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Okra, Shrimp and Tomato Curry

Okra is an annual flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. Originating in Africa, the plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.

The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. While many people enjoy okra cooked this way, others prefer to minimize sliminess; keeping the pods intact and cooking quickly help to achieve this. To avoid sliminess, okra pods are often briefly stir-fried, or cooked with acidic ingredients such as citrus, tomatoes, or vinegar. A few drops of lemon juice will usually do the trick. Alternatively the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time, so that the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.

Here, okra appears in a non-vegetarian version of bhindi masala (okra and tomato curry), and served over coconut rice. No recipe is given for the coconut rice, which is just rice cooked in coconut milk, along with a pinch of salt and a few curry leaves. Stir in 1 tablespoon of ghee after the rice is finished cooking, then fluff with a fork.

Curry leaves, asafoetida and ghee can be obtained at Indian specialty food shops or by mail order from Kalustyan’s.

Okra, shrimp and tomato curry, over coconut rice

1/2 lb. okra, sliced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 chiles, seeded and deveined, then thinly sliced
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ghee
juice of half a lemon
a generous pinch of turmeric
kosher salt
freshly milled black pepper
a pinch of asafoetida
a generous handful of cilantro, chopped

Place shrimp in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Melt ghee in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the turmeric, chiles, asafoetida, salt and pepper, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and fry for 1 minute. Add the okra and fry for 2 minutes. At this point, if the mixture seems too dry, add 1/4 cup water and stir. Cover and steam over medium heat until the okra becomes tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove cover, then add shrimp to the pan. Cook until shrimp have turned a bright orange-pink, stirring occasionally. The gravy will thicken slightly as the curry finishes cooking.

Remove from heat, taste for salt and pepper, then stir in chopped cilantro. Serve at once.

Time: 45 minutes, including prep.

This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #246 hosted by Katie from Eat This. and organized by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything. Weekend Herb Blogging is a foodblog event originally begun by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.

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