Bhindi ki Sabzi / Okra Stir-Fry

Bhindi (Okra) is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine, which is prepared in hundreds of ways. Probably each state in India has a different style of cooking bhindi. Sometimes as a dry preparation just stir-fried or in a yogurt based gravy or an onion-tomato gravy. It can also be marinated in some spices and semolina and pan-fried or just added in sambar or fish curry.

Bhindi ki Sabzi
Bhindi ki Sabzi with Phulkas

Okra is my husband’s favourite veggie. In early courtship period, when I was all set to impress him, bhindi was what I planned to cook. Little did I know that even though it tastes so good, preparing it can be a messy and frustrating ordeal. The insides of an okra contain a slimy, gooey substance which leaves its presence on your hands, on the knife, chopping board, just about everywhere. Everyone who has cooked okra has definitely been there.

Are you wondering how to enjoy okra sans the muck? It’s your lucky day for I have outlined tips right from buying good bhindi to preparing as well as cooking without the sticky goo coming in your way!

Bhindi ki Sabzi
Bhindi ki Sabzi

TIPS FOR SELECTING OKRA AT THE GROCERS

  • Did you know okra is called Ladies’ finger? There is a pretty good logic behind this. An okra should be slender and delicate like a lady’s finger. Such okras cook well and taste better. Hence select the slender, delicate ones (don’t go around comparing them with your fingers though!! ūüėÄ )
  • The pointed end should be flexible and bend easily. If it is tough, that okra won’t cook well. (Just bend slightly to check, not necessarily break it.)
  • As with any other produce, the surface should be free of dark spots, blemishes or bruises.
Okra is called Lady's finger because it should be slender & delicate like a Lady's finger! Click To Tweet

HOW TO CLEAN AND PREPARE OKRA

bhindi

  • Okra stays in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Just wrap in a plastic bag.
  • When you wish to cook, wash in cold water and pat dry. Drying the okra well is a very important step.
  • Cut off the pointed end and the remaining stalk.
  • Okra can be cut in rounds or lengthwise. While cutting rounds, I prefer using a sharp paring¬†knife in a palm-grip just so that I don’t need the chopping board!
  • Wash the knife and board immediately as once the slimy substance dries, it is tougher to clean off.

There are many fancy styles to cook bhindi. But my favourite is this simple stir-fry with hot phulkas (thin whole wheat rotis.) So lets get started..

Bhindi ki Sabzi
Bhindi ki Sabzi

BHINDI KI SABZI / OKRA STIR-FRY

Ingredients

  • 250 gm okra (bhindi)
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3-4 curry leaves
  • A pinch of asafoetida (found in Indian grocery; can be left out)
  • 2 green chili, slit in half
  • 2 tbsp dried mango powder (amchoor)
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

Method

  • In a wok, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them crackle. Then add the asafoetida and curry leaves and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Add the onion and saute well. Fry the onion till it is golden. Meanwhile. add the green chili
  • Once the onion is golden, it is time for okra. Mix it well with the onion and keep saut√©ing.

Now comes the tricky part! 

Okra will start releasing gooey threads which seem to increase as you go on stirring. Read on to know how to tackle this menace!

  1. No water – Come what may, DO NOT ADD WATER!!
  2. Not adding salt yet – Salt causes release of moisture and that’s the last thing we wish for
  3. Sour / tangy agent – Sour agents counter the stringiness of the okra. Once the threads reduce, the okra can fry well. Examples are lemon/lime juice, tomato, yogurt, tamarind, kokum, amchoor. In this recipe, I am using amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • Keep stir-frying the okra. I am assuming you have added the sour agent, amchoor, in this case. Add the turmeric as well.
  • Once okra seems to be cooked well, season with salt.

Serve this bhindi ki sabzi with some hot Indian flat bread. We prefer the thin phulkas made of whole wheat flour as it goes perfectly with this modest okra stir-fry.

Do you prepare okra? Do you like it? Do you have a favourite preparation? Also, if you would like to read more okra recipes do let me know in the comments below.

