16 November, 2007

Seeking Comfort: Fried Okra Dal & Palya

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Fried Okra Dal with Rice & Majjige Menasu

Winter has come early to our neck of woods. Last night the wind blew, trees shed their last of few leaves and a light rain kissed our parched landscape with thick frost giving it white ghostly look. With temperature dropping to minus degree Celsius, it was the perfect night for comfort food. I know you will agree with me that comfort food is one of the nice things about these chilly cold nights...

So what exactly is Comfort Food? In my search for a clear definition of Comfort Food I can say that I am yet to come across any place which explains to me what exactly comfort food is. I can see some of you rolling your eyes and saying why she has to make everything look so complicated. Doesn’t she know the simplest definition of comfort food, a food that provides comfort when eating? But wait, don’t you agree with me that the definition of ‘Comfort’ is quite vague. It’s not necessary that what provides comfort for one may make other person shriek in horror. When I say Egg Plant/Brinjal Sambar is my comfort food, I can see Krish running a mile away from it. We have to look beyond the word ‘comfort’ itself in order to get a better definition.
Dictionary.com defines Comfort Food as
"Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment or food that is simply prepared and gives a sense of wellbeing; typically food with a high sugar or carbohydrate content that is associated with childhood or with home cooking."

Yourdictionary.com defines Comfort Food as
"Any food eaten not only for its pleasing taste but also for a sense of contentment, nostalgia, etc. that it provides."
Take quick look at the list of comfort foods listed in Wiki, About.com. Most of the things listed don’t fall into my category of comfort food. So is comfort food is based on regional, ethnicity? Or is it defined by it being entrée, main dish or dessert or anywhere else it might sit on a menu card? If someone says that they eat junk food on daily basis, first thing which might cross my head is what an uneducated palate that person has. But if the same person is to tell me that junk food is his/her comfort food, will that make me think twice and make me perceive him/her in any other way? Yes, I think it will on some level.

Comfort food for me is food I qualify as something worthwhile and is a food I enjoy. It is something which I wouldn’t find in any star restaurant’s menu. When I am sick, or tired, or far from home I yearn for the gastronomic equivalent of warmth I get from my loved ones. It may be a warm sweater, a kiss on the forehead, a favourite blanket or a food that reminds me of home. My comfort food changes depending on climate, occasion and whom I am with. It’s cold Salad with chilled Yogurt and Ice Cream in summer, a piping hot bowl of Soup or Dal with Rice in winter. A bowl of Rasam is what I crave for when I miss my Amma and a fattening double cheese Veg Deli is what I need when hungry me cross MacDonald’s. White Rice with Curd and Pickle is all I need when I am alone at home and its 3 course meal which comforts me when I am with my family. Comfort food makes me feel good because it reminds me of my childhood, of my mother, of good times and good friends and it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Without any doubt Dal is the quintessential comfort food! Unpretentious, rich in nutrition I feel good whenever I make Dal and eat it. When I am worn out and the world isn’t such a nice place to be in, I make simple Dal with Rice. When time is short but dear ones must be fed with joy and not pressure, I make Dal with some Palya. Okra/Bhindi/Ladies Finger is one of the most favourite vegetables at our place. When I found these small and tender bhindi in our local store I could no longer stop myself from buying a big bagful of them. Instead of everyday plain dal I wanted to experiment by adding some vegetables which will compliment the spicy and sour taste of this dal and I felt Okra will do that trick. For my amazement it not only complimented the dal but tasted very delicious. It was one experiment which produced wonderful results and I am going to make this again and again. These tender okras are fried in little oil till they are crisp and then simmered in sweet, sour and spicy dal is a perfect comfort food for me. I am sending my dear friend Linda who is hosting this month’s JFI-Toor Dal this comforting bowl of Fried Okra Dal. I hope you enjoy this one Linda:)

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Fried Okra Dal
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-5

15-20 small tender Okra
1 cup Toor Dal/Masoor Dal
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2-3 Garlic flakes, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, crushed and chopped
2-3 Green Chillies, slit
1 lemon sized Tamarind Pulp
1-1½ tbsp Jaggery
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli, broken
A big pinch of Hing/Asafetida
Few Curry Leaves
½ tbsp Oil
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Fried Okra Dal

