I may be a little overcome with the humidity here, but okra does have an often-deserved bad reputation for general slime and unpleasant texture. Most people who do like it only enjoy it deep fried–which greatly reduces the slime factor–or in gumbos, where the mucilaginous character is valued as a thickening agent. I count myself among the deep fried okra fans, and until pretty recently that was where the love ended. Then I tried an Indian-style dry curry made with okra, and discovered that it is possible to enjoy the pods without cornmeal breading. The “dry” curry just means it is in contrast to a traditional “saucy” curry. If you are an okra hater I really hope you will try this recipe, because the high-heat searing technique means that you really can enjoy the pods without the slime. Honest.
Okra is part of the hibiscus family, and they have the lovely, saucer-shaped blooms that attest to the relationship. Here is a burgundy okra plant from my father’s garden:
The burgundy pods are beautiful in color but they do turn into a standard green when cooked. If you are looking for a productive garden plant that also adds beauty, they are worth planting. I used a mix of burgundy and regular green pods for my curry dish:
I trimmed off the caps and cut them into diagonal slices to increase the searing surface for the curry. I then heated up about a tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter) in a wok pan over medium-high heat. You could use a heat-tolerant oil of choice, but I love the flavor of the ghee. I then added a couple of teaspoons of whole mustard seed, some chopped shallots, about a tablespoon of Madras curry powder, and a pinch of tumeric. I let this cook, stirring frequently, until the mustard seeds started to pop:
I then tossed in the sliced okra and some sea salt, and left the okra alone for a while to let it start to brown. The more you stir, the more slime you will generate, so you really want to let it sear on one side before you stir. After one side has browned, give it a stir and then it will be done pretty quickly. I then made a simple tomato relish using some Roma-type tomatoes, fresh mint, chopped shallot, and salt. I served this with the curry:
Honest, no slime here–this makes a really delicious alternative to deep frying or gumbo, and it may convert an okra-hater or two. Just remember to sear, avoid too much stirring, and use really fresh okra. This will definitely not work with the frozen stuff!
Tomorrow I am off to the state fair to indulge in some deep fried foods and foods on sticks. I leave you with this image of dad in the sunflower patch: