I like the sound of “Lady’s Finger” better than “Okra”. It could be that I am more used to the Lady Finger, since we were not aware of the existence of the word “Okra” before we came here; or simply because the lady’s finger visually couples better with the this slender vegetable.
The talk of the Lady Finger and Okra directs my mind to a little incident many years back. A friend had just moved from India. While grocery shopping with him, I had asked if he wanted to get “Okra” . Excited, he asked me to help him find the Okra. Since it was no season for the fresh ones, I handed him the frozen box. One look at it and his happy bubble popped, the smile turned to a smirk. He handed back the box to me and said that he hates this vegetable. He had assumed the Okra to be some exotic food, having no idea that the Lady Finger or Bhindi as it is called in India is the “Okra”.
Irrespective of what it is called, and how it is liked, it is a pretty cool vegetable and there are a hundred things you can do with it. This is one kind that I had made.
When buying fresh okra, try to get the ones smaller and thinner in size. The big old ones tend to get tough and fibrous. One way to test if the okra is fresh and young is to bend the tip; if it breaks easily, it is a good one. I am not advising that you break all the okras to pick the good ones for yourself. I have seen this practiced in the stores. You will know it right away when you see okras with broken and bent tips. Well an easy way to do it, is to not pick the bent one – they are old. If some one else already did the work for you, you just take the advantage
Curried Okra with Chickpeas
- 1 lb okra/lady’s finger/bhindi, sliced into 1″ pieces
- 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and patted dry
- 1 medium onion, chopped into to big chunks
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- green chili pepper, sliced (as many as you want)
- 2 small tomatoes, grated
- 2 tablespoons yogurt/ or sour cream
- 1.5 teaspoons garam masala or store bought curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon, or as per taste red chili powder/or cayenne
- 4 tablespoons oil
- fresh cilantro for garnish
Try to use fresh okra for this recipe. The frozen ones are slimier than the fresh ones.
Wash the okra, drain and pat dry. remove the end (the stem) and slice them into 1″ pieces. If you want to go fancy, slice them diagonally – they look good. Spread them out in a plate and leave them alone for a couple of hours. This supposedly dries off/reduces the slime. (if you are using really small sized okra, trim the end and leave them whole).
Whip/beat the yogurt/sour cream and set aside.
Heat a flat and thick bottomed pan (big enough to hold the okra in one layer) with 1.5 tablespoons oil over high heat for a couple of minutes. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the sliced okra in a single layer in the pan. Cook them at high heat for about 5 minutes, tossing them once in between so all sides of the okra are cooked and very lightly browned. You will see them kind of glazed and turn bright green; this process will help the okra not get very slimy when cooked with the other ingredients.
Remove the okra carefully and set aside. In another pan, preferably flat bottomed, heat the rest of the oil. Add the green chili peppers and when they sizzle add the onion and garlic and cook them at high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the drained chickpeas and cook for about 4-5 minutes or till most of the water from the onion and the chickpeas have evaporated. The chickpeas might just start to get little brown spots on them.
Add the grated tomato and the turmeric. Cook till the oil leaves the sides or till the tomato thickens to a paste. Add the pre cooked okra, gently toss to coat them with the onion tomato mix and cook uncovered till the okra is just cooked without stirring too much. Overcooking will get the okra mushy and slimy. When almost done, drizzle the yogurt/or sour cream and the garam masala/or curry powder and salt. Toss very gently again for the yogurt/cream and the spice mix to combine and cook uncovered at medium heat for another 4-5 minutes.
The final dish should not be as dry as a stir fry or soupy; the onion tomato mix will barely coat the okra and the chickpeas.
Garnish with fresh cilantro/coriander and serve warm with bread or on rice.