Monday, April 4, 2011

Vegetarianism


     Last week was a very vegetarian week for me. What happened, I think, is that I went so crazy buying fresh vegetables, and then I realized I would have to leave for Boston on Thursday, and then I realized I would have to cook all these vegetables (and tofu) between Monday and Wednesday. And now I have had a ton of veggie posts in a row. Just making sure you understand I haven't turned over to the dark side or anything.

Look! Its a Bhindi Caterpillar! The eye is natural.
     So, what are the lovely bits of greenery I made for you today? Okra. Saying okra feels weird to me. Okra is bhindi in Hindi, and Bhindi is how I know and love it. It is also something I grew up and couldn't imagine not eating anymore than I could imagine not eating eggs or potatoes or something. But, in the American north Okra seems to have this reputation as a slimy, Southern-food type of thing. I have never understood this fear of slimy bhindi. Not until I cooked it.

     First, as with any cooking project I have never attempted before, I called my mom. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "I bought bhindi. Now what do I do?"
Mom: "How do you want to make it? Stuffed or...?"
Me: "No, just normally."
Mom: "That's easy, just add jeera (cumin)..."
Me: "I don't have any jeera."
Mom: "Then it won't taste like it normally tastes."
Me: "Oh." *feels whining fit coming on about how nothing goes right*
Mom: "It's okay, you can use dhaniya (coriander) and garam masala and then add amchur (something related to mango?) at the end and it will taste right."
Me: "I DON'T HAVE AMCHUR!"
Mom: "Fine. Add chana masala."
Me: "Will it taste good?"
Mom: "Yes."
Me: "OK."

This is then followed by the necessary three or four phone calls when I forget what I was supposed to add or when or how long it could possibly take to cook bhindi. Cooking is a time consuming process.

Cashew Chicken Curry + Rice + Bhindi= A Good Meal
     Actually, cooking bhindi (or okra) is a time consuming process. Once you chop it up, you have to cook it down until all the white stuff in the center oozes out and gets cooked up. That's the stuff that makes it slimy. I had many moments of uncertainty stirring that bhindi, wondering what the white stuff was and when it would be gone. The white stuff, just so you know, is the little gooey strands that stretch across the bhindi pieces in the pan. When you haven't seen any of that stuff for a few minutes, you know it is gone.


     Following this method, my bhindi turned out beautifully. I meant to save it and freeze it so I would have it to eat when I came back from Boston. It was gone in a meal and a half. A half because when I first made it, I put it into a bowl and then just kept "sampling" until I realized that I had gobbled up most of it without ever making any rice or even heating up a tortilla. Then, I stopped myself and saved the rest to eat properly. I don't know how to describe bhindi, or okra, if you have never had it before. This is fried up so it is spicy and flavorful but it still has that delicious taste that's all its own. I will think of how to describe it eventually, meanwhile you should make some.



Bhindi Masala
Serves 2

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Chana Masala 
1 packet Bhindi (Okra), About 30 pieces or 1 lb 
A dash of Salt
1/2 mid-sized Yellow Onion, Chopped Finely

To Prepare Bhindi:

Cut off the heads (the big round part). Also cut off the tails (pointy parts) if they are firm (if they are soft, you can eat them and don't need to cut them off). Slice them about 1/2 in thick.

For Bhindi Masala:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or saucepan at medium heat. Add the garam masala, coriander, and chana masala, stirring them and frying them up for a minute. Then, add the chopped bhindi. Stir them into the spices and allow them to cook for about 10 min. Stir them occasionally. First, they will start oozing the sticky substance, and then the sticky substance will go away. Once it has been gone for a few minutes, add the chopped onions and stir them in. Cook for another few minutes, until the onions are thoroughly cooked. The bhindi will be a lot darker green than it was when it started out. Taste the bhindi to make sure it is not "slimy" tasting. Serve and eat with rice, curry, tortilla, or whatever you would like. 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for showing a new way to cook okra/bhindi! I'm a Southern gal who loves it fried, but I'd like to try eating it a little more healthy :)

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  2. No problem! I would love to know if you try it - there are lots of Indian ways of making bhindi (more coming up). If you have any southern ways (or online recipes) you can think of, I have never tried those and would love to :D

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