Although “okra” is short and easy, nothing says elegance like “ladyfinger”. Far more elegant than the Bengali word for this vegetable. I shall not write it because there is no way to write this word in English as far as I know that would convey the harshness of the word that is produced.
But you have to agree that it is an elegant looking vegetable. There are people who don’t like ladyfinger/okra because of its sliminess. But I heard this complaint only when I went to the West. Indians generally like ladyfingers because there are ways to prepare them so you would never guess that it can be a slime trap if not handled correctly.
There are prepping tricks to avoid sliminess, depending on whom you talk to:
- Never wash okra/ladyfinger after cutting it. Only rinse when whole.
- Never wash okra/ladyfinger. Period. Only wipe with damp cloth.
- Never cut okra/ladyfinger. Trim the head carefully without cutting into the main body where the seeds are.
- My way – only wash before cutting. If not feeling too lazy, bundle up in a kitchen towel to dry.
- Never add water or any liquid while you are cooking okra/ladyfinger.
- If you must add a liquid, then add some souring agent like lemon, vinegar or tamarind.
There are many dishes in India that feature ladyfingers as the main or only ingredient. Today I shall highlight only three which are the quickest and simplest. So simple and quick in fact that it takes me longer to write this blog post than it would to just prepare them all. Except that we ate the last okra yesterday, sob!
1. Pan-fried ladyfinger
Simply slice the ladyfinger as shown above, discarding the stalk end. Heat pan and add a splash of oil. Now fry on medium to low heat, adding salt halfway, until it is soft and nicely brown. Enjoy as a side dish with just about anything.
Modification – slice up onions and fry along with the ladyfinger until both are nicely soft and caramelized. Yum!
2. Crispy fried or baked ladyfinger
Cut the ladyfinger as above. Deep fry! Or alternatively, if you don’t like the idea of deep-frying, toss in salt and oil and roast in a very hot oven until brown (not burnt) and crisp. Okra chips as my son calls them! Eat them as a snack or use them as a topping for a bowl of lentils and rice, heaven!
Modification – Whisk some yogurt, season to taste and stir in your crispy okra to make what we call a “ladyfinger raita”. You can eat this dish as a side with any spicy curry, or a pulao.
3. Ladyfinger fritters
The quality of this photo is terrible. My camera ran out of battery power unexpectedly that day and I only had my ipad handy. It might be handy but it ain’t good for taking photos, is all I am gonna say.
Nevertheless, you can probably tell that these fritters are a crispy, delicious treat!
Chickpea flour is all you need. I have mentioned it here. Alternatively you could also use all-purpose flour. Or grind up some rice in a coffee grinder and use that instead.
Take the flour of choice, add salt and a pinch of baking powder. Whisk into a slurry with some water. The batter should have an easy pouring consistency.
Slice the ladyfingers lengthwise. Dip each into the batter and deep-fry until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot as a snack or as a side or eat while standing next to the stove!