Okra or ochro as it’s passionately known in the Caribbean is quickly becoming one of my favorite ingredients to prepare. Gone are the days when our mom couldn’t even beg us to eat fried okra or okra in general. Steamed, fried, stuffed or in stews.. I love me some okra now. I recall my mom always having okra in her small kitchen garden at the back of our home and it was my duty to pick them for making callaloo on a Sunday. That was my only okra intake as a child.. in callaloo. I still recall getting wet by the dew drops on the leaves of the plant before the morning sun came up and how you had to be careful not to brush too much against the plant or you’d have to deal with itchy skin.
4 tablespoon Veg Oil
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup salted fish *
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
Notes: I used salted cod but you can use your fav type of saltfish. Since the flakes of salted fish will still contain some salt, you may not need to add any salt to the dish. However do taste near the end of cooking and adjust accordingly. Remember when working with scotch bonnet (and any hot pepper) that most of the raw heat is in the seeds and white membrane surrounding the seeds. Discard if you’re concerned about the heat. Cooking okra like this uses a lot of oil, so I used a non stick pan to help cut back on the amount of oil I needed.
Okra is notorious for having a slimy texture and this is what usually turns people off it. This little tip will help you overcome this.. wash and dry the okra with paper towels, then trim off the stems. Cut into 1/4 inch wheels (or any shape you like), then line a cookie sheet with more paper towels or a tea towel and spread the now cut okra onto the cookie sheet. Try to make it one layer, then place in direct sun for a couple hrs to dry off. If you don’t have that wonderful Caribbean sunshine, simply place it in a corner of your kitchen and allow it to air dry for a few hours.
If you’re not sure how to work with salted fish, you must check out this video : How To Prepare Salted Fish Basically you have to place the salted fish in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Leave for 2-25 minutes on a rolling boil, then drain and rinse off with cool water. Now break apart into flakes or shred. The goal is to remove most of the salt the fish is cured in, rehydrate the fish so it plumps up and to sort of tenderize it a bit.
Heat the oil on a medium heat in a non stick pan and add the shredded salted cod. Reduce to a low heat and allow to cook for about 4-6 minutes. As the pieces of fish starts to crispy up and edges go brown, it’s time to add the sliced onion, scotch bonnet pepper garlic and black pepper. Allow this to cook on a medium heat for a couple minutes. The idea is to create a very flavorful base before we add the sliced okra.
With your heat still on medium, add the now dried okra slices into the pan and give it a good stir. Please don’t cover the pan.. we don’t want to add any moisture to the pan or risk it going slimy.
Here’s where you can personalize the dish. I like my fried okra with a little crunch but the edges must be browned, so I allowed mine to cook for 20 minutes but you can certainly cook longer or less time. After 20 minutes I topped with the tomato (please remove all seeds and liquid before dicing) and gave it a good stir. Basically the tomato is to brighten up the dish, so 2 minutes of cooking and the fried okra should be done. The last couple minutes is when you should taste for salt and adjust accordingly. It’s important to add salt near the end of cooking when working with okra as it will also cause moisture to develop and you really don’t want that.
I could honestly have this for breakfast. lunch or dinner.. give me some brown rice, roti or flour dumplings and I’m cool as a cucumber. This fried okra recipe is a HIT and I’m sure you’ll change your thoughts o okra after you’ve given it a try.