Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Offering of Okra-- Masala Okra Fry

It's been a draining two weeks. I look into corners only to see displaced boxes. Motivation escalates in the morning and fades by evening. Rooms begin to develop a semi-finished look.  And for that I am immensely grateful. Grateful to family who follow my directives. Grateful to Geeta Rodrigues who took over refurbishing the kitchen contents. Grateful to her for spending a week, single-handedly washing over two hundred pieces of crockery and Tupperware. Grateful  to her for forcing me to winnow out the chaff. But most of all I give thanks to the Almighty for bringing us home intact. For restoring normalcy to our family. And for giving us a home better than the one we knew. I give thanks the way I know best, through food.

For generations my family makes offerings of food to the gods. From my grandmother's house to mine, we create intricate meals to show our devotion for the blessings granted to us. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, we celebrate good fortunes with ghee, religious holidays with regalia. We make elaborate meals served on banana leaves or silver thalis. Sweet offerings include kheer, shrikhand, phirni, jalebis. Fried pooris, papads, spiced vegetables and bhajias abound. Verdant cilantro chutneys sit next to sour-sweet date preserves. Coconut curries have their requisite vaatis. Vegetables make up for the lack of meat. An offering to the gods is always vegetarian, made with greens growing above ground. Root veges are taboo. The Indian vegetarian kitchen has a plethora  to choose from. It is way too easy to find my choices.

I go about prepping my thali dinner. Vegetables slivered, chopped and diced, sit in bowls. Cans of coconut milk get a thorough shake. Yogurt hangs in muslin, leaching out liquid. The blender whirls a lush green paste. I knead dough for pooris. Daal sits in warm water. And so it comes together.

Masala Okra Fry
Makes 3 cups

1 pound Okra
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoons Aamchur Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Rice Flour or more if needed
6 tablespoons Canola Oil

Wipe okra pods with a damp paper towel.

Trim the top and bottom ends.

Slice okra vertically in half, then each half vertically into slivers. Put slivers in a bowl.

Spice the slivers liberally. Stir to distribute spices evenly.

Let okra sit for 2 to 3 hours.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Add more oil if needed.

Toss slivers in rice flour. Shake off flour and drop carefully into hot oil.

Fry slivers, stirring often, until crisp and golden brown.

Eat them hot. Though they can be made earlier and reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.


Aamchur powder is made from green unripe mangoes. It has a tart taste. You could buy it at any reputable Indian grocery. 

This recipe calls for a non-stick saucepan with not too much oil. It is a "low cal" way to fry.
As you can see in the above pictures I used a wok. It does make for a crisper okra. The wok is my utensil of choice. Not the healthiest option but this is a special meal.

I fry okra. It is one component in a thali that comprises of 14 dishes. There is lime and salt on the left for those who need the extra flavor. Below them is cilantro chutney, followed by spinach raita. Two vaatis hold shrikhand and cauliflower coconut curry. A poori rests atop a vaati.  Green pepper kairus, papdi pea bhaji and tender coconut bhaji nestle beside fried okra. A mound of rice is smothered with daal and ghee. Towards the bottom right sits roasted mutton curry...sacrilege!!! It isnt part of the offering, more a paean of thanks to the diehard meat eaters I am surrounded by!

Guests gather as I make my offering. We sit at the table, not the floor. Like the old house, that relic of the past is left behind. And we are all thankful.