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Shukto
Shukto in its colourful glory.
A mortar and pestle with pounded soaked mustard seeds
Pounding the soaked mustard seeds in a mortar.

Leela’s late mother was the family’s ‘culinary comforter’, and taught her how to make this vegetable dish. Complex in flavour, this recipe takes no shortcuts. Serve it as a first course in a multi-course Bengali meal so that its bitterness cleanses the stomach, excites the digestive juices, and prepares you for the meal ahead. 

Shukto

by Leela Chakrabarty

Leela’s late mother was the family’s ‘culinary comforter’, and taught her how to make this vegetable dish. Complex in flavour, this recipe takes no shortcuts. Serve it as a first course in a multi-course Bengali meal so that its bitterness cleanses the stomach, excites the digestive juices, and prepares you for the meal ahead. 

Servings: 4

Shukto
Shukto in its colourful glory.
A mortar and pestle with pounded soaked mustard seeds
Pounding the soaked mustard seeds in a mortar.

Servings: 4

2 tbsp oil

1 small bitter gourd, sliced

1 medium eggplant, cut into batons

1 tsp panch poron—a 5-spice mix of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, black cumin or nigella, mustard seeds

3 stalks dried chilies

3 bay leaves

1 inch ginger, pounded

2 tbsp mustard seeds, soaked in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and ground into a paste

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 potato, cut into wedges

½ medium white radish, cut into batons

½ medium sweet potato, cut into batons

3 green beans, cut into 5cm pieces

½ medium carrot, cut into batons

2 cups water

3 tbsp butter OR 1 tbsp ghee

Sugar to taste

Salt to taste

  1. Heat about 2 tbsp oil in a wok or a large and shallow pot over medium heat. Fry bitter gourd and eggplant until slightly softened and beginning to colour. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Add the panch poron, dried chilies, and bay leaves to temper them. When the panch poron starts to sputter, add in the pounded ginger, mustard paste, chili powder, and turmeric powder. Continue frying until the ginger just begins to brown.
  3. Potatoes go in first as they take the longest to cook. Stir the potatoes and the spice mix together evenly. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add in the other vegetables and 2 cups of water. Stir, then cover and continue cooking over medium heat. Stir occasionally until vegetables are almost cooked. Depending on the depth and width of your pan, this can take between 10-20 minutes.
  4. Add the fried bitter gourd and eggplant back to the pot. Season with salt and sugar, and add the butter or ghee. Stir evenly, and continue cooking until the gravy is neither too thick nor too dry. Serve hot.

Tips

  • Other vegetables that can be added are drumsticks and green bananas/plantains. 
  • ¼ cup grated coconut can be added before adding the butter.
  • Milk can be used instead of plain water.
  • If not all 5 of the panch poron spices are available, use at least 2-3 spices in the combination. 
  • Leela’s mom used an ammikallu to grind the mustard seeds. A lesung batu will work as well.

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil

1 small bitter gourd, sliced

1 medium eggplant, cut into batons

1 tsp panch poron—a 5-spice mix of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, black cumin or nigella, mustard seeds

3 stalks dried chilies

3 bay leaves

1 inch ginger, pounded

2 tbsp mustard seeds, soaked in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and ground into a paste

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 potato, cut into wedges

½ medium white radish, cut into batons

½ medium sweet potato, cut into batons

3 green beans, cut into 5cm pieces

½ medium carrot, cut into batons

2 cups water

3 tbsp butter OR 1 tbsp ghee

Sugar to taste

Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Heat about 2 tbsp oil in a wok or a large and shallow pot over medium heat. Fry bitter gourd and eggplant until slightly softened and beginning to colour. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Add the panch poron, dried chilies, and bay leaves to temper them. When the panch poron starts to sputter, add in the pounded ginger, mustard paste, chili powder, and turmeric powder. Continue frying until the ginger just begins to brown.
  3. Potatoes go in first as they take the longest to cook. Stir the potatoes and the spice mix together evenly. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add in the other vegetables and 2 cups of water. Stir, then cover and continue cooking over medium heat. Stir occasionally until vegetables are almost cooked. Depending on the depth and width of your pan, this can take between 10-20 minutes.
  4. Add the fried bitter gourd and eggplant back to the pot. Season with salt and sugar, and add the butter or ghee. Stir evenly, and continue cooking until the gravy is neither too thick nor too dry. Serve hot.

Tips

  • Other vegetables that can be added are drumsticks and green bananas/plantains. 
  • ¼ cup grated coconut can be added before adding the butter.
  • Milk can be used instead of plain water.
  • If not all 5 of the panch poron spices are available, use at least 2-3 spices in the combination. 
  • Leela’s mom used an ammikallu to grind the mustard seeds. A lesung batu will work as well.

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© Copyright Periuk 2021

 
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