July 11, 2014
If you think you hate okra. Not to worry. You are not alone.
When my husband and I got married back in 1999, I was appalled to hear that he, too, hated my favorite vegetable, okra or bhindi. Hate may be a strong word. Let’s put it this way, he avoided it at all costs.
I came to find out his non-love of this veggie had less to do with the veggie itself, and more to do with how he’d eaten it in the past. While my MIL is a great cook – her bhindi masala is just okay. C’mon, no one is perfect, and if anyone tells her I said this, I’ll break both your legs! LoL.
If you already have my book, Vegan Indian Cooking, check out page 178.
A couple tips on okra. If you live in Chicago, the best spot to purchase it will be Fresh Market on Devon Ave. They have the freshest - cheapest - Indian-inspired groceries on the planet. You can also get it from Whole Foods, but they don't always stock it. When you purchase it, look for medium-sized green pods without brown spotting. Too big, and they will be woody and tasteless. They should be firm to the touch, not soft and limp.
Another important TIP: Always dry your okra pods really well after washing. I use a cloth and dry them individually to be sure that they are as dry as possible. Any moisture can lead to more sliminess later. It's a tiny bit more work upfront, but it's well worth the effort.
I think this widely misunderstood veggie also needs to be cooked as dry as possible to get rid of the sliminess that turns a lot of folks off. The spices used in this recipe help as well, especially the dried mango powder or amchur. This can be hard to find, but it's common in any Indian grocery store - we are also selling it for a short time - just purchase our Kala Namak, and email me separately letting me know it's the amchur you want at email@example.com - we are rolling out spices faster than we're able to keep up with shooting pictures for our online store.)
I learned how to make it and eat it this way in my dad's village of Bhikhi - where they eat this dish at least once a week. Now you can enjoy it too!
Here's your grocery List: oil (I use grape seed), okra, onion, ginger, garlic, fresh chiles, cilantro
Here's your spice List: cumin seeds, turmeric powder, dried mango power or amchur, garam masala, and salt.
Here's what it all looks like when all laid out. It's truly pretty straight forward, especially if you have a Spice Tiffin - essential for housing all of your spices by cuisine. From the top right you have: Amchur Powder, onion, green chile, cilantro, ginger, garlic, okra, and spices.
I've already ground down the ginger and garlic in a food processor ahead of time for easy cooking and I store my onions in the fridge peeled so I can grab, chop, and go.
Another key to this dish - the pan you use. Note that mine are heavy caste iron pans. I love them because they retain the heat necessary to really help caramelize the onion and okra without burning them.
Now that you have the basics down, you're ready to cook!
Bhindi Masala, Crackling Okra
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 large yellow or red onion, roughly chopped
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
2 pounds okra, washed, dried, and trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds (6 cups)
1-2 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder (dried mango powder)
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. In a deep, heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add the cumin and turmeric. Cook until the seeds sizzle, about 40 seconds.
3. Add the onion and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. This is a key step for my okra. The large, chunky pieces of onion should be brown all over and slightly caramelized. This will be a delicious base for the final dish.
4. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook another minute, stirring.
5. Add the okra and cook for 2 minutes, just until the okra turns bright green and starts to get a bit lacy. Not to worry, we'll deal with that!
6. Add the chiles, amchur, red chile powder, garam masala, and salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pan. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Turn the heat off and cover the pan completely. Let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes to allow all the flavors to be absorbed.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice, roti, or naan. You can see I served mine above with corn tortillas.
Protein Tip: If you want to add some veggie protein, drizzle with a little cashew cream. You can make your own by soaking a cup of raw, unsalted cashews in water overnight. Drain the next day and process in a blender with a cup of water. Done, done, and done.
If you love this recipe you are going to eat up my next book, Indian For Everyone, which has 3 new okra recipes in it. You can pre-order it now and get a FREE pdf sent to you packed with new recipes, grocery lists, and pictures of spices.