August 9, 2010

Vendakkai Vathakkinathu (Indian Style Stir-fried Okra)

here are many dishes in our traditional Palakkad Iyer cuisine which require some time and effort to make, but most of the dishes which feature in our everyday cooking do not require much time to put together.These dishes usually also require a minimal use of spices allowing the flavour and taste of the fresh vegetables to really come through.

Today’s post features one such dish. As the name suggests, Vendakkai (meaning okra) Vadakkinathu (meaning stir-fried) is stir-fried salted and lightly spiced okra. In India, okra is more commonly known as “ladiesfinger”, probably because of its long, slim and pointed shape.

Okra never used to be one of my favourite vegetables because the first came to mind when one thought of it was “slime”! Somehow, it also seemed that the short and very dark green variety of okra we used to get in Africa in those days, where we spent a large part of my childhood, seemed to have more than its fair share of that awful stuff.

The lighter green variety of okra that is locally available here is not as slimy and, in my opinion, much tastier. Of course, this variety is seasonal and what we get throughout the year is a darker coloured variety of okra which isn’t as bad as the ones which feature in my childhood memories.
Indian cooking, on the whole, ensures, that the slime of okra is taken care of and doesn’t appear in whatever dish it gets cooked. This is done by using certain acidic/ souring ingredients like tamarind, tomato, lime juice or yogurt/ buttermilk.

I accidentally discovered that cutting the okra and leaving it uncovered at room temperature, for about half an hour or so, and then cooking it also ensures that the slime disappears like magic.
Okra is still not a vegetable I would pick over others, but I have grown to like it in dishes where some sort of stir-frying it is involved. This particular okra dish is my favourite way of cooking the vegetable.

Here, the slime cooks away leaving the okra well cooked, a bit soft and showing the beginnings of crispness from stir-frying. Add the taste of caramelized onions to this mix and the result is delicious.
The really traditional way of cooking okra in this recipe would be without the onions. We quite like the taste that the caramelized onion lends to this preparation, so I tend to use them most times I cook this stir-fry.

I have had this post in my drafts for a while, but it took a tweet from a foodie friend asking for suggestions to cook okra to remind me that it was about time I published it.

Vendakkai Vathakkinathu (Indian Style Stir-fried Okra)


1/2 kg okra

3 big onions, chopped

1 1/2 tbsp oil (coconut oil is traditionally used)

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 1/2 tbsp black gram lentils (urad dal)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)

salt to taste

a sprig of curry leaves


Wash and dry the okra well, then trim both ends. Slice the okra into pieces, about 1/2 cm thick. Keep the sliced okra aside, spread on a plate and uncovered, for about half an hour.

In a wok, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and sauté till they turn golden brown. Add the onions and curry leaves and sauté, over medium heat, till the onions turn soft and golden in colour.

Add the okra, turmeric and chilli powders and salt and stir everything so the okra is uniformly coated with the salt and spice. Stir fry, stirring constantly, on high heat for a couple of minutes. Then turn down the heat to low and allow the okra to cook till done and slightly crisp and beginning to turn brown in places.

Stir the okra occasionally while it cooks, but make sure it doesn’t break up and retains its shape.

Serve hot as a side dish along with rice and lentils, or chappathis. 
This recipe serves 3 to 4.


Kamalika said...

Wow looks very tempting and healthy too...

Torviewtoronto said...

looks delicious

Akila said...

simply superb... i will take that plate... you cook the same and have it....

Nithya said...

This looks really yummy :) Mom used to say its a plate full of maths and make me eat vendakka :) tempting clicks as ever :) said...

I am not too fond of okras but looking at your dish and its pleasing presentation I may change my mind.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

wow, looks beautiful, love anything stir fry :)

PJ said...

Looks so tempting Aparna.I too hated the 'slimy' okra until mom started preparing okra stir fry in the microwave.No sliminess and I can enjoy the tasty dish.

Sharmilee! :) said...

I luv vendaka in any form...this looks so tempting...beautiful neat click !

jayasree said...

Tempting clicks as usual. I also leave the chopped okra for sometime before cooking them. Then MW it and leave it for 5 minutes and it turns dry. After that, sauting becomes easy and you get it very crisp, almost like chips, if you cook longer.

lata raja said...

Okras are my all time favourites and the regular stir fry is just enough to make my meal complete.

Padhu said...

I love this very much .Nice pictures

tigerfish said...

Yum. I like to cook okra with the spices you have used :)

Junglefrog said...

I've eaten okra on occassion when in other countries but it is not really a vegetable we see here a lot. So I didn't even know about the slime problem (sounds terrible!) I do love the look of this stirfry!

lynn said...

Absolutely gorgeous and when I asked my OH if he'd like me to make this for him, he looked at the photo and said 'OH YES - PLEASE!!!!!'
Looks like I better go shopping!

Srivalli said...

Honestly tell me if you haven't decorated each one with mustard?..:)..they look so pretty!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Okra is one of my favorite summer veggies. Love this version, and the lesson on less-slimy okra!

Life is beautiful!!! said...

Aparna, you have such a beautiful blog !!! The way you present your dishes, the style of writing and everythingthing else is just awesome!!! I am spell bound when I went thru your blog. Nice to meet you thru this food blog world :)

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

I love your 'slime' removing tips! Looks great :)

Happy Cook said...

Oh yes this is one vendaka dish we had at home always and in out lunch box.
Hi hi i am getting nostalgic remembering my lunch box mixed with rice and this vendaka, same happens when it is cabbage also :-)

Aparna said...

Plate full of maths is a great way of presenting this vegetable, Nithya. :D

Thanks for that tip. PJ. Shall MW my okra and see if it works.

Jayasree, your method sounds perfect to cook okra for vendakkai thayir pachadi.

Simone, I guess okra doesn't grow in your climate just like you grow so much stuff that doesn't here. :)

Hope your shopping trip was worth it, Lynn. :D

Cross my heart, Valli, I haven't done any decorating here. :)

Life is....., Thank you for your nice words. Good to meet you too.

Finla, I think its time you paid India a long visit to relive your nostalgia. :D

Jayashree said...

I love vendakka, especially when it is stir fried like this until it turns slightly crisp.