While growing up, bhindi (okra) had always been a comfort food for me and for every one of my cousins. Its gooey texture, offset by its crunchy bite, always hit the spot whenever my mom or aunts prepared it. It’s one of those vegetables that never required too much to be considered palatable and tastes simply amazing with so many different flavor combinations. Not to mention, it is a stable vegetable in all desi cultures.
My mom prepares bhindi with the traditional Indian spices, namely, ground coriander, ground cumin, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, red chilli powder, salt, lemon juice, and cilantro. She has taught me her tricks of the trade, to ensure the bhindi are tender enough but not too gooey, so all the flavors remain intact and the bhindi can easily be scooped up with a piece of roti!
Having learned the [art of] basics, I have tried to put a spin on my favorite vegetable by stuffing it with flavorful spices and garnishes. This is a perfect decorative dish, just in time for the Holidays!
● 1lb (~450g) fresh bhindi (okra)
● 1 ½ -2 medium sized carrots, shredded
● ½ cup grated coconut
● 2 tsp ground coriander
● 1 tsp cumin seeds
● 1.5 tsp garam masala (optional)
● 1-2 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)
● 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
● 2 tbsp sesame oil (can also use coconut or avocado oil)
● 3 tbsp lemon juice
● 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
● ½ tsp turmeric powder
● Fresh cilantro (for decor)
Wash and dry the bhindi on a towel.
While the bhindi is drying, make the masala (stuffing).
In a large bowl, mix together: shredded carrots, grated coconut, ground coriander, cumin seeds, garam masala, sea salt, oil, red chilli powder, turmeric powder. (I like to use my hands to mix!)
Then add maple syrup and lemon juice. Mix well.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slightly grease the parchment paper with sesame oil (or oil of your preference) so that the bhindi doesn’t stick.
Cut off the thicker of the 2 ends of all the bhindi.
Prepare the bhindi: make a vertical slit in the midline of each bhindi. Note: Do not slice it in half such that the bhindi falls apart in 2 pieces. Cut just enough so that you can stuff the masala.
Use a spoon (or your hands!) to stuff each bhindi (in the vertical slit) with the masala - you can stuff as much or as little as you would like!
Align the bhindi on the parchment paper, with the stuffing side facing up. Bake for 30 minutes. At around 25 minutes, check if the bhindi softened. If it has not, you may need to keep it in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, but check regularly!
Decorate with cilantro, additional grated coconut, or even diced onions.
Enjoy the desi flavors!
Note: You can serve the masala bhindi on its own as a snack, with roti/naan, or with rice.