When I was growing up, Ivy Gourd (tendli or tondli in Marathi and kovakkai in Tamil) was on the dinner menu at our home fairly often. Small, finger-shaped and green, tendli is a rather bland vegetable which, for a cook, can be a good thing because it offers a blank canvas to showcase the flavors of some simple spices.
To my mind, tendli's most valuable asset is its wonderfully crunchy texture. Even cooked, it retains a deeply satisfying snap that I love.
I don't cook tendli as often as I'd like to, chiefly because I don't get a chance to make frequent trips to the Indian grocery store which is a fairly long drive away and which is the only place I can find it. Also, it is a little labor-intensive to prep the vegetable.
Still, when I do find it, I cannot resist this wonderful veggie. For this bhaji I cut the tendli into small rings. It doesn't take that much longer, and it also helps cut the cooking time. Plus, it makes for a pretty presentation.
So here's the recipe for my tendlichi bhaji. A simple, nutritious and easy recipe for a quick weeknight. Enjoy!
About 3 cups tendli, washed, ends cut off, and sliced into rings
1 tbsp canola or any vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp udad dal (black gram dal)
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp red chili powder like cayenne
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp grated coconut for garnish (Optional. I didn't have any on hand when I made the bhaji this time but it's a wonderful addition.)
Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds and then the udad dal.
When the udad dal starts to brown, add the curry leaves and stir quickly. Add the chili and turmeric powders and stir for a few seconds.
Add the tendli rings and stir well to coat.
Add salt. Cover and cook on a low flame, adding water if necessary, about 15 minutes or until the tendli is tender enough to your liking.
Garnish with coriander. Sprinkle some grated coconut on top, if using.
Eat hot with rotis or as a side dish with rice and dal.