Apr 5, 2017

Nepali Style Okra (Bhindi Tareko)

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Tantalize your tastebuds with this simple spicy okra dish from Nepal! Sliced okra is first flash-fried to banish any trace of slime. The pods are rendered crisp, delightfully chewy, and infused with the warmth of cumin, coriander, and chilis. Try this quick and easy vegan recipe to get a healthy serving of vegetables with any meal. 

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Nepalis do a lot of simple stir-frys like this. Be it potatoes, lab lab beans, or even chayote. If you see tareko on the menu at any casual eatery in Nepal you can be sure it will be a lightly spiced, fresh, and tasty vegetable side prepared this way. My maid showed me how to make this bhindi tareko or fried okra recipe that she makes quite often at home. It's the easiest, fastest, and most delicious okra dish that even my mutton-crazed Kashmiri family loves. Since this dish has a crisp and chewy texture it's a great way to use those okra pods that are a little past the petite and tender stage and are a bit large and fibrous. We enjoy this as a side dish with rice or rotis. If you're doing the low-carb thing I could see this as a delicious accompaniment to a garam masala spiced grilled chicken breast.

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To minimize the dreaded slime that can accompany okra dishes it is advised that the pods be completely dry before slicing. I do this by rinsing them vigorously in a colander and then setting them out in full sun in the backyard to dry outside for at least two hours. It seems to help if the okra gets a little wilty before cutting too. Frying the sliced okra in salted and smoking hot oil really gets rid of any residual stickiness. After about ten minutes of frying any and all slime is absolutely gone. Do not cover the okra while cooking as steam seems to perpetuate sliminess also. Using a shallow, wide pan like a skillet so that the okra can be spread in a single layer help to achieve the crispy edges and aid in slime reduction too. Utilizing a pan with a non-stick finish will allow you to use considerably less oil if desired also. That's all the okra cooking tips I've learned over the years so now it's off to the recipe!

Ingredients:
1/2kg/1lb okra, tops and tails removed and sliced into scant half inch rounds
3 TBS cooking oil (or just enough to cover the bottom of your cooking vessel)
2-3 dry red chilis/lal mirch broken in half (omit for less heat)
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 tsp ginger/adrakh paste
2 tsp ground cumin/jeera
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi

Here's what to do-
1) Heat oil in skillet or kadhai with one teaspoon salt for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and broken red chilis and fry for half a minute.

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2) Add chopped okra and stir well to coat all pieces with oil. Allow to fry for 5 minutes uncovered.

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3) Add 1 teaspoon salt, garlic paste, ginger paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, and turmeric to frying okra and stir well.

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4) Fry for 5-7 minutes more or until the okra becomes crisp. (Don't worry if the okra seems a bit slimy, after about 10 minutes of frying the slime completely disappears.) Salt to taste and serve as an accompaniment to rice or rotis.
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Helpful Hints:
You might wish to retrieve the dried red chilis from the dish right before serving. This will minimize the risk of anyone biting into a random fiery hot bit of chili while enjoying their okra. Nepalis and Kashmiris would not remove the chili bits before serving but might toss them aside on their plate when served.

10 comments:

  1. I love okra but sadly Jon doesn't! I have bought it frozen and it was surprisingly good, not slimy in the slightest! x

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    1. Hi Vix,
      Okra freezes quite well. I love the way okra is done in South Asian preparations. But I liked it as a sort of bell pepper flavor and thickener in my grandma from Louisiana's gumbo too.
      Whatever the weather there's always okra in South Asia so we have it at least once a week.
      I'm going to have to put my grandma's okra pickles up here as a post.

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  2. Aha, your ability to do something -- anything! -- with okra is explained in your reply to Vix's comment: you have a grandma from Louisiana. I do believe there's a genetic component to taste, dear Bibi. My teutonic DNA does not recognize okra as an edible plant. Perhaps if it were well-concealed in a sausage mash...?

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    1. Hi Beth,
      Hmmmm..my dad's family is from east Texas/central Louisiana but my Mennonite mom is 100% Teutonic. There might be something to that as my mom was one of those that hated cilantro (said it tasted like soap) and was utterly appalled at brown gravy when served with chicken-fried steak. ((Only white gravy flecked with black pepper was suitable with chicken-fried steak).
      The okra varieties in the US have a stronger bellpepper-like flavor than the milder flavored varieties grown here in South Asia. Maybe that's part of the problem? In Louisiana okra is usually just used in gumbo to thicken it and lend a mild bell pepper note.

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  3. I was shocked at how easy okra is to grow. It might be years before I try again as we ate so much of it last year we can't look at it, but I did try your other recipe. I can vouch for the frying in salted oil technique-it works! No slime, but still okra.

    Mr's dad was from Baton Rouge, and even he didn't like okra.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Goody,
      In India Nepal, and Louisiana there comes a point in July & August when it is just so miserably hot, wet, and humid that everything rots- except for okra! So if you want any fresh veg in July or August in those regions you're pretty much limited to okra.
      Yes, okra is easy to grow, insect/disease/fungus resistant, and prolific! So it's always cheap & abundant when the weather is warm.
      I think a lot of the appeal of okra in South Asia is textural. A primarily vegetarian diet can be a bit boring in terms of texture so crispy & chewy fried okra fills that void. Plus it's usually served as a side in a thali so it's not like you're eating a whole plate of okra.

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  4. Spicy Okra dish sounds delicious. I would love to have it with rotis. I found that the stickiness of Okra is kind of offputting but when it is cooked crisp then there is nothing like it.

    The first time I came across the word Okra, I was perplexed. I learnt that it a vegetable. It sounded like an exotic oriental vegetable. With a bit of research I came to know that it is the humble bindi, which we call Ladyfinger here. But I must say Okra sounds more sophisticated than Ladyfinger.

    There was a time when we did grow Okra in our garden. It does grow easily and grows tall with little help during the humid season. Almost all green vegetables are expensive these days, but Okra kind of tops the list, may be because of its demand as you say its texture. When you compare with the rest of the summer vegetables, Okra wins hands down.

    Apple 

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    1. Hi Apple,
      Okra is a Swahili word. Okra was brought to the US by African slaves & so it kept it's African name.
      Okra is like the cheapest veg here, not sure why it's expensive in Delhi. Perhaps because we are closer to the farms here? I don't love okra but like it better than say, cabbage. (To be fair cabbage doesn't seem to like me either!)

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  5. That is a very simple stir fry that would go amazingly well with chapathis... This is one of my favorite veges, can have it anytime...

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rafeeda,
      Thanks for stopping by! Love these simple dishes when the weather gets warm.

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Any questions? Please feel free to ask!

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