Easy Bhindi Masala

EasyBhindiMasala4Vegans love Indian food for obvious reasons. There are so many vegan options packed with intense flavor and for spice-lovers like me, enough heat to make you wipe your brow with that cloth napkin as if you were in India in May.

One of my favorite Indian dishes has always been Bhindi Masala. This dish served as my introduction to okra as I’d devour plate after plate at Naan n’ Curry’s old location on Telegraph in Berkeley. At the time I didn’t even know of okra’s amazing nutritional resume: high in vitamins C and K, folate content and fiber, just to name a few.

For those of you who have never tasted okra, the bad news is the flavor is nearly impossible to describe. Many say it’s closest in taste to eggplant or green beans. I say you just have to try it for yourself. The good news is, you’ll probably love it. My kids certainly do, especially when served alongside fragrant basmati rice and steaming hot naan. (I used this recipe for homemade naan, since most store-bought naan is not vegan.)

Indian food, like any cuisine, is an art. When I walk into an Indian restaurant I can smell the aroma from dishes that have been stewing and simmering for hours. No doubt authentic Indian requires a mastery and patience I will never know. But as a busy mother of three who couldn’t stop eyeing the beautiful okra laying relatively untouched at the market, I just knew I had to find a way to prepare this dish in a way that was simple and quick, yet still true to the original.

A final note: For those of you who have caught wind of okra’s slimy reputation, don’t fret. My version of this dish which finishes the okra by broiling it in a cast iron skillet, does the majority of the de-sliming for you. So bring on the okra!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs. okra (washed, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise then diagonally crosswise)
  • extra virgin olive oil for cooking
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • sea salt to taste

Set your oven to the highest broil setting. Place your cast iron skillet into the oven to heat up. You’ll know it’s ready when it starts to smoke a bit. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, use a roasting pan coated with olive oil or non-stick spray but do not preheat it.

Wash and slice your okra. The mucilage (slime) reacts with water so do not soak your okra. Just wash gently and then pat dry with a towel. Heat olive oil on a frying pan and sauté your okra over medium-high heat until browned, tender and less slimy. Pour the okra into a large bowl and set aside.

In the same frying pan, sauté your garlic, shallots and ginger until golden. Add in the tomato, folding it in gently. Season with the turmeric, coriander, cumin and sea salt and then add your okra back in. Fold all the ingredients together and then pour into your preheated skillet. Broil for about 10 minutes or until slightly blackened and crispy. Ovens very considerably so just keep checking it.

Serve piping hot with  rice and/or naan.

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Happy eating!

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