Spiced Tender Chopped Bindi

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Bindi is the Hindi name for “okra.” In South Asia, okra is rarely cooked in water. Instead it is deep-fried or fried in a spiced oil–based sauce. This dish is a rather magical transformation of dull green okra into nuggets of flavor, with no sliminess, just good bite.

In Udaipur we stayed at the Jagat Niwas Hotel, family owned and very pleasant, right by the lake and just beside the imposing palace of the maharaja of Udaipur. The food at the restaurant tended to the elaborate. But the staff ate simpler Rajasthani village-style food, for that was where they came from, villages in the western part of Rajasthan. We tasted a version of this dish at the hotel on a day when the dish had been made for the staff meal. We loved it, then later were told how to make it by the family of Sangana Bai, the tandoor oven maker (see “My First Tandoor”).

As you must with all quickly cooked stir-fried dishes, you should prepare all your ingredients ahead and place them by your stove top. The heat is medium, the spicing easy to assemble, yet complex tasting.

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Ingredients

  • ½ pound okra (2 cups trimmed and chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons raw sesame oil or vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole or ground
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala (or store-bought)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 green cayenne chile, minced

Method

Wash the okra, then cut into G-inch slices, discarding the stems and any tough spots. Set aside.

Heat a wok or karhai or a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil. Toss in the mustard seeds, then cover briefly while they pop. Add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric and stir into the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the okra, garam masala, and salt and stir-fry for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the okra is nearly tender. Add the minced chile and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.

Turn out into a shallow serving bowl and serve hot or at room temperature.

Serve as a dry curry, alongside rice and a simmered dish such as Udaipur Urad Dal or Cashew-Coconut Meatballs or Simmered Kashmiri Paneer.