We just got back from another fabulous trip to Kerala and as ever, the best part about visiting Cochin is always the delicious home cooked food. Ordinary vegetables like Bhindi and Cabbage are transformed into flavourful, textural delights. Over the next few days we will share some of the things that we learnt from NC Ponnamma (Tanul’s lovely Mother-In-Law), starting with Vendakka Theeyal (Okra in Coconut and Tamarind Gravy). Vendakka Theeyal is a luscious coconut based Okra dish which is fantastic to see because Okra so rarely fares well in gravies, unless perfectly prepared.
250g Okra, washed and patted completely dry before slicing
8 to 10 Sambar Onions (Pearl Onions)
1 Gundu Chili (Small round dried red chilis)
1/2 cup grated Coconut
1/2 inch of Tamarind, soaked
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp grated Jaggery (or less if you prefer)
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder
1 tsp of Coriander Powder
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
5 to 6 Curry Leaves
Oil for frying (Coconut oil if you prefer the authentic taste)
Slice about 4 to 5 of the small onions. Heat oil in a kadhai (wok) and add the onions. Fry them on a medium flame till they start turning browning. Now add the grated coconut and fry it till the coconut starts to turn a mild shade of brown (you need to stir intermittently).
Add the red chili powder and the coriander powder to this and stir well. Cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes, till the spices are cooked. Take it off the heat and wait for it cool.
You can use either a frying pan or a kadhai for the next step. Chop the okra into thick slices. Take about 3 to 4 onions and roughly chop them. Now heat some oil in the frying pan and add the okra slices and onions and fry them till they are slightly crisp.
Squeeze the tamarind into the water it’s been soaking in and strain the liquid if needed.
In a small pot, add the tamarind water, turmeric powder and grated jaggery. The grated jaggery helps cut the sourness of the tamarind. Put this on a low flame and let it come to a boil.
In the meanwhile, make a smooth paste of the coconut and onion mix and add it to the tamarind water, stir well and bring to a boil.
To this add the fried okra and let it simmer for a few minutes.
Chop the remaining onions. To temper, heat a little oil, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds crackle add the chopped onions and the red chilli. Pour this over the okra.
Serve with hot rice or fresh chapatis.