A dear, long-time friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook page a mouthwatering picture of an okra dish she’d created. Not only did the pixels jump right off the screen and grab my eyeballs by their sockets, Jean also freely shared the “oh-so-easy” recipe to her creation. Jean’s a professional private chef who cooks up a storm for her celebrity clients in Europe. Although currently based in Hamburg, she’s a Singapore girl at heart and has represented Singapore at international food and trade shows. So, I think it’s safe to say that she knows what she’s doing.
Coincidentally about the same time, right before I saw Jean’s post, I happened to be thinking about okra. Perhaps it’s because I so often see it here at Sofresh – it’s a common vegetable item that we supply our cruise ship, commercial vessel and oil rig clients with. To be exact, I was wondering how the name “ladies’ fingers” came about for okra. It was a fleeting, random thought, but I guess now it warrants an investigation once and for all.
What I found was a bit of a let-down for me, to tell the truth: okra pods are long, slender, and elegantly shaped, just like a lady’s finger, hence the name (Duh!). Oh well, at least that’s easy to remember.
But I also found out that okra is known by a few other interesting names. “Okra” is the name most commonly used in America, the UK, and the Philippines (perhaps because of past American influence). In some parts of America and English-speaking Caribbean it’s called “gumbo”. While in South Asia (ie. India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius and Afghanistan) it’s often known as “bhindi”. The Japanese call it “okura”, and in Singapore I think the most common name used is “ladies’ fingers”.
Okra is fast growing, heat tolerant, and reproduces plentifully. It’s low calory (only about 30 calories per 100 grams) and contains no cholesterol or saturated fat. It’s a rich source of dietary fibre and often recommended by nutritionists for controlling cholesterol and as part of weight-loss strategies. Okra is rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as B-complex vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine (B-6), thiamin and pantothenic acid. In fact, it’s one of the vegetables with the highest amounts of flavonoid antioxidants like beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. It’s also a good source of folates and minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium. To top it all off, the okra plant’s leaves can also be eaten, thus making it such a useful and popular vegetable staple.
And what about the slight sliminess that’s inside an okra? That’s its beauty secret, because when an okra is cooked, its interior is able to retain its succulence; when fried, a beautiful contrast with its crispy outside is thus created. And this sliminess – or mucilage substance – also facilitates smooth peristalsis of food, aiding digestion and helping against constipation.
So Jean’s creation is not only yummy, but good for health too. In her own words: “I wanted to make an okra snack that is tasty with a little crunch like a pseudo-vegetable-chip. It turned out delicious and I would like to share it with you.”
Extra virgin olive oil
A little salt
DIY Cajun spice rub
Ingredients for DIY Cajun Spice rub:
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ceyenne pepper
2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 onion powder
1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan oven
2) Wash and dry the okra well
3) Dry the okra further by putting them in the oven for 10-15 mins
4) Let the okra cool down
5) Slice the okra down the middle and place them all in a baking tray
6) Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle some Cajun spice and tumeric over the okra
7) Grill for another 15 mins or until cooked and slightly crispy on the edges.
[*Jean – mine took 15 mins because I bought baby okra, which I recommend, as older okra will be very fibrous and take longer to cook.]
8) Enjoy your okra snack!
When a seasoned chef puts it like that, it seems easy enough even for me to give it a go. But I confess to having a contingency plan: the next time Jean comes home for a visit, I’ll use my “friendship card” along with volunteering to do the shopping before and the dishes after – which I’m excellent at, by the way! – and hopefully that’ll be enough to get her to make this dish (properly) for me.
To view Jean’s beautiful self-shot food pictures, recipes and posts-sometimes-rants (she has a sense of humour) about her cooking, issues she’s interested in (she’s also a social entreprenuer involved with various projects), and life in general, check out Jean’s Private Kitchen at https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=943777405716972&id=103557773072277
Till the next one… Bon appetit!