Ammini's Okra Kichadi

Okra. Bhendi. Bhindi. A much loved vegetable in India but looked upon with distaste in the US. I could not get just why for the longest time. A friend, who was also at the cook together I hosted in December, had once remarked that okra was one vegetable that she detested. I remember offering her some bhendichi bhaji when she had dropped by and we were in the middle of a late dinner. She was thrilled with the roti but I could see her body stiffen and her mind freeze when she put a piece of bhendi in her mouth. She chewed on it slowly, relaxed visibly and said, "That was the best piece of okra I have ever had in my life!" She had only eaten slimy okra before.

I had no idea that what I take for granted about okra, is apparently not the norm for many of my friends. Until I came across Marc's Okra without the slime! So before we move on, here's a quick primer on selecting and preparing okra.

  1. Choose young and tender okra that are smaller in size. If in doubt, try bending the tail end of the pod. It should snap readily and cleanly. Use this to get a feel for young okra and do it quickly. Don't practice on too many okra pods otherwise you will not be welcome at the grocer's again!
  2. Wash and dry each pod completely.
  3. Use a dry cutting board and a dry knife.
  4. As the okra is chopped, you will see some mucilage collecting on the knife. Keep a paper towel handy and wipe the knife as often as possible.
  5. Cook the okra with slightly more oil than normal and on high heat. My theory is that high heat seals the outer edges preventing further oozing.
  6. Do not cover the pan while cooking as moisture undoes what you have worked hard to avoid.

Look, Ma! No slime!

Because of years of negative conditioning towards okra, I was not very keen on featuring Okra Kichadi on the menu. Then I tried it. It took bhendi to a new level. Seriously! There was no way I was not sharing it with my friends and if I could dispel some myths about the slimy okra in the bargain, I figured this would be well worth it on all fronts!

Okra Kichadi: Fried Okra in a Coconut and Mustard Sauce

From Ammini Ramachandran's Grains, Greens and Grated Coconutsicon.



Okra, the quintessential ingredient in gumbo, has a tendency to become slimy when cooked. In this mildly spiced curry, diced okra is panfried before being added to the sauce, which prevents it from turning slimy. It is spiced mainly with mustard seeds. This curry delicately balances the heat of the sambar and spicy pickles that are typically served along with it.


  • 2 cups okra, chopped along its cross-section (about 1lb whole okra yields this much)
  • 2 cups freshly grated coconut or half a packet of frozen coconut, thawed
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 3 or 4 Thai green chillies or serrano peppers
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I use about 2 cups homemade fat-free plain yogurt)
  • 2-3 tbsp oil (Ammini's recipe suggests 1/2 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • For seasoning
    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 1 tsp mustard seeds
    • 1 dried red chilli, broken into two pieces
    • 12-15 fresh curry leaves

  1. Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add chopped okra and cook on medium-high until the okra is a slightly browned at the edges.

    Toss it about periodically so that it does not burn. Do not cover the saucepan. Typically, this takes about 10-15 minutes depending on high you are. In altitude, of course!
  3. While the okra is cooking, blend the coconut, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, Thai green chillies and yogurt into a thick purée.
  4. When the okra is done, transfer it to a bowl and set aside. Do not cover.

    For those of you who are wondering...there were 32 pods in about 1 lb of okra. Yes, I counted them. He looked at the bowl and said: That's one pound worth? Only that much? I'm hoping it's finally registered why we need more than 10.
  5. Next, prepare the tempered oil for the seasoning. Add 1 tbsp oil to the saucepan and when hot, add mustard seeds.
  6. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the dried red chilli and curry leaves. Do not allow the red chilli to burn. Turn the heat down if necessary or take the saucepan off the stove.
  7. Pour the coconut-yogurt mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce simmers.
  8. Add salt
  9. Gently stir in the okra.

  10. Cover and set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

  11. Serve immediately with hot steamed rice


The okra kichadi is a sensual mix of flavors from few ingredients. It is so delectable that it is hard to tell that the saucepan it was cooked in was ever used at all. It's literally licked clean!

Some tips:
  • Since I don't get good quality fresh coconut, I buy frozen coconut. The best I have had is the one that says "Product of Kerala". No prizes for guessing that! The last time I made this, I bought Colombian grated coconut that was naturally so sweet that it was hard to believe that no sugar was added to the product. I thaw the coconut in the refrigerator and cut the packet in half using my kitchen shears. I use one half for curries like okra kichadi and save the other half for coconut chutney or fish curry. I generally use the second half within 1 day of thawing.

