Okra Ohitashi is a simple, light, and flavorful Japanese side dish of blanched okras in a soy sauce-based marinade. Prepare it ahead of time so that you can serve this salad instantly for dinner.
One of the easiest side dishes you can make to accompany your Japanese meal is Ohitashi. Today I’m sharing Okra Ohitashi (オクラのおひたし) or Japanese Okra Salad. This simple vegetable recipe is super handy when you are in need of something refreshing and wholesome to balance the dinner.
What is Ohitashi?
Ohitashi (おひたし) is a Japanese cooking method, meaning “soaking”, which is turned into a dish name. Yes, it’s like Teriyaki, a cooking method (applying glossy sauce + grill) that has been doubled as a dish name.
For Ohitashi dishes, fresh ingredients are blanched quickly and soaked in a dashi-infused soy sauce-based marinade for several hours. The marinade has umami from dashi (katsuobushi & kombu dashi or vegetarian/vegan dashi), a savory taste from soy sauce, and a tinge of sweetness from mirin.
If you’re looking for an interesting side dish for your Japanese-style Ichiju Sansai (1 soup 3 dishes) meal, this Okra Ohitashi will work to round things up for you.
3 Tips to Make Delicious Okra Ohitashi
1. Do not overcook the vegetables
Set a timer or pay attention to the doneness of the okra. You do not want to overcook the vegetables as they can easily lose texture and turn mushy.
2. Use an ice bath to stop cooking immediately
It might look like extra work to prepare iced water, but it’s the most efficient way to stop cooking immediately. Ice bath helps prevent the okra from turning mushy and revive the color. However, make sure to remove the okra (or other vegetables) from the water as soon as they are cool. You don’t want them to be watery or lose nutrients.
3. Squeeze water out well
You don’t want to dilute the sauce with excess moisture coming from the vegetables. Therefore, squeeze tightly to remove the water before you soak the okra or any other vegetables you use in the ohitashi marinade.
Variations of Ohitashi
With its crisp-tender and unique viscous texture, okra can make an appealing side than the usual boring vegetables. It is also a good source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber too! When they are in season, I like to snatch them up quick and make ohitashi right away.
While I enjoy okra, I know not everyone has the same liking for this finger-shaped vegetable. So if you are not a big fan, you can certainly use other vegetables for this ohitashi recipe. Here are some of the common ingredients used for ohitashi dishes in Japan.
- Bean sprouts
- Bell pepper
- Bitter melon (Goya)
- Eggplant (a deep-fried version)
- Komatsuna & Aburaage
- Nanohaya (rapeseed flower)
- Napa cabbage
- Shungiku & Aburaage
- Spinach (recipe here)
With just a handful of ingredients, the ohitashi technique is a fool-proof way to get more vegetables to the plate. Like this easy Okra Ohitashi, you will need only a few minutes to prepare your vegetable ahead of time and enjoy them on a daily basis.
Okura Ohitashi (Japanese Okra Salad)
- 10 okra (100 g, 3.5 oz)
- ½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
For the Marinade
- 1 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock) (for vegan/vegetarian, make Vegan Dashi; here are 3 ways to make dashi. I usually make the standard Awase Dashi with kombu and katsuobushi)
- 2 Tbsp usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce (or use regular soy sauce; Tip: we use usukuchi soy sauce when you want to keep the broth/sauce color light)
- 2 Tbsp mirin
For the Topping (optional)
- katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (omit for vegetarian/vegan)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Cut off the stem ends of 10 okra. Peel off the hard part around the tops of the okra as shown in the picture below.
- They should look like this. Tip: If you cut the end completely, water gets inside.
- Bring enough water to a boil. Sprinkle ½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt over the okra and rub gently on the cutting board. Tip: This brings out the bright color of any green vegetables (such as cucumbers) and removes the bitter taste.
- Once the water has come to a boil, put in the okra (without removing the salt) in the boiling water and blanch for 1–2 minutes.
- Drain and cool the okra in iced water. As soon as they are cool, remove from the water and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, add 2 Tbsp mirin and let the alcohol evaporate for 1–2 minutes.
- When there is no more alcohol smell, add 1 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock) and 2 Tbsp usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce. Once it boils, turn off the heat and set aside.
- Transfer the okra to a shallow glass baking dish. Pour the marinade into the dish while the marinade is still warm. Let steep at room temperature for at least 1–2 hours before serving.
- Plate the okra on a serving dish, drizzle some marinade over the okra, and sprinkle with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). You can serve it at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy it within 2 days.