Plain Salna – a delicious street-side dish from Tamil Nadu made with onion, tomato and a few basic pantry staples. This vegan and gluten free plain salna recipe is simple to make and it is a best side dish for parotta, Idli, dosa and idiyappam.
Plain salna is neither a curry nor a korma but a kind of onion tomato based thin gravy. This south Indian dish is also called by various names - plain salna, empty salna, tomato salna, parotta salna, empty salna or chalna. Plain salna recipe is quite easy to make with pantry staples 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.
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.
Vegetables: onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, coriander.
Liquid: oil and water.
How to make salna?
Heat oil in a pan, once oil is hot, add whole garam masala - fennel seeds, cumin, star anise, cardamom, cloves and cassia. Saute for a 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 the coconut and let it cool completely.
Grind the mixture to a smooth paste.
Heat oil in the same pan, once hot add curry leaves and fry for a 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 indicate the parotta salna is cooked well.
Finish off with coriander leaves.
Serve delicious and aromatic street style empty salna with parotta, dosa or any main dish of your choice.
Variations and Substitutions
You may swap cashews with roasted gram dal or peanuts.
If you like your gravy to have some texture rather than smooth, then grind half the tomatoes and cook the rest of them in oil before you add the ground paste and dry spices.
Fresh ginger garlic could be replaced with pre made ginger garlic paste.
Add boiled vegetables such as potato, peas, carrot and beans, and transform it into a vegetable salna.
You could add a little bit of garam masala powder to enhance the taste.
Desiccated coconut can be substituted with freshly grated/frozen coconut in this plain salna recipe. 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.
Serve it with parotta. A glass of masala lassi, parotta and salna makes a complete meal.
This gravy tastes equally good with idli, dosa, idiyappam and chapati.
Tips and Tricks
Adjust the spices to suit your taste preference.
Ensure to grind the onion-tomato and spice mixture to a smooth paste.
Fridge: This empty salna keeps good for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Reheat: Place the curry in a heat proof container and reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop until piping hot.
Yes, you can freeze left-over salna. Divide and freeze gravy in portions, thaw each portion and reheat when required. Divide the leftovers into portions and place each portion in a freezer safe container.
Store the containers in the freezer. Use them up within 3 months. This makes a stress-free weekday freezer-friendly meal on busy days.
Absolutely you can. In fact, storing ground masala not only cuts down prep and cooking time but saves freezer space as well compared to saving the salna curry. With frozen salna, you don't need to cook at all but the only downside is that it occupies a lot more freezer space.
Freeze the ground paste in portions and use each portion as required. You can either freeze ground masala paste in an ice cube tray or wrap individual portions of suitable size with freezer-safe cling wrap and store them in 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.
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📖 Recipe Card
1 Cup = 250ml ; 1 Tablespoon = 15ml ; 1 Teaspoon = 5ml
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Fennel
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin
- ½ inch Cassia ( Dalchini)
- 1 Green Cardamom
- 2 Cloves
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Cup (or) 150 gms (or) 2 medium Onions cubed
- 5-6 Cashews
- ½ inch Ginger washed, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled
- 1.5 cups (or) 228 gms Tomato 3 medium, cubed
- 3 Tablespoons Desiccated Coconut
- few Curry leaves
- ¼ Teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 Teaspoon Chilli powder
- ½ Teaspoon Coriander powder
- Salt as required
- 1 Cup Water
- handful Coriander Leaves finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- In a deep bottomed pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat.1 Tablespoon Oil
- 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.1 Teaspoon Fennel, 1 Teaspoon Cumin, ½ inch Cassia ( Dalchini), 1 Green Cardamom, 1 Star Anise, 2 Cloves
- Add onions followed by ginger, garlic and cashews. Saute and cook for 5 minutes or until onions turn soft.5-6 Cashews, ½ inch Ginger, 2 cloves Garlic, 1 Cup (or) 150 gms (or) 2 medium Onions
- 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.1.5 cups (or) 228 gms Tomato
- Turn off the heat, add desiccated coconut and allow it to cool down to room temperature.3 Tablespoons Desiccated Coconut
- Transfer cooked onion-tomato mixture to blender and grind until smooth. You may add little water while grinding.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan over medium-low heat.1 Tablespoon Oil
- Once the oil is hot, add curry leaves and saute for few seconds.few Curry leaves
- Now add the ground paste followed by turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, salt. Mix until spices are well blended with the ground paste.¼ Teaspoon Turmeric, 1 Teaspoon Chilli powder, ½ Teaspoon Coriander powder, Salt
- Add water and mix until well combined.1 Cup Water
- 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.handful Coriander Leaves
- Serve piping hot plain salna with parotta, idli or dosa.
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Welcome to Flavours Treat. I share vegetarian recipes made with wholesome, mostly fresh ingredients. Every recipe has easy-to-follow instructions with process shots (detailed step-wise pictures), a short video and lots of tips to help your cooking journey. Read more