Bhindi Masala

Okra is a staple down here in Louisiana, and it’s super easy to grow — the plants are hearty and productive and if you harvest daily (which you must or you will have pods more suited to military than culinary applications) you will have a good pound a week from one plant.  Of course, not knowing this, I planted several plants.  We’ve been eating A LOT of okra, and as much as I love it deep fried or swimming in a thick, heavy gumbo … I needed variety to get through the summer.  Knowing okra actually came to this culture from hot climes on other continents, I scouted around: next year, expect to see the crew of Upward Wing trying African cuisines, but today it was Indian.

Bhindi Masala (Indian Okra)

12 cup vegetable oil
6-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2-4 medium-hot chiles, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
1 pound okra, sliced ⅓” thick
1 12 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup water
Sea salt, to taste

Super simple recipe here, folks.  Three steps including prep and you’re done.  Not a lot of scrolling!

To prep, dice your onion, garlic, and chiles, and slice the okra.  The original recipe I worked from called for four chiles de arbol.  I went with two peppers of an unknown but medium-hot variety and a couple small seranos that had gone red and thus a bit sweeter than you might expect.  Go with whatever you can find that meets your own heat tolerance–and de-seed them unless you really like it hot!  For reference, I would probably use two seeded jalapenos, but we like things pretty spicy.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat — don’t skimp on the oil, as it forms the base of the sauce for an otherwise pure-vegetable meal. Cook the garlic, chiles, and onion until soft, maybe 4–6 minutes.
Add the garam masala, coriander, and tomato paste, and combine well with the aromatics and oil.  There’s something wonderful that happens with tomato paste, spices and hot oil.  You end up with a super flavorful oil that acts like a sauce, coating everything and carrying the flavor throughout and making plain rice taste delicious.
Once the tomato paste and spices are well incorporated, add the okra, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and ⅓ cup water and cook, uncovered, until okra is tender but still with a bit of crunch, maybe 3–4 minutes.  The tomato-ey oil will actually dissolve a lot of the “slime” factor that makes some people shy away from okra.
Serve over basmati rice.  If you’re like us, there will be no leftovers from a four-serving batch and a two-person crew!

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