Cook toor dal in pressure cooker in enough water for about 15 minutes till the dal is cooked and mushy.
Soak tamarind pulp in about 1 cup of warm water for 5 minutes and squeeze the juice and discard the pulp.
Mean while, trim the ends of okra and cut them into 1 inch pieces.
Heat oil in a pan and sauté it continuously at medium-high flame for about 8-10 minutes till okra turns crisp and brown. Keep this aside.
Heat ½ tbsp of oil in a pan and add mustard, broken red chilli, jeera, curry leaves and hing in that order and sauté.
Once the mustard starts to pop and splutter, add finely chopped garlic and sauté it for about 30 seconds. Then add finely chopped onion, slit green chillies and sauté it for around 1-2 minutes till onions turn translucent.
Mix in lightly mashed cooked toor dal, squeezed tamarind juice, jaggery, turmeric powder, finely chopped ginger and tomatoes and about 1-2 cups of water if needed.
Bring it to boil in a medium flame and mix in salt to taste and fried okras.
Cook over a medium flame for around 5-10 minutes till all the flavors blend well and serve hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves.

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Fried Okra Dal

Another favourite way of cooking Okra is simple Fried Okra Palya. Tender fried okra is spiced with ground paste of sweet coconut and spicy sambar powder and crisp onions. The dash of lime juice adds the tanginess and creates a wonderful fusion of sweet, tangy and spicy dish.

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Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya with Jolada Rotti

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Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 2-3

15-20 tender Okras, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Lime Juice
1-2 Green Chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Few Curry Leaves
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

Grind to Paste:
½ cup Coconut, fresh or frozen
1½ -2 tbsp Sambar Powder
½ tsp Tamarind Paste/2 tbsp Lime Juice
½ tbsp Jaggery (optional)
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Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and curry leaves. Sauté it till jeera starts to sizzle and mix finely chopped onions and green chillies.
Sauté it till onion turns light brown and add cut okra pieces. Fry these okra for about 7-10 minutes over medium-high flame till it is crisp and brown.
Now mix in ground paste and keep stirring for about five minutes on medium flame. Make sure that the paste doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Switch off the pan and mix lime juice and mix well. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves with rice or roties.

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Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya


  1. wow..both the dishes look lovely....for us too comfort food is always our regular dal that Amma makes. When we get home after a trip, all of us want only that Dal that we make....

  2. Sia
    Amazing dishes dear, I love ladiesfinger fry and your looks so delicious!!
    I love simple n easy recipes and yours definitely are!!

  3. I think the definition of'comfort food', depends on individual tastes and cravings and of course, no two persons are alike...for me too, it is something which reminds me of home and is soothing at the same time...usually not anything fancy.

  4. We don't make dal with okra, unless you count sambar. I have seen another recipe for okra dal here on the blogs, though!

  5. Btw, how did you post come to be published on 18th Nov, Sunday in FBD?

  6. Give me okra any time, love them Sweet ‘n Spicy Fried Okra Palya looks and I am sure tastes awesome. Dal is Comfort food indeed and with okra even better.

  7. LOve Okra too, but I get only frozen ones here.Fresh Okra is very expensive and not very fresh either. I love both Saaru and palya. YUM YUM!!:))
    Have a great weekend. I have Date bars for you at Aroma for Sunday breakfast!

  8. Yum...That's really a perfect comfort food. It's so cold today and I'm curling up in my couch hungry but not wanting to cook. Wish I had a plate of rice and this okra dal to go with it. The palya looks even more tempting. Will try out the palya soon. Thanks sia for posting this. Atleast the sight of it made me feel good.

  9. Yeah i do agree comfort food varies.... i am also like you when my hubby is not home and i am alone then it is just the simple rice and pickles for me, unless if my daughter is there for lunch. She looks to my plate with disgust :-) when i eat rice , dal and pickles. SHe is like how can you eat something like that and i tell her don't critisie if you are not tasting it..........but she never taste it.
    Love the dal you can give it to me anytime.

  10. Both okra dishes look absolutely delicious Sia. I've never tried okra with dhal before.. except in Sambhar that is. :)
    The fried okra is too good.

  11. lovelyyyyyy pics and food looks soo yummy and comforting thanks for sharing yummy recipes

  12. wow Sia....All those Okra dishes are absolutely comfort foods......Want to have them immediately with steamed rice :-))

    Sia,Please don't mind If I don't comment the next few months as I would terribly busy with my academic work......Hope u understand dear....I will be back in no time :-)

  13. hi sia thanks for your post actually i have some problem while posting kasmiri pulao i will post it as soon as possible

  14. I liked the second one better...feel it gives more kick to the veggie....will try next time i get the okra which btw happens very rarely :P and the dal and okra combo is also very new to me...!

    I am still enjoying those last few days of fall colors....but its getting quite chill out here :(

  15. Okra is one of the tastiest vegetables. I wonder why people frown at its sliminess. BTW, I have never seen okra in dal.

  16. Your pics looks so yummy. Never tried Okra and dal though. Okra sabji looks gr8.

  17. Lovely recipes, Sups! Its a beautiful ode to comfort food and okra! daal-chawal is my comfort food too, as is sabzi-roti :). You have got both! Jolada roti and palya really looks inviting and is making me hungry (is there anything new, hmm) :-D.

    Comfort food, i want some for me, right now :).

    Have a great weekend,

  18. the pics look fab as usual sia :) and i will be trying the palya soon..i have quite a lot of okra in the ref..and since i don't eat these slimy guys..i tend to look for yummy recipes for my husband..the palya looks great..

  19. Okra does not faal into my realm of comfort food Sia...i dream of things like chocolate, ice cream, desserts and stuff:)

    but your okra sure looks inviting!

  20. Oh, Supriya, can I come over for a bowl of that YUMMY okra dal... I don't even need the rice -- just a spoon dear :) Looks just beautiful and perfect for a cold night. Thank you for this great recipe for JFI Toor!

    The palya looks just as yummy -- you do get some lovely okra there! Have a great weekend :)

  21. for me comfort food is made by someone else, and the dishes are also done by someone else. if i comes with a maragrita, even better.

  22. How can you do this to me?! It is almost 10 p.m. here and I am extremely hungry as I scroll through this post. :) Dhal, rice and okras - one of my comfort foods too :)

  23. Love okra palya and gojju. Absolutely delicious......

  24. Actually I Like Sambhar. Though I have never grown up eating it, I now sometimes have craving for it !!! My Bong friends think I am mad.

    But then just like Red Masoor Dal gives me comfort on some days Sambhar does too.

  25. Yes, the mercury is dropping and I need some comfort food!
    I'll take the fried dal!

    I see that famous jolada roti makes an appearance again! I think I am just going to fast till I reach mumbai!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  26. Looks delicious Sia. The Bhendi palya with coconut and sambar is totally new to me. The daal and palya must taste delicious with curd rice :-)

  27. Wow...both the dishes luk Yum! Sadly i get only frozen Okra here and its a rare sight that I see fresh ones in the local Indian store here :-(

    Both ur dishes reminds me of home (sniff)(sniff)

  28. Hi Sia,
    Both the dishes look nice.
    I liked the recipe for okra dal.
    You are Rocking Girl!!:-)
    Have a great weekend.

  29. I only recently discovered the of okra in sambar and love it! This okra dal sounds like a must-try, especially with the masoor dal. Truly the ultimate comfort food.

  30. Hon, I do not have your email address to send the recipes to. You can drop me a line here: tasteslikehome@gmail.com

  31. lovely comfort food sia.. that too wth okra means it is always fab..

  32. Sia,
    The dal is good and is very similar to the sambar we make( when it is made using okra) but I like the okra palya more:-)
    I have to try this one when I get a chance.

  33. Wonderful looking okra...look delicious!!

  34. I love that comfort food is so subjective - each person to her own nostalgia :)

    I've never been a big okra person, but am slowly coming around - it kind of amazes me that so many folks reading this are diehard okra fans :)

  35. Never tried fried okra dal before...usually have just the slightly fried version but like the new (for me) dal version! Thanks!

