Crispy Okra Raita with Indian Spiced Tofu

August 5th, 2009  |  Published in All, Around the World, Delectable Dairy, Veritable Vegetables, Weeknight Recipes  |  21 Comments

Crispy Okra Raita

I love okra.  Since the first time I tried it I have loved it — no “acquired taste” here.  Perhaps it helps that the first time I tried okra was while living in Jaipur, India with host family that had a marvelous cook.  He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak much Hindi, so we were never really able to talk about what he was cooking, but I often stood in the corner and watched him prepare the days’ meals.  These usually involved lots of vegetables — onions, sweet potatoes, okra, and cabbage especially — , lots of handmade chapatis, one or two kinds of daal, sometimes a meat curry, and often a tasty sweet like gulab jamun, halwa, or kheer with pistachios.

I don’t claim to be able to cook authentic Indian food, but I do my best.  I have a good collection of Indian cookbooks, my favorites being Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, and Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking.  With the first book, Ms. Kahate creates some really incredible dishes using only five spices — mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and cumin — which I find makes this one of the most accessible and satisfying cookbooks that I own.  I have made probably 20 of the 50 recipes, and haven’t been disappointed with a single one.  Between my sister and I (who has taken a cooking class with Ms. Kahate, and also gave me the cookbook), we’ve probably made nearly everything, and often have conversations that start with “Have you tried the recipe for ….. from 5 Spices?  It’s super delicious…”

In a perfect world, I probably would have made “Indian Spiced Paneer” rather than “Indian Spiced Tofu”, but in Hannover, Germany it’s hard enough to find decent tofu, let alone decent paneer.  I’d say it’s worth trying if you have access to good paneer.

As a recipe note, you really should serve the tofu alongside this (or some other) raita.  On its own without the additional liquid from the raita, the spice paste feels a little cakey, and is not nearly as enjoyable as when served with the raita.  In fact, the raita was really the star for me here — rich, a little sour, salty, well-spiced, and oh the okra — love it!

Crispy Okra Raita with Indian Spiced Tofu

Crispy Okra Raita
from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate

8 oz fresh okra, rinsed, well dried, and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
6 T. cooking oil, divided
1 c. plain full-fat yogurt
3/4 – 1 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1/8 t. cayenne
1/8 t. turmeric
1/2 t. mustard seeds (black is preferable, but yellow it ok too)

Heat 5 T. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is very hot, add the okra, toss, and let sizzle.  Toss occasionally.  The okra will slowly turn crisp and brown.  Once the okra is well-browned, remove to a paper towel and set aside until ready to serve.

Whisk the yogurt with the salt and sugar in a medium bowl.  Place the cayenne and turmeric in a small pile on the raita, but do not mix in yet.  Heat the remaining 1 T. of oil in a small skillet over high heat.  When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid or spatter screen.  After the mustard seeds stop sputtering, pour the hot oil directly on top of the cayenne and turmeric powder (This cooks the powdered spices without burning them).  Do not stir the dressing yet.

For presentation, just prior to serving, place the crisp okra on top of the dressing.  Stir the okra and dressing into the yogurt while serving

Indian Spiced Tofu

1 block medium firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 T. cooking oil
1 T. curry powder
1/2 t. chili powder
1 pinch turmeric
1 pinch garam masala
1/2 t. salt
juice of 1 small lime

Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces, then place in a medium bowl.  Add the oil, curry powder, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, salt, and lime juice and mix well.  Leave to marinate for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your broiler.

Place tofu cubes on a baking sheet, and broil for 10 minutes without disturbing.  Flip the cubes over, then broil for an additional 10 minutes.

To serve:  Place the baked tofu on a plate, and top with raita.  This is a filling and delicious dish on it’s own, but could be accompanied by a green salad, a side of steamed spinach, or perhaps some Indian naan bread if desired

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