Shukto – a Bengali recipe

There are very few times I have tried a recipe – where I have been unsure of how it would taste. Unsure if I would like it or not. This is one such recipe, where I totally was on experiment mode. I had read about this dish ‘Shukto’ – which is made from a medley of vegetables: most traditionally eggplant, bittergourd and plantain and anything else that the cook would choose to add. Unlike a lot of dishes one makes, bitterness is the feature of this dish, thanks to addition of the bittergourd and a spice paste made from mustard and poppy seeds. This dish, typically served first on a bengali meal, is said to clear the palate for the feast to follow. Wierd way to start a feast, if you ask me. No offense. ūüôā But, the dish is said to have ayurvedic cleansing properties, think of it as a detoxification therapy so to speak. And I have been needing something like that, for a while now. ūüôā

I have used the following vegetables: zucchini, eggplant, plantain, green beans, potatoes, radish, carrots, and bittergourd. Ahaar and Bong Mom’s Cookbook have very authentic versions of this dish, that I used as my inspiration, please do check them out for more authentic details.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup each chopped zuchhini, eggplant, carrots, plantain, green beans, potatoes, radish and bittergourd
2 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp methi seeds
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp mustard
2 bay leaves
2 green chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
salt to taste

For spice paste:
1 inch piece ginger
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds

Method:
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide pan. Add the bittergourd and saute with a pinch of salt untiil brown and caramelized, about 5-10 minutes. Remove, set aside. Meanwhiles, cover the poppy seeds in a 1/4 cup of water – place this in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Let this rest, so that the poppy seeds soak up all the water. Grind the mustard seeds and the poppy seeds along with the ginger into a smooth paste.

Heat the remaining oil, add the 1/2 tsp mustard, nigella seeds. Let this splutter and add the bay leaves. Add the asafoetida followed by all the remaining vegetables. Sprinkle with the salt and saute for atleast 10 minutes. Add the spice paste and milk and cook until the mixture thickens a bit. Add the reserved bittergourd back and cook until all the vegetables are tender.Sprinkle the sugar and cook for another couple of minutes. Serve hot with rice and dollop of ghee.

Verdict: I kind of expected the bitterness and I believe as a result of that, I liked the dish. Sortof reminded me of avial, sans the coconut and the slight tartness from mango or yogurt was replaced by the bitterness from the bittergourd and the mustard paste. I did mix it with curd rice, and liked that combo better, I am from South India after all. My husband didn’t like the dish, except for the first helping, which he finished, thanks to pestering reassurance of this is how it is supposed to taste(?!).

Sending this to ‘CWS – Mustard’ event, series by Priya and also to ‘Flavors of Bengal’, event by Nayna.

Also, sending my archived entry, Bhapa Doi to this event.

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4 Comments

  1. That is a delicious mix of veggies and spices… we are yet to get used to “bitter taste” in our food… a very interesting way to start a feast:)
    Reva

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