India meets Africa in this lightly spiced curried okra dish called hot curried okra hailing all the way from Equatorial Guinea.
Indians traded with Africans from the east coast and their curried spices blended with African okra to produce some very delightful dishes. African cuisine is a generalized term collectively referring to the cuisines of Africa. The continent of Africa is the second largest landmass on Earth, and is home to hundreds of different cultural and ethnic groups. This diversity is also reflected in the many local culinary traditions in terms of choice of ingredients, style of preparation and cooking techniques.
It incorporates various meats, including game and bush meat as well as imports. Fish and chicken are common dishes. As seen in the dishes here, chilies and other spices are popular. Key ingredients in Equatoguinean cuisine come from local plants and animals, including plantains, sweet potato, breadfruit, yam, cocoyam (known locally as malanga), groundnuts and snails.
What is okra?
Okra (or okro) known in many English-speaking countries as lady fingers or ochro, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.
The name okra is most often used in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Philippines, with a variant pronunciation in Caribbean English and Nigerian of okro. The word okra is from the Igbo ọ́kụ̀rụ̀.
The plant and its seed pods are also known as “lady’s fingers”. In India, it is known by the names vendakkai (alternatively bendakkai) and bhindi.
Okra around the world
Okra is a popular vegetable in many parts of the world. Okra is an important vegetable in Southern cooking. It was probably brought to the United States from Africa in the early 1700s. By 1800, it was a common vegetable across the Southern United States.
The characteristic slimy substance helps to thicken gumbos and other soups, but the texture can be off-putting when okra is cooked in other ways, particularly if the dish contains liquids.
Okra is represented in a number of dishes across Africa. You will find it fried in delele and mince from Zimbabwe. It is sometimes added to mafé or yétissé, both traditional dishes from West Africa, and it takes center stage in gnaouia, this ultra popular stew from Tunisia.
There are some ways to reduce the sliminess. Acidic ingredients can help decrease the unpleasant texture. A bit of lemon juice, tamarind, or vinegar can help, or cook the okra with complementary tomatoes. Or try soaking it in a vinegar and water solution, a method that many cooks swear by. For each cup of water, add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. Because the goo in okra interacts with liquids, it is also important to dry the pods thoroughly and cook them quickly (to avoid steam). Fried okra and roasted okra also tend to be less slimy.
This hot curried okra dish makes a tasty vegetarian dish when served over hot white rice. You can also serve it with Southern fried chicken, pork chops, or steaks.
In Equatorial Guinea, they turn this tricky vegetable into a spicy and exotic side dish with a few simple spices (and one explosive habanero pepper). You can avoid the spicy heat levels by simply splitting the habanero to let a little juice out.
When choosing fresh okra, look for bright green pods no longer than 4 inches. They should be firm but not hard and free from blemishes and damage. If when you slice into the okra, it gives some resistance, then it is not good. That means it stayed too long on the tree before harvesting. One pound of fresh trimmed okra yields approximately 4 cups of sliced okra.
Okra is one of those vegetables you either love or hate. If you’re one of those people that don’t like them, it’s because of some bad experience eating or cooking it. And usually it all boils down to the texture of okra, which is slimy. This easy curried okra recipe boils down to two simple steps, cooking the okra properly and adding in the perfect dry curry mix.
Okra contains mucilage, which is the same thing that you find in aloe vera plants. When okra is heated while cooking, the mucilage comes out and produces that slimy texture. Okra mucilage refers to the thick and slimy substance found in fresh as well as dried pods. Mucilaginous substances are usually concentrated in the pod walls and are chemically acidic polysaccharides associated with proteins and minerals.
How to remove sliminess of okra
Although you probably can’t avoid the slime altogether, there are a few simple techniques you can apply while cooking okra to reduce it as much as possible:
– Completely dry out at room temperature after washing to keep out any excess moisture.
– Avoid slicing the okra into tiny rounds, and instead cook them whole or slice them once lengthwise down the center to keep the surface area of the inside to a minimum when cooking.
– Salt adds to the moisture, so season with salt towards the end of cooking.
– Steaming while cooking the okra produces moisture. Cook on higher heat and use a large pan to avoid over-crowding the pan.
– Another neat trick is after slicing into lengthwise pieces or small rounds, lay it out on a cookie sheet and let it sit out overnight or in the sun for a few hours. When you know you are going to prepare okra, try to prepare it a day ahead to dry out the slime.
This hot curried okra dish is such a humble side dish with little ingredients, yet it produces big flavors.
- 1 lb okra (fresh or frozen), cut in two or three sections
- 1 tablespoon red palm oil
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 habanero pepper , split
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- Heat the red palm oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven.
- Add the chopped onion and habanero pepper and mix well.
- Add the curry and chili powder. Mix well.
- When the onions are soft and start to get brown, add the okra.
- Then add the water up to about 1 inch above the okra.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes (frozen okra will require less cooking time).
- The mixture should be thick and sticky.
- Serve with white rice.