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Bhindi ki Sabzi / Okra Stir-Fry
Bhindi ki Sabzi / Okra Stir-Fry

Kothu Roti: Stir-fried, Left-over Roti

Quite routinely, we end up having left-over roti(Indian flat-bread). And every so often they end up in the bin. (Who likes stale rotis?) But if we are able to turn them into a delicious, protein-packed meal, I am sure you will find reasons to leave some extra roti!

Kothu Roti
Kothu Roti

Kothu Roti’¬†is a very popular street food in South India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia; obviously each has its own style but the basic concept remains same. It is also referred to as ‘Kothu Parotta’.¬†It is made on a broad, flat skillet, while stir-frying veggies, egg or meat along with the chopped up roti in an assortment of spices. ¬†In the comfort of my kitchen, I use a regular wok to make this. This recipe tastes best when it goes from the skillet into the mouth.

Kothu Roti
IMG_20160803_204735
Kothu Roti

I came across this yummy dish in an Indian-Malaysian cafe in Melbourne and instantly fell in love with it. It is so customisable that you can whip it up with whatever ingredients you have on hand. There are no hard and fast rules. I usually like to incorporate eggs, so it amps up the protein in the meal. But it can very well be made vegan. In addition, if you have any grilled/shredded chicken lying around in the fridge, this is a good place to use it.

I generally like to have this as a big breakfast or brunch when I have left-over roti from previous day’s dinner. But again, Kotthu Roti tastes awesome for any meal of the day, as long as it is freshly made and served hot.

I would even say this is a very ‘bachelor friendly‘ recipe. You can use frozen parathas that are easily available. Just roast, chop and continue with this recipe. (Psst..¬†You can be a winner even if you do not possess the skill to actually prepare a roti/paratha!)

Not skilled to make rotis? Use store-bought frozen parathas in this Kotthu Roti recipe. Click To Tweet
Kotthu Roti
Kotthu Roti
IMG_20160803_204728
Kothu Roti

KOTHU ROTI: STIR-FRIED, LEFT-OVER ROTI

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large rotis or paratha
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 onion, chopped fine or lengthwise
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 capsicum, chopped fine or lengthwise (great if you can use different colours!)
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp curry powder OR garam masala
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • Red chilli powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil for cooking
  • Coriander for garnish
  • Lemon juice while serving.

Method

  • Chop the veggies and tear the roti into small pieces. The size of roti is completely upto you.
  • In a wok, heat some oil. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. Then add the curry leaves¬†and allow them to sizzle.
  • Next add the onion and fry till golden.
  • Add the capsicum and other vegetables of choice. Fry till crisp.

 

Kotthu Roti
Kotthu Roti
  • Finely chop the tomato and add to the wok. Cook till it turns slightly mushy. Add little salt so the tomato can cook faster, followed by the other spices. You can adjust the spiciness of the dish depending on your taste buds.
  • Now push the above mixture to one side of the wok, or just make a well in between and add the eggs. I just broke the eggs directly into the wok, however, whisking them outside and then adding gives a better result.
  • Scramble the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

 

Getting the eggs scrambled
Getting the eggs scrambled
  • Lastly, add the bits of roti/paratha and saute till everything is well incorporated.
  • Garnish with coriander, lemon juice and dig in while it’s hot!

Variations:

  • Optional vegetables: Carrots, celery, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms
  • You may add shredded chicken, grilled meat of choice, minced meat, chopped sausages. (Just vary the cooking time accordingly.)
  • Try with pita or toasted bread and share your results. (Though I have always made with left-over home-made rotis or frozen paratha.)

 

 

 

Low-Calorie Butter Chicken / Murgh Makhani

If there was a poll, “Which recipe¬†do you associate with India?”, (to non-Indians, of course) the top answer would¬†surely be Butter Chicken! Without doubt, it is the most popular chicken recipe from India.

Also called Murgh (chicken) Makhani (butter), it has smokey pieces of succulent chicken lathered in a rich, aromatic gravy. The gravy is mild and not-so-spicy and that’s why it is much enjoyed by people all over the world.

