Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shukto -- almost a pictorial

Shukto, Bengali 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. Here is my Bengali Shukto Recipe

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.

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.

ShuktoPictorial, Bengali Shukto, Shukto Recipe

Now, if you know me or even if you don't, you should know that I am not your regular everyday shukto making kinda gal. Heck, I am not even a gal any more, but that is besides the matter. I do not get up at 5 in the morning and make shukto, dal, maacher jhol and bhaat. Ok, so nobody does that anymore. No one gets up at 5 apparently. I do at 5:30, tap the snooze button and drag myself out at 6. But even that is besides the matter.

The crux of the matter is I am not the kind who can make shukto without a thought and with a song on their lips. I cannot cook shukto for 20 people coming home for dinner. I have to weigh the decision in my head for several days, shrug off a near reached decision several times, make long lists about six different vegetables, tear them off and then eat a sandwich from Panera. After all this the shukto gets cooked probably twice or maybe four times in a year, once in each season, not bad.

This does not mean that the husband, who loves shukto more than anything does not get his fill. I do occasionally end up cooking it

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. http://www.ayurbalance.com/explore_foodbittergourd.htm
Bitter gourd is also known to cure or at least control diabetes.

Jhinge or Ridge Gourd -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luffa
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


Potatoes and Radish--> Beans & RidgeGourd --> Green Plantain --> Eggplant --> Bitter gourd

When I last posted my Shukto recipe in 2006, in the beginning days of my blogging, my Ma was here and she was the one who barked out the instructions. That post had several comments, some said the standard "great recipe", a couple made it and liked it, someone protested about not using "radhuni". Now radhuni is an elusive ingredient in my pantry. My Ma, her mother my dida all being probashi bangalis(bengalis settled outside of West bengal) adjusted and substituted in absence of this spice which you rarely find outside Bengal. 

Spices for Shukto

However, now I do have Radhuni in my pantry, used only for Shukto or for a Dal phoron.
Radhuni, Methi seeds, Tej Patta(not in pic), Hing and grated Ginger -- these are the spices I use for phoron or tempering my Shukto.
Next is mustard paste, a paste of yellow mustard seeds and a little bit of poppy seeds. Do not every put any Chili or Chilli powder in shukto. It's a strict No.
I have also found that a pinch of Sunrise Shukto Masala or a pinch of dry roasted Paanchphoron +Cumin powder sprinkled at the very end, adds a nice touch to the Shukto.

Ghee --> Methi, Bay leaf, Radhuni & Hing --> Mustard Paste & Grated Ginger

Having said this, let me make it clear that if you do not like my shukto, pick up the phone, dial 011-91-33 and any number after that and get the detailed recipe from your Mom, your Ma-in-law, your aunt, your uncle or anyone who is the shukto master in your family. You can even skype. It is easy now days. It does not cost a bomb to outsource a recipe from overseas.Tell me what they said and we can chat.

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





1 Alu or Potato
1/2 of a large Mulo or White Radish or a bunch of small red ones,
1 medium sized Jhinge or ridge Gourd,
1 medium sized KanchaKola or Green Plantain
1 Begun or Eggplant(the slender one),
1 Uchche or Bitter Gourd,
a bunch(about 10) of long green beans or string beans
5-6 Drumsticks

Spices for Tempering

1/2 tsp Radhuni(optional. In it absence use Paanchphoron), 
1/2 tsp Methi(fenugreek) seeds
2 bay leaves,
a pinch of Hing(asafoetida)
2 tsp grated ginger

Other Spices

1 Tbsp Mustard paste( Soak and grind

1 tbsp mustard seeds + 1 tsp poppy seeds + little salt to make this)

Dry roast 1 tsp paanchphoron + 1/2 tsp Cumin and grind to a powder. We need a pinch of this. OR use a pinch of Sunrise Shukto Masala

Salt - to taste
Sugar - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp to sprinkle on vegetables during sauteing

Ghee and Vegetable Oil
Milk - 1/2 Cup or less
Vadi or Dal Bori

Start Cooking

Make a list and buy the following vegetables on you next errand

1 Alu or Potato
1 Mulo or White Radish or a bunch of small red ones,

1 Jhinge or ridge Gourd,

1 KanchaKola or Green Plantain

1 Begun or Eggplant(the slender one),
1 Uchche or Bitter Gourd,
a bunch(about 6-8) of long green beans or string beans
You can also add drumsticks, zucchini etc.

