Wednesday, February 21, 2007
…or My Mother's Bitter Dal is a Dal or Lentil Soup with veggies like Lauki or Bottle Gourd and Karela or Bitter Gourd. This is also an entry for this week’s WHB from both me & my Mother.
I wanted to highlight the vegetable Karela or Bitter Gourd for this week’s WHB hosted by Anna of Anna's Cool Find. Karela or Korolla as we say in Bengali and its smaller cousin Uchche, which I can rarely find in the stores here, is a very popular vegetable in Bengali cuisine. As I said earlier (in Shukto post) the first course of a Bengali meal is usually bitter to cleanse the taste buds. The Bitter Gourd serves this purpose delightfully and so is much loved in Bengali households. Uchche Bhaja - Thinly sliced Bitter Gourd and then fried, Uchche Begun – Bitter Gourd and Eggplant chopped in small pieces and then sauted, Uchche-Alu Seddho – Bitter Gourd and Potatoes simply boiled and mashed with little mustard oil and salt are almost every day part of a typical Bengali cuisine. And Bengali cuisine doesn't want to get rid of the bitterness of Bitter Gourd, no way, they need that bitterness in full volume.
Me who did not love this bitter tasting veggie much had a hard time growing up as any one can imagine. Even now while D chomps on boiled Karela gleefully I swallow it down with water and sugar!! I guess it's an acquired taste and not everyone can appreciate the bitterness. However as I grow older or old as is the case, I appreciate this veggie more and try to incorporate it in some form in my diet.
Since my Ma is here, over the weekend I tried out this Dal with her narrating the steps and also judging each of my steps. Bitterness is mellowed down in this Dal and though it is called Tetor Dal or Bitter Dal, bitterness is just a mellowed fleeting taste intermingling with the subtle sweetness of the lauki or bottle gourd and the taste of the yellow Moong Dal itself. The "T" in Tetor is pronounced as "T" in Tai-chi with the tip of your tongue touching the base of your teeth
This Dal is best enjoyed with white rice accompanied with a veggie side or with some veggie fritters and usually served at lunch. This is served not only as an everyday dal but also if you are serving a traditional Bengali lunch.
You can also have it by itself like I did yesterday, a bowl of this Dal with some crisp salad of finely chopped cucumber and carrots in lime juice.
What You Need
Split Yellow Moong Dal ~ 1 cup
Lauki or Bottle Gourd ~ 6oz cut into large cubes as seen in the above pic. I used a little less than half of a medium sized lauki
Karela or Bitter Gourd ~ 1 cut into small pieces as seen in the pic
Ginger ~ 2" grated
For Phoron or temperingMustard seeds ~ 1/2 tsp mustard
Green Chillies ~ 4-5 slit
Ghee ~ 2 tsp
How I Did It
Wash, Peel and chop the Lauki or bottle gourd in large pieces a seen in the pic.
Wash & Chop the karela or bitter gourd in small pieces as seen in the pic
Heat a Kadhai or Frying Pan
Dry roast the split yellow moong dal till you get that nice roasted smell and see the dal has browned very lightly
In a pressure cooker, cook the now roasted dal and the lauki with twice the amount of water i.e. dal : water in ratio of 1:2
Heat Oil & 1 tsp of Ghee in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. My mother uses Ghee but I used Canola and a little bit of ghee for that flavor. You can do this in ghee if you want
Sauté the chopped karela till they are lightly browned and remove and keep aside
Add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds to the oil
When the Mustard starts sputtering add the grated ginger and slit green chillies
Sauté for a couple of minutes and add the pressure cooked dal and lauki
Sauté a little and add the fried karela
Add about 3-4 cups of water
Add salt and bring to a boil
Add about ½ tsp of Ghee before you take the Dal off the heat
Enjoy with white rice and other veegie sides. We had this with thinly sliced potato fries and hot white rice
Why Bitter Gourd is Good For you
This is a tropical and subtropical vine, which is widely grown for edible fruit. The fruit is among the most bitter of all vegetables. This is also known as Bitter Melon and there is a Chinese as well as Indian variety
The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface which is ridged. It looks like the one shown in the above pic and is known as Karela in Hindi and Korolla in Bengali. There is another smaller variety which is commonly known as Uchche in Bengal and is supposed to be more bitter.
Bitter Gourd aids or stimulates digestion. It is also very useful in treating Diabetes Melitus and helps control Blood Sugar. Compounds in this bitter vegetable may also be effective for treating HIV. Check Wiki here for more info.
Another Good Source of Bitter Gourd info -- here
Note: Pressure Cooker tips from IndoSunGod
Trivia:Other than India the Bitter Gourd also known as Bitter Melon is very popular in China, Vietnam, Phillipines, Bangladesh and Pakistan