A long while back, I got into a major Indian food kick. I made dosas (but really, really good dosas), eggplant curry, sambar, mushroom muttar curry, and more. I bought and made chutneys and stocked way too much ghee and ate as much Indian food as I could get my hands on.
Summer seems to call for a hiatus from piping hot bowls of curry, but now that fall has arrived, I’m back on the bandwagon. It’s still early for long-cooked food, but this okra comes together quickly and tastes fresh – the perfect transition into September.
I posted about this on Instagram when I made it on a whim a while back, but since then it’s become enough of a regular that I felt it deserved a proper post. I still see okra at most of our markets (not to mention growing from the pot on our walkway – my neighbor is quite the gardener!), so there’s still time to make this before okra is gone.
In case I lost you way back with scary thoughts of slime, rest assured: this curry is not slimy. Just look at the photo above – see mom? No slime! A few tips to avoid the goo:
- I’ve found slime more likely in large okra and in okra that isn’t super fresh. The smaller and fresher the pieces, the better.
- When cutting your okra, keep a paper or cloth towel close at hand. Wipe the knife often – after every two or three pieces – and you’ll minimize the goo.
- Lastly, and you’ll see this in the recipe below, cook the okra all the way before adding the sauce. You want those pieces crisp and browned, maybe even a bit shriveled. By the time you add the sauce, there won’t be any slime to speak of, and your okra will end up silky, but not gummy.
Off to the races, folks.
As noted above, you want the okra to be fully cooked before it’s added to the sauce. This will minimize slime in the curry. The only other thing I wanted to mention is that while a cast iron pan works great for cooking the okra, the sauce should really be made in a stainless steel pan, since acid can ruin the nonstick surface of good cast iron. -R
1 quart okra
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 thai chili (or use a serrano), seeded and diced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 1/2 cups tomato puree
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
1/2-inch knob fresh ginger, grated
Trim stem ends of okra and slice lengthwise in half or quarters, depending on size. Keep a towel nearby as you slice; if you notice the knife getting slimy, wipe off your knife before continuing. This will help minimize slime in the final curry.
Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil in a large saute pan (cast iron and stainless steel both work) over medium-high heat. Add enough okra to sit in a single layer in the pan; I found I needed to do this in two batches. Cook okra mostly undisturbed for about 3-5 minutes, letting it really brown on the first side before flipping it; you want to draw out the moisture (read: slime) and dry out the okra as much as possible. If the pan smokes, turn down the heat a little bit, or just turn on your fan – try to keep that pan as hot as possible.
Flip the okra (this doesn’t have to be an exact science; a few turns with a pair of tongs should get most of the okra turned) and cook on the second side for another 3-5 minutes or so. At this point, your okra should be very deep brown and mostly dry. Transfer to a heatsafe bowl, and repeat with another tablespoon of ghee/oil and the second batch of okra. Transfer second batch to the same bowl once it’s been cooked. (I use two pans at once to minimize total cooking time.)
Add the third tablespoon of ghee/oil to a stainless steel saute pan and set over medium-high heat. Add diced chile (as much of it as you want – feel free to hold back and add more later), onion, and mustard seeds, and saute until onion has started to turn golden around the edges. Then add tomato, tamarind, and grated ginger, stir to combine, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until onions soften, 5-7 minutes.
Add okra to the sauce and use tongs to coat every piece of okra with sauce. Toss a few times over the heat, just to incorporate, then serve hot with rice, naan, dal, dosa, or whatever else you feel like serving. This curry also reheats well.