There is a saying that there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. When you understand the dog and treat it right, the dog will bring you a lifetime of joy. In some crazy philosophical sense, I think that also applies to okra, a vegetable that has a bad rap for being slimy and yucky. Understand okra, add the right cooking techniques and you have a vegetable that can be crowned with an angel’s ring.
Bhindi is the hindi word for okra. I know very few dishes in the western world that use okra and right now the only dish that comes to my mind is gumbo. However, this vegetable is widely eaten and loved in India. In stews, deep fried and pan fried with spices. There are two important aspects to remember when you cook okra. First, as part of the prep for cooking, you must dry them really well after you wash them. Too much extra moisture from water seems to exacerbate the sliminess of the vegetable. Second, take the time to caramelize them – whether by pan frying (patiently!) in oil or deep frying in oil. When you completely cook okra, it caramelizes to a sweet taste and delectable texture. The rest will become easy, including eating it.
For this recipe, the okra is first caramelized by pan frying it and then combined with a mixture of onions, tomatoes and lots of spices.
Ingredients: 2 tbsps vegetable oil 2 cups fresh okra or bhindi ½ cup sliced onions ½ cup diced tomatoes 1 large clove garlic, mashed into a paste 1 inch piece ginger, grated fresh cilantro salt to taste Spices: 1 tsp coriander powder ½ tsp cumin powder ½ tsp mild chilli powder (Kashmiri chilli pd) ¼ tsp turmeric 1/8 tsp amchur powder 1/8 tsp garam masala 2 tbsps dry fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi Method: Prepare okra by washing it and drying it completely with a kitchen towel. It helps if you let the okra sit for about 15 minutes on your kitchen counter so they dry out some more. Cut off the heads and tails of the okra, and cut the mid section into 1 inch length pieces. In a non-stick or well seasoned cast iron pan, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and pan fry the okra on a medium flame until the okra is lightly caramelized and almost completely cooked. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add onions. A bit of salt at this point will help cook the onions. When they are translucent, add the ginger garlic paste. Stir for a minute or so until the garlic and ginger are no longer raw. Add all the spices to the onions and coat well. Toss in the tomatoes, a bit more salt and cook until the tomatoes are soft and mushy. Introduce the okra into the pan and mix well to let the flavors mingle. Add a bit of water, cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for an extra 10 minutes until the okra is fully cooked. Serve hot with soft rotis or rice.