This post is a result of a gazillion phone calls to my mum in a desperate attempt at trying to cook bhindi or okra so that it's not slimy. And I'm glad to report, I've cracked it!
For a long time now, cooking bhindi or okra or ladies finger or whatever you like to call it has been a hit or miss for me. There are days when I have perfectly spiced, crisp green beauties that are just waiting to be had with chapati and dal. And then there are days when they just turn into a gooey, slimy mess no matter what I do, which makes me want to weep in frustration.
My mum's visit this time has been full of documenting nuskha's or tips and tricks that only mum's know, that can magically turn you into a better cook. And I'm sharing one of them with you today.
Here's what you should do to cook Okra so that it cooks perfectly every time and is not slimy:
1. Picking the Right Okra
Never buy Okra or Bhindi in a packet. It's important that you handpick them while buying. Look for tender, slim, blemish free fingers which are soft and smooth to touch. Press them lightly between your fingers and if they are smooth, it means that there are fewer seeds. Make sure there are no holes on the surface because holes = worms.
2. Wash and Dry
The stickiness in Okra is caused by something called mucilage, which is also found in Aloe Vera. This mucilage intensifies when in contact with liquid.
It's important to wash Okra, irrespective of what anyone says to you to get rid of any dirt or chemicals still stuck to the skin. But what's more important is to dry it well before cooking. Wash uncut Okra under running water, and then pat it dry with a cloth towel before cutting. This is the most important step in making sure you have non-slimy Okra.
3. Soaking it in Vinegar (Optional)
Some say that soaking Okra in a Vinegar and Water (mix together 1 cup Vinegar in a litre of water) solution for an hour can help reduce the slime. We've never tried it because we've never felt the need for it, but you could give it a go if you have an extra hour. Once again, dry well before cutting it.
4. Dry Hands, Chopping Board and Knife
Make sure your hands are dry while cutting the Okra. It's as important to wipe your hands dry as it is to dry the Okra before cutting it. Also make sure the knife and the chopping board are dry. Basically, no contact with water while cutting. There will be some slime while cutting it, but just ignore it and move on.
5. Add a Souring Agent
This is the best way to ensure that you have non-slimy Okra at the end of the cooking process. Within 5-10 minutes of adding Okra to the pan, add a souring agent of choice or based on the recipe you choose. This can be lemon juice, vinegar, amchoor (raw mango powder) or even tamarind. The souring agent immediately cuts the sliminess, and ensures sure the greens are tender and crisp.
6. Do not Cover
The thumb rule is not to cover Okra. Why? It's simple - covering a dish while cooking traps steam and increases moisture. And by now, we know that moisture = slimy okra. So avoid covering the pan while making any kind of Okra stir fry.
7. Add Salt in the End
This rule again goes back to making sure there is minimal moisture while cooking Okra. Salt releases moisture or water in anything, be it vegetable or meat. And even more so in Okra, so it's important that you add salt right towards the end of the cooking process.
Bonus: How to Cook Bhindi Fry
One of my favorite Okra preparations is a simple bhindi fry. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons Oil in a pan, and add 250 grams sliced Okra to it. Saute on high heat for 2-3 minutes, and add 1 teaspoon amchoor (raw mango powder), 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon red chili powder, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder. Cook on medium flame for 10-15 minutes, while stirring occasionally till the bhindi (okra) is cooked through, but still crisp. Mix in salt and switch off the flame.
Delicious Okra recipes:
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