Here’s presenting Vendakkai Poriyal or Bhindi Ki Sabzi, a rather simple stir-fry made with okra. When made right, it tastes finger-lickingly delicious. Just the perfect accompaniment to rice with rasam or sambar!
Okra, often referred to as lady’s finger in India, ‘vendakkai‘ in Tamil and ‘bhindi‘ in Hindi, is a vegetable that one either loves to bits or hates heartily. I belong to the former category – I adore okra. We use it in several different ways at home, such as this Vendakkai More Kozhambu. This Vendakkai Poriyal is a family favourite . It comes together so very easily, and is such a great choice for a weekday lunch.
One of the biggest challenges in cooking with okra is to manage all the gooey slime that comes with it. It does put some people off, which I totally get. However, it is definitely possible to make Bhindi Ki Sabzi that is not slimy at all – you just need to take care of some aspects while cooking. As easy as that! Read on…
How to make delicious Bhindi Ki Sabzi that is not slimy
No, you don’t need to use a lot of oil to do that! There are a few simple things that you need to keep in mind, speaking from personal trials and tribulations and general knowledge from the elders in the family.
1. Use very fresh okra that are firm. The tail should break off with a clean and easy snap – that indicates that the vegetable is fresh and not overly mature. Squishy or over-aged bhindi will not give you the right results.
2. Cook the bhindi soon after you buy it, within a day or two at the maximum. Letting the okra lie in the refrigerator for days will cause it to mature, which in turn will affect the taste of your dish. Fresh bhindi cooks faster than mature ones, and is also less slimy.
3. Wash the bhindi at least a few hours prior to making the sabzi. If you are making it for lunch, if possible, wash it the night prior and lay it out on a cotton cloth under the fan. In the morning, you can lay it out in the sunlight. The idea is to remove all traces of moisture from the okra, which helps in cutting down on the slime.
4. Use a heavy-bottomed, wide pan to cook the okra. You should be able to spread out the okra slices evenly in the pan, without overcrowding. There should be enough space for the slices to move around while cooking. I use a large hindalium kadhai to cook my Bhindi Ki Sabzi. Using a non-stick pan is not necessary, but you may do so if you want.
5. Slice the bhindi thin. Thin slices cook faster, and lose their slime faster.
6. Drizzle the oil evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan, while preparing Bhindi Ki Sabzi. This will help the okra slices cook evenly when they are spread out in the pan.
7. Cook the Bhindi Ki Sabzi on low-medium flame only. The okra cooks evenly and well that way and needs minimal oil too.
8. Salt draws out the moisture from okra and makes it slimy. So it is important that you do not add any salt to the okra slices in the initial stages of cooking. Add salt only after the okra is almost done and its slime has completely gone.
9. Do not stir the okra constantly while cooking. Just spread the slices out on the hot oil-greased pan, letting them come in contact with the heat and cooking gradually. Stirring makes the okra more slimy, hence avoid doing it very frequently. Okra should be cooked uncovered, without a lid.
How to make Vendakkai Poriyal or Bhindi Ki Sabzi
Here is how to go about it.
Method (serves 2-3):
1. About 350 grams of okra
2. About 1-1/2 tablespoons oil
3. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
6. Red chilli powder to taste
7. Salt to taste
8. 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
1. Wash the okra well a few hours before beginning to make the poriyal. Spread them out on a cotton cloth in the sunlight or under the fan, removing all traces of moisture from them. Then, remove the tops from the okra and slice them thinly and evenly.
2. Drizzle the oil all over a wide pan. Add in the mustard seeds and let them sputter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
3. Add the sliced okra to the pan. Saute for about half a minute.
4. Add in the turmeric powder and mix well. Spread the okra slices all around the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes. Do not stir too much, do it only once or so.
5. Add in the red chilli powder and mix well. Spread out the okra slices again. Allow to cook on medium flame till the okra is almost done and the sliminess is gone. Again, do not stir very often.
6. When the okra is 80-90% done, add salt to taste and sugar. Mix well.
7. Continue to cook on low-medium flame till the okra is completely done, 3-4 minutes, stirring intermittently. I cook it till it becomes slightly burnt and crispy. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Vendakkai Poriyal is done – serve alongside rice and rasam or sambar.
Is this Vendakkai Poriyal vegan and gluten-free?
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan recipe, suited to those following a plant-based diet.
It is not gluten-free because of the use of asafoetida. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, do go ahead and use it.
Tips & Tricks
1. You may add urad dal and/or curry leaves to the tempering. We don’t prefer them, so I don’t.
2. Adding sugar is optional. I add some because I think it adds a beautiful flavour to the sabzi. You may skip the sugar if you so prefer.
3. Jaggery powder can be used in place of the sugar.
4. This is a simple poriyal made using minimal spices. You can add spices of your choice – coriander (dhania) powder, roasted cumin (jeera) powder, garam masala and/or amchoor powder.
5. Some people add lemon juice or amchoor powder while cooking okra, to cut down the slime. I do not do so because I feel it alters the flavour of the Vendakkai Poriyal completely. It is not strictly necessary to use a souring agent if the above measures to reduce slime are followed.
6. We prefer our Bhindi Ki Sabzi to be a bit burnt, with a darker colour to it. If you do not prefer this, stop cooking the sabzi sooner.
7. Like I was saying earlier, you don’t need a ton of oil to make a nice-tasting Vendakkai Poriyal. I have used only about 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil here. You can drizzle a wee bit more if you feel the sabzi is sticking to the pan.
8. Okra shrinks down considerably while cooking. About 350 grams of okra will give you a small amount of poriyal only. Do keep this in mind whenever you cook with the vegetable.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!