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.
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!
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!! 😀 )
- 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.
HOW TO CLEAN AND PREPARE OKRA
- 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 / OKRA STIR-FRY
- 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
- 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 sautéing.
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!
- No water – Come what may, DO NOT ADD WATER!!
- Not adding salt yet – Salt causes release of moisture and that’s the last thing we wish for
- 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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