According to the Hindu calendar, today is the auspicious day of “Bhai Dhooj”. Bhai in Hindi means brother and we Indians celebrate two different days during the whole year which are particularly for siblings. One is “Raksha Bandhan” where the sister ties a thread on her brother’s wrist, and he promises to look after her and protect her.
And the second that is today is called “Bhai Dooj.” On this day, sisters show their love by putting an auspicious vermilion mark on the forehead of their brothers. They then perform a pooja of him by showing him the light of the holy flame as a mark of love and protection from evil forces.
There are a lot of legends associated with this day. One of them being Yamaraj, the Lord of Death and the Custodian of Hell, visits his sister Yami and she puts the auspicious mark on his forehead and prays for his well being. So it is believed that anyone who receives this mark from his sister would never be hurled into hell.
Since I am so far away I have not had a chance to celebrate this day with my brother for many years. So typically I would pray for him on this day, call him and make something special for him. And there is nothing more special then “Aloo Bhindi” (Okra with Potatoes) for my brother. Bhindi or Lady Fingers/Okra as is it is called is his favorite, and he can eat tons of it, non-stop, every day, several times a day.
Okra, when cooked, releases a sticky, gelatinous-like substance which can be a bit iffy and puts off a lot of people. But when cooked well can be crispy and delicious. And to get the crispiness is to cook it is on high heat standing guard making sure it doesn’t burn. It melts really quickly, so you don’t have to spend hours doing it. Again like most Indian recipes it can be cooked in a 100 different ways but this is the way my brother loves to eat it and as it is his special day I am making it the way he loves.
Here is wishing all the brothers and sisters around the world a “Happy Bhai Dhooj”.
Here is my mother’s recipe (cooking time 20 minutes, serves 4 – 6 but if it is my brother it will only serve 1)
500 gms fresh or frozen Okra
2 large Potatoes
1 large White Onion
Salt to taste
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Cumin powder
1/2 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Red Chilli powder
1 tsp Dry Mango powder
2 Garlic cloves thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Hing or Asafoetida powder
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Wash and completely pat dry the Okra and cut them into bite-sized chunks and keep them aside. Cut the Potatoes into the same size and keep aside.
Heat the Oil in a thick bottomed pan and the add the Cumin seeds and Asafoetida. Once the seeds start the splutter add the Garlic and Potatoes and fry them on a medium flame.
Once the Potatoes have turned slightly golden add the Okra and increase the flame a little bit more and start mixing. You have to keep an eye here and make sure you keep stirring the Okra, so it doesn’t burn.
After 7 – 10 minutes when the Okra becomes a little soft add the thinly sliced Onions and all the masalas and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes. We do not want the Onions and the Okra to be mushy, there has to be a bite to the dish.
Once cooked server hot with chapatis.
Tip: Do not be tempted to leave the kitchen when cooking the Okra, I usually stand and keep stirring it every minutes so it stays firm and doesn’t burn.