I feel okra gets the short end of the stick in the vegetable world. I wonder why? It is wholesome and delicious and cooks easily…not to mention the long list of health benefits (high in vitamins, iron, calcium and fiber). Okra or Lady fingers or Gumbo (in the southern states of the US) or Bhindi as it is commonly known in India…is cooked in most Indian homes.
As always, preparation and usage styles differ from region to region (bet you are used to me saying that in my posts, dear readers, but India is a big country.) From popular dry preparations like ‘Bhindi masala’ (spicy), Bhindi Amchur’ (with mango powder) and ‘Bharvan Bhindi’ (stuffed)…to okra’s appearance in gravy preparations like Kadhi (yogurt based curry) and Sāmbhar (south Indian style lentil preparation); you will find this worthy vegetable runs through the length and breadth of India’s cuisines.
At our home, we like okra stir fried with Indian spices and potatoes thrown in for good measure (read: for the kids.)
Before I reveal my delicious recipe, here are a few tips on handling and cooking Okra.
- Choosing okra is an art; if you have a choice, check raw okra by breaking off the thin tip end. If it snaps easily, that lot of okra is good.
- Make sure the vegetable is a beautiful bright green without spots or cuts in it.
- Wash the okra and completely dry it before you start cutting to avoid the ‘gooey’ mess from the seeds which occurs when okra is wet.
- While cutting okra, the knife should runs through it smoothly. If you feel a crunchy resistance, throw out that piece or it could lead to a fibrous texture in the dish.
- Okra cooks fast, so don’t be fooled by the ‘still green’ look. Taste it for your desired bite.
- If you are going for a dry okra preparation like this recipe and want okra to retain shape; don’t add any water /stock to the preparation and don’t cover it cause steam has the same effect.
Serves 2-4 • Prep Time- 10 minutes • Hands-on cook time- 15 minutes
1 lb okra, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium potato, cut into 1 inch cubes and parboiled*
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ of a medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced)
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon amchur/mango powder (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste
Juice of ½ a lemon (around 1 tablespoon)
*For parboiling the potato, I use a microwave. Cover the raw potato cubes with water in a deep bowl and cook on high for 5-6 minutes. Drain really well and leave aside.
On a medium flame, heat the canola oil in a non-stick skillet. Add cumin seeds and onion to the hot oil, fry for 2-3 minutes till onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. The aromas of the onion and garlic will waft towards you. In Indian cooking, this process is known as roasting the aromatics.
Add the potatoes, okra, dry spices and salt. Stir fry the vegetables and spice for 5 minutes on a high flame. Add tomato paste and toss intermittently for another 5 minutes for the flavors to blend. Switch off the flame and add lemon juice. Serve hot with a cucumber salad and Indian flatbread (chapatti or naan) or bread rolls. Daal, a popular Indian lentil preparation is a great accompaniment to this okra.