Bhinda Nu Shaak /Stir Fried Okra
What is Bhinda?
Bhinda is the Gujarati name for lady fingers, okra, or as more popularly known as bhindi in Hindi, Bendekayi in Kannada, Dhenras in Bengali, Vendai in Tamil. Popularly used in the Caribbean to make gumbo, its prepared in different ways in India. Bhinda or Okra is a very popular vegetable in India and surprisingly a favorite with many kids too. Open a number of tiffin or lunch boxes and you’re bound to find bhinda or okra with some roti. The origin of okra or bhinda is disputed as some claim it to be from West Africa, some say Ethiopia and others believe its from South Asia. The name Okra originates from a West African language. Did you know that Bhinda or Okra is actually a seed pod?
Did you know that besides the green bhinda/okra there are purple ones too? The first time I saw purple bhinda was at my sister in law’s farm in Kitengela. The purple ones were exported to Germany where they use it to prepare soups and stews. Bioligically, Okra is not a vegetable but a fruit. When you cut the pod it is slimy and on cooking it becomes even more slimier. That’s why is recommended that when you wash the okra, you should wipe it dry. Usually, overcrowding chopped okra or bhinda in a pan will make it more slimy. AN acidic ingredient like tomato, tamarind , lemon juice or yogurt tends to reduce the sliminess.
Bhinda/Okra on my table
Bhinda/Okra is available in Kenya practically throughout the year. There are days when I get so tired of bhinda/okra as there the vegetable lady brings only that besides potatoes and cabbage. Thankfully, my family loves bhinda in any way that I prepare it. Hubby and my eldest son love bharela bhinda nu shaak (stuffed bhindi) which really goes well with dal of any kind. My all time favorite is bhinda ni kadhi (okra in yogurt gravy), daughter loves bhindi masala, bhinda/okra prepared with some onion, tomatoes, garlic and several spices. What I’d really love to try is Sujata’s Sarson Bhindi, made in a delicious mustard and poppy seed sauce. There are so many different ways to prepare bhinda.
Nutritional Facts about Bhinda/Okra
- Low in calories and carbs, it contains fibre and some protein.
- Its rich in Vitamins C and K.
- Rich in oxidants like polyphenols which improves heart health.
- The slimy substance is called mucilage which can bind cholesterol during digestion and is excreted with the stools.
- Contains a protein called lectin which inhibits the growth of human cancer cells. However, more tests are still in progress.
- Inclusion of okra/bhinda in ones diets helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
- Okra contains folate which is an important nutrient for pregnant women.
What is Bhinda nu Shaak?
Shaak is a Gujarati word for vegetable. Any vegetable prepared with or without gravy and is served with paratha, roti or rice is shaak. Bhinda nu Shaak is a simple vegetable or side dish with few spices. Its usually served with roti and a dal. When you buy bhinda or okra, make sure they are tender and green. To check for tenderness, snap the tail end with your thumb. If it snaps easily then the bhindo (singular for bhinda) is tender and fresh. This stir fried version of shaak is easy to prepare and we love it with plain yogurt on top.
- gluten free
BHINDA NU SHAAK / STIR FRIED OKRA
500g okra (bhindi/bhinda)
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
½ tsp mustard seeds (rai)
¼ tsp carom seeds (ajwain, ajmo)
½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
½ -1 tsp red chilli powder
a generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 – 1½ tsp salt
2 tbsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jiru)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- Wash the okra and wipe them dry with a kitchen towel.
- Cut off both the ends.
- Slice the okra into rounds of about ½” thick.
- Heat oil in a wide pan over medium heat.
- When it is hot add mustard seeds first. Then add cumin and carom seeds.
- Add asafetida and turmeric powder.
- Immediately add the sliced okra or bhinda.
- Mix well.
- Reduce the heat and cover the pan.
- Let the okra cook for 10 minutes. Occasionally lift the lid and stir the okra gently.
- Remove the lid and cook the okra for a further 7-10 minutes. Check to see if you’re able to cut one piece easily with your spatula.
- If you can, then the okra is cooked.
- Add red chill powder, dhana jiru and mix well.
- Take the pan off the heat. Add salt and mix well.
- Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and serve with roti and dal.
- I usually wash the okra at night and layer it on a newspaper sheet or a kitchen towel so that they dry overnight.
- Do not add salt at the beginning otherwise the okra will turn too slimy.
- If not serving bhinda nu shaak immediately then don’t cover it. Leave it open till it cools down. Heat it up just before serving.
- This shaak needs dhana jiru which you can easily make at home, roast 1 part coriander seeds and ¼ part cumin seeds. Mix and grind in a blender. Store any leftover in an airtight jar to use for other shaaks.
- Enjoy it with a dollop of plain yogurt.
- If you wish you can add ginger and garlic paste. Stir fry for a few seconds before adding the turmeric powder.
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