|Bhendichi bhaji - in the process of cooking.|
I've been deprived of cooking for the past week or so. As much as I enjoy eating out, one week away from the kitchen was enough for me to start craving some home cooked food. The good part is, I have a new bigger and better kitchen to play around! We just moved into a new apartment and I'm loving my kitchen with an attached patio opening to the garden. A perfect place to make some snacks and enjoy them with a cup of tea sitting in the patio listening to the birds chirping.
The Indian grocery store is just minutes away from my new place which means easy access to the otherwise hard to find vegetables! One of the rare vegetables in the US is Bhendi or Okra. This was going to be the first vegetable to be cooked in my new apt when I found fresh okra in the store yesterday. I hope this sets the trend and ensues good cooking in the new house :). The most important part of making a good okra sabji is finding fresh okra. How do you know if it's good? Always look for the dark green okra as opposed to the pale green color, small in size and supple. If it's hard, it'll most likely be very chewy and tough once cooked. It should not break easily/pop if you try to press.
There are a number of recipes for making okra sabji. I went for a simple recipe I learned from my mom.
Bhendichi Bhaji/Okra Sabji
2 Cups of cut fresh okra
1/2 Medium onion
1 Small tomato OR 1/2 medium tomato
3 Cloves garlic
3/4 Teaspoon tamarind paste
1 small cube of jaggery/couple of teaspoons of sugar
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds,
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Teaspoons cumin-coriander powder
Red chili powder
1 Tablespoon oil
- Cut the okra in small pieces about 1/2 inch thick. I cut them slanted holding the knife diagonal to okra to make it look pretty.
- Slice the onion thinly, chop the tomato and chop the garlic.
- Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.
- Once the mustard seeds splutter, add asafoetida, turmeric, garlic and onion. Stir until the onion is tender.
- Add the tomato, tamarind paste (the tamarind paste enhances the tangy taste of tomato - alliteration, ha!), jaggery/sugar and stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add okra, cumin-coriander powder, red chili powder, salt to taste and mix well. Cook on medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes until the okra is tender and cooked thoroughly, stirring occasionally. The okra will be slimy initially, but it starts to separate as it cooks. Don't add any water as the moisture from the okra is enough to cook it.
- I keep the heat on high for a couple of minutes towards the end to let the okra get charred a little. This is my favorite part of the dish! Once cooked, it's ready to serve.