Food & Drink

Okra and Tomato Stir-Fry

Warm-weather produce and a soy-ginger sauce shine in this fresh summer side

Photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Even though okra is enjoyed in parts of Southeast Asia and served steamed or as tempura in Japan, my parents were first introduced to the deep-fried version of okra in the South. It’s hard to beat the taste of hot, freshly fried okra alongside a plate of barbecued pork and a glass of sweet iced tea!

My mother started cooking okra in stir-fries so we could enjoy it without the excess fat of fried okra and slime of the steamed version. Keeping it whole eliminates the “goo” factor, but if you prefer it sliced, a teaspoon of an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice helps reduce the sliminess. Tomatoes are a colorful, flavorful addition to this dish, adding zing without the sodium of extra soy sauce. Toss them in gently at the end and be careful not to overcook. —Natalie Keng, from her new cookbook, Egg Rolls & Sweet Tea: Asian Inspired, Southern Style

See also: G&G‘s interview with Natalie Keng, plus her recipes for Bourbon & Coca-Cola Meatloaf and Oven-Baked Country Bacon & Collard Egg Rolls.

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  • Okra and Tomato Stir-Fry (Yield: 2 to 4 servings)

    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

    • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger

    • 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic

    • 1 tbsp. chopped green onion

    • ½ lb. fresh whole okra, washed

    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, each tomato sliced in half

    • ⅓ cup Homemade Soy-Ginger Sauce (recipe below)

  • For the Homemade Soy-Ginger Sauce (yields about 1 cup)

    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

    • ½ cup water, divided

    • ½ cup naturally brewed soy sauce

    • 1 tsp. grated ginger or ginger paste

    • 1 tsp. minced garlic

    • 2 tbsp. sugar

    • 1 tbsp. Hong Biou Michiu quality-controlled Taiwan rice wine or cooking wine

    • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar

    • ½ tsp. roasted sesame oil


  1. Make the stir-fry: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the okra, soy-ginger sauce, and vinegar and stir-fry 1 minute, until heated through but still crispy. Toss in the cherry tomato halves and gently stir for a few seconds before serving.

  2. Make the Soy-Ginger Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water, then add the remaining water, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, wine, vinegar, and sesame oil. Whisk together until the sugar and cornstarch are completely dissolved, and bring to a boil while stirring frequently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sauce thickens and is shiny and translucent.

  3. To use as a cooking sauce, pour over the prepared meat, fish, or vegetables. To use as a dipping sauce, allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Reprinted from Egg Rolls & Sweet Tea: Asian Inspired, Southern Style, copyright © 2023 by Natalie Keng. Published by Gibbs Smith.