It looks like a mini cucumber. It goes by many names – dondakai in Tamil, parwal up north and tendli in Telugu. Once a year we used to get this sent specially from West Bengal by a doctor there who loved my parents, along with the most fragrant (possibly expensive) basmati rice from his own fields. The rest of the year this vegetable rarely made an appearance on our table because a lot of oil was used to make it. Now I’ve found a way to make this dish just as nicely with as little as a tablespoon of oil.At the stand where we get our vegetables the DH asked what the name of this vegetable was and what difference was from the more round fuller version of it, which I’d never seen till I lived in Andhra. So the guy says, ‘ye tendli hai, ye parval hai.’. He obviously felt that if the DH didn’t know this much he should go on to explain the others so he proceeded with his vegetable education, ‘ye carrot hai, ye beans hai, ye gobi hai…‘ to which the DH protested, ‘Carrot,beans tho mein bhi malum hai’ (Even I know what a carrots and beans are!)
Tendli’s fatter cousin is parwal
What is so moreish about this vegetable is that when fried it becomes sweet with the oil and spicy if you add chilli powder. But it’s only with a lot of oil that you get that sweetness. Not true. Here’s my recipe using very little oil but you need a wide frying pan and low heat.
500 gms tendli – the slender ones sliced down the middle in half and then each half cut in to four. So that’s 8 parts per tendli. For the larger parwal, cut in to 16.
I medium sized onion, sliced.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a non-stick large frying pan. Do not use a round bottomed kadai for this, and non-stick is essential.
When hot, lower the heat and fry the thinly sliced onion till translucent.
Add the sliced tendli. Toss with the oil and onions, add 1.5tsps chilli powder and 1/2 tsp tumeric, 3/4tsp salt.
Maintaining the low heat, arrange the tendli so that each slice has contact with the frying pan’s surface.
Allow to cook, without a lid for 40 minutes on the lowest heat your burner will go. Toss every 10 minutes to ensure nothing is burning and that both sides get cooked.
In the last ten minutes you can raise the heat constantly stirring as you fry to get that crispness.
The key to using less oil is to keep the heat very low and use a wide non-stick frying pan. While this is cooking you can be doing a whole lot of other things as you don’t need to keep stirring it. I even had a shower and came back to find everything cooking away nicely!