The X Factor: Most home cooks and chefs always have a secret twist to a recipe that they rarely reveal. It's the first thing that crossed my mind when I tried the Dondakaya Vepudu (Stir-fried ivy gourd) from Andhra Deli, one of Chennai's finest destinations for Andhra cuisine. Hyma Sakhamuri who helms this cloud kitchen revealed her secret ace - the Pappu podi (aka Andhra-style gunpowder) that adds a great flavour and texture profile to this simple dish.
Dondakaya in Telugu, kovakkai in Tamil, kundru or Tindora in Hindi, ivy gourd is an often under used and underestimated vegetable. The stems and leaves of this climber are believed to be effective against diabetes. Ivy gourd is rich in essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins like B1 and B2. While a stir-fry (see recipe) is a great option and accompaniment for rice and sambar or rasam, you can also play around with this vegetable with different cooking styles. We've rounded up three simple recipes you can try at home:
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Recipe - Dondakaya Vepudu
Recipe courtesy - Hyma Sakhamuri, Andhra Deli, Chennai
Ivy Gourd - 1 kg
Pappu podi - 4 spoons
Turmeric - 1 spoon
Salt to taste
Groundnut oil - 3 table spoons
Crushed garlic - 6 cloves
- Wash and dry the ivy gourd
- Cut into vertical strips
- Transfer the cut ivy gourd into a wide bowl add salt (add as little as a pinch as ivy gourd requires very less salt and the Pappu podi has salt in it ) and a spoon of turmeric
- Start mixing them together with plain hands. This will result in a frothy texture
- Remove the ivy gourd from the bowl by squeezing the fluids and transfer to another bowl. Discard the water.
- The ivy gourd is now ready for cooking.
- Heat ground nut oil in a kadai
- Add the tempering and the add the squeezed out ivy gourd.
- Stir well and cook with the lid closed for 10 mins - occasionally stir . Cook longer if you like it more cooked .
- Add a generous portion of the Pappu podi. Adjust Salt and chilli.
- Now fry on a high flame for 5 mins . The brown burnt texture gives a unique taste to this dish .
- The pieces can be cut diagonally or vertically, doesn't matter
- The Pappu podi can be replaced with chilli garlic flakes , or plan chilli powder with a couple of spoons of plain fried gram dhal powder ( just blitz a cup of fried gram in the mixer )
- The final 5 mins , once the podi is added, needs to be cooked without the lid and on high flame, else the dish will turn out soggy
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Recipe - Kovakkai Avial
This dish tastes best with rice.
Kovakkai (Ivy Gourd) - 10 to 15 Nos
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3 to 4 tsp grated coconut
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chillies
1/2 cup -curd
2 tsp coconut oil / cooking oil
1 sprig curry leaves & 1 tsp mustard seeds
Salt: to taste
- Cut the kovakkai lengthwise into 4 to 5 pieces. Add turmeric powder and salt, mix well and keep aside.
- Grind coconut, cumin, shallots and green chillies together into a coarse paste with 1 or 2 tsp of curd.
- Heat teaspoon of oil in a pan, add the Kovakkai pieces marinated with turmeric & salt. Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes or till it is half cooked.
- Sprinkle a handful of water and mix well. Close with a lid and cook on low flame till it is 3/4th cooked.
- Now add the coarsely grinded paste to the kovakkai and close with a lid. Do not stir now. After 1 or 2 minutes, open the lid and stir well.
- Add the tempered curry leaves & mustard. Mix well and cook for a few more seconds.
- Whisk the curd well and add it to the kovakkai mixture; stir well.
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Recipe - Kovakkai Thogayal/Chutney
This dish tastes equally good with dosa and with steaming hot rice (mixed with ghee). You can also serve it as a breakfast chutney with idli
3 teaspoon Indian sesame oil
1 cup sliced Kovakkai
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoon toor dal
2 tablespoon urad dal
4 dried red chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 amla sized tamarind
1/3 cup shallots
5-7 pods garlic
1/2 tomato chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon jaggery(optional)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 cup fresh shredded coconut
- Roast the sliced kovakkai (on a low flame) with a teaspoon of oil until the skin is slightly brown.
- Transfer the roasted kovakkai to a plate. Set aside to cool.
- In the same pan, add in a teaspoon of oil. Add in the cumin seeds, toor dal, urad dal, red chillies, curry leaves and tamarind. Saute on a low flame.
- Add in the sliced shallots and garlic. Roast the shallots and garlic till the garlic turns golden.
- Add tomato and saute for a few minutes till the tomatoes are mushy. Add in the salt, jaggery and asafoetida. Saute for a minute. Finally add in the fresh shredded coconut and saute for a minute more. Remove the mixture and set aside to cool.
- Grind everything to a paste. Grind to a coarse texture. Do not add any water while grinding the thogayal.
- Heat oil in a pan and add in the garlic cloves. Roast the garlic cloves till golden. Add in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chillies. Saute for a few seconds. Add the tempering to the thogayal.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.