It was pointed out to me that, despite the number of times our household has eaten Indian-spiced okra in the last year, I have so far failed to do a post on it. Well, let’s just fix that, shall we?
I was not an okra eater, growing up. It’s a hard vegetable to grow in the Pacific Northwest, even east of the mountains – it just needs too long of a growing season – so it’s not very common as a fresh vegetable in the stores. I was fed a bowl of okra gumbo in New Orleans when I was nine years old, and thought it was the nastiest, slimiest thing I had ever eaten. I didn’t try it again for years.
I believe it was my father who first found a recipe for spiced, pan-fried okra in a Julie Sahni cookbook and fed it to us. We fussed and made dubious comments, but then ate some…and kept on eating, because this is incredible, unexpectedly delicious stuff! Instead of being slimy and glutinous, the okra cooks dry and becomes a little crisp, a little tender, delicately flavored and with a delightful pop from the seeds. Cooking it Indian style often means adding a dry spice mixture of cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and sometimes rings of green chile pepper, which go really nicely with the okra’s flavor. We’ve tried several different recipes, and it’s delicious no matter what we do. The two of us can finish off a pound of frozen chopped okra fairly quickly this way. Who knew? Now I’m an okra fiend.
Honestly, even if you think you hate okra, try this. Really. You might be surprised.
adapted from Lord Krishna’s Cuisine by Yamuna Devi
- 3-4 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 pound frozen chopped okra
- 2 serrano chiles, sliced into rings (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp paprika or cayenne
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coarse salt
Heat the oil in a large skillet until medium hot (I like cast iron, but nonstick might work well). Empty the bag of okra into the pan – don’t worry about defrosting the okra first. The ice will sputter, but then it will settle down. Stir, turn the heat down slightly and let simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium heat. Continue to stir occasionally as the okra dries out.
When the slime has all cooked off and the okra is getting cooked and a little crispy on the edges, add the spice mixture all at once and stir thoroughly. You can turn up the heat a little at this point if you want things even crispier. Cook another minute or two, then turn off the heat and add the salt.
Eat alongside any Indian dish, especially spiced meats, with white rice and plain yogurt. Makes an excellent leftover if you manage not to eat it all.