20 June 2008

Bhindi Masala

Why don't more people here in the US like okra? It's such a tasty vegetable. It has so much personality; it's so sturdy and quirky. Growing up, I only ever tasted it fried (that's how we roll down South, you know), and then later I got into making this Martha Stewart version that was stewed with tomatoes. But now that I eat so much Indian food, the stewed version tastes "dead," as my husband would say. Not enough masala. V loves a version of okra that's covered in spices and besan and then fried, but I like to do bhindi masala because it's healthier.

We were going to be teaching an Indian cooking class tomorrow but it got canceled because there aren't enough people in town during the summer who sign up for classes. The class is going to be rescheduled for the fall, but we'll have to change the menu because I'm trying to teach seasonal recipes with ingredients that can be found locally. That means that we won't be teaching bhindi masala this year. However, I can post the recipe here!

Our local international grocery has locally-grown veggies, and the okra is gorgeous right now. We've made it twice recently. Make sure you buy okra that's firm and unblemished. You can find it at regular grocery stores at exorbitant prices (seriously--I saw it for 4.00 a pound the other day), so I recommend an international grocery. Also, don't use frozen. It gets slimy and it doesn't taste as good.

Bhindi Masala

1 pound fresh okra, washed, dried, stem end cut off, and cut in half lengthwise
2 tbs olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, very finely diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 small green chile, minced (optional)
3/4 - 1 tsp red chile powder, or to taste
1 tsp khatai (dried mango powder)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
kosher salt, to taste
14 ounces tomato puree, or equivalent amount of finely diced fresh tomato
1 tbs garam masala

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and then add the onions. Cook until the onions are light golden-brown and translucent. Add the green chile and stir for a minute. Add the red chile, khatai, coriander, turmeric, and salt and stir for a minute so the spices can blend with the onion and get toasty.

Lower the heat to medium and pour in the tomato and stir to blend. Cook for a few minutes so that the gravy thickens. You can add a half cup or so of water, then stir and cook a little while longer until it thickens a little again--I think this helps the flavors become more intense.

Stir the okra into the gravy, then put a lid on the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the okra is tender. Add the garam masala and stir to blend, then serve the bhindi hot with chapatis or rice.


Gori Girl said...

I never ate okra until I started having Indian food regularly after meeting Aditya. Love the stuff now.

I've never tried cooking an Indian okra dish, but I have used frozen bhindi in my standard "toss random things from the fridge & cupboards" stirfry, and I thought it was pretty tasty & not slimy. Maybe frozen only gets slimy when cooked slowly in sauces?

I've never heard of dried mango powder... does it taste like one would imagine? What kind of touch does it add to the dish?

D. Jain said...

Yes, frozen was all right in that Martha Stewart recipe, but I don't like it in Indian food.

Khatai adds a sweet/tangy flavor to a dish. A little usually goes a long way...this is one of the few things we make that uses this much. We also use it in cheelas (chickpea flour pancakes), punjabi chole, and some vegetable subjees. It's good to keep on hand.

Gori Girl said...

Sounds good - I'll have to pick some up next time I'm at the Indian grocery.

(I just reread over my last comment, and realized I kept writing "I never..." How negative! :-P )

Melissa said...

blech...I don't like okra because of the texture / sliminess of it. I've tried. I've cooked it in Indian dishes, American dishes, and African dishes, and I just can't get over it. Luckily, my husband doesn't like it either. (Although I was interested to learn that in India they are called "lady fingers" - which to me are small sponge cakes!)

D. Jain said...

Melissa, you might like the kind of bhindi that is stuffed with besan and spices and then fried. It's not slimy at all!