Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bandhakopi'r Ghonto -- a dry Cabbage Dish


What is a Ghonto ? In simple words it is a dry vegetable dish cooked in a Bengali Kitchen

But the simplicity ends there. All dry vegetable dishes are NOT Ghonto, ghonto is a mere subset of all possible dry vegetable dishes in the Bengali Kitchen. Incidentally there is also an area of intersection with dry non-veg dishes.

What is the unique feature which binds all ghonto ? No clue, except for use of some common spices. For some strange reason unknown to me, there is BandhaKopi'r Ghonto (a dry Cabbage dish), Lau Ghonto( a dry Bottle Gourd dish), Mulo Ghonto(with radish) but there never is a Dharosh(Okra) Ghonto.

After much brainstorming(yeah I need to storm my brain on such complex matters), it dawned on me that "Ghonto" is derived from the word "Gha(n)ta" in Bengali, which means to mix.While Charchari derived its name from the method of cooking which lets the veggies char a little, I guess Ghonto too derived its name from a cooking method where you basically, mix/stir and cook. So while you wouldn't stir a Charchari much in a Ghonto you would. Following that logic, you would need veggies that can retain their shape even on mixing and so you choose veggies like Cabbage, Bottle Gourd, Radish etc. for your ghonto and not softer ones like Okra. This is just my theory, if you have any idea on the nomenclature, please do share.

For carnivorous bongs, every veggie dish has a non-veg equivalent so though Ghonto is largely a vegetarian dish you also have Muri Ghonto with Fish head and you can add fish head or shrimp even to a BandhaKopi'r Ghonto or a Lau Ghonto.

Again for some strange reason though a Bong will add Fish or Fish head to a very vegetarian dish(as above) they will not even use onion or garlic when cooking the same vegetarian dish sans the fish. So a typical BandhaKopi'r Ghonto or Lau Ghonto or whatever will not have onions or garlic and same is true for any charchari

The recipe I have here is a niramish(veg) BandhaKopi'r Ghonto that my Ma makes. To make it amish(non-veg) she will just add fried shrimp to it or fried pieces of fish head. This is usually served with Rice and Dal for everyday Lunch, with Rotis for Dinner and sometimes with Khichuri in a comunity feast like Picnic etc. You can squirt a little lime juice and have a bowl of it, just by it self too, I like it that way.

I usually don't cook my cabbage to death, I like it crunchy but usually in this dish it is cooked till the cabbage loses all its crunchiness. The hubby says my Cabbage dish reminds him of the cabbage cooked during the neighborhood picnics that he went to as a kid. That doesn't sound like a compliment, I am guessing he says that because my cabbage has a crunch and not because he has bad cabbage memories from the picnics.


BandhaKopi'r Ghonto -- a dry Cabbage dish

Prep: Chop in fine thin pieces 1/2-3/4th of a medium sized cabbage, amounts to about 6-8 cups

Start Cooking:

Heat Oil

Fry 1 cup of peeled & cubed potatoes with a pinch of turmeric. When they are a light gold in color remove and keep aside. They will not be cooked fully at this point.

Add 1 Bay Leaf/Tej Patta, 1 tsp of Whole Cumin Seeds/Jeera and 4 slit green chillies

When the spices tart spluttering add 2 medium sized tomatoes finely chopped

Fry till the tomatoes are all nicely mushed up and there is no raw smell

Add 1/4 cup of grean peas and saute for a minute

Add 1  tsp of Cumin Powder/Jeera Powder, 1 tsp of Corriander Powder/Dhania Powder, 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli Powder and 1-2 tsp of freshly grated Ginger. I usually mix all the above masala in little water to make a thick paste and add it.

Fry the masala till the oil starts separating from the masala. If needed sprinkle water while frying

Add about 6-8 cups of finely chopped cabbage. Add the cabbage gradually and mix well with the masala. Add a little turmeric powder for color. Fry the cabbage with the masala for couple of minutes. The shredded cabbage should be nicely coated with the spices.

Add about 1/4 tsp of Kitchen King masala or any other such masala and salt. The Kitchen King is optional and you can skip it.

Add the fried potatoes, give a good stir and cover and cook

Normally you wouldn't need to add water but check intermittently and give a good stir in between. Add little water if needed for the veggies to cook.

