Okra is the pod of a tropical perennial of the Mallow family. It is thought to have originated in the mountainous regions of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia.
The earliest account of okra was in the early 1200s by a Spanish Moor traveling in Eygpt who witnessed the tender pod being eaten.
Since then okra has spread across the world where it is eaten today in Europe, South East Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas.
Okra is known by a variety of names including 'lady fingers', 'Bhindi', 'Bamieh' and 'Gumbo'. It is high in fibre and contains vitamins A, C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
The versatile little pod can be used in a variety of ways. Here are just a few I found in my research:
- It is cooked in soups, stews, battered, fried, dried, grilled or steamed
- It is used as thickening agent for soups
- It is ground into a fine powder and added to food such as cous cous to stop the grains from sticking
- Its seeds can be pressed to make good quality oil and are also high in protein
- Mature, dried okra seeds were ground and used as a coffee substitute in Central America, Africa and parts of Asia
I fried my okra in a light batter made of plain flour, tapioca flour (starch), soda water and baking soda. The okra was accommpanied by a Thai nam pla prik sauce consisting of fish sauce (nam pla), fresh bird chilis, coriander, lime juice and a little sugar.
I battered about four okra at a time and then placed them in the hot sunflower oil where I cooked them for 1-2 minutes until they were just starting to turn golden. The quick frying retains the okra's delicious crunch while still heating it up enough to make it tender.
Thai Okra Tempura Recipe
20 - 25 okra pods
1/3 cup of flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
3/4 cup of cold soda water
1/2 tsp of baking powder
2 cups of sunflower oil for frying
Nam Pla Prik Sauce
2 1/2 tbs of fish sauce
Juice from 1 lime
1-2 bird chilis, finely chopped
1 tbs of coriander stems, finely chopped
1/8 tsp of sugar
- Wash the okra and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
- Make the nam pla prik by adding together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside.
- Heat the oil on a high heat in a medium saucepan.
- Meanwhile, make the batter by adding together the flours, baking soda and soda water. Mix batter by quickly stirring it with some chopsticks. It's ok if the batter seems lumpy, just don't over mix it.
- Test the oil by dropping in a droplet of batter. The oil is ready if the batter sizzles to the top.
- Coat several okra pods in batter and then gently lower them into the oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes or until the batter starts to turn slightly golden. Remove okra with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat the process.
- Serve okra with nam pla prik dipping sauce or alternatively you can also use Thai sweet chili sauce.