Sunday, February 06, 2011

Labra -- for Saraswati Pujo


Saraswati Pujo is two days away and a reader sent in a mail asking for the recipe of Labra. Khichuri is an important part of this day for the Bengalis and labra is a mixed veggie dish popular as a side to the Khichuri. Since I never really liked Khichuri all that much, the day did not mean much to me food wise. There were other incentives of course like the sweet & sour kul, visiting the Pujos  with friends and not doing any studies since the goddess resided on top of all our school books.

So anyway the main point is khichuri never excited me. Along with khichuri came labra, a mix of all vegetables and tomato chaatni a staple Saraswati Pujo lunch in most Bengali homes, at least the Ghoti homes. The intelligent Bangals of course ate their ilish.

Now I have never made a "Labra". I have made a ghonto, a charchari, a paanch-mishali but not a labra. I didn't even realize that I have never cooked a labra until I got this mail. Bengali mixed vegetable dishes are largely similar with delta differences and it is hard to decide whether you are cooking a ghonto or a labra when you have chopped and put in at least five different vegetables and forgotten whether you added ginger or bhaja masla.

I theoretically had an idea how to cook one though and said so in my mail. I mean five and more vegetables and little or no spice. How difficult can this get ?

But then I had an icky feeling in my stomach. The kind you have while explaining escape velocity to someone. Not that I go around doing such explaining but you know what I mean. Theoretically you know perfectly what escape velocity is but you have never experienced it and you think what if it doesn't work ? What if I run at a speed greater than escape velocity and still am unable to "break free", you think. Agreed NASA has done it but I haven't. So the doubt lingers.

That feeling bothered me for the last two days and finally I chopped up some radish, eggplant, cabbage, potatoes, butternut squash and cooked a "Labra" . The theoretical part was out and I had done the practical experiment which was a good thing because the labra made the husband immensely happy.Such simple joys of nature.

It was easy except for the chopping part but even that wasn't too bad.So essentially labra needs to have some leafy vegetables, usually thick cut cabbage along with firm veggies like potatoes and radish and soft ones like pumpkin and eggplant. As per my knowledge, it also DOES NOT need mustard but some ginger does it good.It tastes really good with Khichuri or some Dal and white rice.

I will try to post the Khichuri recipe which has been in my draft for long. If not make your own and enjoy it with this beautiful vegetable dish with a horrendous name on the 8th.


Labra -- a mixed vegetable dish

Prep: Vegetables are the most important and only ingredient of a Labra. There is very little of other spices involved. So it is important the vegetables you use for this dish are fresh and taste good. Chop the following vegetables in roughly equal sizes and more or less equal proportion

Potato -- 1 large, peeled and chopped along the length
Eggplant ~ 1 Japanese egg plant, chopped in cubes
Radish ~ about 1/2 cop of cubed red radish
Cabbage ~ 1&1/2 cup of chopped cabbage. Cabbage should be chopped not thin but should be little thickly cut
Pumpkin or Butternut Squash(choose one that sweet and not over ripe) ~ 1 cup peeled and cubed. Since I find it difficult to peel a B.Squash, I microwave the squash for about 3 minutes and then peel

Cauliflower -- quarter of a medium sized one
Cauliflower leaves and stalk -- the tender leaves and tip of the stalks.

You can also add vegetables like few cauliflower florets, cauliflower stems and some drumsticks

Note: I have also done labra with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini etc. All of them work well. Whatever vegetables you use, try to add little pumpkin and potatoes to get the best taste.

Start Cooking

Heat White Oil or Mustard Oil in a heavy bottomed deep saucier or Kadhai

Temper the hot oil with a pinch of Hing, 1 tsp of PaanchPhoron and 3 broken dry red chili. When the spices pop add about 1 tsp of minced ginger. Note: You can also add ginger towards the end to get a more gingery flavor.

First add the potatoes. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and saute the potatoes for half a minute.

Add the radish, followed by cauliflower. Saute covered for about 5 minutes and then follow with the eggplant. Saute for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle some water if the veggies tend to stick.Note: Add carrots/cauliflower/broccoli if using. The trick is to add the tougher veggies first followed by the softer and leafy veggies.

Next goes the pumpkin or butternut squash. Mix everything together. If the pumpkin is sweet you don't need to add sugar else add a little sugar towards the end. Cover and cook for next 4-5 minutes

Now add the cabbage or the cauliflower leaves or both. Mix all together and saute for a minute.
Add salt to taste. Add 2-3 slit green chili and a tsp more of grated ginger. Give a good stir. Add little water about say 1/2 cup and cover and cook. Check in between, if more water is needed add more water and cook till veggies are done. Break up some of the potatoes and the pumpkin unevenly with the back of your spatula and give a final mix.The dish should be a little moist and not totally dry.

Let it sit for 30 minutes or more, for all the flavors to come together. Serve with rice and dal or with Khichuri for Pujo.


  1. Sandeepa,

    Missed you a lot in the blogosphere. Hope you make frequent appearances and not deprive us of the pleasure of reading your posts!

