‘Vendakkai puli pachadi’ is not a recipe in keeping with my tastebuds. For me sweet and sour do not run well together. I can’t help it. My taste buds have a very one dimensional approach and like to distinguish the elements that they come in contact with! And peculiarly this is restricted to sauces alone.
That is another reason why I prefer salads without dressings made with even a hint of sweetness such as date syrup or jaggery syrup. I can however tolerate bites of sweetness and like slivers of date or occasional bite into a fruit, which I often use to add the element of sweetness.
In short I don’t like ‘puli pachadi’, and unless my husband or son complain that I am biased and I cook only what I like, I wiggle my way out of preparing it and sometimes feign forgetfulness. Interestingly, it was a visit to my parents’ house that introduced this dish to my husband. He loved it so much that he ate up the portion that was made for all of us, and my mother was shocked! My husband did not know that ‘pachadi’ is a miscellaneous accompaniment and not meant to be mixed with rice and eaten like rasam or sambar. And he also came to know that I had been cooking only dishes I liked till then!
Role of ‘pachadi’ in a Tamilian meal
The traditional Indian menu, was designed to cater tastebuds other than mine. A meal would be incomplete without all the five elements, i.e., salty, sour, bitter, sweet and a fairly new element – umami [I still find it inscrutable. Refer this article to know more]. So if the main dishes were just savoury, a South-Indian meal would be balanced by serving ‘pachadi’ on the side. Pachadi is basically raw, cooked or fried vegetables in a sour sauce. The sourness may come from yogurt, tamarind or even kokum. Yogurt being moderately acidic is easily balanced with just salt, but tamarind or kokum are both highly tart and are usually balanced by adding jaggery. Sour in Tamil translates into ‘puli’, hence ‘puli pachadi’. Pachadi is a miscellaneous taste provider in the main meal and hence served in small quantities like chutney and is supposed to be consumed that way – dip the tip of the finger and lick off a bit every now and then. Puli pachadi is made in combination with rice and molagootal as the latter has a one dimensional or flat taste. However, in my house they cannot get enough of pachadi. On the rare occasions when I do prepare puli pachadi, I make lots. My boy likes to mix lots of pachadi into little rice and eat it with a bit of molagootal.
Like most Indian recipes, this too is easily adaptable. Go by instinct and listen to your tastebuds while sticking to the recipe as far as procedure goes. There is no ‘right’ amount of sour and sweet. It is adaptable. Experiment. Find your balance. I am not sure whether everyone would agree to that but hey! We have a right to eat the way we like, right?
Recipe: Vendakkaya puli pachadi
Yield: A soup bowl full
Okra / Lady finger, washed, dried, and cut into thin rings – 1 cup
Tamarind – a lump, about 1” in diameter, soaked in water for at least 15 minutes
Jaggery – 1/2 tsp., or as per taste
Fine rice flour – ¼ tsp.
Water to dissolve rice flour – ¼ cup
Sesame oil – 2 tsp.
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp.
Fenugreek seeds – 1/8 tsp.
Green chillies, chopped – 2
Asafoetida powder (Hing) – 1/8 tsp.
Dried red chilli, broken into small pieces – 1
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Mash the soaked tamarind and extract thick juice, and set aside. Do not add much water.
Heat oil in a heavy wok and splutter mustard seeds. Add the ingredients listed under ‘seasoning’ and fry till the chillies change colour.
Add okra and sprinkle a little salt. Stir-fry on high flame till the okra are bright green and almost done. Do not close the wok as it will change the colour of the okra.
Add tamarind extract and let the vegetable boil till done, about two minutes. Add jaggery. Dissolve rice flour in water and add the paste. My pachadi is never very thick. I like to keep it a little runny. You can see the consistency in the photograph. If needed add hot water and boil to bring it to the right consistency. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon evenly.
Cool and serve. Pachadi is usually served at room temperature. It will turn thicker as it cools. If left over, dilute by adding hot water rather than warm the dish.
Tamilian cusine has a wide variety of pachadi, both tamarind based and curd based. I like the latter better, made with cashew curd, and will try and post some soon.
Since this dish is very much a representative of my native place, I am linking it with #IndianFoodPalooza, an event conjured by Prerna, Kathy and Barbara.
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