Vendakkai - Ladies Finger / Okra; or Bhindi is one vegetable that is available throughout the year. It is very delicious and nutritious. Grandma used to feed us saying "Vendakkai sappittal Kanakku (Maths) varum" - meaning that it helps us remember numbers (calculations).
Though it originated in Africa, it is now an integral part of the Indian Cuisine. Be it as a Kadhi or Kuzhambu, Fry or Pachadi.
Amma grinds the sambhar powder with water, to simulate the fresh ground masala of the good old days. It does make a difference.
Ladies Finger - 250 grams, cut into 1.5" lengths
Onion - 1, chopped (optional)
Tomato - 2, chopped
Tur Dal - 1/4 cup
Oil - 2 - 3 Tbsp
Mustard - 1/4 tsp
Urad Dal - 1/4 tsp
Dry Red Chilli - 1, broken
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Sambhar Powder - 1.5 tsp (to taste)
Tamarind Paste - to taste (2 - 3 tsp)
Pressure cook Dal in 1 cup water with a pinch of turmeric powder and 1/4 tsp oil, for 4 whistles. Allow pressure to subside and then open cooker. Mash the cooked dal using a wire whisk.
Make a thick paste of the sambhar powder using little water. Whisk for a minute and keep aside.
Mix 1/2 tsp tamarind paste and some salt on the cut Ladies Finger and keep aside for 10 minutes.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a shallow pan and tip in the Ladies Finger pieces. Shallow fry, stirring frequently until dry. Keep aside.
Heat 2 Tbsp oil and splutter mustard seeds. Then add urad. When it changes colour, add asafoetida, curry leaves and red chilli.
Immediately, add onions and saute. As soon as the onions turns pink, add the tomatoes and sambhar powder mix. Saute till the tomatoes turn pulpy and masala is fragrant.
Mix in the fried Ladies Finger gently, taking care to not break the cooked vegetable. Saute for 2 minutes and then add the tamarind extract and water (1 - 2 cups). Taste the gravy at this stage, and adjust the spice level as needed.
Bring it to a boil and simmer cook until gravy thickens. Add mashed dal and simmer for another 3 - 4 minutes. Spoon over a teaspoon of oil and take off heat.
Garnish with freshly chopped corriander leaves.
Serve hot with Rice and Poriyal.