Bhindi Do Pyaza directly translates to Okra cooked with LOTS of onions. Fancy and exotic it might sound, I would still call this the familiar comfort food.
I grew up having steamed okra drizzled with pure mustard oil and salt. Not many kids of my age fancied that, but I did. The aroma of mustard oil makes everything better and every Bengali will tell you that, without hesitation.
When we first moved to this country, the “Okra” sounded strange, and nothing like a vegetable to me. I had a tough time converting a slender, pretty and feminine Lady’s finger to Okra; just plain Okra
Bhindi or Okra or Lady’s finger (this one is my favorite name) serves more purposes than just a vegetable for cooking. I remember slicing them, dipping them in fabric paint to make table napkins when I was at school. Now little T will fill in all the papers and cards with different colored flowers with sliced okra.
Well, crafts aside, lets talk about the recipe today. It is uncomplicated if you do not take slicing the vegetables in account. I cannot say that I enjoy slicing okras, esp. with having to wipe off the knife each time after I have sliced a few. But it is one way to keep the slime from getting everywhere.
And I still have not figured out the mystery behind the Do Pyaza (Do = two/double, Pyaza/Pyaz = onion).
Some claim it is onions cooked twice, while some explain it as using double the amount of onion than the other main ingredient (meat or vegetables), by weight or by volume I do not know. This confusion which I am sure many share with me, would only mean that this recipe is made in many different ways; yet it bears the same name. There is no one “traditional recipe”.
Bhindi Do Pyaza – Okra Stir Fried with Onion
- 1 – 1.5 lbs bhindi/okra/lady’s finger
- onion – 4 cups, sliced into thin half moons
- 3 tablespoon oil
- a large pinch of asafoetida/hing
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or to taste- optional)
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
- lemon juice to finish off
- salt to taste
When slicing okras, wipe clean your knife after slicing a few. It makes them less slimy and prevents from transferring from one to another.
Cooking okra, esp. if you want a dry fried kind will require a large quantity of oil (more than any other kind of preparation) to prevent them from getting sticky and cooking them quickly and efficiently without breaking them and getting them mushed up; so adjust that to your comfort level.
Use salt at the end of cooking as salt releases the liquid from the veggies.
Try not to toss and stir the vegetable too much while cooking, as it gets the slime all over and make it wet and sticky.
Note: Some recipes for Bhindi Do Pyaza will use tomatoes or yogurt for the slight tang. I avoid both as the liquid from both gets the okra all mushy and slimy and we do not like it that way. I use the lemon juice or sometimes sumac or dry mango powder (amchur). If you want to use tomatoes, cook the chopped tomatoes after you cook the onions and before you add the okra. If you want to you yogurt, use a couple of tablespoons only after the cooking is done and it is almost time to remove it from the heat.
Wash the okra and pat them completely dry. Or you can lay them in a single layer and let them air dry.
Trim the end and slit the bigger okras into 4 pieces (you can leave the smaller ones at half), vertically. Lay them in a single layer (do the best you can) and allow them to air dry for a while – about an hour. This helps a bit to control the slimy feel when cooking.
Take a pan with the broadest base as it is best to cook the okra in a single layer without having to toss and turn them. The more you move them, the more they break up and gets slimy.
Heat oil in the pan. Add the cumin seeds; when they sizzle add the hing/asafoetida and the onions. Cook the onions at medium to high heat for about 7-10 minutes or until they soften and start to get golden and brown on the edges. Add the okra, turmeric, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring them only very occasionally (only to turn them over) and as needed until they are tender and bright green. I do not like over cooked okra. Do cook it to a consistency you would like them to be. The time to cook will vary, depending on how tough or tender the okra is and how well you want it cooked.
When the okra is cooked through but not falling apart, add the coriander powder, chili powder, and garam masala (if you are using it). Adjust salt. Increase the heat to high and give it a good toss and remove from heat. Finish off with a good drizzle of lemon juice (or a sprinkle of amchur/dried mango powder or even sumac).
Serve as a side.
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 as a side
Difficulty Level: Medium