This is very much an Indian dish and I learned to make it from my friend Mrs.Rao who used to live in Columbus. She was an amazing cook and, like many others, I have enjoyed many a meal and event at their place.
Tindora aka Kovakkai
Tindora, coccinia grandis, is a vine that grows in hot climates and is common in South India. The tender gherkin-like fruit is harvested for cooking. This is the only tindora dish I have really known or enjoyed. My daughter and I both like to eat it with rice and either sambar or rasam. It also makes a delicious topping for a green salad. Tindora is widely available in asian food markets. Look for firm small gherkins. The more mature ones will have more water and are a bit slimy when cut.
1.5 lbs fresh firm tindora
2 – 3 tbs vegetable oil or light sesame oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp split urad dal
1/4 tsp asafetida
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a cast iron or heavy bottomed frying pan and add the mustard seeds and let them sputter. Then add the urad and other powders being careful not to scorch the seasonings. Now add the tindora cut lengthwise into 4 slivers each and stir. Keep stirring over medium to low heat while the slivers sear and caramelize. Stir occasionally over low heat and salt at this stage. It’s done when they have reduced by a third with water loss and look golden brown and no longer moist and sticky.
Cutting the tindora lengthwise into thin sticks rather than across into little discs results in a dryer, crisper curry.