Cucumber, okra, and shiso salad

This is one of our favorite ways to eat okra. Okra is a common summer vegetable in Japan as well, although the tender American varieties have been a fairly recent introduction. There is also a “native” Japanese variety, though it exists now only as an heirloom. Incidentally, okra was originally cultivated in northern Africa for its seeds, which were ground and steeped as a coffee substitute, or pressed for oil. The delicious edible pod we enjoy now was a later, American refinement.


Cucumber (1)
Okra (4 pods)
Shiso (2 leaves)

Sesame oil (1 tbsp)
Sea salt (1/2 tsp)
Soy sauce (1/2 tbsp)
Tori-gara soup stock (1/2 tsp)
(Tori-gara soup is a powdered Chinese chicken stock available at Asian food markets—if you can’t find it, you can substitute regular chicken stock (not quite as good), or boil a rack of chicken bones down along with chicken stock.)

Optional ingredients: White sesame or dried bonito flakes, to taste

How to make it

(1) Peel the cucumber and cut into bite-sized pieces
(2) Rub the okra in salt and wash. Boil it until tender enough to eat easily (around 2 minutes, depending on the size of the okra and personal taste). Set okra aside and let cool.
(3) Cut the shiso into thin strips
(4) Put the cucumber, okra, and shiso in a bowl, add the marinade, and mix.
(5) Mix in the sesame or bonito flakes if you are using them.
(6) Chill and serve.