Edited on 12/14/2010: When veggies are almost done, add 1/4-1/2 tsp of sugar. Bengali Bandhakopi is usually on the sweet side and the sugar lends a nice dimension to the dish. Skip if you don't like sweet.

When the veggies are done (according to you) add 1/4-1/2 tsp of Garam masala Powder and 1/4 tsp of ghee

Mix well and you are done

Sometimes I add juice of a quarter lemon and no Ghee, though this is not the usual trend

Trivia:Egyptian pharaohs would eat large quantities of cabbage before a night of drinking as they believed that cabbage consumption would allow them to drink more alcoholic beverages and not feel the effects. This is perhaps why many still consider cabbage with vinegar as a good hangover remedy.


  1. I actually like the sound of this cabbage dish. I tolerate cabbage but it seems to appear in my kitchen with regularity. With potaotes and peas it can't really go wrong.

  2. Though I dont like cabbage much but Hubby likes it with Macher matha. even made it just now for dinner.

  3. Great post Sandeepa. I love to learn all the Bengali words, although I might never a sentence. I like Amish and Niramish. We call Ghonto as Palya with stir fried veg, and with little gravy, it will be Gojju.

    I love that Ghonto with KK masala, can add cubed carrots too. Looks like a yummy thali to sit down after a day's work. Enjoy! :)

  4. One reason I love you is because your Bengali recipes remind me of my Ma . This is such a staple all winter .

  5. @Asha - for a truly Bong dish I wouldnt add carrots - they're pretty alien to traditional Bengali food:)

  6. I would definetly love Amish style, pretty much my mom added shrimp in all her veggies to make us eat, reminds her curry :) We never gave her trouble and started loving vegetables for the flavor of shrimp!
    Ur thali is simply inviting :)

  7. Ghanta theke Ghonto? ! eta kono din bhabhi ni:-) Ki shundor thala shajiyecho! bnadha kopi ektu knacha bhalo laage.. & I had mentioned that before in my bengal a lot of dishes are without garlic & onion, which makes it really uncomplicated i think. Sandeepa I think what your husband said is a compliment.. those tastes are authentic!

    about the egyptian fact... cabbage & drink ektuo match korlo na:-)very unromantic combination heheeehe

  8. i do like the sound of this!

    i'm relatively new to the joys of cabbage, but would give this a go. ta!

  9. We ghonto too, but never had one of cabbage..looks delightful :-)

  10. i love dry cabbage dishes and equally dislike the gravy ones made with it, for some reason. nice to get introduced to a new name and type of cooking :)

  11. This is new to me....I am always open to different ideas for cabbage..bookmarked. Thanks shondeepa ;)

  12. Love it completely sandeepa :)
    the meal thali looks gorgeous!!

  13. lovely dish as well the post,normally cabbage dishes sound uninteresting,but you have written the post beautifully.Even those who do not like cabbage will be interested.The trivia about pharaohs is very interesting the combo is not that appetising.

  14. Sandeepa,

    dish ta darun dekhtey, try kortey hobey

    I have a small gift waiting for you
    (In my new blog post)

    in my New Blog Post... Please do accept it.

  15. We do not cook cabbage as much as we like it! But a few weeks back, I did make a lovely cabbage veg dish! This is great and I will have to try this one!

  16. Kal du du baar try korlam ... comment post holo na. :-(
    Ekhon ar ki likhbo ... bandha kopi te ekta muro o daoni :-(
    Tobe hain ... ektu kuchkuche (bangla ta thik hoyeche?) bandha kopi amar o bhalo lage. :-)

  17. Thank you once again for a wonderful post.

    Bechara bandhaakopi ki kakhono bhebechhilo je or uddeshye o ekta post dedicated habe? Ha ha ha... jokes apart, in winters (ekhon bodh hoy through the year) cabbage becomes a staple.

    In my house others are not too kicked about cabbage, hence frequency is restricted to once in 2-3 weeks.

    Niramish bhalo baashi kochi bandhakopi holey,with peas and badi, but it is yummy with fried fish head.

    I do not like it crunchy. But once cooked, it is dried and dried(fried) to give a 'jhurjhurey' feel.

    How did little S enjoy cabbage?

