Saturday, September 09, 2006

Working Eater Series: Rustic Country-Style Okra Stir-Fry

One of my favorite working eater vegetables is okra. Although it is a hairy and slimy vegetable that has its share of shortcomings, it has many strong points too. For instance, it is very nutritious, as it is high in folate and Vitamins A and C, and it helps to lower cholesterol.

A classic working eater dish I make, is a recipe that I invented when I
only had okra and cauliflower in my refrigerator. Surprisingly, my ad hoc okra hodgepodge turned out deliciously, and was a hit with those who tasted it. I now count this okra recipe as one of my staple meals when I come home from a frenzied day at work.

In this recipe, I find that the cauliflower helps to sponge up some of the viscous mucus excreted by the okra, and the robust and concentrated flavors from the fiery chili pepper flakes in oil and pungent fish sauce help take away focus from the grotesque slime exuding itself from the okra innards. Without further delay, here is my okra recipe:

Rustic Country-Style Okra Stir-Fry
1 head of cauliflower, separated into individual florets
1 lb of fresh okra, tops removed and discarded, and sliced into 1/2 inch rings
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp of fish sauce
1-2 tbsps (heaping) of crispy chili flakes in onion-flavored oil (you can get this in Asian supermarkets)
1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a skillet or wok on high heat until the oil is shimmering. Quickly add the garlic, and fry until the edges of the garlic begin to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, fish sauce, and chili flakes, and cook until the florets are tender to the bite.

Meanwhile, rinse the sliced okra rings in a colander under a running faucet, and swish the okra around in the water with your hands. Drain the okra by shaking the colander over the sink vigorously, and put a plate under the colander to catch any slimy residue. Add the okra into the hot pan that is cooking the cauliflower, and continue to cook until the okra is slightly softened, but still crisp to the bite.

That's it! Wasn't that easy? I hope that you non-okra eaters sample this recipe. It is a great way to get acquainted with a fabulous and underappreciated vegetable. If the slime and the scratchy okra fuzz is too much for you, you can minimize the slime by leaving the okra pods whole and just trimming off the fibrous tops and pointed ends. You can also eliminate the fuzz by wiping and rubbing the okra skin with a damp washcloth.



  1. I've never had okra...but from the 'warning' of slime, fuzz and muscus (shiver) I'm not sure I ever want to! Actually, I've never seen it in the supermarket up here. Maybe in a specialty grocery? Yep...I'll take your word for it that it's good stuff.

  2. Okra rocks! Thanks for the recipe, PE.

    - CP

  3. hurray for slimey and mucusy! looks great p.e.! i'm all about slimey foods (cept natto... i don't do stinky..)

    can't wait for the "uni" posting yeah?

  4. okra is one of my favorite veggies! and i always find it a good base to mix with other things. looks great!

  5. It takes some getting used to Rachel, and I'm not sure if the boys would like it, but I hope I've inspired you some how to try recipes out of your regular repertoire.

    You're welcome Chubby Panda! I also thank you too for your recipes!

    I've missed you Rick James! Yea man, I feel you with the natto. I'll eat some things, but man, natto, durian, and stinky tofu are one the "maybe I won't eat those again" list. (Also, you might need to remind me what "uni" means again. I know, I'm dumb...)

    I agree Pink Nest! I have never eaten okra alone--I think it definitely needs a partner.

  6. Okras will not be so slimy if you washed them first, dried them by dabbing with kitchen towels and then slice them. For stir fries, fry them in oil before adding water helps a lot. In curries, wait until the gravy's boiling before adding them.

  7. Those are some excellent tips Anonymous! Thank you! I've never tried the pre-drying method or the fry-first method before. I usually (incorrectly) add water early (which exacerbates the slime). I'll be sure to employ these tips the next time I make okra.

  8. I love the slime! That's a main reason why I love Okra. But I've never tried to cook it myself. Thanks for the recipe. I'm excited to have found your blog.


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