Saturday, January 10, 2009

Okra with Mustard Seeds (Sorse Dharush)

I have a lot of respect for bloggers who cook tasty dishes, take beautiful photos, and write brilliant pieces for their food blogs everyday while somehow managing to hold down a full-time job. After my lovely week and a half off, a full work week took everything out of me. By 8pm on Friday night, I could barely keep my eyes open and even convinced my husband to forfeit a dinner reservation. Needless to say, blogging fell by the wayside. I hope to make up for my lack of posting this weekend.

I actually made this okra last Sunday and it served as a great side for three dinners. Despite the fact that my parents are originally from Kolkata and I grew up eating Indian food every night, I am not very good at cooking Bengali food, or even Indian food in general. I think I have a high standard for Indian food and never find anything I make quite as good as I remember from my childhood. It doesn't help that my mother's way (and really, every Indian mother's way) of imparting recipes is "Just use a lot of onions and throw in a pinch of [X ingredient] and some [Y ingredient]. It is so easy." I keep trying, though, because sometimes dinner just doesn't feel like dinner without Indian food.

I discovered this West Bengali okra recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's informative book, A Taste of India. The recipe is incredibly easy though it does require some ingredients that may not be common, including a very Bengali ingredient -- mustard seeds, in fact, two different kinds of mustard seeds. As Madhur Jaffrey explains, the mustard seeds give a slightly bitter flavor that is part of the appeal of the dish. All of these ingredients are readily available in any Indian supermarket or spice shop. Although Little India in Manhattan is well known for Kalustyan's, which is certainly awe-inspiring because it literally carries every type of spice you can imagine, I encourage people to explore some of the lesser known supermarkets in the area. A lot of them carry some of the same spices but at lower prices. I also find that Indian supermarkets carry okra year round.

Okra with Mustard Seeds (Sorse Dharush)


1 lb fresh okra
1 Tbsp whole black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp oil
⅛ tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 fresh, hot green chillies


1. Wash the okra and pat dry. Madhur Jaffrey's recipe tells you to trim the okras but I don't find that to be necessary.

2. Grind the black and yellow mustard seeds in a spice grinder. Put the ground mustard seeds into a small bowl and add the turmeric, chilli powder, salt and ½ cup + 2 Tbsp water. Stir to mix.

3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the nigella seeds. Ten seconds later, put in the okra and stir. Stir and fry the okra on a medium low heat for 10 minutes or until it is lightly browned.

4. Add the spice mixture and the green chillies. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat and simmer gently for 5-8 minutes or until the okra is tender.

Makes about 6 small or 3 large servings.

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