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Bhindi Masala

Bhindi masala is a popular North Indian speciality dish that is prepared using okra or ladies finger as the chief ingredient, in a thick gravy of onions and tomatoes using Indian spices and condiments. This is a much liked dish and finds itself on top of the menu at restaurants as well as in domestic meals as it is relatively easy to prepare and because okra is a vegetable that is easily available all through the year. It is a preferred choice especially among vegetarians.

Method of Preparation

Okra or ladies finger, tomato, onions, ginger, garlic, and some typical dry Indian spice powders and whole spices are the ingredients in Bhindi masala.

A gravy is made with chopped tomatoes, red chili, coriander, Indian dry spices, ginger, green chilies, and garlic with a tempering of cumin and fennel. As the tomato gravy starts releasing oil along the sides of the pan, the lightly fried okra is put in and cooked in the gravy before serving, garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

Nutritional Information (per serving ~ 1 cup)

• Total calorie content per serving ~ 1 cup = 250 calories

• Fat content in the homemade version may be restricted to 10g while the restaurant dish may have as much as double the fat content. Saturated fat is ~ 3to 6 g, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat = 0 g, cholesterol is ~ 25 mg

• Sodium in the restaurant recipe maybe more at 454 mg compared to 350 mg in the home cooked recipe. While Potassium content is ~431 mg.

• Total carbohydrate content is 14 g of which dietary fibre makes up ~ 4 g and sugars ~ 5 g.

• Protein content is about 3 g.

• Whereas in commercial preparation the vitamin and other nutrient losses maybe more, ~ 10% Vitamin A, 6% Vitamin C, 18 % Calcium and 8 % Iron may be obtained from the home cooked dish.

Nutritional Improvements

• First and foremost, in order to retain maximum nutritional value of the vegetable and to lower the calorie content of the dish, instead of deep frying the okra, a quick shallow fry would be sufficient. This helps preserve the bright green colour, and helps retain more of the Vitamin C that is susceptible to oxidative losses. Plus the taste factor is also appeased. This makes it more suitable for Diabetics, weight watchers as well as individuals who need to avoid too much fat and calorie intake.

• Okra is a vegetable that provides fibre, but the fibre content may be further enhanced by including about 3-4 tablespoons of pureed spinach into the gravy, this would provide a certain volume to the gravy and at the same time make the dish even more tastier.

• For hypertensive persons, salt may be completely eliminated, instead lemon juice may be added which provides more Vitamin C too.

• In situations where tomato needs to be avoided, another option is to use vinegar to provide the same sour taste, but more onions may be needed to give volume to the gravy.

• To increase protein content of the dish, 3 tablespoons of pulverised soy granules can be added that help to thicken the gravy, provide fibre and phytonutrients including phyto estrogens needed for bone health in women along with alleviation of menopausal symptoms. Soy intake is beneficial for heart health and has anticancer properties as well.

• Additionally, grated low fat cottage cheese may be sprinkled as a garnish to enhance the appearance and to increase protein content.

• About 3 tablespoons of fresh thick skim milk yoghurt may be added instead of cream that some persons use to thicken the gravy and add taste. In this way probiotics i.e. live micro-organisms (most commonly lactobacillus acidophilus obtained in curd) that promote healthy intestinal gut flora, may be included that regularise bowel movements.