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Crackling Okra

This image courtesy of Brave New Pictures, Inc.

The first vegetable I remember eating and loving is, of all things, okra. I still remember picking it from my grandmother’s backyard in Chandigarh. It was fresh, crisp, and delicious. And, made Punjabi-style, it is completely addictive. Even my husband agrees that my recipe is one of the best he’s ever tasted.

Serves4 cups (948 mL)

Cooking MethodPan-frying

CostInexpensive

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseSide Dish

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

MealDinner

Taste and TextureCrisp, Savory, Spiced

Type of DishVegetable

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (see Notes)
  • 1 large yellow or red onion, peeled and very roughly chopped (2 cups [300 g])
  • 1 (1 inch [2.5-cm]) piece ginger root, peeled and grated or minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, minced, or grated
  • 2 pounds (908 g) okra, washed, dried, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) rounds (6 cups)
  • 1-2 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon mango powder (amchur) (see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a deep, heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the cumin and turmeric. Cook until the seeds start to sizzle, about 30 seconds.

  3. Add the onion and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. This is a key step for my okra. The large, chunky pieces of onion should brown all over and slightly caramelize. This will be a delicious base for the final dish.

  4. Add the ginger root and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

  5. Add the okra and cook for 2 minutes, just until the okra turns bright green and starts to get a tiny bit lacy. Don’t worry—we’re going to get rid of the laciness!

  6. Add the chiles, mango powder, red chile powder, garam masala, and salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  7. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pan. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  8. Turn off the heat and adjust the lid so it covers the pot entirely. Let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes to allow all the flavors to be absorbed.

  9. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with brown or white basmati rice, ron, or naan.

Notes

  1. Many people dislike okra because of its laciness. My Suraj Massi (maternal aunt) taught me to use the mango powder to get rid of that stringy lace for which okra is typically known.

  2. The key to making this dish successfully is in drying the okra completely after washing it-and before cutting it.

  3. Turmeric Powder (Haldi): lf There is one spice my family cannot do without, it’s turmeric. Derived from a root, like ginger, it grows in the ground and is washed, peeled, dried, and ground into the bright yellow-orange powder you likely know. A staple in Indian cooking and religious ceremonies (brides are washed in turmeric as part of their prewedding beauty regimen), this magic powder is a natural antibacterial agent. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is currently being studied for its ability to combat serious diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. My girls know to ask for a little turmeric when they cut themselves. We gargle with it when we have sore throats, and we layer it in fresh Indian breads when we have colds. Its uses are endless and amazing, but don’t get it near your clothes. The yellow stains will last forever! (I still have stains on my favorite outfit from my cousin Vikram’s wedding.) At some specialty Indian grocers, you can find turmeric fresh, whole, and in yellow and white forms. Grab it, peel it, and grate it into your favorite salads.

  4. Mango Powder (Amchur): This tart, beige powder is made from uncooked, dried, unripe, and green mangoes. It is delicious sprinkled on Indian snack foods and in dishes such as Crackling Okra. In terms of taste, it functions like lemon juice or vinegar and is usually added toward the end of the cooking process.

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