Spiced Okra with Tomato

Spiced Okra with Tomato

My recipe featured by Pick n Pay Fresh Living Magazine, July 2013

Okra or bhindi as it is often referred to by Indian communities, will go down in the childhood food hall of fame as a vegetable I positively loathed. Often cooked to within an inch of its life, mushy and greyish-green – I did not see the point. It’s been years since I saw or even looked for okra.

Minor differences may occur in both recipes. Fresh Living has my permission to alter slightly when they test for their readership.

Fresh Living July Ishay-page

While visiting my parents in Kwa-Zulu Natal last week, I spotted okra in a vegetable shop as well as traditionally ‘Asian’ vegetables like karela (or bitter gourd – more about this soon), gudra beans, long calabash, super hot chillis and others that you don’t see often outside the province. And if you do, it’s never in such abundance. I was determined to cook the okra in a way that made it appetizing, and so I researched as many recipes as I could find. The okra did not arrive in the most perfect condition after having been packed 6 hours earlier, but were young, fresh and crisp.


In the American south okra is deep fried – it’s said to help with the gumminess. In Nigeria it’s cooked in a soup. I wanted to revisit the type of dish I was accustomed to, but revamp it a little

The trick, I think is to cook the okra for far less time than the aunties will tell you to. It can stand to hold just a little crunch. Young okra are the best to use. A little vinegar added will help combat the mushiness. Amchur (dried mango powder) adds a lovely tangy element, balanced with green chilli and warming cumin and coriander. It’s a dry braised “curry” of sorts and very quick and easy to prepare.

If I could get a regular supply of okra at my local markets or stores in Cape Town, I would make it often, perhaps with small shrimp too.


Serves 4

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

45 ml olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1 large green chilli, split lengthwise (remove seeds if you prefer milder)

400 g okra, sliced into thin rounds

2 T white or red wine vinegar

salt, to taste

1/2 t palm sugar (jaggery)

2 large tomatoes, diced finely

1 t amchur (dried mango powder) – optional


In a pan on medium heat, add half the oil and fry the onions till soft.

Add the garlic, chilli, spices and the okra, stir.

Add the rest of the oil and fry the okra for 8-10 minutes or so, stirring.

Add the vinegar about 5 minutes into cooking the okra – it’s believed to help with the ‘slimey’ texture that’s a natural characteristic.

Add the salt, palm sugar and tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes or so, until the tomatoes soften. Test if okra is fully cooked, but allow to retain some crunch.

Remove from heat and add amchur if using.

Serve with basmati rice, roti or as a side to a meat dish.

Disclosure: I have been hired to develop this Indian Series in Fresh Living Magazine.

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  1. […] Food and the Fabulous » Spiced Okra with Tomato Spiced Okra with Tomato: http://t.co/Jl6E31Is… Source: https://www.foodandthefabulous.com […]

  2. Jo December 2, 2011 at 1:36 am - Reply

    This looks delicious. Would love for you to share this with us over at foodepix.com.

    • Ishay December 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      hello. thank you – you may use the pics with pleasure – just credit the image with a link back to the post, as I’m sure you will.

  3. […] grew up aware of a bitter gourd for every aliment, but, like with the okra and wild spinach, I steered very clear of those […]

  4. Immaculate January 17, 2013 at 1:51 am - Reply

    Growing up, I hated this vegetable too! fast foward a couple of years …. I actually indulge in it.In cameroon, we blend it and cook it in soup with lots of meat.Yummy!!!

    • Ishay January 17, 2013 at 2:00 am - Reply

      Hi there! Thank you for the visit, I’d love to hear more about traditional recipes for okra that you use and a Cameroonian slant 🙂

  5. Healthy Okra Recipes | For Women January 17, 2014 at 2:37 am - Reply

    […] recipe and photo credit to: https://www.foodandthefabulous.com […]

  6. De Villiers July 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Hi I live in cape town and I am diabetic … recently I heard about Okra for the first time and the benefits of it to diabetics but I am struggling to get it in the shop any idea where I can get it fresh “,)

    • Ishay July 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      Hi there. Some Pick n Pay’s used to stock okra. You can also find it from the Nigerian veg sellers close to the central train station. I’m not sure if the bigger Fruit and Veg stores in CT keep it. Good luck!

    • Zuraida August 28, 2014 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Okra available in Cape Town from Fatima’s Favourite foods

  7. ash bk August 27, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Hie I hve a question’ wat do u call okra in isiZulu pls a specific word eg nt imfino

    • Ishay August 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Hi there. I’m away on assignment right now and can’t check this one out just yet

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