So I’ve gotta be honest, my first introduction to okra was a precarious one – it’s what people here in the South like to call “pickled okra.” As a northern (Minnesota) girl transplanted to Texas, I had to come to terms with Southerner’s strange love affair with okra because they LOOOOVE it……like….really a lot….but to me, unless it was battered and deep fried beyond recognition, it was either a strange, slimy mess or a nasty smelling pickled snack! At this point, I feel the need to pause and ask you to…. NOT JUDGE ME or I’ll be filtering a mass of nasty emails and comments, haha! I know how people feel about their okra!
Fast forward to my yoga training years (circa: 2003) where my good yoga friends introduced me to something called Bhindi (YES, I know that’s just another name for ‘okra’). But this time the okra was sliced up and sautéd with some delicious masala and folded up in a garlicky piece of fresh naan at a restaurant called the Cosmic Cafe in Dallas! This was one of those “heavens opened up” moments for me. I LIKED this new name and this new taste for okra. Before long, I was eating okra all kinds of ways – fried, baked, in soups, roasted, stir fried….you name it. So I guess you could say, ‘bhindi’ won me over to ‘okra’. And now I share the Southern love affair with okra too.
Moral of the story, sometimes you just need a new perspective on an old rejection, haha!
And now, onto one of my favorite sides, spicy fried okra. There many different spice variations you can use. Make it crazy hot or nice and mild. The only rule here is…make it flavorful and enjoy!
Spicy Fried Okra (Bhindi)
1 pound (or 14-16 ounces) fresh okra
1 teaspoon Primal Palate Garam Masala
¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/ teaspoon red chili powder (or to preferred heat level)
2 tablespoons cassava flour (or the traditional chickpea/gram flour)
Optional: ¼ teaspoon amchur powder (green mango powder)
Salt to taste
Enough fat or oil of choice to fill a small pot/pan about 1 inch deep (½ cup, depending) I love using THIS Saucier by American Kitchen. It is a good size and has slightly curved edges like a wok but a flat bottom for even heating.
- For the Okra: Wash the whole okra and pat dry. You want the okra to be completely dry before you start cutting, otherwise, it can get pretty slimy (yum). Using a small sharp knife, trim the tops and maybe the bottoms of the okra if needed. Then slice lengthwise down the okra, cutting it in half. If the okra is very slimy you can wipe the knife on a paper towel between each cut. Repeat with all the okra.
- In a large bowl, combine the okra, spices, and flour, then toss till well combined. Leave to sit and marinate for about 15 minutes. Toss again, just before frying.
- Heat the fat/oil in a small heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat until very hot or around 350-375°F. If the oil is not hot enough, the okra will absorb too much oil and become very soggy.
- Fry in small batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for 4-5 minutes per batch, or until the okra is golden and crispy. Flip them halfway through cooking if needed, for even frying.
- Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve immediately. We love to eat this as a side dish or alone as a snack.