I get it: When you hear okra salad your first thought goes something like, “Ew… slimy!” But not in this case.
I love okra, but unless it’s in gumbo (I make a mean okra gumbo, by the way), I don’t like its… well, mucilaginous qualities. So when I read Chef Whitney Otawka’s recipe for okra salad in her lovely book Saltwater Table: Recipes from the Coastal South, I was all ears.
It is from her that I get the special technique for an okra salad with no slime. She slices the okra thin on a mandoline and then flash fries it to remove all the slime. I knew I had to try this. But alas, my okra in the garden took its sweet time to start producing, so I had to wait several months before I could.
Finally I had enough; you need about a pound or so. I started with the mandoline as Otawka recommends, but soon realized it isn’t needed. Simply slice the pods as thin as you can lengthwise. Mandolines scare even me a little. Pretty much everyone who has used one long enough has shaved off a knuckle. Not a fan of that, so if I can find an easier way, I will.
You can fry the okra up to a day or so in advance, too, which makes putting together this finished okra salad easy.
Chef Otawka adds two kinds of tomatoes, feta and sesame seeds to her salad. I like those flavors a lot. But she also uses a yogurt dressing in her version, and I am not a fan of those. So I went with a cider vinegar and a mix of olive oil and sesame oil for my dressing.
I also went with only one tomato, a quasi-cherry tomato called Punta Banda, which hails from Baja California, and added two kinds of peppers: Sweet datil chiles, which are native to St. Augustine, Florida, as well as aji pineapples, a very hot, floral-tasting yellow chile from South America. Don’t get hung up on the specific chiles, though: Just use one sweet and one hot, and vary the colors, so your family can pick out the hot ones if they are so inclined.
The sesame seeds, called benne seeds in South Carolina, along with the okra, tomatoes and my addition of a splash of sesame oil, gives the salad a sort of Lowcountry Asian kind of thing. The feta cheese adds heft and cuts acidity, and the chiles add sweetness and spice.
But the okra is the star. Frying it first dries the okra out a little, and makes it chewy — strangely meaty. I did not miss meat at all eating this salad, which would make it a fantastic vegetarian main course salad for a hot summer day.
It is also a damn good side dish for chicken bog, or perloo, or fish and grits.
Looking for more okra recipes? I have lots. Okra stew, Creole okra gumbo, roasted okra, pickled okra… yeah, I like okra.
Lowcountry Okra Salad
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 pound okra, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 large shallot, sliced thin
- 1 sweet pepper, diced
- 1 to 5 Thai chiles, sliced thin
- 1 pound small tomatoes, quartered
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Mix the shallot with the cider vinegar and allow to sit at room temperature. Doing this first slightly pickles the shallot and removes that raw onion taste.
- While you are slicing the okra, heat the oil to 325°F. Fry 1/3 of the okra at a time, for about 3 minutes per batch. Set on paper towels when each batch is done and salt immediately. When you are done, remove the oil from the heat and set the okra aside.
- Add all the ingredients except the sesame seeds and mix well in a large bowl. Serve everyone some and top with the sesame seeds.
We have a small market garden here in Connecticut. I am the farmer and for lunch at least, my Dear Husband is the cook. I was delighted to find this okra recipe in my inbox this week as my okra plants are just getting up some steam. Well. The overall flavors are very good. Just be sure to fry the okra until it is crisp, and not just 3 minutes… And check the temperature of the oil. DH didn’t see that part. He did see the 3 minutes and took took the okra out at precisely 3 minutes. It is VERY slimy. But thanks, Hank, nevertheless. We’ll try this again.
Delicious salad! The fried, shredded okra is almost irresistible and was nearly consumed before it could be combined with the other ingredients. Definitely a do over recipe. As a side note, I had only large okra available and was a little concerned they would be too tough. But that fear was allayed, the frying made them perfectly delectable. Thx!
Brad Minson says
Hank, this looks amazing. I’m with you in that I don’t like slimy okra. I’d would heartily recommend grilled okra if you haven’t. It’s all the rich okra-y goodness without the slime. Toss the pods in canola oil salt and pepper and toss onto a screaming hot grill. turn it until it is tender (about 2-3 minutes or so). Quick easy and tasty way to eat okra.
Gave this a try last night as the garden is loaded with Okra (napa, ca). The okra sliced into about 8th’s length wise. It crisped up nicely and tasted great but the okra skin was so tough you could not bite through and had to strip the pulp from the skin and discard skin. Ended up just making a cold pepper salad with Jimmy Nardello’s and the remaining of the ingredients. What do you think went wrong?
Hank Shaw says
Jake: Not sure. I’ve never had that happen. My first thoughts would be the variety of okra you are using and/or the age of the okra. I tend to only use pods as long as a finger for this dish.
I made with Okra and tomatoes from the garden. Didn’t have the feta on hand so I skipped the cheese but still very very good. The fried okra was good by itself and would make a great substitute for fries
Bonnie Ware says
My original plan for a side dish with St Louis Style Ribs this weekend was slaw. A little ho-hum for my liking but, if you leave out the mayo, slaw cuts the richness of the meat and adds crunch to the plate. I was giddy with delight when this recipe landed in my inbox last week. It’s a perfect dish – crispy, fresh, healthy…. but most of all delicious.
I didn’t have any bell peppers handy, but this is cooking – not rocket science – so I used shishitos.
Thank you Mr Shaw for another flavor and texture bomb. You can bet this will be my new go-to slaw.
This is a f*****g great recipe! Thank you!
I learned this from a Philippine friend: grill fresh, young okra. Smoky, no slime, a little crunchy on the outside, no prep except cleaning and crying the okra. Though, doesn’t taste as good if the okra is too big or not fresh enough.
Might try this with zucchini or eggplant– of which I’ve an abundance. Sounds delish!
Will try this weekend – with my garden raised Okra.