  • Ammini's recipe suggests blending the coconut with green chillies and mustard first, and then stirring in the yogurt. Since my blender groans while grinding coconut with little or no water, I add yogurt while blending. I use 2 cups of yogurt because we like the sauce to be a little runny and we like to smother and drown our rice in it.
  • The okra can get slightly slimy when covered towards the end of the process. I have found that if I cook it till it is crispier and more brown, the return of the slime can be averted.
  • I like to add 1 tsp of urad dal to the tempered oil. Medha loves these crunchies in her okra kichadi.

Ammini classifies Okra Kichadi as a popular curry:
Whether it is a wedding or a religious holiday or a birthday, the recipes in this section are the standard fare at any sadya (feast).At a traditional sadya, there are no fancy table settings or beautiful vases of fresh-cut flowers, and there is no particular main course. The perfection of the dishes is more important than the presentation itself. They come just as they are, served on a large banana leaf spread on a clean floor or a simple table, with rice in the center accompanied by several vegetable dishes, both wet and dry, and several different accompaniments. And as you begin to relish the meal, so many different flavors are blended on the palate that each bite tastes different and better than the one before. Food's greatest glory is in its infinite variety of textures and flavors.


Adapted from Ammini Ramachandran's Grains, Greens and Grated Coconutsicon


38 comments:

Laxmi said...

Hi,
Am Laxmi, Moderator of the Indusladies website. Since there is no contact mail id, am posting it in the general section here.
www.IndusLadies.com is a global online community and discussion board for
Indian ladies. We currently have 4000+ members, 15,000 unique visitors per
day and 400,000 page views per month. We are interested in a link exchange
with your site. Contact me at laxmi.indus@gmail.com Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Anita said...

Manisha, O Learned One, what is a 'link exchange'? Can I get one? :)

OKay, I forgot, I make another Kerala dish, Okra Pachadi!! Or bhendi raita - using Madhur Jaffery's recipe. Which uses deep fried bhindi. I have heard of microwave bhidi - plan to do that next time. It is to-die-for raita that I make whenever I have guests in the bhindi season. It totally catches north Indians by surprise.

More yoghurt and less coconut, and some chopped shallots in the tadka. Unbelievably good. Like the rest of Kerala country and food.

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

Okra. Bhendi. Bhindi - Now this is going to me Phd material. I my office canteen they add Bhendi in a Soup.

I just go crazy over bhedi fry.

Priya said...

This one is one of my favorite's Manisha. It is a must-have on any wedding menu of ours and any full course meal prepared for functions/festivals at home. Whenever my mother makes it her main task is saving the crisp okra from getting over even before it reaches the curd !! :-)

bee (jugalbandi.info) said...

we love this dish and never tire of it.

Manisha said...

Laxmi, congratulations on the success of your Indusladies forums! I am a member of your forums and quite enjoy the knowledge shared by some of your more prolific members. With stats such as yours, you do not really need a link exchange with my blog! Also, I don't do link exchanges, preferring to link out to sites naturally - within the course of my posts. I do have a list of 'Sites of Interest' but those are of interest more to me, than anyone else! My very best to you and your team at Indusladies. I am sure your pageviews will only increase with the kind of resource you are building.

Anita, you crack me up! A link exchange is when I link to your site because you link to my site. It's a virtual contract, so to speak. Google's algorithm for ranking web sites on their search results places a fair amount of importance on how many other web sites link to yours. A link is considered to be a vote for your site. It's not as simple as it sounds, of course! It has also been gamed so much over the past few years that Google has tools to identify and discount link exchanges. Linking between web sites became very unnatural because of this, links can be bought and sold. There are 'link-mongers' and those with a high Google PageRank assign a high value to their links and refuse to link out to other web sites, unless offered a lot of the green stuff.

Can you get one? Sure. Do you want one, is more the question I would want you to answer!

Back to more delicious thoughts: Ammini writes, "According Indian food historian K. T. Achaya, the earliest recipe for pachadi was found in our neighboring state Karnataka, in a text dating back to 1485. Since ancient times, cooks have come to Kerala from our bordering states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They brought with them many recipes, which later became part of our own cuisine." Interesting, no? I have Achaya's book but it's easier to read Ammini!

As one of my Malayali friends shyama, once explained to me, "pacha" means green and the vegetable is usually not panfried. Ammini also explained the difference between pachadi and kichadi in the same manner when I had asked her several months ago. So I am confused if Madhur Jaffrey's recipe is for pachadi or for kichadi! I am sure there are some regional nuances that come into play here when it comes to terminology. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge of Kerala cuisine will chime in. :-)

Deep-fried bhendi is to die for, in any case!


