Japanese Okra with Bonito Flakes is the simplest way of eating okra in Japan. All you need to do is just boil, slice and serve with bonito flakes and soy sauce. Sliced okra is a bit crunchy and sticky. These are the appealing characteristics of okra. It goes well with rice.
There are so many English websites that explain how to remove the sliminess of okra. Perhaps, the slimy texture is something unwelcomed in Western cuisines.
Contrary to this, Japanese people are happy with slimy foods. They tend to be healthy foods, too. Fermented soybeans called nattō is a representative slimy food that is often served as part of breakfast and many Japanese people love it. You can find more about Nattō in Temakizushi.
Okra is another example, especially when boiled. The sticky substance of okra comes from the dietary fibres that help lower cholesterol. Okra also contains various vitamins, calcium, minerals etc. So, slimy food is good for you!
Boiled okra with minimal toppings really lets you enjoy the great flavour of okra itself.
Simple cooking is often the technique used in Japanese cuisine to retain and enhance the flavour and texture of the ingredient.
At vegetable shops in Sydney the quality of okra varies a lot. Sometimes even at one particular shop I find a mixture of small and large, green and pale green okra pods. Some have black stains. It’s nothing like in Japan where vegetables are standardised and you don’t find okra with different shades of green or different sizes.
So, I take the time to pick good okra one by one, making sure that each okra meets the following criteria as much as possible. But sometimes I have no choice… (the colour of the okra in this recipe was a bit too light, I am afraid).
- The best okra is bright green with no black or brown stains.
- Okra dehydrates easily. Pick those that are heavy that indicates freshness.
- Do not pick very large okra as it is overgrown and tends to have stringy texture with large seeds inside the pod.
- The okra pod has a pentagonal cross-section. Each edge of the pentagonal shape along the okra pod should be visible.
Before throwing okra into boiling water, you need to make a small incision in each okra pod. This is to prevent the okra from exploding as the pod is concealed with the stem end still attached.
Add a pinch of salt and boil for about 2 minutes. Adjust the boiling time if okra is very small or very large. Be careful not to boil too much as it will make okra much slimier.
Transfer okra to a bowl of ice water to quickly cool down, then drain.
Remove the stem end of the okra and slice the pod crosswise into about 2mm (1/16″) thick slices. You will feel sliminess while slicing.
Some recipes call for chopping each pod randomly and then serving, or even serving as a whole. It is up to you, but I like the sliced version as the okra pieces get coated with bonito flakes and soy sauce better.
I almost always eat boiled okra with bonito flakes to give an extra dimension to the dish. This is the common way of eating okra in Japan. Hence I call this dish Japanese Okra with Bonito Flakes. I also pour some soy sauce over it to give more flavour. In my view, this is the best combination to eat plain boiled okra with.
If you don’t want to use bonito flakes and make this dish vegetarian friendly, I would suggest that you use another kind of dressing instead of just soy sauce. Otherwise, the dish might be too plain.
This is the typical Japanese way of serving a little dish as an appetiser or a side. But you could also call it a salad.
I hope you try this simple dish.
Japanese Okra with Bonito Flakes is the simplest way of eating okra in Japan. All you need to do is just boil, slice and serve with bonito flakes and soy sauce. Sliced okra is a bit crunchy and sticky. These are the appealing characteristics of okra.
- 150g (5.3oz) okra
- A pinch of salt
- Ice water in a bowl
- 5g (0.2oz) bonito flakes
- Soy sauce
Stab each okra on the side with a knife to make a tiny incision. This prevents the okra from exploding when boiled.
Bring water in a pot to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and okra pieces.
Boil for 2 minutes (note 1).
Transfer okra pieces to a bowl of ice water to cool them down. Drain well.
Remove the stem end of each okra and slice crosswise into 2mm (1/16") slices. They are a bit slimy.
Place okra slices in two serving bowls. Add bonito flakes on top.
Serve with soy sauce.
Add a small amount of soy sauce. Mix well so that bonito flakes and okra combine well with soy sauce.
Great to eat with rice or by itself.
1. My okra was about 6cm (2⅜”) long. If okra is smaller or longer, you need less or more time to boil. The time to boil also depends on how crunchy you want them to be.
2. If you are vegetarian, omit bonito flakes and use another kind of salad dressing. Pouring just soy sauce on makes okra too bland.