Betel leaves, spiced lentils and grilled okra

Betel leaves, spiced lentils and grilled okra

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

I was wondering what would happen if the cooking of the rempah was interrupted at a preliminary stage, or if anything was shifted into a different context? Here, I’m using a lentil fritter called masala wadai as the basis for the dish, introducing an additional ingredient (the okra) and playing with the fritter so that it becomes the coating for a betel leaf. This is intended to be eaten as a snack or small plate.

For the caraway seasoning


Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt

For the okra

Quantity Ingredient
300g sugar
300g salt
12 medium green okra

For the betel leaves

Quantity Ingredient
50g urad dhal, soaked in cold water overnight
50g red split lentils, soaked in cold water overnight
50g yellow split lentils, soaked in cold water overnight
3 large red chillies, deseeded and chopped
1 red asian shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped curry leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
200g skinless cold-smoked salmon or ocean trout
16 betel leaves
1 egg white, lightly beaten
peanut oil, for deep-frying


  1. Make the caraway seasoning:
  2. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Roast the caraway seeds for 10 minutes or so, adding the peppercorns for the last 5 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then grind to a fine powder with the salt.
  3. Prepare the okra:
  4. Make a brine by bringing the sugar, salt and 500 ml water to the boil. Cool. Drop the okra in the brine and leave for 2–3 hours, removing from the brine when you’re ready to grill. Preheat the grill to medium– hot. Add the okra and grill until they colour and are cooked through. They should be bright green and will have lost their raw flavour, but have a slight charred flavour from the grill. Sprinkle with the caraway seasoning as soon as you take them on the grill.
  5. Prepare the betel leaves:
  6. Drain the dhal and lentils, drying them as much as possible. Put in a blender or food processor and add the chillies and shallot. Blend to a fine paste. Add the curry leaves, coriander and ginger, blend, then add the salmon and blend to a paste
  7. Brush the back of each betel leaf with egg white. Use a small palette knife to spread ½ teaspoon of paste over each leaf. Set aside on a tray in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow time for the egg white to dry and stick the mixture to the leaf.
  8. Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 170°C. Gently lower a few leaves at a time into the oil and fry until the paste is golden, but the leaf unburnt. Drain on paper towels and serve as quickly as possible.
  9. Assemble the dish:
  10. The okra and betel leaves have similar importance in the dish as a whole, soft, instead of piling everything onto a central serving plate for all to share, think of arranging them separately on plates so that the delicate betel leaf fritters aren’t damaged.
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