We may associate okra with American Southern food, but this vegetable, called bhindi, is also a significant part of Indian cuisine. There are many dishes that incorporate okra, from simply cooking in a pan with spices to simmering in a rich curry to coating in seasoned flour and deep-frying, as in this dish. If you eat this okra dish with plain boiled rice and your favorite daal (lentil dish), you've got a tasty and nutritious meal.
This recipe calls for gram flour (also called besan) which is a common ingredient in Indian cooking and has a nutty flavor. Ajwain, or carom seeds, add a taste that is similar to anise and oregano. Chaat masala is a typical spice powder mix used in Indian cuisine.
Wash the okra and dry thoroughly. Remove the top stem of each and then cut lengthwise into thin slices.
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to a deep skillet and heat over medium heat.
Put the okra in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over all of the dry ingredients except the salt. Season with salt just before frying (or else the okra will release water and become soggy).
Deep-fry the okra a few at a time until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining okra in batches, adding more oil as needed.
Garnish with the lime juice and serve with plain boiled rice and your favorite daal.
It is very important to dry the okra thoroughly or else it will be sticky and slimy when you cut it. Okra is filled with a gel similar to what is inside the aloe plant and when cooked slowly the gel releases. Frying is an ideal way to cook slime-free okra since it is such a quick method; if the okra is wet when placed in the hot oil, it will take longer to cook.
When deep-frying, it is important to maintain the temperature of the oil. Do not heat the oil too much as okra burns quickly when deep fried. Also, don't crowd the pan when frying or the temperature of the oil will drop and the okra won't get properly crisped.
The fried okra will stay nice and crunchy for 15 to 20 minutes after being cooked, so you don't need to rush them to the table concerned that they will turn soggy.
You can vary the flavor of the kurkuri bhindi by changing the flour or seasonings in the recipe. Swap out the gram flour for rice flour, or add in a bit of garam masala along with the other spices.
If you would rather make oven-fried okra, after coating with the dry ingredients, place the bhindi in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil. Bake at 400 F (200 C) for 20 minutes until golden brown and crispy.