HKG, bhendi fry is to die for. Gosh, I think I said that before somewhere ;-) I love bhendi in sambar and in kadi. Gumbo, which is like a stew or a thick soup, has okra as an essential ingredient. Gumbo is a traditional Louisiana dish.

Priya, I knew I had picked the right dish! It's a hot favorite with us, too. And it very quick to put together. The most time is spent over drying and chopping okra. I share your mother's feelings. A fair amount of hand-slapping occurs in my kitchen when I make okra kichadi. I have to protect the cooked bhendi with my life!

Bee, I actually got Medha into eating coconut curries because of this okra kichadi. Now she eats fish curry with a coconut base, too! It's amazing how that this dish rides mainly on green chillies and mustard seeds. I like to squish the red chillies from the seasoning into my rice and get an additional zing from the oil that the chilli soaks up. Yum!

shilpa said...

Manisha, this is similar to my bhende ambat. Only difference is we don't friy okra in oil for that. There is one more called as bhande sasam where we fry bhindi but don't cook the coconut gravy. They both taste Yummmm. Bhindi is one of our all time fav veggies, so I am going to try this soon.

I read your title as khichdi and was wondering about the great combo of bhindi and rice :).

Deepz said...

Nice recipe Manisha. It's very similar to Tamilian Mor Kuzhambu but with a few differences.
1. Okra is not fried
2. A pinch of turmeric is added to the yogurt
3. A tsp of jeera is added while grinding coconut and chillies.
This recipe is a good variation though, So I will give it a try.

pelicano said...

Hola Manisha! :-)
You are really pushing me to buy this book aren't you? It looks like a book one could get really absorbed into- and Ammini writes so beautifully!
I have to comment on the okra thing, being an American of European(mostly) descent and all... It seems that it's a more popular vegetable in the southern states. It was on a lot of menus of small-town "family" diners- mostly deep-fried. Up here in the northern midwest, however, there are only a few of us that know dishes to make with it. Same with eggplant. I seriously know a lot of people who have never even tried it! One guy even lived for a year in New Orleans and I had to say, "you know...it's in gumbo...those green rings with seeds?"
Personally, it's one of my favorite vegetables. But I'm the "odd man out" in my area. It was never prepared by my mother. Nor was it available fresh in the stores when I was growing up. I decided to grow my own when I was a teen- it's a beautiful plant! Thankfully, more people up here must be eating it because I can often find it fresh nowadays. So, hey....good work at gaining converts to this vegetable! You keep working out there in Colorado, and I'll do what I can here and eventually there'll be strong devotees in Nebraska and Kansas! :-D

musical said...

Hi Manisha,

That sounds like a nice eat.

Gini said...

Sometimes I wonder, 'which part of Kerala did I grow up in?'So many of these Kerala dishes are so new to me, and I am kinda embarassed to admit that I don't know them.
When you wrote about the Okra kichadi in your comment, I was going to ask you about it. Came here and found that you have described it beautifully. This is definitely my next okra dish, and I know for a fact that I am going to like it.I should definitely get that book.

Manisha said...

Shilpa and Deepz, see what Ammini writes (I have quoted her in my previous comment) about influences from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Both of you are essentially confirming what she says! I love this!!

Shilpa, initially I read it as khichadi as well and wondered where the rice was :-D Do you have the recipes for bhende ambat and bhende sasam on your blog?

Deepz, I love jeera so I will definitely try your Mor Kuzhambu. Do you bring the coconut sauce to a boil and only then add the okra?

Pel, it's a must-have :-D I am totally hooked! I love that most of the recipes are quick, that the ingredients are few yet the results so flavorful.

That okra is popular mainly in the southern states is not much of a surprise. It was brought from Africa during the slave trade era and it does well in warm weather. (Or so says wiki) I hope I at least make a dent :-D

Do you still grow your own okra? I saw that it tolerates poor soils. I have so many plans for this summer but how much I actually get done will be another story. Nevertheless, does one use seeds from fresh pods or does one buy packaged okra seeds?


Musical, it's more than nice. It's delectable. It's the kind of dish for which I abandon all inhibitions and use what God made before man made silverware. :-D Yup! Eat like a true Indian, with my fingers!

Gini, I feel the same way about Maharashtrian food at times. My mother stopped making coconut curries because of my father's dietary restrictions. Also, there is so much variation within a state itself that I just take it in my stride. I didn't know before but I know now. And if it tastes good, I keep it!

