If you have ever looked at okra and wondered what to cook with it or haven’t had the best experience with it, then this dish is for you. I know okra is used in different cuisines but I am going to go out on a limb and say no one does it as well as us Indians! Bharwa Bhindi is a northern Indian dish that translates to stuffed(bharwa) okra(bhindi). The okra is crispy, full of amazing flavors thanks to the stuffing and goes great as a side to a variety of Indian dishes. There is none of the sliminess, lack of flavor that people seem to associate with this wonderful vegetable.
Tips for picking and cooking with okra
Okra or Ladies Fingers(English name for okra in India) is a bit of a finicky vegetable to work with, I confess. But just follow a couple of tips I have listed below and you will be rewarded with a delicious dish with amazing texture instead of the gooey, slimy stuff. So let us get in to it.
- Buy okra which are shorter in length. Make sure they are fresh, green and firm. A typical method to see if they are fresh is to try break off the thin ends with your thumbs easily.
- Wash the okra whole and pat dry it well. I would even suggest air drying it for a few minutes before cutting it. Moisture activates the slime in the okra and we are trying to avoid just that.
- Cooking the okra in high heat even if just initially helps make it crispy and helps add a wonderful flavor.
Ingredients needed for Bharwa Bhindi
Bharwa Bhindi has the simplest ingredient list. Besides the okra, the spice mixture that is used for the stuffing makes up for most of the ingredients.
Okra – As mentioned in the section above, choose small, firm and fresh ones. Although frozen okra is available, I would not recommend it for this dish since it needs to be stuffed before shallow frying. Allowing the okra to thaw will make it soggy and unsuitable to make this dish.
Stuffing – This stuffing can be made in a few ways depending on your preference or ingredient availability.Below are the major ingredient groups used while making the stuffing.
Besan/Chickpea Flour – This forms the base of the stuffing. Chickpea flour when roasted adds an amazing flavor and is regularly used as a batter for nurmerous fried items found in Indian cuisines. It also adds a level of crispiness to the okra.
Peanut Powder – Now this is optional and traditionally not used. So why did I use it? It does two things – adds a hint of sweetness along with that delicious peanut flavor. Also along with chickpea flour, it helps absorb any moisture and really helps crisp up the vegetables. If you choose not to use it, then just replace this with the chickpea flour.
Spices – We use a combination of powdered turmeric, coriander , cumin powder, red Indian chilli, dry mango, garam masala and hing(Asafetida).
Curry leaves, Whole Red Chillis – This is initially roasted in the oil for additional flavors before adding the stuffed okra.
Quick over view for making the stuffed okra
Make the stuffing – Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and keep aside.
Prepare the okra – Trim the tops. Use a small sharp knife and make a deep slit length wise covering almost 90% of the length.Make sure the other end is still attached.
Stuffing the okra – Hold the slit open using one hand and use a small spoon to pour the stuffing generously in to the slit. Make sure there is a large plate or bowl in which you do this to catch any additional stuffing.
Tempering – Heat the oil in a large enough frying pan. Add the curry leaves and red chillis. Once the curry leaves have slightly wilted, placed the stuffed okra in the pan. Ensure there is enough space in the pan to be able to easily turn the okra so that all sides are well cooked.
Finishing touch – Add a few pinches of hing as the okra is getting done. You can also add some sprinkles of salt if you feel like it needs a bit more.
Bharwa Bhindi in an air fryer
Although I have not tried making this in the air fryer, I feel it would be a great candidate to try making in an air fryer. Stuff the okra and place in a lined air fryer basket. Spray oil ensuring the okra is well coated and air fry at 375 deg F for 7-8 minutes. Remove and flip the okra before air frying again for 5-6 minutes.
Please note the timing and temperatures might vary based on your air fryer. I would suggest keeping an eye on the okra to make sure it is not getting burnt. Adjust the timing accordingly.
How to serve bharwa bhindi and store leftovers
Bharwa Bhindi is typically served with Indian flatbreads like roti/chapati or with rice and dal. I personally like it better with the latter since I find it slightly dry with flatbreads. Add some raita and some Indian pickles on the side to make it a perfectly filling meal. I also feel it would also be a good option to serve this as an appetizer.
This stuffed okra is best served hot. If you have leftovers, it will keep well for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Reheat on the pan for a few minutes until the oil start sizzling. I would not suggest freezing this dish since okra tends to become soggy when thawed.
I hope you give this bharwa bhindi a try! Its a simple yet very delicious side dish/appetizer and is perfect to try for anyone who is new to cooking okra. Let me know any questions/comments you might have below in the comments section. If you want to follow me on social media, I am on Facebook and Pinterest.
- 1 Small Knife
- 1 12" Non Stick Frying Pan
- 1 lb Okra washed and pat dried
- 5 tbsp Avocado Oil
- 8 Curry Leaves washed and pat dried
- 5 Red Chillies broken in to 2-3 pieces
- 1/4 cup Chickpea Flour
- 1/4 cup Peanut Flour sub with chickpea flour if unavailable
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1 tbsp Coriander powder
- 2 tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 tsp Aamchur(Dry Mango) Powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 3-4 pinches Hing(Asafetida)
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt adjust acc. to taste
- Let the okra air dry for around 10 minutes after pat drying it. During this time, mix all the ingredients for the stuffing and keep aside.
- Cut the tops of the okra and make a deep slit length wise covering almost 90% of the length.Make sure the other thinner end is still attached and the slit does not cut through the entire cross section to create a 'pocket'.
- Place the okra on a plate or bowl. Start stuffing each okra by holding the slit open with one hand and pour the stuffing lengthwise using a small spoon. Ensure that the entire slit opening is stuffed. Repeat until all of them are done.
- Heat the frying pan and add 2-3 tbsp of oil while ensuring the oil is spread across the pan's surface. Place the stuffed okras in the pan ensuring the pan is not packed. There should be enough space to freely move the okras and flip them around.
- Use tongs to help gently flip them over to ensure all sides are cooked and browned. You can sprinkle some of the stuffing that might have fallen out during the stuffing process on top of the okras while they are cooking in the pan. You can also sprinkle a pich of hing on top before taking them off the stove.
- Add the remaining oil and repeat this until all the okras are done. Serve hot with flatbreads, rice and dal along with some Indian pickles and raita. You can also serve it as an appetizer with a thick yoghurt dip or chutney.
- You might need to use a little more oil depending on how much okra is being cooked.
- You will probably have some leftover stuffing mixture. Store it in an airtight container and use it while cooking Indian dishes especially a dry curry. Ensure the mixture cooks well since chickpea flour can taste bitter if still raw.