South Indian Okra (Vendakka) Curry

By DK on Jul 23, 2012
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Ladies finger, as I know it and/or Okra (Bhindi, Vendakka) as you probably know it has a bad reputation. Unfortunate, I would add. 'Cos leave it in the hands of the expert cooks (in the hands of people like my mom, my aunt, grandmom - you get the gist) and this sticky vegetable gets transformed into crispy and a chewy addiction. Now add it as a side to Onion Sambar and Rasam (some fried papadams dont hurt either!), you have "Burp" land (and a paunchy belly!) guaranteed in few minutes. I never really associated mushy with Okra in my growing up years. I loved them. It is one of those rare rare things that has a "good for you" attached to it and actually tastes delicious. I grew up in a place that believes that Okra increases your brain power (or something like that) enough to turn you into a math whiz! Now for all the ladies finger that I have consumed, I should have had at least a couple of Olympiad trophies in my shelf (instead of just dust that adorns it incessantly!) Sigh!
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Anyways, this is a simple South Indian curry that my mom makes with Okra. Make this during the Okra season when you would find the young and tender ones, because they make the best curry - the likes you probably would be hard pressed to enjoy during the rest of the time. Mushy land is unheard of when you have tender Okra in your hands. You don't have to fry them to make them crispy nor do you have to force that gumbo down the throat 'cos "that's the only thing that lousy okra is fit for". It certainly is not. There are few tips, I have provided in there just in case you want to make do without the tender ones and yet don't want Miss Mushy in your plate. This is a mildly spiced dish, highlighting just the Okra. I am also partial to the beautiful color of ladies finger without the additional coloring it gets from the spices/other ingredients  that one tends to add to Okra based dishes.

my mother's recipe

Basic Information
Prep Time: Under 30 min
Cook Time: Under 30 min
Serves: 4 people
  • 750 grams (abt 1.6 lbs) Okra
  • 1 tsp Mustard
  • 2 tsp Black lentil, skinned and split (urad dal)
  • pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp Chilli powder, or to taste (optional, I did not add any)
  • Salt to taste
  • few Curry leaves to garnish
    Optional Ingredients
  • 1 Onion (see Tips)
  • 1-2 tsp Yogurt/ Lemon juice (see Tips)
1. Onion : I have the habit of adding Onions to everything that I, at times, wonder what will happen to me if there is an Onion famine! Shockingly, I decided to not do the same and make it just like my mother does for today's post. So, its optional, although I have to add that it not only adds volume to the dish (if you do not have enough Okra, that is) but also a subtle heartiness that only an onion can :) Ever heard a pitch for an Onion, in the likes of this, before? ;)
2. Yogurt/lemon Juice : Adding some kind of souring agent to Okras while making the dish tends to reduce the stickiness. The acidity reacts with the liquid from Okra and reduces the slime when cooking the vegetable. You can even add tomato for the same reason. I have also heard of adding kokum instead of lemon juice. I have personally not tried any of these methods cos I have been blessed to get tender okra (during the season) in my side of the world and never saw my mom do these either!!
Wash the Okra well.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Now dry them doubly well. This is an important step to avoid the stickiness later on.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Cut off the ends.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
And chop them into small pieces.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
While chopping, remember to wipe off the slime from your knife on a paper towel or kitchen towel, at regular intervals (or as and when it happens). This is another tip to reduce the mushy texture.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Heat abt 2 tsp oil to a skillet and when hot, add the mustard seeds. When it starts popping, add the black lentil  and asafoetida to it.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
When the lentils are slightly browned and the whole kitchen gets aromatic (thanks to the spice), add the Okra.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Add salt, turmeric and torn curry leaves to it and give it a toss to combine
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Cover the okra with a lid for 30-40 seconds and cook in medium-high heat.  This I do to create steam to help cook the Okra. Not more than that cos too much steam will make it mushy.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Remove the cover, stir slightly and now cook open in low-medium flame. Do not stir for at least 10 minutes cos that will increase the stickiness.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Gently toss the okra to cook on the other side too. Cook for another 5-6 min.
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Its done when its soft with little crispiness to the edges ( if its crunchy/with a bite to it, then cook for a little while longer). Cooking it longer will turn it brown but more crispy. I stop it while its still green (but soft) cos it looks better (duh!)
South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
Serve hot as an accompaniment to steamed rice or with rotis. South Indian Ladies Finger Recipe | Easy Side Dish recipes
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16 Responses to “South Indian Okra (Vendakka) Curry”
  1. Adriane

