The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago or the Lemont Temple, as we called it, was a destination on Sundays for more than just Sunday School and prayer. The canteen there was simply amazing. On Sundays, Murli the head chef would regale us with delicious masala dosas and soft and spongy idlis. The sambar was the spiciest I have ever had. Every other Sunday, during the school year, my daughter attended language classes where she learned the Hindi varnamala. As soon as she was done, we made a beeline for the canteen. After pét-puja, we would head upstairs to the inner sanctum of the Lemont Temple to bow our heads to a greater force than man.
The Lemont Temple is a landmark in Lemont, a suburb of Chicago. Founded in 1977, you can see the temple perched on a hill from afar. There are two main temples: the Rama Temple and the Ganesh Temple, built by artisans and craftsmen from India. In the recent past, sculptors from India carved an intricate set of the Dashavatar that is displayed in the Rama Temple as well as a new auditorium and community center. The temple has evolved as a rich cultural center and a place of worship.
Having left this behind in Chicagoland, I looked forward to finding out more about the Hindu Temples in Boulder County, Colorado. More about that in my post next week because right now I want to share a recipe that my family loves: Un-Stuffed Bhindi.
Bhindi is the fruit of a drought-resistant vegetable plant, also known as lady's finger in India. (Ladyfingers means something totally different out here in the US! So never forget the difference between ladyfingers and lady's fingers and always call it okra!) It's my favorite vegetable and it's not easily found in the stores. Most Indian grocery stores will carry it but the pods are pre-packed and I am never totally happy with the quality. So I compromise and buy Bird's Eye Baby Okra from the frozen section of the regular grocery stores.
Buying frozen means that stuffed bhindi is not an option. But then stuffed bhindi is time intensive and involves a lot of clean-up. So I take yet another short-cut and make this Un-Stuffed Bhindi or bhindi that has the stuffing on the outside.
- 1 lb frozen baby okra or bhindi
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- pinch hing (asafoetida)
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt (approximate as saltiness of salt varies)
- 1/2 cup besan (gram flour)
- 1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (more to make it spicier)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
- Add the mustard seeds.
- When they start crackling and spluttering, add the asafoetida, followed by the cumin seeds and turmeric powder.
- Add the frozen baby okra and move it about so that each okra gets a nice coating of the tempered oil.
- Add about 1/2 tsp salt to the okra at this point.
- While the okra is cooking, put the besan in a large plate or salad bowl and mix the amchur, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and remaining salt into it. Break every blob of flour that you see.
- Dry roast the besan mixture in the microwave for 2 minutes at 30% power level.
- Mix the besan mixture around so that any moisture that is trapped is released.
- Dry roast it in the microwave again for another 2 minutes at 30% power level.
- The besan should be about ready - you should be able to smell the aroma of the spices mixed into the besan as well as the besan itself.
- Roughly divide the besan mixture into 4 parts.
- Sprinkle one part over the okra and mix in a folding type of motion, making sure that the okra does not break.
- Do the same with the remaining 3 parts of the besan mixture.
- Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so so that the besan becomes crunchy around the okra. Do not overcook as the okra will become mushy.