Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shukto on weekend

There is some error with the pics in this post. For better step-by-step rendition of Shukto check this post.

A traditional Bengali meal usually consists of five to six courses, starting off with something bitter and ending with a sweet dessert. Dal–bhaja (lentil soup & fritters), a vegetable, fish and chutney find their way in between and are served as well as eaten in that order. I think the six courses were to give importance to the six basic tastes or rasas. The first course which is bitter can be a dry preparation of Uchche (bitter gourd), fried neem leaves, neem-begun(neem leaves and brinjal lightly sauted) or the culinary epitome of bangla cuisine the Shukto.

Shukto is a mix of vegetables with an emphasis to the bitterness, a preparation where instead of hiding the bitterness , it is the taste around which the dish evolves. The bitter taste is said to be good for cleansing the palate and also for letting the digestive juices flow and so no doubt it is a good start off to the meal to follow.

Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates. 

Shukto is also a culinary experience for whoever eats it and a culinary achievement for whoever cooks it. In fact a Bengali cook is judged by his or her shukto preparation. Though I don't understand what's so diificult about cooking it, but that might be because I haven't reached the desired culinary height of tasting and neither has my Shukto been dissected and analysed by the Shukto patrol. My shukto doesn't turn out as good as my Ma's or my Ma-in-law's but then that's natural, that's what Mothers are for.

All said and done I am not a big shukto fan though my husband is and thinking of all the goodness that comes out of eating it, we do have occasional Shukto weekends.

Before going into the recipe I would briefly describe the medley of veggies that go into this dish. Lots of veggies to be chopped so be sure to get your bitter (uh-oh better) half to chop them up.

Uchche or Bitter Gourd -- Bitter gourd contains vitamin A, B1, B2, and C. It also contains minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium. From the ayurvedic perspective, bitter gourd is excellent for balancing Kapha. It helps purify blood tissue, enhances digestion, and stimulates the liver.
Bitter gourd is also known to cure or at least control diabetes.

Jhinge or Ridge Gourd --
Begun or Brinjal
KanchaKola or Raw Cooking Banana – This vegetable is more popular in the south of India. In Bengal it is popular as a vegetable which is often prescribed to treat a weak stomach or diarrhea.
String Beans
Mulo or Raddish
– I diddn’t have these at home

What you Need

Uchche or Bitter Gourd – 1 chopped
Jhinge or Ridge Gourd – 1 chopped
Begun or Brinjal – 1 chopped
KanchaKola or Raw Cooking Banana – 1 chopped
String Benas – 10 chopped
Potato – 1 chopped

Vadi (nuggets made of ground lentil and later dried )~ 10/15 small ones (Optional)

For Phoron or Tempering
Methi or Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Tejpata or Bay Leaves -- 4
Hing or Asafoetida Powder – a pinch

For Paste
Mustard seeds ~ 2tbsp soaked in water.
Poppy Seeds ~ 1 tbsp soaked in water
I always make the above paste and keep it in the fridge for later use during the week so I use more. Often the grinder is such that it is difficult to make a fine paste with little amount.

Ginger Paste ~ fresh grated ginger about 1 tbsp

Milk – 1/3 cup

How I Do It

Chop the vegetables as shown in the picture. Try to cut them in the shape as in the pic.
Wet grind the mustard seeds and poppy seeds to a fine paste. While grinding put a little salt. If you are using a dry grinder make a paste of the dry ground mustard powder in a little vinegar and salt, this is because dry grinding sometimes makes the mustard taste bitter.
Saute the vegetables, bitter gourd being the last, lightly and keep aside
Fry the vadi till they are brown and crispy
Heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a Kadai/Frying Pan
Add the methi (fenugreek) seed, tejpata (bay leaves) and the hing (asafoetida powder)
When they start sputtering and you get the smell of hing rising add the veggies.
Add about 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of the mustard & poppy seeds paste.
Add the Ginger paste
Mix well, add salt add water and 1/3 cup of milk. Enough water to cook the vegetables, this dish is not gravy based so don't add too much water.
Cover and cook till the veggies are cooked and there is very little water.
Once the vegetables are almost done add a little suagr.
Add the fried vadis at the end.

Note: One of my readers pointed out that his Mom's shukto has a slight gravy in it. In fact my Mom too makes shukto sometimes which is more moist. So you can have your shukto with a little gravy in it (ver little though) if you want.

Have this with white rice and remember to start off your lunch with this.

Mandira of Ahaar also has her own recipe of Shukto. Hers is a little different from mine because every Mom puts their distinctive touch to their Shukto.
This is also my entry for WHB hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey. I didn't know about this event and got to know from Mandira's blog, so thanks to Mandira.

Trivia: Shukta should be had only during the day so don't have it for dinner. Don't know reason yet.

If you have ever thought about trying your hand in some foreign cuisine, some online universities offer courses on culinary arts, Asian cuisine included


  1. This was fascinating to me. I didn't know about the idea of shuktu, and I love the idea of incorporating the six tastes. Very nice job, and welcome to WHB!

  2. You can tell I didn't know about it because I see I spelled Shukto wrong! Sorry about that.

  3. Sandeepa that is an interesting recipe, never knew a lot about Bengali cooking other than the fact that seafood is eaten fondly.
    Thanks to you I am learning a lot and it sure is tasty.

  4. Hi Kalyn,
    Thanks for your comment. If you want to incorporate this into a South Beach Diet, you can skip the Potatoes.The spelling is ok because originally it was called shukuto I guess

    Hi indo
    thanks, yeah it's sure nice to share Bangali cuisine and dispel the myth that Bengali cuisine is only about fish. If you are from the South, this dish comes close to Aviyal, no coconut though

  5. Hi Sandeepa! 'Shukto patrol' and 'bitter half' - nice phrases there! Even if he's better, he'll be bitter by the time he finishes chopping, I'm sure!

  6. Wow! I had no idea about these combined tastes. A very informative post.

    Thanks for the entry.

  7. Sra,
    thanks for appreciating :)

    thanks to you for hosting the event

  8. sandeepa, great presentation of shukto with full detail about this dish:) as im a southie i have never heard of shukto and ur introduction helped me to know something absolutely new:) thanks girl...

  9. Too good and mouth watering too! Not to say, shukto is my favourite dish. And I infact eat it with the entire meal and not just as a first course. Ofcourse arekta kichu khete to hoi. Btw, my mom makes shukto which has a light gravy with it.

    And, nemmontonno ek jonkar ee hobe. Dujjon nei .. Its not what it seems. Kintu explain kicchu korchina. :)

  10. very nice post, and so detailed description with all those veggies. nice entry.

  11. supriya & lakshmi,
    thanks yaar, it's my pleasure to share Bong traditions with all of you

    good that you love shukto. I am not a shukto lover but I have it because of all the good stuff int it.
    Yeah right, even my mom's shukto is a little more moist than the one I made.
    Mone lage dhondo...

  12. Sandeepa Nice detailed post about Shukto ...great entry to Kalyn's WHB...

  13. Fabulous, I'm trying this soon! Shall keep you posted...

  14. Yum!! All those veggies Shukto ,mouthwatering! Great recipe, Sandeepa!:))

  15. @FOR ALL
    As per Kausum's observation updated the post, so now you can have shukto with a little gravy to it :) Go Enjoy

    Mantu, nandita, Asha
    Thank you guys. Nandita let me know how it turned out

  16. Hi Sandeepa! I haven't been able to get back to blogging yet, but thanks so much for your kind and comforting words...meant a lot to me. Everyone is doing fine back home now.

    You know what,I was really going to make a request to you for shukto, and there you go...with the perfect post. It looks soooo good and ki shundor lekha aar chhobi.

  17. Hi Sandeepa! I've heard of shukto but never tasted it. I used to think that it was just a Bong version of veg stew. I never realized it has to have something bitter! Good info.

  18. Thank you for sharing authentic Bengali recipes. Shukto sounds like something I might try one of these days.

  19. mystic,
    thanks..khub bhalo laglo tumi abar eshe gecho bole. BTW if I click on your "profile" from your comment, I don't get to access your blog !!

    Yeah, bitterness is what it is all about

    yeah do try, but I am not sure how it would taste for a first timer. Like me, I don't like Avial that much though I like other Southie foods

  20. Hey Vani,
    can't access your profile too !!!

  21. i have never had shukto but it sounds good. will have to try it after my next trip to the indian store.

  22. Thank you so much for educating me on this. I've often wished I could find bitter gourd. I've seen many recipes for it, but never seen it in the store or farmers market. Your pictures are beautiful!