    Someone (I can’t remember who) once said; “Banish the onion from the kitchen and all pleasure of eating flies with it”
    I adore and crave onions so I’m with you on that

  2. Bhoomika

    Hi, I am a food lover. The way you are presenting your recipes is very well. I enjoyed reading your recipes and experiences regarding food. Keep it up. :)


    thank for the steps
    i am cooking alone at home learning from all your website
    thanks once again
    vijay arvind
    maharastra ( chennai born )

  4. Fabulous hints here, I found myself trying to think of ways to tie in okra into my indian meal tonight. This was awesome, and very helpful!

  5. Kalyani

    I love this curry and so does my whole family! I make Okra fry atleast twice a week. I do it almost exactly like the way you describe but with a small difference : Once I cut the okra pieces and add them to the skillet, I fry them for little while on high heat (#7/8 on the electric cooking range). The sticky liquid is proteinous in nature – high heat de-natures the protein and therefore the stickiness disappears. It is the same logicI guess with lime/acidic stuff, but frying on high heat spares us the sour taste! I also try not to close the lid on, because my folks like their okra crispy. Also, I have noticed that closing the lid dulls the bright green color of fresh okra which I prefer :)

  6. Hello DK :D!

    I was expressly browsing up about this recipe! THANK YOU A BUNCH FOR THIS STEP-TO-STEP RECIPE!

    In my country, they tend to be ovecooked and people are so used to have them as mushy slimy that it’s not really popula. Fotunately, I’ve never had them in my country and my first time trying lady’s fingers was in Bangalore and I ADORE IT so much I told everyone about it and now people are expecting me to cook it once back home!

    Now I was wondering about one thing though: in the company’s canteen, I get served this dish but the lady’s fingers seem to be “grilled” maybe, something black on them or something and I was wondering if they could be grilled?

    I really want to try to reproduce THE dish I’ve been tasting!


  7. venkat

    :wink: Thank you for this simple step by step recipe. I generally screw up the simple dishes like these. Not this time!

  8. One quick tip from mommy dearest for all those who love okra, but detest frying it as it tends to get sticky and mushy… Just put in a lil oil in a microwave bowl and cut pieces of washed/dried okra… Microwave this for about 5 minutes, tossing it in between once… After this remove from microwave, make the seasoning on the stove (with or without onion) like a traditional recipe, put in the microwaved okra…. And tadaa, okra fry is ready much faster with the same taste and lesser time…. :wink:

  9. Praval Medhavi

    Dear DK, Can we add little sambhar powder or rasam powder in the recipe to enhance the flavour of the dish & garnish it with chopped corriander leaves ? Pl. suggest.

    Oh yes..def.! My mom also used to add Sambar powder to this (dunno abt rasam powder though). I don’t now cos no one apart from yours truly eats “hot” foods in my home :( –DK

  10. Supraja

    Hi DK,
    Can you try the version where they use besan and masala powder? It goes great with rotis and naan.

  11. Lovely! You really don’t see too much Okra here in the Midwest, but I absolutely love it and think it should become the next trendy veggie (like brussels sprouts & cauliflower). Great step-by-step directions too :-D I will definitely be trying this!!

  12. My mom and I make it the same way and I also add some lemon juice to it to reduce the sliminess. I like to brown it a little more. Love this dish.

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