Friday, September 18, 2009

Shaak Ghonto -- Greens with Vegggies

Only in New York

This summer we went to NYC a lot. Ok, actually only twice over two months but that is "lot" by us country bumpkins standard.

On our last visit we went to the Children's Museum (CMOM). I had a whole lot of expectations, very few of which were met eventually.

As a child I used to love the Nehru Children's Museum & Birla Technology Museum in Calcutta. At each of our annual winter visits to the city, my Baba would take me and maybe a cousin or two to the museum, the zoo, the planetarium and the RBI building. Don't ask me why RBI, I vaguely remember it had an escalator which we loved to ride.

Those museums were a delight to visit. I am speaking of late seventies/early 80's and even then these museums were set up with recording studios where you could record your antics and then watch them on the tele, with voice activated doors which would open when you hollered "hello" and many such things.

This museum(the CMOM) sadly had very little to offer over all of its four floors. The second floor was for some reason totally devoted to Dora and Diego and that too with a lot of pieces missing. There were things like fire truck and mail van but not much hands on stuff.The basement was a little interesting and they do have workshops which might be good. But for a half day visit we didn't get to do any workshops. Does anyone know any interesting Children museum in NY-NJ-PA area ?

The girls had fun though. The littlest one was just happy to toddle all around the place and to pick & poke at all sorts of random objects. The older one was happy too, doing largely nothing and running around the little one. As I saw they were mainly glad to move about unrestrained, throw stuff around and make a mess without their Mom hollering "Clean up"

And boy, was I happy to be home, back to our little green patch in the suburb. It is official, I don't like a city, at least not for an extended period of time. I imagine myself being happy and content in a farm in some remote corner of the planet (ok a farm with all amenities & cheap labor), maybe it is just an idyllic dream , who knows.

For now the little veggie patch will do, where we , D has spent enough energy, money and carbon footprint to grow exactly one zucchini, plentiful squash blossoms, loads of cherry tomatoes and 20 okra to be precise. Oh and lets not forget pui saag/shaak or pohi greens or malabar spinach which have been totally paisa vasool (worth the money). Planting the stalks (as suggested by Soma), resulted in fast climbing stalks of tender, fresh, glistening pohi greens. They looked so pretty that we didn't even want to cut them down.

With these greens I made a saag/shaak ghonto. My Ma would do this with spinach and call it palang shaak er ghonto (spinach cooked with a medley of vegetables). I thought "Why not Pui". For the Palak saag er ghonto my Ma used a spice paste which she called dhone-jire-ada bata (whole corriander-whole cumin-ginger paste). Actually she used this particular paste for a lot of stuff.

Early morning, her kitchen help would sit on the kitchen floor with the shil-nora, a flat pock-marked square black slab of stone and on it would make pastes of all kinds of spices. As she moved the mortar on the flat piece, her bangles tinkled and made music with the jarring noise of the stones. Deftly she would sprinkle some water, gather the spices with her fingertips and roll the mortar until a smooth amalgamation of spices was born.

The sharp smell of the fresh spices and the the jarring noise of stone hitting stone closely followed by the milder, sweeter flavor of tea marked the beginning of a new day back home.

This forgotten paste is what I used for this ghonto, a simple mix of vegetables and greens, the flavors of the veggies only lightly enhanced by subtle touch of spices. And I forgot this dish also goes to dear blog friend Indosungod's Chard Challenge.


Shaak er Ghonto


Make the dhone-jire-ada bata. This is basically a paste of whole cumin, whole coriander and fresh ginger. My Ma's kitchen help used to make this using the shil-nora, the flavor would be very intense and the color a dark ugly shade of brown

I make it this way. In my mortar I add 1/2 tsp of Cumin powder, 1/2 tsp of Corriander powder and 1 tbsp of grated ginger. Then I make a smooth wet paste of the above with the aid of little water. The flavor is not as intense but will do

Chop Potatoes, Pumpkin and Zucchini in almost similar sized cubes. I had 1 cup of each. You can also add brinjal and radish

Wash and clean and then chop the greens. Spinach works very well for this recipe but I have used Pui Saag or Pohi greens. I had about 500 gm of the greens

Start Cooking

Heat Mustard Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. White oil will work too though Anita might not agree

Chaunk/Temper with 1 tsp of Paanch Phoron and 3 Dry Red Chili

When you see the spices dancing around, add 1 cup of cubed potato. Saute with less than 1/4 tsp of turmeric for couple of minutes.

Add the zucchini (~ 1 cup), saute again for couple of minutes and follow suit with the pumpkin(~ 1 cup)

Add the dhone-jire-ada bata and saute for 3-4 minutes. If you like it spicy add a little red chili powder now

Add the chopped pui saag (pohi greens) or spinach and give a good stir. Add salt to taste

The greens especially the pohi will release a lot of water which you want to dry out. Also the veggies will get cooked in this water. Keep cooking with intermittent stirring till the water has all evaporated into thin air and the veggies are cooked

Taste and adjust for seasoning. If the pumpkin is sweet you don't need to add any extra sugar, else a little sugar will enhance the taste

Similar Recipes:
Pui-Chingri -- Pohi Greens with Shrimp

Shubho Mahalaya to all my readers


  1. Hello Sandeepa

    You may like this museum

  2. At first glance, I thought they were betel leaves! Loved the saag bhaji. Never been to the NYCM and now know not to. The little one toddles around already?! wow!