Wash and chop the vegetables along the length. See pic here.

Soak and grind 
1 tbsp mustard seeds + 1 tsp poppy seeds + little salt, 
to a paste with little water. We will need 1 Tbsp of Mustard paste for this dish

Heat Vegetable Oil in a Kadhai/Frying pan

Saute the vegetables in batches, bitter gourd being the last, lightly. Sprinkle a little turmeric powder while sauteing. Remove and keep aside

Fry the vadi(10-15 small ones) till they are brown and crispy.

Heat 2 Tbsp of ghee+ 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil in a Kadai/Frying Pan

Temper with 
1/2 tsp Radhuni(optional. In it absence use Paanchphoron), 
1/2 tsp Methi(fenugreek) seeds
2 bay leaves,
a pinch of Hing(asafoetida)

Add 1 tbsp of grated Ginger.

When they start sputtering and you get the aroma of hing , add 1 Tbsp mustard paste

Add the sauteed veggies and mix well. About 2-3 minutes

Add 1 Cup water. Add salt to taste. Bring it to a simmer. Cover and cook till veggies are cooked well. 

Add about 1/2 Cup of Milk (less if using whole Milk). Simmer at low heat.

Once the vegetables are almost done add  1/2-1 tsp of sugar.

Add the fried vadis at the end.

Finish off with a pinch of aromatic Shukto Masala (the Sunrise brand) or a dry roasted Paanchphoron + Cumin powder

Serve shukto with white rice

Shukto, Shukto Recipe, bengali shukto

Bengali Shukto Recipe


  1. Absolutely love your pictorial. Radhuni is something new for me, may be my mom will know as she grew up in bengal. But, as it did not impact your taste, does it matter? :)

    1. it does .... the flavour of radhuni is the main essence of shukto

  2. Good to see a post after quite a while Sandeepa. Guess Shukto will be the appetiser. Never like shukto which was made at home. Then I had the ghoti version which was sweeter and cloudier in Mumbai restaurants. Liked that. I'd got Cookme shukto moshala a few times from Calcutta. Quite authentic

  3. sabar barite shukto'r recipe dekhi ektu ektu alada. amar maa kakhano randhuni den na tabe ak kakima'r barite khelam randhuni die, process ta ektu alada. khete aki kinti gandhota asadharon. tabe sab sobzi alada fry koro kano. uchhe bheje rekhe baki sabzi to aksangei bheje nite paro. tabe oi jeta narom sobzi seta pare dite hay. plz kichu mone korona. ami ebhabei kori tai bollam.

  4. Hi Sandeepa, long time no see, hope you're all well! Isn't this an interesting recipe -- with milk! I'm glad it's not ordinary celery seed needed, as that's not a favorite. I love your photo tutorial -- all those veggies look so good. This may also be the only time I've seen bitter gourd mixed with other veg?

    Enjoyed reading your tale, as always :)

  5. Since none of my relatives will know anything about shukto no use calling anyone. I will stick to your recipe. Bet it will turn out delicious.

  6. Shukto, wild celery seeds are totally new to my knowledge. For a Bong recipe- i can only refer your place :)
    The pictorial looks great!

  7. ei ekta ranna, chhotobelay sokkole naak sNitkay, ar boRobelay jigges korle top 5 foods er moddhye naam bole. amio lokkho rokom shukto kheyechhi (21 bochhor boyoser por), konta authentic ke jane. tobe ei rannata amader baRir motoi dekhte hoyechhe.

  8. Mulo (raddish) ta na dilei bhalo hoi mulor nijossho gandher jonno. Pepe (raw papaya) aar ekti prodhan sabji ja shukto-te deoa chale. Radhuni aar posto bete dile bhalo flavor aashe.

    panchphoron seasoning-er jonno byabohar korte paren.

  9. I've eaten this in a Calcutta restaurant, quite liked it. I too, would behave like you when it came to having to make this dish, I guess. Nice post, funny!

