Vendakkai puli pachadi ~ Crisp okra in sweet sour sauce

‘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 and definitely inscrutable element – umami. 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 in between eating the rest of the stuff on the plate. 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.

Serve as a miscellaneous accompaniment with rice and South-Indian gravy such as molagootal. Can also be served with upma kozhakottai and other snacks as per liking.

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.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Anjana

    Everybody at my home loves okra so much that I keep searching and trying new recipes to make okra often..your recipe looks so different from the one I have tried so far…I will surely try this soon.loved the sweet and sour tangy flavours of this curry!

  • Anisha

    It’s new to me…. I love sweet n sour and okra… Tempted to try it out. Enjoyed reading the write up about the meals… 🙂

    • Harini

      Do try it, Anisha! It is as interesting as I mention it to be. Glad you enjoyed the write-up. 🙂

  • Roshni Chandrasekar

    First time in your blog… beautiful photos.. awesome recipes. Glad to follow you. Do check out my sites if you get a chance.

  • Rosa

    A wonderful recipe and lovely speciality! A perfect tongue tickler. 😉



  • pavithra

    Very very beautiful picture Harini and vendaikai puli pachadi is our alltime fav one. Lip smacking side dish…

  • Kankana

    I don’t like okra at all … and definitely not in a some soup-y kinda curry. But i so love the recipe that I might try it with some other veggie. And, Harini love those plates/bowls you used.

    • Harini

      Thanks, Kankana! My sister declared that on my fb page the same day! Like you she hates okra. 🙂 But these are also made with karela. Do you like them?

  • Spandana

    Very interesting recipe… and I like the props even more 🙂 .. are those dishes made from bamboo?

    • Harini

      Thanks Spandana. 🙂 Yes, those are bamboo katoras.

  • Namitha

    Ok,here is the recipe 🙂 It is not puli kuzhambu ,but definitely something new for me. Pulikuzhambu has ground coconut and tamarind pulp along with coriander and chili powders. Adding jaggery is interesting,we add jaggery only in ripe mango pachadi. Love all the pics 🙂

  • chinmayie @ love food eat

    I simply LOVE the sweet and sour combination as i grew up eating it but my husband is not a big fan of it. I am really tempted to try this recipe… my mouth is watering 🙂

  • Joe

    Always loved pacahadi (the all time fav was manga pachaddi)

    • Harini

      Hi Joe, yes, manga pachadi is something I love too!

  • Cham

    I recently saw this puli pachadi but without okra any pachadi with sour taste I am ready especially this tamarind one but not my husb. and son. Looks gorgeous the pic and a lovely writeup about pachadi…

  • Vijitha

    Yenga veetulla yellarukum rhombha pidicha side. I make even moor kootu with crispy okra. As always gorgeous pics. Wanted to mail you with some photography doubts. Will pop in an email this weekend. You use 50mm 1.4 ?

    • Harini

      Is mor kootu same as vendakkai thair pachadi? Yes, Vijitha, I use a 50mm 1.4. Pop in that email. 🙂

  • Lata Raja

    Puli pachchidi is one of the essentials in my home if there is a porichcha kootu or a some non-sour based main dish. That is because I like the combination.
    The picture is so inviting.

  • Soma

    Very interesting combo of ingredients and I cannot for my life imagine how the taste is going to be. But I think I would like this on hot rice too, not as a chutney kind 😀 You have photographed an extremely difficult looking dish really well.

  • Richa@HobbyandMore

    i like the write up.. feigning forgetfulness doesnt work with hubbs:) coz now he knows that i can cook up stuff without tasting too. i dont have taste restrictions with dimensions but u cannot make me eat okra.. yup all the okra dishes just get made without me tasting any!:) love the history behind the meal.. you should do a historical write up and a complete meal analysis.. 🙂

    • Harini

      Richa, I meant forgetting to make the dish itself, and anybody who knows me can believe that easily because I am quite absent-minded. 😀 I also taste stuff I don’t like, just in case I might start liking them – you never know. I like that idea, Richa! A research and analysis with meal as a subject is interesting! 😀

  • Ambika

    This is my husband’s absolute favorite! And it is mine too with a steaming bowl of rice, ghee and molagootal. I was not even aware of this wonderful combo until I got married. My MIL is from palakkad and I learnt this from her. It is one of my most cherished comfort meals!! Loved your photography Harini! You’ve made an ordinary puli pachadi look so gourmet 🙂

    • Harini

      Thank you! That sounds like my husband’s story, Ambika! 🙂

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