Tumis Okra: Stir-fried Ladies’ Fingers (Vegan)

A simple stir-fried dish which is slightly spicy, nutritious, and fresh-tasting. Easy to prepare and made with commonly available ingredients.

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Deyana Goh
Deyana Goh
Deyana was born in Singapore and lives there. She is half-Chinese, half-Arab, with a grandmother who was born to an Arab family in Bogor, Indonesia. Deyana grew up eating Indonesian food as it is cooked in Arab-Indonesian households, and has fond memories of the festive whole chicken stuffed with lamb.

Stir-fried okra, or ‘ladies finger’ as we call it here, is one of my favourite go-to recipes! It’s so simple, and okra is purportedly very nutritious. I’ve been told it strengthens the knees, contains antioxidants, is good for diabetes because it lowers blood sugar…the list goes on. 

One of the problems with cooking okra, as most home-cooks know, is that awful slime it oozes. To counter this, stir-fry the okra in a wok over very high heat. If you don’t have a wok handy, use a cast-iron frying pan. Avoid anything non-stick. When frying in a wok, sometimes you’ll see slime coagulating into a thick goo, as if an alien has just given birth. But don’t panic — just continue cooking and the slime will go away. If the okra is young and fresh, this is less likely to happen.

The Elusive Wok Hei

One of the benefits of cooking over very high heat in a wok is that you might be able to achieve the sought-after wok hei effect. Wok hei is a Cantonese term that refers to a smoky, charred flavour achieved without burning the dish. The trick to wok hei is to put a small amount of cold oil in a very hot wok. This causes the wok to smoke. Then one must vigorously stir-fry it to let the smoke (instead of the oil) cook the dish. To get wok hei is not easy, and is something to aspire towards. And it seems like cooking in a proper wok is absolutely necessary; I’ve never heard of anyone being able to do that with a pan.


When I cook tumis okra at home, sometimes I add dried shrimp (ebi in Indonesian) or anchovies/silver fish (ikan teri). Other times, I’m either too lazy or just prefer the vegetarian version in this recipe. The vegetarian version has a certain freshness to it that’s unique. 

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Tumis Okra: Stir-fried Okra, or Ladies’ Fingers

Tumis Okra: Stir-fried Ladies’ Fingers (Vegan)

  • Author: Deyana Goh
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


Tumis okra is a very simple stir-fried dish which is slightly spicy, and is healthy because of the health benefits of okra. Use a wok or a cast-iron pan, over high heat, to prevent sliminess.


  • 200g okra, slices diagonally
  • 2 big red chillies, sliced
  • 1 red bird’s eye chilli (optional), sliced
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat a wok up over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil, heat it briefly.
  2. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 3 min.
  3. Add the garlic and chillies. Saute for 1 min.
  4. Increase to a high flame, and add the okra. Stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
  5. After about 1 min, add salt. 
  6. Continue frying until the okra turns a bright green, is tender, and all the remaining slime has disappeared, around 4 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

    Tumis Okra is served!


  • This particular recipe is not very spicy, feel free to adjust the number of bird’s eye chillies you use depending on your preference.

Keywords: Quick and Easy, Common Ingredients, Vegan

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  1. I tried this recipe & it was quick, fuss free, delicious & wonderful ! I added some minced meat instead of ikan teri, it worked well too. Thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Thank you !


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