Okra slivers dusted with spiced gram flour and fried until crisp take bar snacks to a whole new level.
As Roopa Gulati says herself, for the best crisp-fried okra, choose firm, dry and young okra pods, topped and tailed. Wipe them clean with kitchen paper rather than running them under water, which makes them lose texture. In this recipe, it is the innocuous-looking carom seeds (known as ajwain) that punch far above their weight. A little goes a seriously long way, so don’t be tempted to throw a few extra seeds into the mixture as it could easily turn bitter.
Choose unripe mangoes for the mango relish – those at Indian grocery stores are best, but you could use unripe supermarket varieties too.
Roopa Gulati is a chef, author and broadcaster. Her new cookery book, India The World Vegetarian came out in April 2020 and includes a great range of recipes focused on regional flavours. For more great dishes from the book like this crisp fried okra, you can also have a look at this recipe for channa chaat or this one for peas and paneer.
- 300g okra, topped and tailed
- 100g gram flour
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 2 tablespoons chaat masala (see below) or mango powder (amchoor)
- 1 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain) or 1 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds
- Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- Fine salt
- For the mango relish:
- 350g green mangoes, peeled, halved and stoned
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- ¾ teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon black salt
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- For the chaat masala:
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1½ tablespoons dried mint leaves
- Small pinch of ground asafoetida (heeng)
- ¾ tablespoon ground black salt
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons mango powder (amchoor)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
For the crisp-fried okra: First, make the relish. Add the mango flesh to a small pan with just enough water to cover. Place over a low heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the fruit has completely softened. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten – you might not need it all.
Sieve the mango pulp and then season little by little with the mint, cumin, black salt and chilli. Taste as you go – aim for a sweet-sour flavour. Store the relish in the fridge until needed – it will keep for 2–3 days.
Slice the okra into thin slivers on the diagonal. Sift the gram flour into a bowl with the turmeric, chilli powder and chaat masala or mango powder. Stir in the carom seeds or ground cumin and season generously with fine salt.
Just before you’re ready to fry, coat the okra in the spiced gram flour (any sooner and the salt will make the okra soggy). Place the coated okra in a sieve and shake to disperse any excess flour.
To deep-fry, fill a large, wide, sturdy pan no more than two-thirds full with oil. The oil is ready for frying when it reaches 180°C on a food thermometer, or when a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 30 seconds.
Add the slivers of okra in batches, a few at a time, and deep-fry for about 3–4 minutes, until crisp. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway with the mango relish.
For the chaat masala: Roast the cumin, peppercorns and carom seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the dried mint and asafoetida. Use a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder to pound everything to a powder, then add both salts, along with the mango powder, ground ginger, grated nutmeg and chilli powder. Store in an airtight jar. It’ll keep at room temperature for 2–3 months, or for 6 months in the freezer.