Food in Cambodia and Thailand was divine, there was not one meal that offered us the slightest of an excuse to complaint about, yet, a week or so into the vacation, started my yearnings for home food.
My maccher jhol and bhaat.
My musur dal and Potol bhaja.
I ignore the cravings at the onset, reminding myself that it’s just another week before I shall be back home.
However the longing continue unabated, getting more fiercely intense with every passing day and finally I succumb to the desires and make a trip to the local market.
Buy a wild red snapper (fresh from the Andaman Sea, the young boy at the store advises me) and some local veggies and (thanks to the kitchenette in our serviced apartment) whip myself up a rustic no-spice maacher jhol and some delectable jasmine rice to go along with it.
And what bliss !!!
Back home, the first thing I do the next morning is walk down to the local vegetable shop.
Ma’m, the man at the counter grins, see what I have got all the way from Kolkata.
And he holds up some gorgeous parwal, kakrol (teasel-gourd) and gondhoraj lebu for me.
I am ecstatic.
I go overboard, load far more supplies than I possibly need, a generous assortment of summer vegetables – parwal, bottlegourd, ridgegourd, gondhoraj lebu and some amazing kakrol and return home, all the while musing on what to cook for lunch.
Especially with those lovely parwal I have just picked up.
Of course there’s the ubiquitous Potoler Dolma. I muse. Inspired by the Armenians, the fried parwal cases stuffed with spicy lamb mince is every Bengali’s delight.
Or something earthy. Didis Aam Potol, a love story of parwals and green mangoes. Caressed by poppy-seed paste. And spiked by some mean green chillies and a drizzle of mustard oil.
Or Grandmas Aloo potoler dalna, a you-make-me-smile tomato-ginger curry with fried potatoes, parwal and a dollop of ghee, a Bengali staple.
Today the fussy me wants something super-special though.
And that’s when I decide to go for Grandma’s Potol Rosha.
Her panacea when during summer vacations, Dada and I would be bored eating parwal in dalnas and jhols every day.
Potol Rosha. Yet another recipe from Grandma’s repertoire. Tender parwals. A delicate tomato-ginger gravy. A hint of asafoetida. Finished with a glug of milk. Divine for lunch on a sultry summer day !!!
Potol Rosha (Parwal in Tomato-Ginger and Milk Curry, Bengali Style)
- 12 medium sized potol or parwal or pointed gourds
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tomatoes pureed
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp green chili paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2-3 bay leaves
- a pinch of hing or asafetida
- 2.5 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Peel the parwals as shown in the picture. Trim both the ends, make longitudinal slits from both the top and bottom ends taking utmost care that the parwals are intact.
- Marinate the parwals with a little salt and turmeric powder.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, fry the parwals over a medium flame till they are light brown and tender. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
- In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil. Throw in the hing, cumin seeds and bay leaves, allow the spices to splutter.
- Add the tomato puree, ginger paste, green chilli paste, remaining turmeric powder and a little salt. Cook over a medium flame till the oil starts to release from the masala.
- Add the fried parwals, give it a hearty stir, cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Splash a little water if it is getting a bit too dry.
- Reduce the flame to low, carefully pour the milk while stirring continuously (Lowering the flame and stirring continuously are critical as you do not want the milk to curdle).
- Add the sugar, adjust seasonings.
- Continue to cook over a low flame till the gravy thickens, reckon another 5 minutes or so. Serve hot.