A West African native, okra is one of the stranger vegetables to make its way into regional American cuisine. Introduced to North America during the Atlantic slave trade, okra quickly became an integral part of Gulf Coast cooking, appearing in such dishes as gumbo, jambalaya, and as a deep-fried snack. But okra is not just a vegetable of West Africa and North America. In Middle Eastern food, okra is eaten in a thick stew; in Indian and Pakistani cooking, okra is cooked into curries and stir-fried with spices; in Japanese cuisine, okra is deep-fried and eaten as tempura; and in Caribbean cuisine, okra is as fundamental as it is in Louisiana.
The product of a flowering plant, pentagonal okra pods ooze a gooey or slimy gel when cooked—a characteristic that is often treated as a thickening agent in many dishes but which can be a daunting element for the home cook. To get you started cooking okra, here are five dishes from around the world:
Crispy Fried Okra by Matt and Ted Lee
The Lee Brothers say this snack is “as addictive as popcorn,” and it would be difficult to find anyone who doesn’t agree. Serve the crispy, crunchy bites with cocktails.
Corn and Okra by James Beard
A vegetable side dish from the master of American cuisine, okra is cooked here in a Southern American style with corn until the whole dish becomes creamy and savory. A perfect compliment to fried chicken.
Hearty Okra Gumbo with Chicken and Shrimp by Elizabeth Terry
Gumbo is the classic New Orleans dish with okra, and this weeknight version can be made in less than an hour.
Okra with Tomatoes by Madhur Jaffrey
From Kuwait, this okra-based dish is cooked with tomatoes, onions, ground coriander, and lemon juice.
Crispy Okra Salad by Mark Bittman
This salad, called Kararee Bhindi in Hindi, features thinly sliced and fried okra mixed with chaat masala and other spices. Though not a traditional preparation, it is nonetheless fantastic.
Click here for more okra recipes from Cookstr.com.