Sounds like a surprising pick but I absolutely LOVE okra. How do I love it? Let me count some of the ways:
Okra is fantastic
- in fish curry
- in Yong tau foo (where the okra is stuffed with fish paste then gently simmered in stock. Doesn’t sound so appetising I grant you, but absolutely delicious)
- stir-fried with chilli and garlic or with a spicy belacan mix
- in an Indian dish called Sukhi bindhi
- as tempura.
After the flowers have been pollinated, along come the okra pods which are long and tapered at the end. Their shape may be why okra is also sometimes known as “ladies fingers”. In Malaysia, okra is referred to as “Kacang Bendi” (Kacang=legume, Bendi=Okra).
So, what’s not to like?
Ah yes, well, that little question of slime. Technically, the okra slime is known as mucilage, which doesn’t add more appetite appeal does it? On the plus side, this mucilage contains useful soluble fibre.
According to many kitchen anecdotes I’d found across the interweb, this “sliminess” factor can be reduced by stir-frying the cut slices, making sure enough oil is used. Leaving the pods whole could also work.
I’m not really bothered by the gooeyness, in fact that’s exactly why I like okra, for the contrasts in consistency. It’s a merry-go-round of textures in every mouthful, from the slightly firm exterior, to the soft yielding flesh, then onto the little crunchy seeds.
The only downside to okra is that it is a tropical plant, which means my supply is limited to the warmer months.
courtesy of MC Senior
When buying okra, make sure to choose young, firm, green pods. Older pods will be tough and “woody”. (Stop sniggering, you at the back!)
Hopefully I’ve managed to convince a few non-okra eaters to join the cause. Maybe you could try cooking it the following way:
Okra with chilli, garlic and shrimp paste
(this is a lazy way of making the “belacan”(shrimp paste) style okra, very limited use of mortar and pestle involved)
Serves 2 as a side dish
Handful okra pods (about 15) - trimmed and sliced on the diagonal.
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon belacan (toasted and ground finely) – can be omitted if shrimp paste is not your thing
about 2 teaspoons dried shrimp – I usually give it a wash to remove impurities, then dry it with paper towels. Dice very finely.
3 or 4 scuds (small chillies) – adjust to suit heat tolerance
Vegetable oil for frying
Assemble all the ingredients and have it ready to go. Heat a wok on high heat, add the oil and let it get hot (not smoking though). Fry the diced shrimp and garlic quickly until the shrimp starts to crisp, be careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the chillies and stir-fry quickly. Make sure area is well ventilated because the chillies can make everyone within wok-radius start coughing and sneezing (had to send the kids outside at this point ☺) . Add the okra and toss and stir, then add the shrimp paste if using. Keep stir-frying until the okra is tender. If the mix in the wok starts to look too dry, and a teeny, tiny bit of water (about a teaspoon will suffice). When okra is tender (it should still be bright green), take off the heat (be careful not to overcook). Goes well with steamed rice.
I don’t add salt because the shrimp and shrimp paste is salty enough, but if you aren’t using either, don’t forget to season well.
Some related okra links: