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Stringy Okra


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For the first time in 18 years, today I found some okra in the local supermarket (local is southern China). I was so excited. I love okra, so of course I bought a bunch.

I made a sort of pork and okra stew, and basically cooked the okra until it was just tender - the way I always used to.

It was so stringy as to be inedible. Like a mouthful of something you would use to clean severely burned pans.

I've never had stringy okra in my life before. Is it a common thing? Can they be de-strung?

They were fairly large samples - around 20cm average in length (but the smaller ones were just as bad).

Huge disappointment.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Wow, 20 cm is WAY too big for my taste. The larger the okra pods, the better the chance it will be stringy. I like the baby pods and generally pick 'em at 3" or so (no bigger than 10 cm at a maximum). Always feel the pods before purchasing--bend the pointy end. If it feels hard, the okra will be stringy/woody. If it is still flexible & supple, the okra will be tender.

When the weather heats up, okra grows very quickly. It can go from being 'baby' sized to giant and fibrous in a matter of days.

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That would be okra that is too mature. To a point, one can cope by thinly slicing against the grain, as with any grain, but beyond a certain point they'll be hopeless. If one wants the flavor, mash then strain a puree?

I'm most familiar with cooking okra in Indian dishes, where one is often already slicing against the grain. Requiring more commitment, expat Indians sorely miss "drumsticks" (Moringa Oleifera). These seed pods make stringy okra seem like child's play; one endures nevertheless for the flavor. Or has this plant evolved to exploit the obsessive behavior of humans? I don't know; I enjoyed drumsticks when served but I've never managed to actually cook those I've found frozen.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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Wow, 20 cm is WAY too big for my taste.

Not what I would choose either, but as I did point out they are the first I've seen in 18 years.

Always feel the pods before purchasing--bend the pointy end. If it feels hard, the okra will be stringy/woody. If it is still flexible & supple, the okra will be tender.

These are still. flexible and supple. And stringy. Not woody at all.

I'm most familiar with cooking okra in Indian dishes, where one is often already slicing against the grain

I thought all cuisines slice against the grain.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I thought all cuisines slice against the grain.

Is one promoting tenderness or structural integrity? That guides the choice.

In Asian cooking, matchsticks or Julienne strips are often sliced along the grain, so they don't fall apart during cooking.

I work both with and against the grain when portioning spaghetti, as my wife likes her noodles short.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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I'm most familiar with cooking okra in Indian dishes, where one is often already slicing against the grain. Requiring more commitment, expat Indians sorely miss "drumsticks" (Moringa Oleifera).

I've seen fresh drumsticks at a market near me, I've always wanted to try them, but only have a handfull of recipies that use them (incidently, all from India: The Cookbook - Pushpesh Pant, which can be a bit touch and go). How would you prepare them? I take it they're quite different to Okra - they're very hard, like their name sake :)

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When we lived in New Jersey in the US we grew a lot of okra. It goes from a tender, crisp pod to stringy almost overnight once it reaches a certain size. The pods look beautiful, tempting, delicious but the texture is like you said, pot scrubber.

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Are you sure its not Chinese Okra

100% sure.

That is loofah, a totally different plant. Different shape, size, taste, price. It would be difficult to confuse the two.

Also, stringy loofah would be even more weird.

What I have (well, had. I dumped the rest) was okra. Just overgrown okra seems to be the problem.

okra.jpg

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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drumsticks.jpg

I've seen fresh drumsticks at a market near me, I've always wanted to try them, but only have a handfull of recipes that use them (incidently, all from India: The Cookbook - Pushpesh Pant, which can be a bit touch and go). How would you prepare them? I take it they're quite different to Okra - they're very hard, like their name sake :)


Coincidentally, my greengrocer had them today (pictured). They somehow remind me of artichokes, but that could be intriguing earthy flavor reached through tedious work, rather than an exact match.

One is likely to find recipes only in cookbooks printed in India. Some of these books have been or can be imported. I found four, among my books on this coast, recipes sketched:

1000 Great Indian Recipes p285
Curried drumsticks: drumsticks cut 2.5", grated coconut, green chiles, cumin, tumeric, garlic, ginger, oil, onion, salt, vinegar. Peel drumsticks, grind next ingredients through ginger to paste, saute onion then paste, add drumsticks and water, add vinegar and adjust.

Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India p26
Drumstick rasam: a typical many ingredient rasam featuring drumsticks

The Essential Andra Cookbook with Hyderabadi and Telengana specialties p191
Drumstick curry: drumsticks cut 2.5", water, milk from grated coconut, oil, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, chilly powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, chillies, coriander leaves, lime juice. Boil drumsticks, fry curry paste as usual, add green chillies coriander and coconut milk, simmer and add lime juice.
(This is my favorite cookbook brought back from India, on somewhat better paper than most.)

Saraswat Cookery p37

Tender stems of drumsticks (kisara): drumsticks in finger-size pieces, red gram, pumpkin, jackfruit seeds, grated fresh coconut, red chillies, turmeric powder, triphals, kokum, salt, jaggery, coconut oil. Boil water with red gram, drumsticks and jackfruit seeds. Grind coconut, red chillies, turmeric. When stew soft, add ground masala, pumpkin, salt, jaggery, gamboge and triphals. Simmer till thick and soft.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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