  3. Must try making the Ghonto this way.I temper it with only Hing,noon,mishti.Add Mustard oil before putting off the fire.

  4. Ek shomoye dhone-jeere ada bata dewa kono kichu e khetam na. Ekhon parle shob kichu dei barir taste pawar jonne. :-)
    Shubho Mahalaya tomakeo Sandeepa. :-)

  5. Sandeepa,
    Paure holeo tomai Mahalayar suvecha janai :).

  6. Ok, this is on my list. Pooja Greetings to you!

  7. I remember visiting the museum in NY or maybe it was the Science museum but that was kind of fun though with lots of hands on stuff for the kids to play with.

    The malabar green looks beautiful.

  8. whats with all the vampire stuff coming up eh? what plans for durgo pooja? :)

  9. ami aaj pui shaak ghonto korlam.. oi shob mishiye.. bagane pui gulo buro hoye jachey.

    Sandeepa, all the childrens museum we have visited here were big disappointments.. i keep comparing everything to nehru children's museum & nothing compares to that. I have heard (we did not go) that one near old brige ( I think in middletown) is a good children's museum.

  10. Beautiful pic and looks delcious.

  11. Sandeepa, the Portland Children's Museum is pretty good - though I sheepishly adnit I have been there only once - the husband takes A :-)
    They have a lot of hands on things, I remember a music room, a room with water activities... and a bunch of other chil-approproiate scientific things. I guess I should appreciate it more! There maybe that can tempt you to make a Portland trip? :-)

  12. Try science museum far better than children museum, pretty interesting from toddler to adult with activities, experim,...
    Last year, I had okra plant I got 7 okras! I got to say D has a green thumb!

  13. Looks yum! Will try it. What brand of mustard oil, in the U.S, would you recommend?

    And I have just passed on a Kreativ Blogger award to you! (And tagged you..:))

  14. Mmm ...we too used to grind it in "ammi kallu" which has a flat big stone and a cylundrical stone to move over it. Chutneys and masalas taste great when ground in that. This masala combo too is very new. I think I can try it out with other veggies too. Thanks Sandeepa and why shouldn' t u send this to Heirloom recipes for MM and CLICK! It fits the theme.

  15. One of the few memories I have of my mother (she passed when I was 5)is of her grinding masalas on the "ammi kallu". Thanks for bringing back that memory!
    This is a very interesting recipe - don't usually use these spices for greens so will be nice to try something new!
    I will send this link to my Bong friend who complains that she hardly knows any veg Bong recipes ;)

    As for the museums, I'm surprised - I thought the US of A would have much more interesting stuff than we do!


  16. Sandeepa,

    I have been following your blog the past 2 years. Loved the last 2 posts...I just started my not quite 3 year old son in Pre-School and it has been interesting times and I empathize...the roasted tomato soup is usually made from a quick fix TJ's Organic Creamy Tomato Soup with an indian twist...
    I blog @

  17. Pujo wishes to you and your lovely family dear Sandeepa.

  18. Sandeepa, this post just proves you are my soul sister. I could have written the entire thing (including visits to the Children's Museum in India) - if you find anything worth doing here with kids that doesn't involve throwing money left and right and center please let me know. :-)


  19. p.s. except the part about cooking. That I would have bungled :-D
    p.s. how are the kids?

  20. Shaak Ghonto looks delicious!. Sharadiya Shubhechha Sandeepa, enjoy the pujo.

  21. hi sandeepa, theres a p"please touch" kids museum in philadelphia. i have heard its a good may want to give it a shot. even the Phila Zoo is a great place for kids...
    hope this helps

  22. Thanks Gauri

    Yeah my neighbor told me about the "Please Touch" museum a couple of days back. They liked it.

    Will go next Spring/Sumer :)

  23. I absolutely love this post. I was born and brought up in a small town in West Bengal and somehow loathe city life. But my father used to take us to Kolkata every winter during the Book Fair.
    Talking of pui shag, its one of my favorites.

  24. We didn't like it that much either.. Try the cherry hill, NJ children museum.. Its really great.. When we were in NJ we got some museum membership which covered lots of museum in USA.. If you need more info I can look for more info on that.. But cherry hill museum is really cool.. They even have one Indian villager room setting there:-) tree house, electric corner, construction site where they have half build house and kids can explore, tv channel setting and much more..

    email me at, if you need more info..

  25. Hi Sandeepa,

    I've never really figured out when to put in white oil and when to use mustard oil while cooking Bong dishes. Is there a rule of thumb that you know of? Please let me know, because this topic has spawned a lot of "healthy discussions" between me and my better half :)

  26. I tried your recipe with spinach (fresh, not frozen) and I liked it. But I couldn't make mine look so appealing like yours. Mine looked very mushy. Any suggestions?


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