An essential ingredient in this way of preparing okra (aka lady’s fingers) is the spice blend chaat masala (Urdu چاٹ مصالہ, Hindi चाट मसाला). Chaat masala contains dried mango powder and asafoetida, both of which have very distinctive and, to the uninitiated Western palate, surprising–perhaps even peculiar–tastes. My own early encounters with this masala were at a chaat (snack) vendor’s stand in the Jor Bagh market of New Delhi and the taste did not immediately register as entirely positive. Rather, it seemed…a curious flavour mélange. Eventually, however, like some personalities that grow on you by closer acquaintance, I developed a hearty appreciation for chaat masala’s assertive character.
Prepackaged chaat masala mixtures are available. To any reader who has never tried this interesting spice blend, I recommend it as a new gastronomic experience and, perhaps subsequently, a new addition to the range of spices you use in your cooking.
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.
Timing Note: This way of preparing okra should be served at room temperature. The okra may be fried in advance and the other ingredients cut up and set aside and everything mixed together just before serving. The fried okra and cut-up shallots, tomato, coriander and spices may be packed separately to take along on a picnic and mixed together ‘in situ’.
- 2 pounds of small, tender Okra, tops and tails cut off and cut into julienne strips (i.e. long, thin strips)…See the note about what constitutes ‘tender’ okra below, just before the recipe.
- 2 Shallots, cut into thin slices
- 2 Tomatoes, juiced, seeded and cut into julienne strips (i.e., long, thin strips)
- 1/4 cup of fresh Coriander (aka Cilantro), roughly chopped or cut up in small pieces with scissors
- 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
- 2 teaspoons of Chaat Masala
- Vegetable Oil for deep frying the okra
- a deep, heavy-bottomed Pot, a Wok, or whatever utensil you favour for deep frying
- a Deep Fry Thermometer is useful for insuring that the okra fries at the optimum temperature
- Brown paper bags or Paper Towels for draining the fried okra
A note about judging the quality of okra: The best okra or ‘lady’s fingers’ (as they are sometimes called) is short, pale green, and tender. Longer, thicker, hearty-looking ‘fingers’ (like the ones shown in the ‘ingredient picture’ above)will work with this recipe, however, because the okra is cut into long, julienned strips. Here is a photo of very young okra, that is still, like a baby chick, thinly covered in downy fuzz:
1. Pour enough vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot (or other vessel) to allow the julienned okra to float freely as it fries. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 F and fry the okra in small batches, very quickly, just until the edges of the strips begin to turn golden.
2. Drain the okra on brown paper bags or paper towels. Set the okra aside until just before serving. It is not reheated.
3. Just before serving, mix the okra with the shallots, tomato, coriander, salt and chaat masala. Taste and correct add more salt or chaat masala if you like. Serve this dish at room temperature.
A Note: Okra Indian style accompanies the Main Course of the Lunch Menu: A Lunch with Spice and Many Things Nice. Like the Serrano Chile and Cilantro Chickpea Dip served as an hors d’oeuvre for this Menu, this vegetable is suitable for taking along on a picnic, too. (See the Timing Note above.)
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2013