Uppadam is an older recipe, one which people recall their Grandmothers or perhaps Mothers making, but which seems to have lost favour in the current generations. It is generally made with okra, and, as Uppadam means something that is preserved, with vatral, sun-dried vegetables, as well. Manathakkali vatral is traditionally used, and I searched high and low for it. It is difficult to obtain here, it seems, so Sundakkai is the recommended alternative. Sundakkai is sun-dried Turkey Berry/Pea Eggplants.
There are a few ways of making Kuzhambu style dishes with okra, but I particularly like this way. It has that sense of connecting one with past generations of women cooking in the kitchens of South India, or directing the making of similar dishes with a specialist’s hand. The okra is cooked with spices and the vatral, before tamarind and a paste of toasted rice, fenugreek, and chillies is added. This thickens the dish, so it is half way between a Rasam and a Sambar. Meenakshi Ammal has a similar recipe, and I will share that one too, in due course.
Roasting the rice will interest you. It releases more moisture that you thought possible, and the grain itself therefore changes somewhat. Roast until it is aromatic.
Uppadam | Okra Kuzhambu with Sundakkai Vatral
2 Tblspns raw rice
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
3 Indian dried red chillies, or to taste
0.5 tspn mustard seeds
2 green chilli, or to taste
1 Indian dried red chillies
2 tspn ghee or Indian sesame oil
2 tspn manathakkali or sundakkai vatral
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
1 – 2 tspn tamarind paste (depending on your tamarind)
Dry roast, separately, the rice until aromatic, dried red chillies until dark, and fenugreek seeds until brown. Cool and grind to a powder. Add a cup of water, mix until it is smooth without lumps. Keep aside.
Take the okra and wash. Dry each one. Trim the top and tip, and cut into 2 cm pieces.
Cut the green chillies lengthwise into four, then cut each piece in half crosswise.
Heat the oil in a wok, add in the mustard seeds and when they have popped, add the remaining fenugreek seeds and the dried red chilli. As the fenugreek seeds turn golden, add the green chillies, okra, and the vatral. Sauté well until the okra are bright green. Stir in the turmeric powder.
Now add in the tamarind paste and 2 cups of water. Mix it well and simmer for 5 minute.
Stir the prepared spice paste into the kuzhambu and mix well. Simmer for 10 mins on low heat. The gravy will thicken nicely.
Serve with rice.