Ladies' Fingers (Okra) Curry

In Sri Lanka, as in many other places that were colonized by the English, okra is known in English as ladies’ fingers, and it is usually chopped crosswise into short lengths before being cooked. Even though the sauce has the deep flavor of a long-simmered dish, this curry is very quick to make.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or sunflower oil
  • 5 or 6 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ⅓ cup chopped shallots
  • 2 green cayenne chiles, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound okra, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup canned or fresh coconut milk


  1. Heat a medium heavy pot over medium heat, then add the oil.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the curry leaves, then the cumin, shallots, and chiles, and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the okra, turmeric, salt, and water.
  4. Stir briefly to mix, then cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the okra is just tender.
  5. Add the coconut milk and heat almost to a boil, then pour into a serving dish and serve.


The coconut milk sauce makes this a good dish to pair with rice, Sri Lankan or another, and a simple grill such as Grilled Marinated Beef (page 272) or Bangla-Flavored Grilled Zucchini (page 144). For extra heat, put out Red Onion Sambol (page 32) or Fresh Bean Sprout Salad (page 55).


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Ladies' Fingers (Okra) Curry