Special equipment: a 10-inch bamboo steamer; a deep-fry thermometer
Add the tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 5 ounces of water to a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant and just starting to boil, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, dried basil, garlic powder, dried mustard, cayenne pepper and dried thyme in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
Add 2 cups water to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Place a 10-inch bamboo steamer over the pot. Working in batches, add the okra, cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a medium, heavy-bottomed pot to reach 3 inches deep. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 365 degrees F.
Dip each piece of okra into the tomato paste mixture and then roll in the cornmeal mixture. Working in batches, fry the okra until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Season the fried okra with 1 teaspoon of salt. Place on a serving platter with lemon wedges if using.