Our frequent travels in Malaysia have given us some strong gardening and culinary memories. Among these, are our welcome, regular contacts with vegetable Okra…
Some years ago, one of my most vivid memories when driving through the rural hinterland of Kuching, Sarawak with our local companions was the Okra. Lining the village roads were stand upon stand of Okra plants, proudly displaying their lovely primrose-coloured, hibiscus-like blooms. The apparent ease with which these plants were planted and grown prompted me to try growing Okra back home in Sydney.
And then there were the meals… Even though we have enjoyed Okra dishes many times in Malaysia, two meals stand out.
During a day-trip to Melaka in 2014, we popped in for lunch at the famous Restoran Peranakan. This restaurant is housed in an impressive old Peranakan-style building, serving the most delicious Nyonya dishes. By meal’s end, we had not only sated our curiosity for the beautiful architecture and gorgeous furnishings of this historic, old home, but we had also demolished three mouth-watering dishes: Beef Rendang, Sambal Sotong (or squid) and Sambal Bendi (okra). All the servings were delectable, none more so than the steamed okra in a sauce of kasturi lime, gula Melaka, chili and lemon grass.
|The meal at the Restoran Peranakan, Melaka. The Okra is at the rear...|
Then in December 2016, we enjoyed another delicious meal of Nyonya-inspired cuisine, this time in Ipoh, at another lovely restaurant, the Yum Yum. The flavourful food matched the fascinating Peranakan décor of the room. This time, we ordered and thoroughly enjoyed Pandan-Wrapped Chicken, Aromatic Sotong, Chicken in Creamy Basil Sauce and our favourite Sambal Bendi.
|Sambal Bindhi at the Yum Yum Retaurant, Ipoh. A mouth-watering delight...|
Like the meal at the Restoran Peranakan in Melaka, this meal in Ipoh’s Yum Yum Restaurant was not to be forgotten… especially the steamed Okra dish.
Okra has become one of our favourite vegetables. Throughout summer and autumn, each Okra plant bears a pretty, new flower, thence a delicious, young pod, every few days. As a result, our ten or so Okra plants supply us with an abundance for steaming, for curries, for soups and stir-fries, from December until April.
This year, however, our Okra planting was a little different. Along with our two traditional green Okra varieties, we planted some seed of a Red Okra variety… with great success. The Red Okra strain bears just as easily as our common green plants, and there is little discernible difference in flavour. The difference is the colour alone…
|A harvest of mixed Okra|
Without a doubt, you should allow Okra a warm-season in your garden… And should you come across the packet seed of the red variety, you should give it a trial too.
|A grouping of three Red Okra plants growing strongly...|
Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…