My friend Ruta Says: “Odly enough, children in India love okra. But it’s hardly surprising; whether sautéed, fried or stuffed, the vegetable is prepared in a way that makes it’s texture pleasing rather than gooey. In this recipe, for instance, the okra becomes crunchy and addictive on it’s own; stirred into spiced yogurt, it is even better. This can be eaten on it’s own, or served with thalipeeth.”
Ruta wrote the book 5 Spices 50 Recipes, a wonderful play on Indian cooking that makes delicious Indian food accessable for every home cook. Several years ago I was invited to a press dinner at her home in Berkeley, California where we cooked and ate a most amazing meal. I have only changed the recipe slightly, adding a bit more mustard seed and added flavor and crunch of curry leaves. They may be hard for you to come by, but they are available at most Indo/Paki grocery stores. I grow my own. If you cannot find them, the dish is still quite good without them, but even better with them. The flavors and textures in this Raita make my mouth sing. You will want to double the ingredients after you have made this once, it is highly addictive.
Ruta has a new book out now, Quick Fix Indian. There are also rumors that she is planning on a restaurant in Goa where she spends some of her time.
8 ounces fresh or frozen, cut okra
3-4 stems of curry leaf, leaves pulled off of the stems.
6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 cup plain whole or low fat yogurt
¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (I used my smoked salt for this)
½ teaspoon sugar or jaggery grated
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like a real kick)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (so good for you)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds (I use half golden and half black)
Wash the okra and towel dry each one thoroughly. Slice into ¼ inch-thick rounds. If using frozen okra, do not thaw.
Heat 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is very hot, add the okra, toss and let sizzle. Toss occasionally. The okra will slowly crisp and turn brown. Note: frozen okra may not crisp as well, this is OK, just be sure to brown it well. Once all of the okra is well browned, remove to a paper towel lined platter and set aside till ready to serve. Repeat with the curry leaves. They crisp up really quickly, so keep your eye on them.
Make the tadka: Whisk the yogurt with the salt (to taste) and sugar place the cayenne and tumeric in a small pile on the raita, but do not stir in yet. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a butter warmer or small skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering th pan with a lid or spatter screen. After the mustard seeds stop sputtering, pour the hot oil directly on top of the cayenne and turmeric powder. This cooks the powdered spices without burning them. Do not stir the dressing in yet.
For presentation prior to serving, place the crisp okra & curry leaves on top of the dressing. Stir the okra and dressing into the yogurt while serving. I promise you will be licking the bowl in before the night is over.