Indian food makes me drool, I love it so. I also really love okra. On a recent trip to the Asian market disastrously undertaken while hungry, I walked out with bags of snacks—seaweed, crackers, mochi, jelly—and a shrink-wrapped package of okra. Unlike most other vegetables which I prefer barely cooked, I love okra in all forms, whether sautéed lightly or boiled to all hell in gumbo. So when I saw a commercial for British Airways about a mother in Mumbai shipping her home cooking to her son in New York (no spoilers, but I will say I cried copious tears after watching it), I was immediately taken with the okra segment.
Earl shares my love of Indian food—likely surpassing it—so during his most recent visit, we vowed to duplicate this mother’s dish and even found a site which claimed to provide the recipe in the commercial! Eagerly salivating, Earl and I made that recipe (that’s a lie: I salivated and Earl was British and proper), but we found a few faults. For one, why the hell were we adding entire serving spoons of coriander? And for another, at what point were we supposed to add the okra? Nevertheless, we forged ahead and followed the instructions closely. It wasn’t awesome. In fact, it was kind of shit.
Ok, I ate everything, but that’s more because of its okraness than because of its tastiness, which I cannot say it possessed much of. Sadly, Earl left for home before we could redeem our bhindi masala experience.
Of course at that point, I had a fierce craving for the kind of bhindi masala that a mother might cook and ship across the world, and that craving demanded satisfaction. I did what any devoted mother with a severe longing for okra would do and I bought another pound to lovingly cook for my children. And me. Then I did what I always do to recipes I’m unsatisfied with: I bastardized it and made it my own. By which I mean I winged it.
Or wang it.
Or wung it.
I’m honestly not sure how to conjugate “to wing”. I also realize I have a verb in the perfect tense in the post title instead of a verbal noun, but as my friend Stephanie says, “Wang is funnier.”
Regardless, the downside of my method of bastardization is that I fail miserably at noting measurements and go by instinct, but I shall do my best recollecting my steps here.
~1 lb (~1kg) okra, stems trimmed and sliced into ~¾ inch (~2 cm) pieces
2 tbsp (~30 mL) cooking oil
~½ cup yellow onion, chopped fine
3 large (large) cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
~ 1½ tbsp (8-9 g) ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp (~7 g) cumin
salt to taste
2 tsp (5 g) turmeric
1 tsp (~3 g) chili powder
1 tsp (~3 g) mango powder/amchoor
2 tsp (5 g) garam masala (though to be honest, I ran out and used biryani masala)
2 tsp (5 g) coriander powder
I measured out all my spices into one dish for ease of dumping later. I don’t know if that’s just wrong, but I also like to bloom my spices first to perk them up, and putting them in one dish makes me think they’re blooming uniformly.
1. Add oil to a large sauté pan and heat on medium-high until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. I’d give a time estimate, but I find that estimates for cooking onions how you want them to be cooked are always filthy lies.
2. Add cumin seeds and cook another 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Add the spices and let them bloom for 20-30 seconds in the heat and oil. Then add the okra and sauté, stirring often to make sure okra is evenly coated with the spices and such, for about 7 minutes or when okra is fork tender.
5. Put in serving dish. Tell children that you heard somewhere very credible that the child who loves okra is the child who is best at math. Serve.
I have a few disclaimers here. Firstly, I don’t know Indian food nearly as well as I know pie, so if you’re wondering how I might assure you that my version of bhindi masala is better than the recipe I originally used, I can’t. I can only tell you that I liked mine much better. If you, dear reader, have a great deal of familiarity with cooking Indian food and the techniques involved, please do comment or send a message advising me what to change or add. Secondly, my elder daughter Clarice inhaled all her okra, but she is not a picky eater to begin with, and she was highly motivated by the prospect of super math powers hidden within the okra. Her credibility about its deliciousness is suspect. Thirdly, this post has absolutely nothing to do with pie and is not likely to have much cohesion unless I do something cutesy and wing it. Oh hey….