As the name goes, there is butter, lots of it! And some heavy cream to add the richness to the gravy. Hence it may crease your dietitian’s forehead. But you love it nevertheless, except¬†the calories that come uninvited. But hey! You have reached the right place as today I am sharing with you my low-calorie, low-fat version.

Can you guess the secret ingredient for this no-guilt indulgence.

Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken

I make chicken tikkas first. Tikkas are nothing but marinated chicken pieces that are grilled to give them an alluring, smokey flavor and look. Next, is the super silky gravy in which the tikkas are rolled in. The last and the best thing left to do roll up your sleeves and lose yourself in the world of Murgh Makhani!!

This tasty gravy dish is usually served with roti or naan or even goes well with a bowl of steaming hot Basmati rice. Hopefully by now I have got your taste-buds charged up, so lets get cooking!

Butter Chicken with Naan and tikka
Butter Chicken with Naan and tikka
Butter Chicken with Tikka
Butter Chicken with Tikka

BUTTER CHICKEN / MURGH MAKHANI

Serves 2 really hungry persons

Ingredients:

  • 500 gram diced boneless chicken
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 ” piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • Whole spices – 2 cloves, small piece cinnamon, 2 green cardamom pods, all slightly crushed together
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • A pinch of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (adjust as per taste)
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) – found at your local Indian grocer
  • 1/3 cup thick yogurt (I prefer the light Greek yoghurt)
  • 1/4 cup light cooking cream (can be omited)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp cooking oil + Oil for grilling tikkas, if required
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander for garnish

For the marinade

  • 3-4 tbsp thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp each of ginger and garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp sumac* (see note below)

Method

  • Prepare the marinade: Whisk the yogurt until smooth and add the ingredients under marinade. Coat the chicken pieces in the marinade. Best is, if you can leave it overnight to soak up all the flavours. Also, the lemon juice and yogurt tenderise the meat. If not, 4 hours is good enough or even 2 hours could do the trick.

NOTE: Sumac is a Middle-Eastern spice that has a dark red colour and a mild tangy taste. I use it for its colour in these tikkas. Always better using a spice than food colour, isn’t it? It can be left out if you cannot get your hands on it.

  • Grilling the chicken: Skewer the pieces and grill it either in the oven or BBQ. I just used a cast iron pan.
Chicken Tikka
Chicken Tikka
  • In another pan, take the butter and oil. The oil prevents the butter from burning. Saute the onion, ginger and garlic until fragrant.
  • Add the whole spices and add the tomato paste soon thereafter. Keep stirring throughout to prevent it from sticking or burning.
  • While continuously mixing, add the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, and kasuri methi. Keep stirring till oil separates from the sides. If it is getting dry, splash some water.
  • Blend together the yogurt and cream and add slowly. All the while keep mixing to prevent the yogurt from splitting. You may completely omit the cream as the yogurt does the trick here. (Yes! U guessed it!)
  • Adjust the seasonings and then add the tikkas. Smear the gravy all over the pieces. Add some water if the gravy is very thick. (Take care not to add too much though.)
  • Lastly, garnish with the lovely coriander and a dash of the cream.

Variations:

  • Make it vegetarian by replacing chicken with Paneer – Indian cottage cheese.

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Low Calorie Butter Chicken
Low Calorie Butter Chicken

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Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu

Till about 3 years ago, my knowledge of noodles was only restricted to Maggi Masala and Hakka noodles. It was only in this culturally diverse city of Melbourne, that I call home now, did I open my eyes and ears to an array of noodles. Melbourne houses lots of South-east Asian communities and each has its similarities and diversities. And this applies even to their cuisines.

Vegan noodle soup
Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu

When you wish to eat noodles in an Asian food joint, you will be spoilt for choice; Udon noodles or soba,  egg or rice noodles, thin vermicelli type or flat noodles (the one used in Pad Thai) or even the gluten-free variety. Like me, if you always research your menu before ordering then a Google search is your best saviour.