So now you have a new recipe and I have one from you for okra. Very fair, I think!

shilpa said...

Manisha, I think I have gone nuts, while reading the recipe, I skipped two lines :(. I came back here to read the recipe again since I felt I missed something when I read it from office in the morning.

We don't add yogurt and mustard(while grinding) to bhende ambat or bhende sasam. But I remember there is some Konkani dish which included mustard in the coconut masala. There is a Kannada dish called "majjige huLi" (Majjige - buttermilk, huli - a sour gravy)which is prepared on similar lines.

Pelicano, don't worry, you have two bhindi fans in Kansas and I am sure there are more whom I don't know :).

pelicano said...

Manisha-
I always end up buying more seeds than I can plant. Though some retain their germination potential, some don't, and I end up throwing packets with good visual design into a "to be decoupaged on something" pile... :-) I'm already making summer activity plans as well, and I know standing outside with a garden hose is one of them!
I'm pretty sure it would be better to buy okra seeds or young plants. The pods used for cooking are harvested when still young and therefore, have immature seeds.
Are you from Maharashtra? Then you know about these delicious stuffed chiles that I've been devouring left and right? Tell Anita thanks for me for such a good, non-tempting, low-fat snack food... :-)

Dorothy- oh I mean Shilpa :-) That's right, I forgot how nearby you are! But you know, when you come here to the food-blogging world, you "aren't in Kansas anymore"! :-D

Manisha said...

Shilpa, no worries! I took a look at the ambat and the sasam and they sound yum!

Pel, bharleli mirchi? It's delicious! The deep-fried version of it is very good, too. For everything, including your waistline. :-D

I hope the farmers' market has seedlings when it gets going. Otherwise I might just buy some seeds and start them in the well window garden thingee I have. (The picture was taken well over a year ago and the thing now needs some...uh, attention!)

Dorothy! Ha ha!
Shilpa, have you seen The Wizard of Oz?

Inji Pennu said...

What??? With so many great Kerala cooking blogs out there, you tell me you bought a cooking book...
Unbelievable! Thou shall not commit such crimes henceforth! :):)

Manisha said...

Inji, I won't need to - I have the definitive Kerala "Joy of Cooking" :-D Ammini's book is much more than a cookbook. It is a well-researched, excellently document, superbly written guide to Kerala culture, traditions and festivals, history and yes, recipes, too! I will continue to enjoy the blogs but this is a book! Printed on paper! I can carry it with me, read it when I am curled up with a cup of coffee (ok, decaff, in my case)...turn the pages, enjoy Ammini's lucid prose.

Nandita said...

There goes the spam comment again...I wonder is there a software that introduces this as the first comment in many of our blog posts!

BTW - Lovely post on the poor old bhindi, I have always followed your kinda method, wash and wipe well before cutting and saute on high heat till moisture evaporates - and I have ever encountered slime.

Enjoyed reading your cookout's elaborate menu too...

Sending you and your family warm Gudi Padwa wishes !

Mallugirl said...

hmm I had just come across thsi book but haven't got it. Glad to know u have tried it and like it.Nice looking recipe.

Anita said...

Okay, so you are saying I shouldn't be wanting one? (link exchange):)

It just sounded a bit funny - "...Interested in a (link) ?ex-change..." No thanks, I don't want!

And Pel's a really funny guy!

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

गुढीपाडव्यानिमित्त सर्वांना नवे वर्ष सुखसमृद्धी व भरभराटीचे जावो.

bee (jugalbandi.info) said...

why is your template all mucked up, m? with the post showing on the right sidebar? either blogger is getting worse by the day, or my IE sucks.

Manisha said...

Nandita, I doubt that. I think they are subscribed to RSS feeds for our blogs and get there as soon as they see a new post.

Thank you for the New Year's wishes!

We never did anything for Gudi Padva in my family. Not the gudi nor a puja. My aunt did all of this and she lived next door, so we just went over! As kids we went around wishing each other:
Gudi Padva, neet bol gadva
(Happy New Year, speak well you donkey) Not so funny when translated, eh?!

Happy Ugadi to you!


Mallugirl, I saw your latest post on the resource you are creating on Kerala recipes called Essense of Kerala, and I was thrilled! I wanted to comment but your post did not have comments enabled at the time. Congrats on setting up that blog - it's going to be a huge treat for me when I am looking for non-vegetarian recipes!

Anita, you're hilarious. No, I wouldn't want one of those either!

