Friday, November 8, 2013

Delicious Memories

Do you have food travel memories? Can you remember particular meals that you had in places you've travelled that inspire your everyday cooking once back home?

Sometimes just the taste of a particular spice or herb, a particular vegetable or fruit, or an ingredient like miso or kecap manis or rosewater transports me far away for a moment and memories of delicious meals and people and places flood back.
Seeing okra here in the market immediately took me back to a lunch I had in Pakistan about 14 or 15 years ago. I don’t even remember the name of the town, but I remember an okra curry and channa masala (chickpea curry) and chapattis. When I travelled in Pakistan, okra was quite a common ingredient. Once I start thinking about it I remember the friend I travelled with (hello Eduardo!) and the unforgettable places we had the chance to see travelling along the Karakoram Highway in northern Pakistan. We went trekking high in the mountains across glaciers, saw avalanches and camped by the silvery blue lakes of the Himalayas. What wonderful memories!

By katorisi (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

All that from the sight of okra in the market!!

Okra is not such a common vegetable in Australia and if you have not tried it or are not sure how to prepare it, I have a tried and tested recipe to share. I know that it is available seasonally at my farmer’s markets at Burleigh on the Gold Coast so it is worth looking out for. Okra has a reputation of being a bit slimy, but with careful preparation it is not a problem.
Okra is also known as 'bhindi' or lady fingers in India.

This recipe comes from I book I read last year called ‘Ginger and Ganesh’. I love the concept of the book – the author became friends with a variety of Indian people living in the US with the specific intention of learning to cook from them. Unfortunately I found the introspective ramblings of the author annoying, but I have tried many of the recipes and they are excellent and the insight into the lives of the people she met is quite fascinating. Read it for the recipes!

Mimi’s Bhindi Masala

1 pound okra (450g)

2 red onions, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons oil, more if needed

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

½ tsp chilli powder (or 1tsp if you are addicted to chilli!)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or 1 tsp lime juice

1 tsp garam masala

* optional extra: datsi cheese, paneer or nutrella (a soy-protein available in Bhutan)

1.   Wash okra, remove the ends and cut into four pieces lengthwise.

2.   Put oil in saucepan on medium-high heat and cook onions til soft  (about 10 minutes).

3.   Add the four spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin, chilli) and salt.

4.   Add okra and stir to coat.

5.   You may need to add more oil; do not add water as it will become slimy.

6.   Cover and cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes.

7.   Add tomatoes and cover for another 6 minutes.

8.   Uncover and add amchoor and garam masala.

9.   Optional extras: I often add crumbled datsi cheese (Bhutanese homemade cheese) right at the end and stir through. Sometimes I prepare nutrella and add it the end to give a protein boost the meal

10. Serve with rice or chapattis!


  1. Love it Andrea I too have food memories and fondly recall swapping cooking lessons in both China and Japan - You teach me one dish, next week I teach you one dish. So much better than another English lesson and we did it all in English so the students involved still felt that they were working on their English and we all learnt to cook so many thing

    1. I think all your food experiences in Vietnam got me thinking! I love the idea of the cooking exchange, it is a great way to learn english and have fun too.