    Shubho Saraswati Pujo to you


  2. A whole lot of veggies, am sure with Panchphoran as the spice mix this will be a delight!

  3. wow! what a beauty! your blog is a delight to read..

  4. Labra and khichuri ... the best combi in the world. I love to have this with luchi too ... ektu beshi jol diye makha makha kore breakfast e. Onek, onek bhalo laagche to see you post again Sandeepa! :-)

  5. Labra looks absolutely inviting..

  6. I love the name of the dish, i have never had this looks yumm.

  7. Love the dish and goes fine with khichudi :)

  8. Hey BongMom,
    Nice to see you back!The labra looks so good - I guess you can add almost anything to a labra,just that the spices have to be the same for that typical 'Pujo pujo' taste!

    Loved reading your post - as always!:)


  9. lajawab labra reciper jonno onek onek dhonnobad.

  10. Happy to see ur post, never knew Saraswati Pujo falls in this time of year.
    The labra is simply awesome :)

  11. oh, I so love saraswati pujo as we used to dress up in saris and go from pandal to pandal enjoying. And, surely how can I not love khichuri and labra. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Without even going into the details of Labra (which am sure will be very good) so happy to see you back...


  13. Good to see you back San! You do make it a point to cook special dishes for festivals...I have to learn from that! Escape velocity....huh??!!

  14. Please, please don't leave us in the lurch again. I have sooo missed your colourful and delicious blog - it is the only blog that I subscribe to.I will make Labra (happened to have got a begoon in the fridge)with Khichuri tonight...can't wait!

  15. jak, kodin ghure ghure paaye byatha hoye gechhilo.

  16. What is delta difference? Minor differences? I looked up escape velocity on Wikipedia! :)

  17. Relieved to see you back. Best wishes for the haatey khori

  18. Sitting in bed with a bad viral and I did not read through the whole post as well. The picture of the bowl full of Labra did it for me. The congestion felt better and I was perhaps drooling. Do not have energy to make it for Saraswati Pujo this year, will remain content with your post and picture.

    Hope the hathay kori went well.


  19. Sandeepa,
    I do remember on Saraswati Pujo , khichuri and labra, payesh and chatni was a special menu ..onek din hoyeche eyi Saraswati Pujor special menu kheye :-).LoL on escape velocity and delta difference :-)..Good to see you back with a lovely post..keep posting feels so good to read them..hugs and smiles

  20. Haha.. escape velocity! Always good to hear your profound thoughts Bong Mom! :D Happy Saraswati Pujo to you!

  21. i made the labra this Saraswati pujo, with dali kichudi and chaatni :) and it was awesome. :) 5 helpings of veges. the easy way.

  22. You were missed!! :) Welcome back. Another mixed vegetable dish to try - you Bongs really like mixing up your veggies don't you!

    ...I love khichuri/khichdi/pongal - basically the rice lentil mixture in all its forms.

  23. Sandeepa, congratulations for having presented a wholesome meal, chock full of goodness! Good healthy vegetables will keep off the food cravings, while at the same time helping you maintain your ideal weight and fight off the various obesity related diseases rampant today. For some expert tips and suggestions on healthy eating habits visit our blog at Knorrseven.

  24. Sandeepa, Its a pleasure reading your anecdotes and recipes........Please dont stop.
    Have you read Minakshie Dasgupta's Calcutta Cookbook.Your writing reminds me of her book.
    I am a foodie, and love to read and learn about food.

  25. I made this recipe over the weekend - a bit late for pujo but it was good all the same. Only complaint is how fast it was finished! I had to make a second batch, which was good as it used up the rest of the butternut squash.

    Why is Labra a horrible name though?

  26. Labra and Panchmishali tarkari are same with a little difference. Labra means,all the vegetables are mixed up so much after cooking that they appear to be clinging to one another where as in panchmishali, vegebles do not like to cling anyone.
    If you put few leaves and stems of cauliflower leaves, the flavour becomes devine.

  27. The recipe was easy, and came out well too, but I wd check the times, it took me significantly longer for the different sautes, and even the final cooking ( definitely not a 5 min job!). Otherwise a good recipe.

    1. Don't need to really fry them individually, just saute and let the full cooking get done only at the end. I never said 5 mins, if you read the recipe correctly it says "Add little water about say 1/2 cup and cover and cook. Check in between, if more water is needed add more water and cook till veggies are done." The "veggies are done" is the keyword. It is a mix so the individual sauteeing is not that important

  28. Hi BongMom,

    Question for you: can you clarify what it means to 'saute covered'? Do you mean that it should be covered the whole time and not stirred? Should the heat be lowered during the covering to prevent burning? I noticed at this point I need to add a little water and after that the other vegetables that are added later are 'stewed & steamed' rather than sauteed (which I think of as the verb for stirring in oil). Thanks in advance for the clarification! - Moni

  29. Labra with luchi is one of my favourite Bengali combos. I hail from the other part of Bengal and we regularly have this for breakfast. I recently started a food vlog/blog and will be posting my mother's version of Labra around Pohela Boishakh (
    Thank you BongMom, for your erudite posts, and for rekindling a passion for authentic recipes in me :)


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