  36. Sia I have never had okra in dal. I am totally curious just by the photo. Will surely try it

  37. Both the dishes are awesome ..esp Okra dal ..really comfort food ...and good for health too ....yummy yummy one ....

  38. I am always so amazed by your food design, no matter what you cook, it always comes out fabulous.

  39. Lovely Pictures, Lovely Recipe...Simply Outstanding

  40. I love ur sweet & spicy okra.They look great. i dont know many dry recipes with okra only because i never used to like them until recently. Now i dont know what came to me I love and always is in look out for new recipes.

  41. hey sweetie, i'm sitting here cross legged with my bowl of rice and ghee, puhleez come over with a big bowl of your yummy fried okra dal :) true comfort food! i remember when i got back from a 10 day trip, i could not wait to get home and have me some dal-rice :)

  42. Dal with Okra....hmmmmm something new for me. We make sambar, rasam and kadhi with okra other than curry. curry looks nice and delicious.

  43. bendekayi sambhar mathe palya namma mane fav. So loved ur versions too. Comfort food should always be cooked by someone else and dishes made by someone..no work..etc..etc..wah..hagadre maja ne maja..kanasu kanodralli tappenilla :(

  44. wow sia yenu bendekai galore agoidu :) all the recipes looks yum!

  45. @srivalli,
    Thank u:) everytime when we r on long trip on roads we too crave for simple dal/rasam rice.

    Thank u padma. I hope u try these as they r quite easy as well required very few ingredients.

    U said it… sometimes its simple food what I crave for and sometimes its totally different ones which I cant get enough of. If it is cooked by someone else then nothing can beat that, especially if it cooked by my amma:)

  46. @sra,
    Sambar is different. Actually dal with okra is my own creation;) I wanted to add some veggie to simple dal and thought okra will work good. Thankfully it turned out lip smackingingly delicious.

    i wanted to post this on Sunday and I had changed the posting options for that day. Instead of saving it as a draft I posted it by mistake. Next day I realised what I have done when I got comments:)

    I am eyeing for ur okra dish u posted few days ago. Its in my top bookmarked list:)

  47. @ashakka,
    What? U don’t get fresh okras? Well, it works with frozen ones too. I fry them in high flame so that all the moisture is absorbed and it turns crisp. But yeah, nothing can beat fresh ones isn’t it?

    Thank u kribha. Even here the temperature is going south. It snowed in some part of UK already.
    Do let me know how u like it when u try that palya. Its my fav one.

    @happy cook,
    LOL… I never liked dal or rasam when I was a teenager but now I cant get enough of it:) I guess our taste and preference changes over a period of time. She too will crave for it one day for sure;)

  48. @laavanya,
    Thanks lav:) it was an experiment to put together okra and dal and it worked for me:) hope u give it a try sometime.

    Thank u sagari:)

    Thank u girl:)
    Hey, no one will mind if u r not able to comment. Ur academic work and family comes first. Blogging comes later. Concentrate on ur work now not on u not able to comment for few weeks. We all know what is more imp girl. So don’t u worry… good luck for ur work.

  49. @sagari,
    Will look forward to ur post :)

    @ mishy,
    Both the dishes were good. The dal was my own invention while the palya was my ajji’s :)
    Fall colours are almost over here. All the trees have shed their leaves and are naked. Makes me feel bad for them. But hey, in few months time they will look like new bride again with spring flowers :) I guess just the anticipation of spring makes it more special:)

    I so agree with u sug. I cant get enough of okra and I never leave a chance when I get fresh, tender okras. Okra in dal? He he… I don’t think u would have seen it before coz I kind of invented this dish;)

  50. @rina,
    Thanks rina. May be u should give it a try sometime. They both taste wonderful.

    It would be really nice if someone cooked for us and all we had to do is eat it and just enjoy, isn’t it? :) when I am hungry all I can think of cooking and eating is something like this. The one which is simple and quick to make and tastes like home… :)

    What? U r not very fond of okra? OMG! I do hope u know what u r missing;) he he he… do let me know when u make it for ur hubby and how he likes it.

