When I joined the E.A.T. South veggie-co-op this summer to get quality veggies, one of my goals was to expand my repertoire of delicious vegetable recipes. I hit the jackpot with this recipe for Indian stir-fried okra.
Like many people, my relationship with okra has been tenuous. As I child, I hated it in any form, but especially in gumbo, where I my imagination led me to believe that the okra seeds were shrimp eyes. Blegh. As I grew older, I learned to love perfectly fried okra like my Mawmaw Irene used to make. Lots of people fry okra, but few match hers. It was very lightly breaded, fried golden brown, and was neither slimy nor hard. It had a perfect dry and slightly chewy texture. The fried okra at Dirk’s Filet and Vine comes close. But who am I kidding—I don’t have time to fry okra, and there’s next to no chance it would come out like Mawmaw’s.
Because I was already too hungry, I didn’t even bother to look at my cookbooks, but instead went straight to Satan’s Cookbook, the internet. I found several recipes and nearly went with a Chinese version before the thought of Indian spices wooed me. I didn’t have all the ingredients called for in the delightful recipe at Peri’s Spice Ladle, so I adapted the recipe to the ingredients I have. Lacking potatoes (and the patience to learn how to parboil them) and tomato paste, I switched things up with various red peppers and the southerner’s old standby, Rotel tomatoes. Check out Peri’s recipe. She offers a lot of insight into the nature of okra, and she taught me a new term, “roasting the aromatics,” for the process of flavoring the oil that is the basis of many Indian recipes. I bet her version with potatoes is even better. Without further ado, my version–using all EAT South veggies, except ginger, Rotel, and lemon:
- One share of okra (400 grams–I don’t know why I weighed in grams.)
- A couple of tablespoons of oil of choice (canola or coconut work well).
- ½ teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
- 2-5 cloves of garlic (to your taste)
- ½ inch of ginger root
- Chilies – all of the 1 in 10 hot peppers from share or 2-3 jalepenos or serranos.
- One white onion from share, thinly sliced
- Assorted red peppers
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon amchur/mango powder (optional, but much desired!)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 can of Mild Rotel, well-drained
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Chop garlic, chilies, and ginger in a food processor. I go whole hog with 1.5 inches of ginger and an equivalent amount of garlic, say 5 really fat cloves, plus all of the 1 in 10 hot peppers from the share, but you could also use jalapenos or serranos.
- Wash and fully dry one share of okra. It’s the water that makes it slimy, so be fastidious. Cut on a bias into ⅓ inch slices.
- Thinly slice one onion.
- Wash, dry, and slice red peppers into thin rings. I used one large red pepper and several small round red peppers from a previous share.
- Measure dry spices and salt into a small prep bowl: ½ teaspoon red chili powder (I used ancho), ½ teaspoon cumin powder, ¼ teaspoon amchur/mango powder, & ½ teaspoon Kosher salt.
- Pour one can of Mild Rotel in a strainer and let it drain until needed.
- Prep ½ lemon for juicing.
- Fry whole cumin and one thinly-sliced onion from the share in oil of choice for one minute.
- Add garlic, ginger, chili mix. Fry for one minute.
- Add okra, dry spices, and salt. I was scared the moisture from the peppers would make the okra slimy, so I removed the okra once it was cooked did the peppers and then put them back together, but it would probably be fine to cook them together.
- Add one can of well-drained Mild Rotel.
- Cook 5 minutes or longer if you like veggies more done. They won’t get soft or slimy, just less raw. I went longer. I’m still the little kid icked out by most vegetables that have any hint of rawness about them. I may have gone as long as 15 minutes, and the okra were still firm, but fully cooked.
- Add lemon juice.
The end result is amazing, like something from a good Indian buffet (if you go to Cincinnati, check out Amma’s Kitchen—all vegetarian Southern Indian). The okra is tasty and has a texture I didn’t know it could have—not at all slimy as in gumbo or (delightfully) chewy as in fried okra. It was firm and non-slimy.
Indian Spices just outside the Eastdale Mall has, as its name would suggest, a decent selection of Indian spices. However, mango powder is the only ingredient called for not available at a regular grocery. Mango powder has a nice tangy bite to it that adds another dimension to the flavor of the spices and is worth trying out.
Incidentally, this is a great recipe for those of us with adrenal fatigue as it has lots of vitamin-rich vegetables and good-for-you coconut oil. It should be combined with a protein to round out the meal. Hmmm. I wonder how this would go with fried tofu . . .