On a recent pilgrimage to one of Portland, Oregon's newest eateries, Bollywood Theater, the dish we couldn't stop talking about (or eating) was Chef Troy MacLarty's fried okra. The restaurant concept is casual Indian street food and his unique preparation of fried okra is the epitome of crunchy, salty, easy to munch and dip snacking. Rather than the traditional cornmeal battered thick coins, he juliennes the pods lengthwise and fries them sans batter until they are crispy and slighty charred. The result is heaping pile of thin, delicate chips with just enough body to dip into a cool yogurt sauce.
For our interpretation, we took advantage of tender Spring asparagus stalks. To achieve the same texture, we cut the spears into very thin slices on the bias and gave them a quick toss in flour. They're fried until almost burnt and served alongside a spicy cilantro yogurt sauce.
Fried Asparagus with Spicy Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/8" thick slices on the bias (pieces about 1 inch long)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Oil to fry
For the sauce: peel and seed the cucumber. Puree in a food processor or grate on the small holes of a box grater. Put in a cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to expel all extra moisture. Add to medium bowl with yogurt, cilantro, pepper, salt, cumin, and coriander. Stir to combine and season to taste with more salt.
For the asparagus: Fill a large saucepan to 1-inch depth with oil. Heat to 350°F. Combine flour with salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of sliced asparagus, turning to coat. Lift asparagus from bowl with hands, place in a fine-meshed strainer and shake out all excess flour back into bowl. The asparagus should just have a very light coating. Fry in hot oil until very dark brown. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-lined tray and season with more salt. Repeat until all asparagus is fried and serve with yogurt sauce.