Dry Masala Bhindi ~ Lady's Fingers/Okra Sautéed in Basic Spices

One of my favourite veggies is the lady's fingers (also known as okra) and the only way I knew to make them was using the typical Mangalorean oil and onion method where you just toss all the ingredients together and cook them on a low heat. It is more like a saute without the effort of constantly stirring it (see recipe for thel piao style veggies). Another way to make okra is in a stew with a coconut milk base. This however is not a very popular way of making this vegetable (see recipe for okra stew). However when I got married my bestie Savri gave me her recipe to make a simple stir fried okra dish with all the basic spices. It was an easy, no fail recipe that was a success the first time I tried it - this was when I was still a novice cook and most dishes that I tried would invariably fail so it was very encouraging to know that this could be my saviour on days when I couldn't make a decent meal. Over the years this recipe has undergone a few changes but nevertheless remains a classic among all recipes in my handwritten notebook. It goes best with chapathis and is ideal when you need a break from the usual stuff (this note is for Mangaloreans who are used to eating 'thel piao' style veggies)

I know a lot of 'okra haters' - those who won't touch it even at gun point. No jokes! The slimy texture of cooked okra is usually the reason behind the hatred. It probably would have been the case with my kids too had it not been for this recipe. My son loves okra made this way and enjoys it with chapathis. 

The best part about making okra in this manner is that the lack of any water used makes it an almost dry dish. The veggies cook in the steam that is generated when you use a small lid that completely seals the pan (ideally a kadhai). It is essential that cooking is done on a very low heat lest you burn the veggies. It is also important to ensure that the okra is completely free of moisture before cutting it which prevents the sticky mess that they usually turn into.

Do give it a try and let me know how you liked it!

Dry Masala Bhindi
Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves: 4


1. Wash the lady's fingers well and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel - there should be no moisture on them. Cut into 1 cm pieces (make sure that the knife or the chopping board have no traces of water either or else the lady's finger will turn sticky)
2. In a heavy based wok/kadhai heat the oil and when hot, add the cumin seeds and turn slightly brown. Toss in the chopped ginger, garlic and onions and fry them on a medium heat till the onions turn golden.
3. Reduce the heat and add the powders and stir for a few seconds. Add the lady's finger, salt to taste and mix everything well. The mixture will be pretty dry by now. Do not add any water.
4. Cover the pan with a small lid - which almost reaches upto the level of the vegetables, a dome lid preferably and cook on a medium low heat stirring every now and then.
5. The vegetables will get cooked in the steam. When the lady's finger is tender but not overcooked ( they should retain their shape and not be mushy) remove from heat.
6. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with rice or chapathis

1. To check tenderness of okra just break off the tail end of it, if it breaks easily then it is tender. If it feels fibrous then it is overgrown and useless. If the tail ends are missing you will need to feel the okra for its firmness. If it feels hard and unyielding, its useless. If its too soft and squishy, its gone bad already. 
2. If you wish you can add potatoes to this dish. Just make sure you cut them into really tiny cubes so that the potato cooks evenly and at the same time as the okra. Please remember that while it is ok if potatoes are overcooked the okra should not be, green veggies especially should be cooked only to a point where they still retain a bite, overcooking of any vegetable will spoil its texture and kill the nutrition.
3. If you don't have dry mango powder you can sprinkle a couple of drops of lime juice just before taking the vegetable off the heat. Give it one good mix and you are done. However, don't add too much juice as it could make the okra sticky.

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