HKG, thank you very much and wish you and your family the same and much much more!

Bee, arrrgh! Thanks for letting me know. I am assuming you are on IE7. All is well on IE6. Need to check on IE7 and fix it. Everyone should just switch to Firefox, really!

Anita said...

There's that mumbo-jumbo again. TLO! :) But I don't (need to) understand. I have Firefox!

Anita said...

And, OLO, do take note, I added html for bold! And it accepted it! Goddam, I'm good. :)

What are we supposed to be discussing? Okra, yeah. Okra rocks: kichadi, pachadi, barleli, sanbar, gumbo-jumbo...

Manisha said...

Anita, if you have Firefox, you're with good standards compliant technology. :D And you're more than good! You're brilliant! But just stick with bold, italics and hyperlinks when you're submitting comments in Blogger.

Yup, okra rocks! Have a new post for you...


Bee, I checked on IE7 and the layout seems to be fine. In fact this comment is submitted using IE7. Are you using IE on a Mac? God help you if you are! Please switch to Firefox asap!

Anonymous said...

Funny Fact...My Indian grocery store charges double for okra if you have snapped it. Go figure...
Uhave an interesting post, must try the recipe soon....

Manisha said...

Anon, now you know why I said you need to learn quickly! The vendors in the veggie markets in Bombay would start throwing a fit if you snapped their okra. You had to do it really quickly and fill the tokri to hide the ones you snapped. If they got upset with me, I would ask them what their problem was since I was buying all the ones that I had tested.

Once you've done it a couple of times, you know from the color, the size and the feel of the okra whether it is going to be tender or if you are going to be picking your teeth after the meal!

I made kichadi with dudhi (bottle gourd) and while it was interesting, it was not as flavorful as okra kichadi. Do try it!

Anonymous said...

Hi manisha,
Will do that, hide the tokri i mean , my mum makes a similar thing with pineapple and it is the yummiest thing to have with hot sambhar , steaming rice and pappadums....sigh
Try it u will love it i am sure

Manisha said...

Anon, mmm! That sounds delicious! Spicy, tangy and sweet. Will give it a try! I love pineapples and my husband does a great job of peeling pineapple. I had a Malaysian neighbor who taught him how to peel a pineapple with very little wastage. Unlike these directions which just make me want to cry for all the lost pineapple.

Radhika said...

Hi Manisha,
I came across your blog recently, its amazing! I really enjoy your writing and recipes. Also, we seem to have the same background. I grew up in Bombay, have roots in Goa, was brought up on a staple Saraswat diet and now live in the States. So your recipes remind me a lot of my upbringing. Great job!

Manisha said...

Radhika, a special welcome to you! If you feel a bond with my recipes, I can guarantee you that you will feel just as, if not more, connected with Ashwini's Food For Thought. Ashwini is far more prolific with GSB recipes. And she has the same background as you and me! Hope to see more of you!

Gini said...

Manisha, you know by now that I had made the okra kichadi.
It was a totally new taste for both of us. I think I might have tasted something like that long time back at a wedding, but never cooked anything like it,
While grinding the raw mustard with coconut, Satish kept wanting me to look again at the instructions to make sure we were doing the right thing . But when we finally ate it, any doubts we had about the dish were cleared.
It lasted only 2 meals and we can't wait to have it again.
Thanks again!!

Manisha said...

I know what you mean, Gini! I stared at the ingredient list for the longest time! I had a Malayali friend visiting me over Thanksgiving and she was like a mother hen when I was trying out some of Ammini's recipes. She took over and showed me how. Now I make okra kichadi better than her!

You guys eat a lot less than we do. We polished it off in one meal. After a while, I stop eating it with rice and eat it by itself. No wonder, those love handles are so attached to me. :-D

Bijnil said...

Hi,

I Loved the okra recipe and I'm trying it outtoday for Diwali dinner.
Thanks a lot for the post....actually, i linked your site to mine as i pop into your site so very often...

Great going,

Nilanjana (www.friskycook.blogspot.com)

Shilpa said...

Hi Manisha,

I am a frequent visitor to your blog :)
I tried making the okra kichadi a couple of times and it turned out really well.I wasnt a big okra fan until you posted this recipe.Thanks for posting this.

-Shilpa

GB said...

Manisha, I was feeling very "blah" with options for dinner(I constantly crave something different!)....thanks for this recipe! have to make this tonight!

PS: sorry to bother you with comments on an older post!

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The size and the feel of the okra whether it is going to be tender or if you are going to be picking your teeth after the meal!
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