Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bhindi ki Sabzi- without the slime....

A couple years ago, I went looking for okra seeds to plant in my little vegetable patch. The lady at the counter in this quaint little organic farm stared at me for a while before finally speaking out her mind...."why on earth would you want to plant okra?" The confusion must have shown on my face, because she went on to elaborate...."okra is nasty...slimy and gross. Pick something else to plant- I have cucumbers, tomatoes- everything else except okra."

By the time I walked out of that nursery, I realized that the world can be divided into okra-haters like the plant lady; and okra-lovers a.k.a moi.....

Till that conversation, I had not even noticed the slime that okra generates when cooking. After that, I became obsessed with trying to find a way to cook crispy okra....

And that led to a wildfire discussion on my Facebook page.  I followed 2 of the suggestions- the one about the salt, and the other about lemon juice- and have never looked back since. Works like a charm every time to give me a no-slime, crispy Bhindi-ki-subzi.

(Simple Okra stir fry)

Okra 1lb
Onion 1 large, chopped
Green chillies 2 chopped
Salt 3/4 Tbsp (adjust to taste)
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Dried coriander powder 1 heaping tsp
Lemon juice 1 Tbsp
Oil 1 1/2 Tbsp

  1. Wash and pat dry the okra real well. I usually leave the washed okra spread out on a paper towel for several hours. 
  2. Chop the onions and green chillies separately.
  3. In a wide sauté pan, heat the oil, then cook the chopped onion till soft and translucent. About 3-5 min.
  4. Mix in the okra, green chillies and all the spices- except salt.
  5. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 5 min.
  6. Check the okra now. You will see some starchy slime building up. Add the lemon juice, stir well, cover and keep cooking for another 5-7 min.
  7. When the okra seems to be half-done, mix in the salt. 
  8. Cook uncovered for a few more minutes till crisp-tender.
  9. Serve with roti or paratha.
My two cents: My encounter with the plant lady convinced me that it's all in the head. Slimy, starchy bhindi had never bothered me until I met her.  Ever since, I couldn't cook okra without that conversation playing in my head like a scratchy old record. I'd heard several "suggestions" in the past about cutting mucilage in okra preparations. The combination I use here - of not adding salt till almost done, and adding lemon juice just as the slime starts building up -  were new to me; and are very very effective. A must try. The others of note, handed down to me by hearsay....
  1. Okra should be completely dry before you cut it.
  2. Cut it into largish pieces.
  3. Do not use any water while cooking.
  4. No tomatoes or anything else that might add moisture while okra is cooking.
And now I expand this list with my my latest.....
  • Add a Tbsp of lemon juice in the first 5 minutes of cook time.
  • Add salt in the last 5 minutes of cook time.
I'm sure nothing could make bhindi-ki-sabzi any better. Try it and let me know.

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