Introduction to Bhindi
Growing up, bhindi was one of my all-time favorite dishes. I know that may sound a bit odd since most kids are fairly weary of vegetables and would rather have pizza or some mac and cheese. But not me! If anyone asked what I wanted to eat for dinner, I’m pretty sure that nine times out of ten I would have asked for bhindi.
For those who may not be familiar with this dish, bhindi is essentially okra that has been fried with onions, tomatoes, chilies, and various spices. It has a rich and tangy flavor, and can be made in just about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Breakdown of Ingredients:
- Red Onions: Red onions add the perfect touch of sweetness to this dish. Yellow onions could work well for this dish too if you don’t happen to have red onions on hand. However, I would really recommend red onions to balance out the rest of the flavors in this dish. For the best flavor and texture, make sure to slice the onions lengthwise into long thin strips.
- Roma Tomatoes: I like using fresh roma tomatoes for this dish, but vine-ripened tomatoes or even canned tomatoes could work well too. For canned tomatoes I would recommend using about 1/3 of a cup of diced or crushed canned tomatoes.
- Green Chillies: You can use whatever green chillies you prefer for this dish. I’ve tried it with serrano chillies and jalapeno and these both taste great. If you have a local Indian grocery store in your area, I would also recommend checking that out for some great green chili options! The one’s from my local store are small, thin, and super spicy; we just refer to these as “hari mirch” which literally translates to green chillies.
- Cilantro: By now I’m sure you’re aware that cilantro is one of my favorite garnishes. I never make Indian food without finishing it off with a hefty sprinkle of chopped cilantro leaves!
- Fresh Lime Juice: This dish is already tangy because of the tomatoes and mango powder so make sure to taste your bhindi before adding extra lime juice. However, I really do recommend trying bhindi with some lime juice at the very end because it adds a great fresh and tangy kick.
- Frozen Okra: Of course, fresh okra works well too. However, I prefer to buy frozen because this cuts down on prep time, prevents the dreaded “sliminess” that can often occur when you make bhindi, and is often more easily accessible than fresh okra. Frozen okra packets come with the okra pre-sliced and ready to go which is such a time-saver! No need to wash, cut, and then dry your okra before cooking.
- Water: Now, this may be a bit controversial, but I do like to add some water to my bhindi. Some say that water should never be added as it can make the texture of the bhindi slimy, but not if you use it with the technique I describe later below! Adding a little water helps the spices and tomatoes cook to perfection.
- Oil: I recommend using a neutral oil for this dish like canola. Avoid using any oil with a strong flavor like sesame or olive oil since this will be too noticeable in the dish.
- Hing: Hing, otherwise known as asafoetida, is a staple in a lot of Indian dishes. It adds warm and depth to the dish and is pretty essential. However, if you don’t have access to it, it may be omitted if necessary.
- Cumin Seeds: Cumin seeds or powder may be used for this dish, although I prefer cumin seeds since it tastes a little fresher and more vibrant.
- Coriander Powder, Turmeric, Fenugreek Leaves, and Garam Masala: These spices are another staple for most Indian dishes. I use them in pretty much every dish, and they add a lot of warmth and richness.
- Kashmiri Mirch: Kashmiri mirch is a type of red chili powder that has a bright red tone that is more vibrant than regular chili powder and also a milder flavor.
- Amchur: Amchur, otherwise known as mango powder, adds a great tangy flavor to this dish.
Process and Keys to Success:
The process of frying your aromatics and spices in Indian cooking is known as a “tarka.” The key to perfectly tempering your ingredients is heating up your oil in a skillet on a medium heat, and then adding in your cumin seeds and hing. Roast your cumin seeds and hing for about 30 seconds to a minute before adding in your onions. Then, you want to let the onions cook for a couple of minutes, making sure to stir constantly. Let the onions turn translucent and fragrant. Then, add in your spices. I always recommend adding in your spices before your tomatoes so they can cook thoroughly. Otherwise, the spices can be left with a slightly “raw” flavor. Then, add in your tomatoes, green chilies, salt, and water (if necessary) into your. mixture.
Why Add Water?
Adding water may be unconventional for some, but adding a little can help soften your tomatoes and prevent your spices from burning! You want your spices to be thoroughly cooked to get maximum flavor, but not burn or stick to your pan. So a little water does the trick.
How Do I Prevent My Bhindi From Getting “Slimy?”
Keys to Success:
- Don’t over-stir! Too much stirring is what causes that dreaded slimy texture. After you add in your okra to your tarka, coat the okra evenly in the mixture but then try to stir as little as possible after that. Instead of constantly mixing, just use your utensil to push the okra towards and away from the center of the pan.
- Use frozen okra. Fresh okra is a lot harder to work with For fresh okra, you have to wash it, cut it, and then leave it out until it is completely dry. Even a little bit of moisture can cause a slimy texture.
- 1/2 Large red onion
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 Serrano green chili (or chili of your using)
- Hefty pinch of Hing (asafetida)
- tsp 1 Cumin seeds
- 1.5 tsp Coriander powder
- 1.5 tsp Kashmiri mirch
- 1.5 tsp fenugreek leaves
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2-3 tbsp oil
- cilantro (for garnish)
- fresh lime juice (for garnish)
- 1/4 c water (Or as needed)
- 1 packet frozen okra
- Heat oil in a skillet and add your cumin eeeds and hing. Cook until the seeds are Golden grown and fragrant.
- Add in your onions, sliced in long thin slices, and sauté until translucent.
- Add all of your spices except for the salt and cook for another minute or so.
- Add in your chopped Roma tomatoes, salt, and green chilies, along with about a 1/4c of water. The amount of water you will need really depends on how juicy your tomatoes are. We need a decent amount of water so the spices don’t burn.
- Then add in your frozen okra and mix everything together. However, make sure not to over-stir because okra is notorious for releasing sticky “strings” if you over-mix.
- Cover your mixture with a lid and cook for about 10-15 minutes, uncovering the pot occasionally to give the mix a gentle stir and add water as needed.
- Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro and lime juice, and serve with roti and raita!