I hate bittergourd.
I throw up the most ingenious of tantrums the moment bittergourd turns up on my lunch plate.
Thankfully bittergourd is never served for dinner.
But Grandma is not one to submit to my stubbornness.
And even when I fuss beyond reason, she doesn’t relent.
She, with all her sagacious wisdom, wins me over through love.
One lazy morning.
The bittergourd vine is a bloom with fruit.
I have been casually observing this for some days now.
And secretly praying that birds make meal of the bittergourd.
But bittergourd doesn’t seem to excite even my feathered avian friends.
I know yet another showdown is looming on the lunch table.
And the inevitable happens.
Bittergourd features for lunch one sultry listless summer afternoon.
See what Didi has cooked for you my Princess, Grandma tells me, a radiant smile lighting up her face.
Didi hovers around in the background.
I make faces.
Try it. If you don’t like it, I promise I shall not coax you. Grandmas voice rings.
I try a bite. With a dollop of rice.
And become a convert forever !!!
Bittergourd paired with sinfully caramelized onions and red pumpkin.
What an unbelievably delicate balance of flavors !!!
Simple and earthy. Yet divine.
This morning though it’s yet another of Grandmas bittergourd delicacies that I grew to adore.
The Jhinge Shukto. A recipe from Sylhet. Her Sylhet.
Jhinge Shukto. A light curry of ridgegourd and bittergourd. Lentil dumplings thrown in. The warmth of ginger. The earthy aroma of radhuni / celery seeds. The fragrance of ghee.
Jhinge Shukto (Ridgegourd and Bittergourd Curry)
- 3 big jhinge or ridgegourd peeled, halved longitudinally and cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 bittergourd cut into thin roundels
- 50 g motor dal or yellow pea dal soaked overnight
- 1.5 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp poppy seed paste
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp radhuni or celery seeds
- 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Smear the bittergourd slices with a little salt. Keep aside for 10 odd minutes, rinse and pat dry.
- Coarsely grind 1 tsp celery seeds in a mortar and pestle, keep aside.
- Drain the motor dal from water, grind coarsely with very little water. Add salt, give it a hearty mix.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil, make small dumplings of the lentil paste and shallow fry till golden brown. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
- Add the bittergourd to the same oil, saute till light brown. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan, throw in the mustard seeds and 1 tsp celery seeds. Allow the spices to splutter.
- Now add the ridgegourd and a sprinkle of salt, saute for 4-5 minutes. Cook over a moderate flame till the water released by the ridgegourd has almost dried up.
- Add 1 tbsp ginger paste and poppy seed paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add sugar, ground celery seeds, the fried bittergourd slices, lentil dumplings. Pour 2 cups of warm water. Continue to cook for another 5-7 odd minutes till the ridgegourd and bitter gourd is perfectly cooked. (Take care though that the ridgegourd does not become too mushy.)
- Add the remaining ginger paste, give it a good stir, adjust seasonings and finish with a generous dollop of ghee.