Hot and Sour Okra with Chickpeas

Here it is. The results of yesterday’s experimentation, starring ginormous okra (eight inches!)

Purple and green okra

and The Hottest Pepper in the World

Naga jolokia, Bhut jolokia, ghost pepper

Don’t worry, it’s not necessary that you should use this hottest of peppers, or any spicy ingredient, if you don’t feel like it.

As I mentioned yesterday, we went to a small market and bought the huge okra. We also bought a small container of three “ghost peppers,” actually called naga jolokia or bhut jolokia, an extremely hot pepper from South Asia. The peppers we got were dried and smoked, kind of like chipotle, but not cloying or made annoying by Bobby Flay. Because okra is so often cooked with smoky pork products in the South, I thought I would try to stick them together. It turned out to be one of the most nutritious and flavorful dinners I’ve made in…ever. Definitely more of a winter feast, but I’ll have to use frozen okra then.

I consulted two recipes for advice. “Okra and Chickpea Stew” (from Syria and Lebanon) in Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa and “Sweet-and-Sour Okra with Chickpeas” (from India) in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the East Vegetarian Cooking. This helped me decide on flavorings and proportions, but I used a slow cooker. Also the naga jolokia.

Hot and Sour Okra with Chickpeas

Hot and Sour Okra with Chickpeas

I used

  • Four tablespoons of olive oil
  • One tablespoon each of mustard powder, cumin, ground coriander and turmeric
  • One smoked naga jolokia, diced (or a couple chipotle peppers, or a few fresh hot peppers; or nothing, if you are like your food bland)
  • Half a cup of lemon juice
  • One-third cup soy sauce or four vegetable bullion cubes or two tablespoons of miso paste
  • Five garlic cloves, diced
  • One large onion, chopped
  • A pound and a half of okra, topped and chopped into bite-sized cross sections
  • Two fifteen-ounce cans of chickpeas
  • One cup of basmati rice, white or brown

Here’s what I did

I used a slow cooker, but you can use a heavy stockpot if you want. Heat the oil on very low heat. Add the spices and stir just until they release an amazing aroma. Add the garlic until it too begins to smell really good (the times will be drastically different depending on your cooking method, but precision is not really key). Turn the heat up to medium and add the onion. Cook until just brown, then add the okra and cook on medium-high heat for just a few minutes. Add the chickpeas with their liquid along with your choice of saltiness (soy sauce, miso, bullion). Add a can and a half of water (two and a half if using the stove) and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes (stove) or three hours (slow cooker). There should be quite a bit of liquid left; if there’s not, add more. Turn the heat up to medium low and add the rice. Cook until the rice is done, adding more water if necessary. Add the lemon juice at the end.

My dinner turned out much thicker than a stew and there is still enough left to feed a small country. The lemon juice did a great job of cutting the heat and provided a counterpoint to the saltiness. I topped mine with a little Greek yogurt and a tiny fire escape tomato. The smoky pepper definitely added a certain something, so I’ll be saving one to make my black-eyed peas and collard green casserole on New Year’s.

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