Okra: you either love it or hate it. I am most definitely on team “love” and have been ever since piling fried okra onto my LuAnn platter at Luby’s Cafeteria as a little kid. I think most people on the opposing team hate okra because they haven’t had it properly prepared. When cooked well, it’s delicious- but it can be slimy and tough if prepped the wrong way. Yuck. “PTOSD,” or post traumatic okra stress disorder, is a very real syndrome, and if you suffer from it you’re therapist may just suggest this recipe as a way to face your fears and fully heal! The key to cooking okra is drying it out really well to prevent sliminess. I take steps to make sure mine are very dry by cutting, blotting, then fridgeing the okra cut side up to let the cold air dry them out even further. Then they are shallow fried in avocado oil to get really dark and crisp before getting tossed with Indian spices and tomatoes curry style. Bhindi means okra in Hindi, BTW! We usually associate okra recipes with the culinary traditions of the American South, but it’s widely used in Indian and African cooking cultures as well. This dish is fabulous as a vegetarian main course over some basmati rice bit also makes a lovely side dish on an Indian inspired menu. I’m more than OK with okra- and you can be too with this exotic recipe! Enjoy!
prep time: ~45 min. (includes drying time) cook time: 20 min. serves: 4-6 as a side dish, 2-3 as a main course
3-4 tbsp avocado oil
1 quart young (smaller in size) okra, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 cup seeded and diced tomato, from about two Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish
Place the sliced okra cut side up on a paper towel lined sheet pan, then blot the tops with more paper towels to dry. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator to air dry at least 30 minutes before proceeding (the longer you leave it in the fridge, the dryer the okra will be).
Once the okra is dry, it’s time to fry! Heat two tbsp of avocado oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, carefully arrange the okra cut side down in a single layer to fill the skillet (you will need to work in batches to fit them all). Fry the okra undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until nicely browned, then carefully flip them to fry another 3 minutes or so on the other side. When the okra is well browned on both sides, use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt and start the next batch, adding more oil to the skillet if needed.
Once all the okra have been browned, add a splash more oil to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Toss in the onion and sweat 3 minutes to soften. Add the ginger, garlic, all the spices, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt and sauté 1 or 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and stir to coat in the onion/spice mixture- cook 2 minutes more, then pour in 1/2 cup water to deglaze the skillet and form a sauce. Let the sauce simmer 2-3 minutes more to thicken. Add the okra and cilantro into the skillet and toss so that everything is coated in the spiced tomato sauce. Check for seasoning. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm with more cilantro sprinkled on top.