  51. I am a big fan of OKRA and the picture that you have posted looks perfect and delicious. I am drooling. Such a wonderful healthy dish on a cloudy moody day.

  52. Lovely okra recipes Sia. Dates poli is inviting too. Viji

  53. Palya is looking lovely! I became uncomfortable reading about comfort food as it took so long to come to the actual recipe that comforts me! :D
    I totally agree with you sia!

  54. @mansi,
    LOL...chocolate never comes to my mind when i am hungry and crave for some comfort food:)

    i knew u will love it:) i know how much u like dal and u couldn't have chosen a better ingredient for JFI. hope u give it a try linda because this is absolutely delish... perfect fr winter:)

    LOL... i cant disagree with that;)

  55. @cynth,
    oh darling:) hope u didn't skip ur dinner as u skip ur breakfast. :)

    thank u madhu:)

    shoo to all ur bong friends who make fun of u for eating sambar. have they tried it anytime? i bet they haven't;)

  56. @arun,
    LOL... i know that u love jolada rotti. i cant wait to go india and have some. hope u have finished packing at last. have a safe journey u both:)

    oh another curd fan? i ate dal with pickle and papad and palya with curd rice. it was delish...

    oh poor u... but hey, some of my friends dont even get frozen okra. u can also use frozen okra for these. just fry them in littl eoil at high flame. it will work fine as i have done it quite many times. hope u give it a try dhivya.

  57. @MT,
    ~blush blush~ thank u so much MT. I am glad that i tried dal with okra. although i was little hesitant to use tender fresh okra as it was the first time i tried this experiment. to my surperise it tasted much better than i thought:)

    okra sambar is very common dish in mangalore where it is cooked in plain dal or in coconut base which we call kodhel. this time i tried adding fried okra to basic dal and it tasted really good. addition of tamarind and jaggery gave it nice sweet and sour taste.

    thanks for the recipes cynth. i cant wait to try them:)

  58. @smn,
    thank u:)

    i didn't use any sambar powder as i would have used for okra sambar. i didn't wanted the dal to be little spicy, sour and sweet and i am happy that my experiemnt was successful this time;) try that palya. its our fav one at home.

    thank u:)

  59. @kaykat,
    true, comfort food is related to ur childhood memories, the food cooked by ur mom or loved ones and the one which u still remember enjoying it.
    i was not a big okra fan while growing up but now i appreciate and love each and every veg for its uniqueness.

    this recipe is my experiment gone right;) hope u give it a try.

    i hope u give it a try. it is one fine example of my experiment in kitchen gone right;)

  60. @deepa,
    good to see u deepa. and thank u:)

    thank u:)

    ~blush~ thank u:)

  61. @easycrafts,
    thank u:)

    thank u mocha. i too was not very fond of okra while growing up but now i am diehard fan of okra:)

    LOL... just came and knocked on ur door but nobody opened the door for me;)
    i know what u mean by tht. when we stayed in swizz for 1 week all i could think of having is simple dal with rice and pickle. i was dying to eat that from regualr cheesy food:)

  62. @shivapriya,
    rasam with okra? now that caught my attention. do u have the recipe posted in ur blog?

    idu bendekai sambar all kanri. idu bedekai dal. i have not used any sambar powder or masala.
    neevu heliddu matra noorakke nooru satya:D

    LOL... bendekai sikkiyappaga madiddu:) 2 ottinge post madide ashte.

  63. @mythreyee,
    aha... another okra fan. if u like okra then these r the recipes for u. they r not just easy to cook but tastes absolutely delicious. infact i am craving for them now;)

    welcome back viji and thank u:)

    LOL... u r so funny maami. u should have simply scrolled down;)

  64. Sia, these are wonderful recipes. My mom once told me about okra dal. I never tried it as I was skeptical. After seeing these photographs, I must try these.

  65. @vani,
    do try it vani. it was one of my experiments gone right;) hope u enjoy it as much as we did.

  66. Sia,
    stumbled here while looking for something different to cook. Loved the way you photograph the dishes and way they look so perfect.


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