze gravy in portions, thaw each portion and reheat when required. Once the gravy is cooled down to room temperature, divide into portions in a container and store in the freezer. Use them up within 3 months. You don’t need to cook at all but the only down-side is that it occupies a lot more freezer space.
Nuts, Dry and Whole Spices: cumin, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, cloves, cassia (dalchini), turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder (ground coriander), desiccated coconut, cashews.
Vegetables: onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, coriander.
Liquid: oil and water.
Heat oil in a pan, once hot add fennel seeds, cumin, star anise, cardamom, cloves and cassia. Saute for few seconds until aromatic.
Now add onion, ginger, garlic, cashews and cook until onions turn soft.
Add tomato and cook until it starts to soften.
Turn off the heat, stir in coconut and let it cool completely.
Grind the mixture to smooth paste.
Heat oil in the same pan, once hot add curry leaves and fry for few seconds.
Now add the masala paste, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander powder, salt and mix well.
Add water, mix well, close the pan with a lid and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
The oil specs on top of the gravy indicates the parotta salna is cooked well.
Finish off with coriander leaves.
Serve delicious and aromatic empty salna with parotta, dosa or any main dish of your choice.
Adjust the spices to suit your taste preference.
Desiccated coconut can be substituted with freshly grated/frozen coconut. Thaw frozen coconut as per instructions on the packet and then use it. Cook fresh/frozen coconut for a couple of minutes. It is not necessary to cook desiccated coconut so I’ve added it at the end.
Ensure to grind the onion-tomato and spice mixture to a smooth paste.
This empty salna keeps good for up to 3 days in the fridge.
More South Indian Stree-Side Food Recipes
1 cup = 250ml ; 1 tbsp = 15ml
- 2 tbsp Oil
- 1 tsp Fennel
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 inch Cassia ( Dalchini)
- 1 Cardamom
- 2 Cloves
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 cup (150 gms) Onion 2 medium, cubed
- 5-6 Cashews
- 1/2 inch Ginger washed, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled
- 1.5 cups (228 gms) Tomato 3 medium, cubed
- 3 tbsp Desiccated Coconut
- few Curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric
- 1 tsp Chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp Coriander powder
- as required Salt
- 1 cup Water
- handful Coriander Leaves finely chopped
- Before you get started, scroll up a little and watch a quick recipe video.
- Check the notes at the bottom of the recipe for extra info and help.
- In a deep bottomed pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add fennel seeds followed by cumin, star anise, cassia (dalchini), cloves, and cardamom. Saute for few seconds until spices are aromatic.
- Add onions followed by ginger, garlic and cashews. Saute and cook for 5 minutes or until onions turn soft.
- Now add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or until tomatoes start to soften. You need not cook until tomatoes are mushy as we grind it anyways.
- Turn off the heat, add desiccated coconut and allow it to cool down to room temperature.
- Transfer cooked onion-tomato mixture to blender and grind until smooth. You may add little water while grinding.
- Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in the same pan over medium-low heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add curry leaves and saute for few seconds.
- Now add the ground paste followed by turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, salt. Mix until spices are well blended with the ground paste.
- Add water and mix until well combined.
- Close the lid and simmer for 10-12 minutes until gravy reach desired consistency and oil specs are formed on top.
- Take the lid off the skillet, mix in coriander and turn off the heat.
- Serve piping hot plain salna with parotta, idli or dosa.
More South Indian Side-Dishes
Do let me know if you try this tasty plain salna recipe. I love to get feedback from readers.