Friday, March 9, 2012

Bendekayi Gojju - Tangy, spicy okra gravy

A typical conversation around meal time at home follows:
He says 'Sambar', I say 'Huli'.
He says 'pachadi', I say 'Chutney'
He says 'charu', I say 'saaru'
He says 'koora', I say 'Palya'

He makes fun of me when I serve a yogurt based gravy calling it bajji, for him bajji is a deep fried snack. I smile at the generic term pachadi used for both kinds with vegetable pieces and ones with ground up veggies. Thus goes on our light hearted banter in this cross border marriage until food fanaticism takes over, becomes personal and turns into fights. We end up having a Tu Tu - Mai Mai session  until the food beckons us, then all is well with the world again atleast until the next time.

In the years I have been married to BH from the neighboring state, I have learned many nuances of the Telugu cooking while teaching him the subtleties of the Kannada cuisine. Big time foodies that we both are, we have enjoyed finding similarities and differences in the many recipes that we come across from the two regions. When I am annoyed with him, the one thing I shove at him is the famous gojju which doesn't (according to me) has an equivalent in his vocabulary so I can feel like I scored one :-), then he does retort back that some curries from Andhra cuisine have similar ingredients but having similar ingredients is not the same as having the same ingredients.

Gojju for me is that ultimate treat, a perfect blend of multiple tastes resulting in a burst of flavors. We always had more of this side dish than the usual main dishes as we would finish bowlfuls of the gojjus nammamma made. There are variations to making a gojju, it is a spicy, tangy gravy that makes a great accompaniment to rotis or rice. Nammamma makes perfectly consistent gojjus bringing out the individual flavors of the vegetables used by a subtle variation of one of the spices used or the way it is cooked. Gojjus are made with different vegetables (fried, boiled, steamed), there are hasi gojjus (no boiling/cooking involved) and bisi gojjus (heating or cooking involved). Gojjus are rarely made with a combination of vegetables, the only combination I encourage in my kitchen is the onion-tomato (a.k.a eerulli-tomato) gojju. Talk about weirdness..

Today's recipe - Okra gojju is a favorite at home, daughter loves it with rotis or chapatis, I love to eat it mixed with rice and BH loves it both ways :-). Like bitter gourd, people get divided into okra lovers or okra haters generally without any middle ground. Treated with care, this is a delectable vegetable with a very mild flavor and nutrients. If you are a first time user of okra, follow the tips at the end of the post to get a non-slimy, tasty okra dish.
What do you need to make Okra gojju? 
1 pound of okra (about 25 tender ones)
small lime size tamarind - soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
2 Tblsp grated coconut - fresh or frozen
4-5 stalks of cilantro, cleaned and trimmed
1 Tsp jaggery/brown sugar
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp cooking oil
1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
For the gojju masala: 
2 Tsp chana dal/kadle bele
1/2 Tsp urad dal/uddina bele
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds/menthya
1 Tblsp white sesame seeds
4-5 green chilies cut into half
1 Tsp cooking oil
For vaggarane/seasoning/Tadka:
1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
3-4 curry leaves
1/2 Tsp asafoetida

How do you make Okra Gojju?
  • Prepare Okra - Wash and drain them, pat dry with a towel each of the okra until there is no moisture. 
  • Remove and discard both ends of the okra, cut the okra into roundels of 1/2 inch thickness. 
  • Heat 1 Tsp of oil in your cooking vessel on medium high, add the okra pieces, turmeric, cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes until okra softens and turns pale green in color.
  • Open the lid, mix it once and add the tamarind juice extract from the soaked tamarind.
  • Add salt, cover and cook further for 5 minutes. 
  • Fry the ingredients listed under 'gojju masala' in oil until the dals turn light pink and green chilies develop blisters on skin. Let cool
  • Grind the fried masala ingredients along with coconut and cilantro into a smooth paste by adding 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Pour the masala into the okra pan, add jaggery and mix. 
  • Adjust the consistency of the gojju with water, it should be neither runny nor dry. 
  • Let the mixture come to a rolling boil, switch off the stove. 
  • Prepare seasoning by heating oil, add ingredients listed under vaggarane except curry leaves, let mustard and fenugreek crackle, switch off the stove, add curry leaves and pour the sizzling vaggarane on top of the gojju to finish off. 
  • Use 1 Tsp of tamarind concentrate in place of tamarind.
  • Before you start cutting okra, make sure you have dried it completely. I usually leave it to air dry before patting them individually with a dry towel. This step is crucial to reduce the sliminess of okra. 
  • As you cut okra, you will notice your knife picking up the clingy thing from okra, keep a paper towel handy to wipe off the knife before you continue cutting. 
  • Gojju should be balanced in its sweet-sour-spicy-salty tastes, adjust the ingredients to get it to your taste. 
  • The chana dal in the masala makes the gravy thick on boiling, adjust the water to get the right consistency. Note: Leave the Gojju in a slightly liquid form when you switch off, it thickens as it cools. 
  • Tamarind, yogurt or tomatoes help remove the sliminess in okra, use these in various dishes to get a slime free okra dish. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice dish and usefull tips for cutting Bendekayi. some more Gojju preparations please. i love them. may be some with Gagery also.

suma said...

Me and hubby, both of us are Kannadigas, yet find each others' expressions funny, I can imagine how it would be when you speak entirely different languages! I love bendekayi gojju too, can have it for a meal with rice from start to finish! Yumm!!

Manjula said...

your telugu-kannada banter reminded me of my friend, he is andhra married to kannada girl. according to him, his mil is a fantastic cook but if you ask her recipe for anything, she will say first take a coconut......, even for coffee.....
i had bendakayi gojju at their place (of course i dont remember if she told me the name of the dish), took the recipe and tried it with some variation to suit our palate. have to dig up that recipe, its there somewhere.

Nagashree said...

Thanks all!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful recipe! Easy to make and everyone in my family loved it. Thank you so much :-)