  23. Sandeepa, the shukto looks great. Now I want to make it for the weekend :) Thanks for sharing.

  24. hey sandeepa,
    was nice to see a lovely photo of happens to be one of my favourites!! also wanted to tell you...loved the masoor dal with bok choy...had made it this sunday...and was finally able to taste what bokchoy is.....was sceptical of trying it out!!keep the recipes coming along!

  25. Hi Sandeepa, I think the problem with my profile happened when I moved to the new blooger. it should work now(hopefully!)

  26. Many of your profiles are coming up as Anon with my shift to Beta
    Any idea how to resolve this ?

    Anon1 who haven't had Shukto
    Yeah do try out

    Thanks. Where are you located ?You can find Bitter Gourd in Indian Stores. I know you don't see them in Farmer Market. I don't know if any of these Indian Stores have an online portal like FreshDirect

    Your Shukto was great too.

    Anon who loved BokChoy
    Hey good you liked the Dal, you kind of like it more thinking of the healthy stuff going down ;-)
    Stir frying BokChoy is good also, though I never tried it.

  27. I glanced at your recipe in the line-up from Meeta's WHB event - now I read it in full detail. Very, very plantain, brinjal, bitter gourd - all these are generally unpopular veggies, didn't realize they could be cooked this way! Have to try it sometime :)

  28. Hi Sandeepa - I am going to good old Kolkata on Saturday. Just reading your recipes is making me totally excited.

    Great to have a bangla ranna resource, thanks!

  29. I love Shukto but whenever I prepare it , the taste is not up to the mark. I followed it exactly as given here, and it turned out to be yummy. Keep up the good work. Keep sharing bengali recipes :)

  30. Hi,
    An informative article no doubt.
    But if I m not mistaken sukto usually have sojne danta(drumsticks) in it.

    u may give it a thought.


    P.S. I m not a blogger so posting as anonymous

  31. You didn't put any 'raandhuni' in it !! How can you make shukto without raandhuni ? If you don't put this vital ingredient, the shukto is like any other 'jhol'- just uchchher jhol - that's all.

  32. Hi Madhumita

    Thanks for the comment, but I don't think so and politely disagree :)

  33. Sandeepa,
    I had put up your link in the "Further reading" column of my "Shukto" post, hope you won't mind that.

  34. Great recipe. Thank you. I tried it last week, but also added some pumpkin, lotus-stem and parval (I don't know what you call that in english)....skipped the potato and added some fresh coconut along with the milk....tasted amazing...

  35. Anon

    Lotus stem and coconut sounds like a lovely addition. I don't get much parwal here anyway, I know what it id though :)

  36. Mom always said, we shouldn't eat teto after sundown... not sure why...

  37. Mom always said, we shouldn't eat teto after sundown... not sure why...

  38. Hi Sandeepa!!
    I don't follow your blog regularly but I am a big fan of yours. Your recipes are alwyas very simple and neat. I was googling the shukto recipe just to have a look as I want to make it this week and came accross your recipe. My mom used to have radhuni as phoron and drumstick as a must ingredient. She added sweet potato too which I loved and always add it when I make shukto here. I like it with gravy too. Didin't know that it's suppose to be eaten at lunch, we always eat it in dinner (as we eat rice in dinner). Thanks for the simple recipe again.


  39. hi Sandeepa,
    whenever i have to make a traditional Bengali dish i follow ur recipe. I love all your recipes. Thanks a ton for all the wonderful dishes.

  40. My grandma made awesome shukto and I remember loving it as a kid. Hubby not to fond of it so I never really bothered. Then I saw your recipe and recently at the Indian store picked up some of the classic veggies - ucchey, kaach kola, jhingey, begun and tried your recipe. Turned out perfect.......hubby and I polisehd it off happily. Thank you!

  41. hi Sandeepadi

    Isn't panch-foron used in making shukto? I always used to think so.

  42. Hello,
    This is the first time I visited this page. It is neat and well compiled. Being a bong staying in India I do not cook much of Bengali cuisine. I miss my mom's and mother-in-law's ranna. You are a great help.

  43. I simply love shukto! Nothing like it!! :-)

  44. Where is the recipe??? can't see it!!!

    1. Well, it clearly says --"The recipe will be in The Book" which will be in stores by May


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