Recipe: Vendakkai Puli Kozambu aka Okra Tamarind Stew

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A typical recipe from the Tamil heartlands, this is a hearty, though slightly spicy and sour stew which goes very well with rice. This is not a typical tambram recipe. It’s quite funny that while I love garlic and love it in most north Indian sabzis, for some reason, probably due to my tambram genes, I can’t stand it in typical south Indian food. While the original recipe calls for whole garlic pods in the kozambu or stew, I ground it along with the other spices. I served it with brown rice and a stir fried vegetable and loved it. Here’s the recipe which I tweaked!

Vendakkai Puli Kozambu aka Okra Tamarind Stew

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lime-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in warm water for 15-20 minutes, then squeezed to get the water, which will be used. Alternatively, use 1-2 tsp of tamarind paste which can be brought in any Indian store.
  • 1 cup ladies finger or okra, cut into 1 inch circles
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsps gingelly oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste

To be ground into a paste:

  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 5-6 dried red chillies
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • 2 tsps oil

Method:

  • In a pan, take the oil (not the gingelly oil) and fry in the following order the spices: coriander seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and dried chilli. Stir each spice for a few seconds before adding the next spice.
  • Next add the garlic and let it become slightly golden, then the onions and let it become translucent and last the tomatoes.
  • Add a tsp of salt to help the tomatoes to lose water and become slight mushy. In the end, add the coconut and let it cook a while. Once it has cooked around five minutes, switch off the gas and let it cool completely. Once cool, blend it to a fine paste.
  • In another pan, add the gingelly oil and fry the ladies finger/okra until it cooks and becomes crisp. Remove from the gas and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, with the balance oil, add the mustard seeds and then chopped onions.
  • When the onions become translucent, put in the blended paste and stir for a few seconds. Now add the tamarind juice and let it come to a boil.
  • Add the crisp ladies finger/okra and salt to taste and let the stew boil  for 10 minutes.
  • The stew is done when the oil floats to the top.
  • Enjoy with rice and a vegetable of your choice!

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