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Never mind the gloop, get your fingers on these yummy pods


Never mind the gloop, get your fingers on these yummy pods

True devotees love the slime in these little outliers of the mallow family, but cooked right they’re delicious

Andrea Burgener

Okra. Aka bhindi, ladyfingers, gumbo or Hibiscus Esculentus. Whatever you chose to call these little pods, it’s hard convincing haters to give the stuff another chance. I loved okra from the first time I tried it, but that’s no doubt because it was treated just right. Well, for my tastes.

Like many, I don’t appreciate the slime development from the mucilage in the pod walls which true devotees do, and which comes from long cooking in the presence of liquid. My first okra meal was a Bhindi Masala from the mighty Bismillah’s in Fordsburg. Pods sliced and spiced, fried lightning fast and very hot; it’s still one of my favourite dishes in town. When okra is cooked this way, the mucilage doesn’t get either the time or hydration to develop the characteristic gloop, which when in full swing is not unlike the glistening skeins stretching between those infamous monster jaws in Alien. In fact, these effects are often courtesy of plant cellulose, so not surprising really. 

Little wonder then that many don’t go for this outlier member of the mallow family. Okra has so much mucilage that it’s specifically used to thicken up sauces – the gumbo of America’s South for example, which gets its name from the pods (the words gumbo and okra are of African origin, as is the plant). But as Bismillah’s does, you can easily avoid the gloop. ..

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