Okra and Onions

September 8, 2006 at 10:14 am (B plus, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Seitan, Summer recipes, Tempeh, Vegetable dishes)


This is a simple but tasty Pakistani dish based on a recipe in the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.  The original recipe was tasty but very oily and salty.  I reduced the oil and salt and increased the vegetable quantities.

Makes 2 main-dish servings and 4 side-dish servings.

  • 1 pound fresh okra, cleaned and very dry, with tops removed and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 2 small red onions (about 3 ounces each), sliced into fine half-rings
  • 2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 whole hot dried red chili, broken in half, seeds removed
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt or scant 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
  1. Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the okra.  Fry, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, or until the okra is very lightly browned on all sides. Add the onions. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the onions, too, begin to brown.
  2. While the vegetables cook make the spice mixture: Put the coriander seeds and chili in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind to a coarse powder (or use a mortar and pestle). Add the turmeric and salt and pulse once to mix.
  3. When the onions are ready, add the spice mixture. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes. Taste for a balance of seasonings and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

My notes

I used 2 Tbs. of oil (rather than Jaffrey’s 3 Tbs.) and 12 ounces of okra (as Jaffrey’s recipe calls for), and found the finished dish a bit too greasy.  Also, I think 3/4 of a pound of okra is not quite enough, and I might increase it to a whole pound. Likewise, a 3 ounce onion is tiny. I used 6 ounces. I also found 3/4 tsp. kosher salt to be a bit too much. Derek liked it of course, but I thought the amount of salt could be cut slightly, to slightly more than a 1/2 tsp.

The okra was starting to burn even with regular stirring after only 7 minutes, so rather than waiting the full 10 minutes Jaffrey recommends, I added the onions, and only cooked them for about 3 more minutes. The okra was a bit crisp–Derek and I both thought the texture was quite nice, certainly preferable to the cooked-to-death texture of bhindi in typical Indian restaurants.

Overall, we really enjoyed this dish. Halving the okra lengthwise was a new idea for me, and it made a very pretty presentation, with the plump okra seeds getting their 5 minutes of fame. The flavors were simple but very tasty, and authentic tasting. This is certainly a dish I’ll be adding to my repertoire.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Update August 18, 2009:  I tried adding 6 ounces of thinly sliced tempeh to this recipe, to make it more of a one pot meal.  I heated 2 Tbs. of peanut oil, then threw the tempeh in before the okra.  Unfortunately, the tempeh immediately soaked up all the oil, so when I added the okra it didn’t cook very well. My 12-inch skillet was extremely full (certainly not one layer), and the vegetables touching the bottom were burning and nothing else was cooking.  I had to add another 2 tsp. of oil to get it to cook.  Still, a number of the larger okra pieces never got cooked.  Because of the extra bulk from the tempeh I increased the coriander amount to 1 Tbs., and used 2 dried chiles, and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt.  It was quite salty (next time I’d use 2/3 tsp. kosher salt), and just a tad powdery.  The combination of the tempeh and okra was okay–it certainly looked pretty, but the tempeh wasn’t all that flavorful.  If I try this again, I will definitely cut the amount of tempeh and okra down, or cook it in two batches, and add the okra not the tempeh first.

Update Oct 3, 2009:  I used 2 Tbs. of olive oil, a full pound of okra, 3 oz. onions, and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt.  The okra was oily but not too greasy, and just a tad too salty for me (perfect for Derek).  When I added the onion I also added about 1 ounce of julienned seitan (Kittee’s).  Unlike the last tempeh fiasco, the seitan didn’t really effect the recipe.  The flavors didn’t blend, exactly, but the seitan tasted fine.  If I wanted a real one-pot dinner I might add more seitan next time:  maybe 3-4 ounces.  Other than being just a tad salty, and not having enough onions, I think the recipe was close to perfect. The only change I might make next time is to sprinkle on a little amchoor powder at the end.  I think this would make a lovely dinner with a side of dal and some raita.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 117
Total Fat 7.1g
Saturated Fat 0.9g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 303mg
Carbohydrate 12.9g
Dietary Fiber 4.7g
Sugars 4g
Protein 3.1g
Vitamin A 11% Vitamin C 72%
Calcium    11% Iron 7%

The macro breakdown:  49% from fat, 10% protein, 41% carbs.

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