Crispy Curried Okra

When I lived in Venice (Cali, not Italy) I would frequent this pleasant Indian restaurant on Washington Blvd, called Akbar. Not everything I ate there was stellar, but it was solid, mostly delicious food. Besides some good chutneys, excellent Naan, and respectable tandoori choices, my favorite thing on the menu was the okra, crispy and slightly charred, scented with spices. Just fantastic.

When my friend Tricia mentioned last week she had more okra than ideas of what to do with it, I immediately thought of this dish. I wanted to replicate the feel of this dish, if not the dish itself. I wanted to have a recipe for okra that was flavorful, interesting, and easy.

Now okra is not an easy vegetable to love. It can be slimy, it’s got this weird fuzz on it, it’s totally unlike any other vegetable, and the taste can be strange for those not familiar with it. But I love it! It’s an essential part of gumbo and it’s very good deep-fried until crisp. Seriously, people, don’t be afraid of it! It can be absolutely stunning.

Let’s be honest, okra can be a little weird. Weirdly good!

You’ll need:

2/3 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed off, cut into rounds about a half-inch long
1/4 cup white onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon roasted rice powder (available in Thai markets)*
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil or ghee
1 – 2 tablespoons of butter

Crisp and delicious, lightly scented with Indian spices.

Do This:

Put cut okra and onions into a large bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together and toss with the okra. Allow the okra to sit for 20 minutes before cooking, which lets the okra’s natural juices meld with the flour mixture.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil up to a depth of about a 1/4 inch. When the oil is just smoking add the okra. Saute the okra, stirring and flipping frequently, until browned all over and crisp, about 15 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and stir it in until it melts.

Place a large metal mesh strainer over a large metal bowl. Carefully dump okra directly from the pan into the strainer, thusly discarding the oil. Transfer okra to a serving dish and eat!

I served this dish as a side with jerk chicken and pineapple sauce. But it’s great any number of ways.

*roasted rice powder is not essential, but adds a nice crunch. Semolina flour is a good substitute, and perhaps corn flour. If you can’t find any of that, just slightly increase the amount of flour in the recipe.

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