Vendakka Puli (Okra in Tangy Tamarind Gravy)

In the North of India, dal (boiled lentils) is a must for every meal, whether it is rice or roti. In the South also, one dish for the meal must contain dal. The other dish, invariably, will be spicy and tangy complementing the bland and sober dal. Puli means tamarind in Malayalam and Tamizh. Puli / tangy taste of the tamarind is the main character of this gravy. Everyone at home loves this dish. 

Ingredients:
Okra / Ladies Finger / Vendakka – 200 gm
Tamarind – one big gooseberry size ball
Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
Water – 1 cup, adjust as needed
Turmeric a pinch
Salt to taste

For Roasting and Grinding:
Shallots – 6 – 8
Coriander seeds – 1-1/2 tsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Dry red chilies – 5 – 6
Coconut oil – 1 tsp
Water – 1/2 cup

For Seasoning:
Coconut oil – 1 tsp
mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves – 4

Method:
Wash, clean, and pat dry the okra. Remove the edges. Cut horizontally into small pieces.

Heat an iron wok, add half a teaspoon of oil to it. Put the okra pieces into the wok and stir occasionally and fry until the stickiness disappears. Keep aside.

In the same iron wok, add half a teaspoon of oil, coriander seeds and dry red chilies. Stir and roast until the raw smell of coriander seeds goes away. Add peeled shallots and grated coconut and roast for 2-3 mins. Remove to a plate and let this cool.

Meanwhile, take a cooking pot (stone is ideal as this is a tamarind gravy) and add a cup of water in it. Add the tamarind to this water and dissolve the tamarind in this. Strain and retain only the water and discard the tamarind pulp.

Now heat the cooking pot with the tamarind water in it and add the stir fried okras to this tamarind water. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and salt.

While that cooks, grind the roasted ingredients (coriander seeds, dry red chilies, grated coconut, and shallots) in a mixer to a smooth paste. You may add small quantities of water to make the paste.

When the okras get cooked in the tamarind water, add the ground paste to the cooking pot and bring it to boil. Let this boil for 3-5 mins.

Add half a teaspoon of jaggery powder to this to balance the tart of the tamarind.

In a pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and add mustard seeds to it. Let it splutter. Add curry leaves and then pour this mixture on the boiling gravy. Mix well. Taste and adjust the salt and tamarind if required. Tangy spicy vendakka puli is ready to be served with rice.

Notes: You may add asafetida, fenugreek seeds, and / or garlic along with the ingredients while roasting.

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