Thursday, April 25, 2013

From the family Kithcen: Kurkuri Bhindi Raita- Crispy fried Okra in a Yoghurt Dip

This post  is dedicated to my aunt Shirley, my mother's older sister. I made a few changes, the final result was slightly different from what I learnt from her, but the basics remain the same. Okra bits deep fried with a spicy coating. Crunchy, crispy, spicy and very different!This recipe has also been inspired by my memories of an amazingly blessed, food filled childhood and my aunt who made so much fun happen in our small town lives!

 I have very strong food-memories , growing up in Benaras. One of them is of my aunt's house (and the food she served us) who  lives in the suburbs of Varanasi and it is a bit like a rural farmhouse. She has this huge terrace- porch and winters there are absolute bliss. In summers too,  it is the perfect place to have a meal al fresco, under the stars with the men of the house making Indian style barbeque if you will! Litti chokha, eggplants, potatoes and garlic roasting away on the open fire, dal cooking in a clay pot, desi ghee kept in a big bowl to dunk the littis in, a bit pot of spicy mutton curry being 'bhunoed', kachumber salad being assembled-raddish,tomatoes, cucumbers,onions,lots of green chillies, salt and lime,  mosquito repellent coils burning away in a corner.

 I have grown up in my aunt's house and her children, my cousins, in ours. Thousands of meals have been eaten with my aunt's family, the family cook given instructions to always make something special, chutneys, salads, papads, kebabs flowing endlessly...the main course a grand gosht yakhni pulao or bhuna keema, koftas, dal-gosht, raseydaar aloo with pooris-runny potato curry typical to UP, bhurjis, on occasions even Khow Suey, assorted pakoda platters or sabzi kalaunji....followed by ghujias, gulaab jamuns, rasgollas, kal kal and what not for dessert. Some times a huge platter of fresh seasonal fruits. With lunch over, tea time would arrive pretty fast too! Hot mugs of chai and pakodas, bread rolls stuffed with mince, cheese, potatoes...fat green chillies coated with flour and deep fried, samosas. My aunt would sit there like a grand dame and direct us all to just dig in! Her fleet of maids fussing over us kids, ensuring hot, fresh delicacies and enjoying our genuine praises (and gluttony).

My mother and aunt both have fabulous cooks to do their family cooking but times have changed now. There aren't that many people to cook for anymore.  All of us children are grown up, married and settled across the globe. We hardly get to meet as often as we would like to. We try though, to travel to India for Christmas at least, esp my sister in Canada and me. Along with our brood, trying hard to re-capture those special memories for the sake of our kids...those memories are a part of who I am today. Our spouses looking on with fond amusement! Perhaps the reason why I love to feed people. ( I dont always enjoy cooking even if that is hard to believe). My own house is now famous for good food and for 'barkat' (blessing/abundance in Urdu). Nobody who steps in to this house shall ever leave without a hot meal or chai/snack. And I learnt it from my parents but esp my aunt Shirley, who they say is just like her own mother(my maternal grandma, called Nana by all) when it comes to hosting, to feeding people,  generous and awesome in her hospitality.
PS- Mom, I know you are amazing too, but let's face it, you are not in to food at all so no point in talking about food and you in the same breath. :)

Here is what you will need:

1/2 kg Okra/Bhindi- washed, completely dried and cut in to very thin discs.

Make a spice blend of the following:

1/2 cup Besan (chickpea flour) or
1/2 cup rice flour
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1tsp mango powder
1tbsp of bhuna masala- made by dry roasting equal qunatities of corriander and cumin seeds. Take a heaped tsp of each, roast in a non stick pan, cool and grind to a coarse powder. ( keep a fat pinch of it aside to use for garnishing later)
1 tsp of Shaan's tikka masala or tandoori masala powder (optional)
Salt to taste *

For the Raita/yoghurt dip

150 gms or a large mug of thick yoghurt, mixed with a little water and thinned slightly, whipped nicely
2-3 cloves of garlic- crushed, not ground
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Salt to taste

A few mint leaves roughly chopped-to garnish
A fat pinch of bhuna masala-to garnish
Chaat masala -  according to taste/ to sprinkle (optional)

Mustard oil or any vegetable oil for deep frying.

Some notes:

*Do not add salt to the chopped Okra untill just before frying as it will release moisture and may make it soggy.
*Mix your raita before hand and keep away in the fridge to remain cold.
* I used Shaan's Tikka masala, you can use any brand really, or not use it at all, in which case you might want to increase the chilli powder, but it is up to you.
*Chop the Okra in to wafer thin round discs, you will get uniformed frying/cooking. I didn't, I simply cut them slanted lengthwise. Didnt look pretty I think!
* Be careful with adding salt since we are using for both, the Okra slices as well as the yoghurt, plus you might be using chaat masala too in the end , which also has salt. So go easy and increase only if you find it isn't enough for you.

The reddish tinge in the picture above is because of using Tikka masala.

Here is how you fry the Okra and assemble the Raita:

Combine all the spices along with the besan or the rice flour, except salt and sprinkle it over the chopped Okra. Work with dry hands, and gently mix it together in a large bowl. Keep aside for twenty to thirty minutes. Just when you are ready to fry them, heat a wok with mustard oil. The depth of the oil should be at least an inch high. When the oil is hot, reduce flame to medium- quickly add salt now, mix  and fry the Okra in small batches so that the wok doesnt get crowded. Alternatively, sprinkle salt over each batch as you fry it. Fry the entire amount and spread it out on a large plate. Dont use a paper kitchen towel to soak the oil. Instead, just keep the plate slightly raised and tilted and the oil will slowly drain off and collect on one side. Using a tissue will make the fried Okra soggy. I fried mine on low/medium flame throughout. Will take some time but that is how you will get them crispy!

Keep the fried Okra just as is. Do not cover. When you are ready to serve, mix it together with the yoghurt sauce, sprinkle some more bhuna masala, adjust salt, garnish with a few mint leaves and serve! Remember not to combine these too long before the actual serving time, else it might become a soggy mess. 

I serve this Raita in individual bowls for my guests.

Serve this with an elaborate Biryani or Pulao! You can also serve this just on the side and skip the yoghurt completely, it is espeically yummy with dal-rice, fresh corriander chutney and some chopped onions seasoned with salt and lime. It has made many a childhood afternoons special for me. I hope you enjoy it too. :)


  1. Great recipe.. Looks so delicious.. I'm a new blogger... Do visit my blog..

  2. Tried. It tastes so good with Rice. Yummy it was.

  3. They look so perfect. Beautifully done:)Yummy indeed :)
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