Phokra (Pho-spiced okra vinegar pickles)


When I came up with this vinegar (i.e. unfermented) pickle recipe, I had made fermented “phokra” several times. (That name is a no-brainer of course.) I love that stuff and plan to post a recipe at some point. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria and have tremendous flavor.

On the other hand, fermented pickles aren’t as easy to sweeten as vinegar pickles, because the process of fermentation involves the consumption of sugars by healthy bacteria and converting them to lactic acid and gas.

Although one solution is to “backsweeten” and then refrigerate them, in which the cold slows the fermentation process, making sweet vinegar pickles is a more straightforward approach. Because pho soup itself is mildly sweet, the idea of a sweetened vinegar version recently jumped out at me, and I love the results of my recipe!

These are sweet, spicy, savory, and dangerously addictive. Want to see for yourself? Let’s get going.

This recipe is for a quart jar of okra pickles.

You will need:


  • ~1/2 lb. okra (~250g)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 50g sliced yellow onion
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 TBSP mixed pho spice (plus the cinnamon stick and black cardamom pod)
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, quartered
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Several Thai red chilies, halved (or substitute with 1-2 red jalapenos, sliced)
  • 8-10 Thai basil leaves (or 6-7 sweet Italian basil leaves as substitute)
  • A few slices of ginger


1.) Place the mixed pho spices, excluding the cinnamon stick and cardamom pod, in mortar & pestle, and coarsely grind. Transfer to saucepan.

2.) Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, to ensure all the salt and sugar is fully dissolved.

3.) Meanwhile, place all okra in the jar length-wise to ensure a snug fit, and top with the onion, hot chilies, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and basil leaves.

4.) Using the canning funnel, pour the boiling hot brine over the okra. (There may be some excess.) Once settled, add the cinnamon stick and cardamom pod. Press down with a spoon if needed, to submerge the produce.

5.) Seal tightly with lid and let stand for one hour. Refrigerate for a few days to a week for flavors to fully meld. Once opened, the cinnamon stick, basil leaves, and cardamom pod should be removed. Pickles will be fine stored in a fridge for at least a couple months.

Notes: This okra was grown in my garden and is wonderfully fresh and crispy. There isn’t a problem with mucilage either, for lack of a better word, that mucousy substance inside. However, the older the okra is, the less desirable it will be fresh or pickled (but can still be good cooked such as in a stew, grilled, or deep fried). If you’re not growing it, just choose the freshest, firmest okra you can find.

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