Vendakkai sambar

Vendakkai, lady’s finger or okra is a very versatile vegetable, with which you can make a lot of dishes. Though there are lots of preparations with this unique vegetable, Vendakkai sambar is the most loved one in our house.

The okra becomes so tasty when it takes up all the flavors of the sambar.  Preparing it with this vegetable may be a bit tricky for beginners. Coz, if not done properly, the sambar will seem slimy. But fear not! that’s why I am here for 🙂  .

Almost everyone makes it the same way, though there are small changes from family to family. Usually, the okra is washed, wiped dry and cut into 2″ pieces. It is then sauteed in a liberal amount of oil until it loses most of its sliminess and starts browning up a bit.

But I have a slightly different way of making my vendakkai sambar. I first dry fry the lady’s finger for a few minutes, till all the water in the pan as well the vegetable evaporates. Then I add the oil followed by the onions. A bit of jaggery or sugar is also added to caramelize the onions.

Then comes tomatoes with a bit of salt, followed by the sambar powder, turmeric powder, and tamarind water. When you do it this way the sliminess will totally disappear.

Sauteeing it with tomatoes once it is fried helps in removing the slime. Unlike other vegetables that can be cooked in water, okra should be cooked in tamarind water, which completely eliminates the slime.

Also, ensure that you add salt to balance the tartness of the tamarind. Else the vegetable will taste sour, and this cannot be rectified later, though the sambar as a whole can be modified if it turns too sour.

Adjust the quantity of sambar powder, salt, and tamarind water so that they complement each other. You can add 2-3 tsps of sambar powder as per need. Look up my main sambar page for more tips on making a perfect sambar.

O’er to the recipe…

Sambar is a stew or a broth in which vegetables are simmered in tamarind water, mashed pigeon peas and spices. It is a very popular South Indian side dish
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 1 litres
Author: Hema Magesh

To cook lentils/dal

  • ½ cup tuar dhal/pigeon peas
  • cups water
  • a few drops of castor oil

Rest of the ingredients

  • 13-15 vendakkai/lady's finger/okra(125 g)
  • 1 medium sized big onion (50g)
  • 1 medium sized tomato(100 g)
  • a marble sized ball of tamarind (8g)
  • 1 tbsp oil (I use sesame oil/til oil)
  • 3 tsps sambar powder(homemade)
  • 1/2 tsp jaggery/sugar
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of turmeric powder
  • a pinch of asafoetida/hing
  • water as needed

My Magic Mix

  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/8 tsp cumin powder
  • a big pinch of asafoetida/hing

For tempering

  • 2 tsps oil(I use coconut oil)
  • tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp split urad dal
  • red chilly (broken)
  • a few curry leaves
  • Take the pigeon peas/ tuar dhal in a vessel and pressure cook with the ingredients given under "to cook lentils". If you do not have a pressure cooker you can cook it in a saucepan. You may have to add more water.
    Vendakkai sambar steps 1&2
  • Wash and Chop the vendakkai/lady's finger into half finger-sized pieces. Cut the onions longitudinally and the tomatoes into small pieces. Soak the tamarind in 2 cups of water.
    Vendakkai sambar steps 3& 4
  • In a wide pan take the lady's finger and saute till all the water from the vegetable and the pan disappears. Saute for 2-3 minutes more in medium flame. Then add 1 tbsp of oil and saute. for a minute or two. Then add the onions and ½ tsp of sugar or jaggery and saute for a few more minutes till it starts browning at the bottom.
    Vendakkai sambar steps 5&6
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and ½tsp of salt, mix well. Reduce flame, cover and cook till the tomatoes get mashed.
    Vendakkai sambar steps 7&8
  • Add 2 tsps of sambar powder and the turmeric powder. Give it a mix and add 2 cups of tamarind water. Adjust salt to balance the tanginess and cook for about 7-10 minutes in medium flame, till the vegetable is done.
  • Once the lady's finger is cooked add the mashed tuar dal and mix well. Let it come to a boil. In a cup of water mix up another tsp of sambar powder and add it to the sambar. Bring this to a boil and switch off.
  • Finally sprinkle the magic mix, temper with the items mentioned under tempering and pour over the sambar. Garnish with coriander leaves and 1 or 2 tsps of ghee.

Hema’s P.S

  • Castor oil is generally added to lentils to cook it thoroughly. You can omit it or add a few drops of any other oil that you prefer.
  • The quantity of sambar powder to be used will depend on whether it is homemade or store-bought. Generally, when I use store-bought ones, I use 1 tsp sambar powder and add 1 tsp of coriander powder and  1/2 – 1 tsp of chilly powder. If it is some spicy brand, I omit the chilly powder.
  • If you are in a place where you can neither make your own sambar powder or buy one, simply adding 2 tsps of coriander powder and a tsp of chilly powder will also work.
  • Finally adding a tsp of sambar powder mixed in water, enhances the flavor, though this is an optional step.
  • Also, you can skip the magic mix part as that is also my own addition.


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