Okra gets a bad wrap. I grew up in Irmo, South Carolina, home of the Okra Strut, so perhaps I have a soft spot for the little green guys. The most common complaint seems to be that okra is slimy. I know of two recipes and one prep work tip that eliminate the possibility of slime. The first of these recipes calls for stuffing the okra with a spicy paste of tomatoes, spices and sesame seeds. Stuffing the okra with this masala heavy paste ensures that the insides get coated with plenty of flavor and, well, no slime.
As for the prep work tip, it’s a bit cumbersome but well worth the time spent. Wash the okra thoroughly in a colander. Use a paper towel to dry each piece of okra individually, being sure not to leave any water drops behind. Spread the okra out on a towel or cutting board while you make the masala paste giving them a chance to air dry even further.
Masala Stuffed Okra Boats
This recipe calls for amchur powder, a spice of dried, powdered green mangos. It adds a sour, tangy flavor to the masala paste which makes the paste taste slightly spicy – not chili-heat spicy but masala-heavy spicy due to the sourness and acidity. You may want to reduce the masala measurements below or sprinkle lemon juice over the okra at the end to reduce the heat. Also, you can substitute lemon juice or tamarind paste in step 3 if you don’t have amchur. If you’re not up for stuffing the okra, you can cut the okra in half and combine the okra and masala paste in a bowl together until the okra is fully coated (although I happen to love the little, green masala filled boats). This okra dish goes really well with sambar, rice and a little yogurt.
~30 pieces of okra
1. Wash the okra then dry each okra piece using a paper towel. Spread out on a cutting board or kitchen towel while making the masala.
2. In a wide skillet on medium low heat, heat about a tablespoon of cooking oil. When hot, add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes until tomatoes are melted down.
3. Stir in the masalas and the sesame seeds. Continue cooking on medium heat, stirring frequently to make sure the masala does not burn, for about 5 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. While the masala paste cools, cut the heads and tails off of the okra. Carefully cut a vertical slit in the okra starting from the stem side and cutting towards the pointed end. Stuffing the okra will be easier if you cut all the way on the stem side rather than just creating a slit.
5. Using your fingers, pinch off a dime sized portion of the masala paste with your right hand. Use your left hand to gently pry open the slit and your right hand to spread the paste inside the okra. It doesn’t have to be beautiful – some of the masala will (and should) spill out when the okra goes back in the pan. Repeat until you have rows of masala stuffed okra boats.
6. Using the same wide skillet, heat about another tablespoon of oil. When hot, add the onions and saute on medium heat until translucent without letting them brown/burn.
7. Add the okra in a single layer in the skillet and gently mix in with the onions. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally (gently so as to not break up the okra too much). Sprinkle with salt to taste.
8. Uncover and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
Masala paste for stuffing
Masala Stuffed Okra Boats