  10. Sandeepa,
    Every home has it's own way of preparing traditional recipes and to call one it's authentic is simply erroneous well thats what I believe :-)..Radhuni or no radhuni/celery seeds I rarely prepare shukto..but when ever i do -
    Radish/Drumsticks/green banana/Raw or green Papaya/Brinjal/potato and bori ..thats what goes in my shukto..Brinjal/ridge gourd can be added later as this cook easilyGrind the panch phoron to powder and add in the end for some xtra flavour but again it's not essential.
    @Kalyan- I am going to buy the cookme shokto moshla soon thanks for mentioning ...
    [[Tumaar FB te salmon er bishoye post korte giye confuse kore gilaam..ami still FB te onek jinish bojhte pari na ..
    tobe going off-topic -
    Salmon with bones or salmon steaks ke deep pan fry korle and then gravy te cook korle ekto soft hoye ..nahole without bones pan fry kora ekto difficult hoye and soft hoye na]]..Bhalo thakbe ..hugs and smiles

  11. I love shukto but have never made it, even though I live in Kolkata. Since I make my few Bengali dishes exclusively from your blog, shall attempt this soon:)

  12. Hearing it for the first time...Lookd very interesting

  13. Sandeepadi,

    Choto belay shukto dekhlei naak shitkatam aar ekhon shokh kore tomar blog theke shuktor recipe note korchi. eta ki old age-er effect na bari theke dure thakar effect?

    As always, leha aar photogulo ashadharon hoyeche.


  14. Hi

    Tumi mone karo probasi rai tomar blog dakhe - na na! amra ritimoto kolkata basi rao tomar authentic realistic ar sincere sikkha kaje lagai. by the way, sukto r khetre nijer experience share na kore parlam na! akdin bari te regular cook na asay swechhay nije ghare sukto rannar bhar niye chilam. setai amar ei byapare prothom exposure. that was under guidance of my ma in law. she was giving expert commentary from the door of the kitchen. i was so nervous (might be within 1st year of my marriage, long time back), i burnt the uche and got totally confused. lastly i managed with chini and it was really not too bad! at least i liked it. after all sukto bole katha. believe me, kolkatay bose sukto radhar katha bhable gaye jwar ase. still, as a bong mom tomar inspiration e dekhi ki korte pari...... wish u all the best. amra 7 janmer kolkata basi. kintu bhiyen er baun chara redhuni use korte ma / ma in law kauke dekhi ni. tai amar taste bud aktu kam spicy sukto e bhalo base.

  15. Loved reading this post and I have to say I have never had this dish. Sounds and looks delish. I think it is normal when one lives outside of you state or country you learn to adjust. When I tell my family back home that i freeze chillies, curry leaves etc... they all think i am nuts.

  16. Priya

    I did not have Radhuni. I used Celery seeds but that is apparently not radhuni.


    Shukto appetizer, why ? I am not fond of Shukto either. That Cookme mashla is good, I have tried it once.


    Thik i bolecho, shobar bari tei ei traditional ranna gulo ektu different. Ek sathe bhaja i bhalo. Amar Ma usually alada bheje kore tobe majhe majhe shob eksatheo diye dey. In fact kokhono barir jonye ranna korle, sabji gulo bhajeo na, halka seddho kore diye dey.


    Good to see you too. have been kinda busy with work, the kids etc. and don't get time to blog much. Will hop over to your place.


    That puts all my doubts to rest :-D


    Ha, ha :)


    Ami eknono Shukto jotheshto baje bashi, tai bole boyesh amar kom hoy ni. Oi janye beshi shukto khawar experience o nei.

  17. Nabankur

    Mulo ta bad debo bolchen ? Thik i katha, update kore debo, optional bole


    In my time, you could never find such dishes in a restaurant. Guess I am old.


    As Kalyan said, the Cookme mashla is pretty good. My Mom got it once and I have used it for shukto.
    Ami Salmon usually fillet kine bake kori, bhalo hoy. Kintu ei bar e jhol e directly diye dekchilam. Jemon bolcho ektu beshi sloww aanch e fotale mone hoy soft hobe


    As some of the readers said, get the Cookme Shukto masla. You don't have to worry about the spices that way



  18. Sutapa

    Ekhono shuktor proti amar kono bhalobasaha jonmai ni ar ami tomar theke dher boro. Amar mone hoy effect ta bari theke dure thakar i beshi


    Sottiy, Kolkatay boshe o tumi amar blog poro ? Jene khub i khushi holam. Ekta i mushkil bhul bhal gul mara jabe na tahole ;-)


    You are right. We get by with a lot of stuff that is not traditionally acceptable

  19. My mother suggested me to sprinkle roasted pNachphoron gNuro and little bit of ghee once the shukto is done and cover it for few minutes. It adds a whole lot of flavor. I use radhuni in phoron...I love the flavor. Oh yes, bori and dNata...never to be missed...but here in US, you have to deal with it if you don't have them handy.

