Monday March 16, 2009

Bhindi Masala

Bhindi, or okra in English, is one of those vegetables you either love or hate. I am happy to say that I love okra and this is my favorite way to eat them. I was first introduced to this dish in Pakistan on a hot summer day for lunch. Paired with salty lassi and fresh roti (whole wheat flat bread) right off the tava (a flat, round pan for cooking roti) , nothing better! In Lahore, a Punjab region of Pakistan, onions and tomatoes are the stars in this dish. It is important to use fresh okra if possible because the success to this dish is to get a nice brown caramelization on the okra and the frozen variety just has too much water to achieve that.

Three Stages of Cooking

Bindi Masala image

Just Beginning Brown

Bindi Masala image 2

Okra Just Added

Bindi Masala image 3

Caramelization Achieved
Bhindi Masala
Use a cooking oil that can stand up to high heat. I used my favorite, grape seed oil, but ghee or peanut oil would work well too. Do not be afraid to use a little more oil because it is important to keep things lubricated or the color and texture will be all wrong. You are pretty much pan frying this dish. The trick here is to keep all of your ingredients ready so you can keep the kharahi or Chinese wok on high heat through out the cooking process otherwise you will end up with a mushy, slimy texture.

1/4 cup oil
1.5 pounds okra, steam and tip removed and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
3 small yellow onions, each sliced in half and then slice each half into thin half moons
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 serrano green chilies, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


In a large kharahi or Chinese wok, heat the oil to high, just as the oil begins to smoke, carefully add the onions and stir them around to coat with the oil. Just as they start to turn color on the edges, add the okra and again stir to coat with the oil. Spread the mixture out and let sit on high heat for about a minute and then carefully stir the vegetables around to get the bottom mixed in with the rest and again spread them out and let sit to brown the bottom. You want to do this about three times to achieve a good start of the caramelization before you add the other ingredients. Next, add the serrano, tomatoes, garlic, spices and salt to taste. Gently, stir to combine. I like to use a folding method as to not break the okra apart. Continue with the cooking method mentioned above and when you see that the mixture is starting to turn soft, you are done. Garnish with the cilantro.

Serves 6