Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lady's Finger

Today I have a tip for anyone who likes fried okra.

For those who are not familiar it's a green fruit which is typically used as a vegetable, also known as "lady's finger" in some parts of the world. If you're from the US, you know it as an ingredient in gumbo. They vary in size but generally they're about the size of your finger, green and slightly fuzzy on the outside. Their insides contain many seeds and a thick clear liquid. Because of this liquid, okra gets very slimy if not handled carefully after it's been cut or sliced up.

My mother always cooked okra in one of two ways, she either turned it into a curry or sautéed them. Both preparations are typical in Kerala cuisine. I prefer it sautéed or as I like to call it "fried" because I'll sauté it until they're slightly crisp.

Ideally I prefer to use fresh okra, but our local stores don't always have it. When this happens I buy them frozen. They come in the freezer section of most grocery stores frozen whole or cut. For the recipe that follows here use the cut kind. When I use fresh okra I find that my okra sautés nicely without getting too slimy and the end result tastes so much better. However with frozen okra the slime factor coupled with the water content from being frozen result in a mushy problem when trying to fry. So I've come up with a solution.

Just spread your frozen-cut okra out in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake it in a 400 degree oven for half an hour. Keep a watch over them so they don't burn as your oven may be different than mine. The okra will be defrosted and will have dried out enough to make for easy sautéing. In my opinion fresh okra tastes so much better in this recipe because as the okra sautés they take on the flavors of the sweet caramelized onions and garlic much more. However, frozen okra is a good stand-in when I need it.

In our house we like to have okra fried this way as one of many accompaniments to go with dal and rice.

1 lb. bag frozen cut okra dried for half an hour in 400 degree oven
Canola or olive oil -enough to coat bottom of your frying pan for sautéing
Half an onion diced
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
Red pepper flakes or 1-2 fresh green chilis sliced lenghtwise (use what you can tolerate)

Heat oil in pan and add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds begin to crackle and pop add cumin seeds stir them around until cumin seeds turn slightly golden and give off an aroma. Add onion, sauté with a pinch or two of salt. When onions start to become translucent add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté these together for a couple of minutes then add the okra and continue to sauté. Season with salt as you sauté. Remember to taste as you cook and add salt according to your taste. Continue to fry this together until the okra reaches the consistency you like. Keep in mind that the measurements I have used are approximations. You can adjust them as you like.


  1. This is my favourite vegetable. It competes each week for my attention with bittergourd.

  2. Cynthia, It's funny you should mention karaila. I used to dislike it very much as a child but have grown to enjoy it now. I make it in a similiar way to the okra but also add slices of coconut. So yummy with dal!