  18. I like the name! Ghonto sounds so rustic and conjures up beautiful images:) Our dish names are also based a lot on the style of cooking and I too like my cabbage crunchy - infact I like most veggies crunchy:)

    Thali dekhke to muh mein paani aa gayaa! Such a beautiful picture, Sandeepa!

    Raw cabbage before drinks? Gassy gassy!!

  19. Sachin loves cabbage and I am OK with it...

    my cousin's wife makes a cabbage dish with panch phoron and I have bought the spice mix to make it at home.

    This seems to be a dish that will pair very well with rotis... and I have everything on hand.

  20. We call it vepudu( Ghonto) for dry dish usually dish is cooked with onions and we don't use masala's we just finish it with red chilli powder or home made powder.

    Try add soy chunks to cabbage, it tastes really good.

    Lovely platter.
    Have a good weekend

  21. This is a yummy cabbage dish and it loks delicious, i love the trivia, i should remember this next time when i want to booze :-)

  22. Sandeepa,
    Ore Bash Re!! koto shunder lagche thala ta..ami khete aschi!!
    I get confused still about charchari,ghonto,labra,chenchra etc..
    ki fark penda hai yaar ,sab to pet me jane wala hai ,Hehe..
    and trust me ,your hubby has complimented you ,take it positively !!
    hugs and smiles

  23. I just had cabbage curry, South Indian style :) Your post reminded me of my Bengali roomies from whom I learnt some Bengali words!

    - N

  24. Indo
    I am not too fond either but as I said I like it with a little lime juice and with rice & dal

    I like it with macher matha too but hubby doesn;t :(

    My Mom does make a cabbage with carrots, but both shredded

    Eves Lungs
    Don't you make it this way ?

    Love your Mom:)I would even eat grass if it was cooked with shrimp

    Amio bhabi ni ;-) age

    Hope you like it

    Really you don't have one with cabbage ?

    Have never had cabbage in a gravy, wouldn't like it I guess

    Even I don't call myself that ;-)

    Thanks :)

    Ha ha :)

    Thanks :)

    I do not like cabbage all that much but do cook it once in a while
    Love this more with shrimp

    Are amar bangali'r kolonko hubby matha deoa bandhakopi ba dal khai na :(

    Me not a cabbage fan either and have it maybe once or twice a month
    Ei jhurjhure kora ta jani na to, shune khub yummy lagche
    S bandhakopi khai, alpo tobey
    Shobkichur sathe yogurt khai ar ajkal mach ekdom khai na

    Wow well said, rustic huh ?

    Maybe many people use paanch-phoron in this dish, my Mom uses jeera and so do I

    This would be in Tamil ?

    Yeah have load of cabbage ok :)

    Right amio bujhte pari na, Ma ke jiggesh korte hoi

    Never had cabbage in a gravy before

  25. Funnily enough, bottlegourd never struck me as a veg that could hold its shape - unless we took care. I had lau ghonto when I visited Cal last year - we were told it was a speciality of that particular restaurant. We all liked it a lot though I didn't think it was exotic. Also, it was plain, no tomatoes in it. I loved the veg food and couldn't get enough of it. And the mustard fish too!

  26. sounds gooood.

    wishing for the nth time you were my neighbour!

  27. Loved the thali, San! What's the other dish, in the other katori? That looks gorgeous too! :)
    ABout the non-use of onions and garlic - it's true of South Indian brahmins too. Typically, there's no onion or garlic in any of our dishes. Of course, I cannot live without either! :)

  28. Came here from Nags' blog.

    This post has a picture of the whole breadfruit. :-)

  29. Totally new combo for cabbage. We used to make once in a blue moon that too will be a simple stir fry.

  30. Oh of course I do .This way and also with paanch phoron, shukno lonka and chopped tomatoes - no spices, no turmeric . Machher maatha diye too but never had it with shrimp. Do mail me the recipe when you have time-

  31. When do you add macher matha if you are making the amish version?

  32. The recipe, for a start, makes me want to close my laptop and run to my kitchen. Old school, and hearty, with a perfect little backstory, make it great reading .

  33. a favorite of mine in the winters! u can add a little crushed cardamom, clove and cinnamom. this tastes better than the garam masala powder. Add it when u're putting in the potatoes.

  34. this site acts like a gaurdian angel to me........


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