On one such food adventure, Mr and I came across soba noodles in a Japanese food outlet. ¬†As most recipes¬†contained fish, we did not finally eat there.¬†(Mr does not tolerate fish, please remember this if you are ever calling us over for dinner!! ūüôā )¬†But the soba noodle stuck in my head and I wanted to try it out. These are made of a grain called Buckwheat. It isn’t related to wheat though! And hence gluten-free.

Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu
Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu

In the Asian stores, you will find a shelf-full of soba noodles; some are 100% buckwheat, whereas some are blended with wheat flour (Only pure buckwheat is gluten free. User discretion advised)

I have tried both the varieties and there is one thing in common. They do not hold up to being stir-fried. For me, it has always been a messy disaster; if you have a secret to throw light on this, please write in the comments below.

The next best thing that I could come up was SOUP! It was a vegan soba noodle soup with lots of veggies. For the protein, I have used tofu.

Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu
Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu

VEGAN SOBA NOODLE SOUP WITH TOFU

Serves : 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 bundles of soba (buckwheat) noodles
  • 200 grams firm tofu
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • A handful of baby spinach, torn
  • 1/4 cup edamame beans (I used the frozen type)
  • 1 litre vegetable¬†stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp hot sauce of preference
  • Salt and pepper – to taste
  • Water for boiling noodles – as per package instructions
  • Oil – 1 tbsp for sauteing tofu, 1-2 tsp for the soup, and 1/2 spoon per bowl of noodles
  • Chilli flakes for garnish (optional)

For marinating the tofu:

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp Sriracha chilli sauce or any other hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt (this is optional as we are already using soy sauce)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

Method:

  • Preparing¬†the tofu:¬†When you buy tofu, it comes¬†drowned in water. Most importantly, we need to get rid of the moisture. Only then, it will absorb the marination and get sauteed well. Be sure that you are buying the firm or extra firm tofu. Once you remove from the packaging, press it between 2 kitchen towels, place in a colander, and keep some weight over it. This will drain out the water and you will get a nice, porous tofu ready to absorb all the lovely flavours you dunk it into.
soba noodle soup with tofu
Preparing the tofu
  • Let the tofu marinate for 15-20 minutes. Then you may cube or slice it and let it cook¬†in some oil.¬†Let each side colour up for 5-7 minutes. Even if the outside gets crisp, the interior stays soft.

 

  • In the meanwhile, cook the noodles as per packet instructions. These noodles generally come packaged as per serving size. Take 1/2 cup from the stock and add to water to make up the quantity of liquid¬†required. Once cooked to the given cooking time, drain and wash under cold water to arrest the cooking process.

 

  • Divide the noodles in 2 bowls and mix 1/2 tsp oil in each bowl. Coating the noodles with oil with help to keep the strands from clumping together.

 

  • In a saucepan, add the oil and saute the onion, garlic and ginger. Next add the remaining stock.
vegan soba noodle soup with tofu
simmering away
  • Season with soy sauce, hot sauce, and vinegar.

 

  • Once you see small bubbles forming at the sides, add the shredded cabbage and the spinach. I do not like cooking the veggies much as I prefer to retain their crunch and colour.

 

  • Lastly, add the edamame beans.

 

  • Check for seasonings and adjust as per taste.

 

For serving,

  • Ladle the soup over the noodles in each bowl.
  • Add a generous helping of the vegetables. Then load up the pan fried tofu.
  • In the end, garnish with some red chilli flakes and ENJOY!!

    Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu
    Vegan Soba Noodle Soup with Tofu

Variations:

  1. Substitute the above veggies or add celery, scallions, Asian greens like pak choy, or bok choy.
  2. Substitute tofu with meat of choice.
  3. Substitute vegetable stock with stock of choice or if using plain water, plop a stock cube into it.
  4. For garnish, you can add scallion, bean shoots, or coriander.

This soup is ideal on cold evenings when your soul just needs that pampering. But hey, who sticks to ideals? So go ahead and make this soup whichever day or night of the year you want to. And whenever you do, remember to drop by and leave a comment as I would love to know how this turned out for you.

Thank you!