  20. Love the step by step pics. Anek din eta banai nei, thanks for reminding with this great post. I did get some radhuni when I went this time. Pathabo?

  21. I just made your earlier version of Shukto yesterday and it turned out yummy. In Andhra we make dishes with mustard paste but that's only on rare occasions. So the shukto for us was a dish with explosion of mustard flavor--I personally loved it.
    Also I wanted to thank you for all the Bengali dishes you have posted on your blog. I'm running a week long Bengali themed marathon and have been perusing your recipes a lot. Do check my blog when you get a chance.

  22. As usual a great pictorial narration... thanks Sandeepa. Shukto probably is one of the key family recipes that get passed on from generation to generation.... so every home has a unique recipe of its own....Will definitely try this variation. For lazy Moms who want to cook traditional dishes for their family once in a while, ready made Shukto masala is available in Kolkata. It is good. You may like it as well. :)

  23. to my earlier post pls add lazy moms like ME pls pls sorry for the omission

  24. Soma

    Thanks. I see a lot of people use the paanchphoron powder, will update as a not in my post and will try next


    Thanks sweetheart. Don't bother. I will source it when Mom comes next. Did you use it and like it ?


    Thanks so much.


    I have tried the Shukto Masla, it really is good. I would totally rely on it if I could buy it here and make shukto more often. I am as lazy as they get so don't take all that credit yourself ;-)

  25. Ami amar haater shukto bhalobashi ... ar tomar shukto bhalobashbo na? Besides skype won't be free for long. :D
    Jokes apart ... like Soma said ami o shukno kholaye bhaja paanch phoron powder use kori. Radhuni amio ekhane payi na .. tobe amar Jethima Radhuni paste use kore along with a little milk.

  26. Loved your "baje bashi" :-)

  27. @Jaya, thanks ...aajkaal paw jai na but the stock is temperamental

    Sandeepa, dadu didar shonge Mayapur gechhilam as a kid. read that shukto is an appetiser as it's bitterness makes you hungry

  28. I just wanted to say thanks for being so kind and nice to me. I know that I owe you an email and I promise to write soon.

    Sending tight hugs.

  29. Absolutely lovely looking recipe. Sounds new to me... YUM!

  30. One of my fav dishes and has been promised to be made once I am up to eating again normally- by my bong friend along with fish curry jhol style. I guess if it weren't for the batchwise vegetable frying it would be easier to make more regularly. I'm going to try your recipe when I'm better

  31. Sharmila
    Eita try korbo next time. Paanch Phoron dile nishchoy sundor hobe


    Yeah that is why Bengali meals always start with something bitter to cleanse your palate. I had heard somewhere that French have the same theory with hors d'oevures


    My pleasure




    How are you doing ? Shukto is good during convalescence. As I said in one of my comments, my Ma sometimes, just lightly pre-cooks the veggies except eggplant and bittergourd, instead of frying. She then proceeds to the regular Shukto steps

  32. With milk, now that seems interesting! How have you been? :)

  33. great shukto recipe...even I was looking for RaNdhuni all over, now I am relieved...afterall why break your head for something which would not even make a difference ?

  34. Bengali Mom in Mumbai

    RADHUNI WILL make a difference. People who use it swear by it. Only I haven't

  35. I'm better now Sandeepa - Thanks. Just posted on my blog after almost three months! Hope I can continue.

  36. Hello,

    I wanted to cook shukto and was frantically looking for it's recipe. Since my mom's expired, I don't have anyone to ask either. Bingo ! Found the exact recipe I wanted in your blog and it's exactly how my ma used to cook ! It was good and my dad certified it's as good as my mom used to make. THANKS to you !!!
    - Debjani

  37. Amio baire thaki.. but shukto bhison bhalobasi..
    ekhaneo radhuni pai na..
    wild celery seed khuje dekhbo.. radhuni chara j obdi shukto khaini.. tobe aasa kori ei wild celery ta pele shukto baniye moja pabo..
    r onek dhonnobad tomar recipe gulo prochur sahajjo kore amay ..
    gulf country te r o somossa ekhane posto paina.. deshe na gele posto khetei parina..


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