For the final 3 years of my graduation, we lived in Santacurz, Mumbai. We had moved there from my childhood home in Wadala. I was not very happy about that. I was strongly attached to Wadala and spent my formative years there and had many memories and found it hard to let go. On moving to the new place, I promptly fell ill and in that fevered state of mind, dreamed that I was recovering in my old home. I still could not call the new place home, it just didn't feel like it. I would unfairly compare everything and everyone. I am surprised I ever made friends or the fact that people even looked at me, I looked like a grumpy bear most of the time.
And then, I liked something. To begin with.. there was ( and probably still is) a 'chaatwalla' on the corner from a Temple ( behind Aarya Samaj, for those who know it) who sold *mind blowing chaat*, hands down the best I'd eaten. My regard for the new place went up just a notch.
Often, a friend and I would walk down a lane ( I cannot recollect the name, but the landmark was near 'Rakhi's Bunglow' and by that I mean Rakhi Gulzar- as in the yesteryear Bollywood actress not any other infamous Rakhi, thank you) and we would feast on the variety of dosas at the street corner there. She and I were regulars and the bhaiyya knew just 'how spicy' we needed our dosas.
These food haunts were told to me by my neighbor's son, who was also fond of junk food and that is probably how I first talked to him. Strange how food is connected to so many emotions. And how food connects people.
There is this one trait in Indian families and I am sure it is spread across the nation, we like to share good food.
What I liked about having neighbors (one of the things) is the 'food exchange' that happened. Your neighbor will just knock on the door and hand you a bowl of steaming hot food with a, " I just made this, see how you like it" and pop back home. And then, you make something and give her a sample in her bowl, when you return it.
My neighbor was a home maker and also ran a day care at home. She would often drop in and bring a bowl of something delicious. One day, we got talking and the topic was diverted to vegetables and I mentioned that okra was my favorite. And she came over the next day with a bowl of Okra smothered in coconut, I greedily ate it and loved it. The simplicity and the mild flavors captured my palette. Years later, I made this in my kitchen and no surprise, I still love this version.
The easy part is you can completely eyeball the ingredients and it still turns out great!
You need: (this is an approximation only)
2 cups chopped Okra
1/2 large Onion chopped
2 Green Chiles ( + / - to taste) slit in the middle and left whole
Salt to taste
1 tsp. heaped Cumin powder and Coriander powder- each -
1 Tsp Cumin seed
1/2 cup Fresh shredded Coconut
Wash, pat dry and trim the cap and tail end of the okra and slice into round pieces.
Heat Oil, on medium high, add the cumin seeds, they should sizzle on contact
Add the green chiles , stir fry for about 15 seconds or so
Add the chopped onion and stir fry to coat with the oil and spices
Once the onion is translucent, add the okra and increase the heat to high.
Stir- fry and coat the okra with oil and monitor carefully to ensure that the okra is not burnt, however, maintain high heat. This will ensure that the okra is not slimy ( though there is a stage when it will look like that and here the high heat will ensure that it goes away)
Sprinkle in the salt , cumin and coriander powder once the okra is cooked. Reduce the heat to med high
Coat the onion and okra in the spice
Finally add in the shredded coconut and mix well.
Cook for a couple of minutes till the coconut flavor mingles, but the coconut does not turn brown.
Serve hot with roti/ fulkas.