Around 12 years ago, a then two or maybe three year old nephew of mine, in his freshly minted knowledge of English had said
"God is Lau"
I think he meant "Love".
Or maybe not.
I am never sure of such stuff.
Everytime I cook a lau--the lauki -- the bottlegourd, I think of that line and try to search for some deeper meaning.
But he also went around saying "God is GodParmesh" which I THINK does not deliver any profound message. Or maybe does.
The Bong's lazy and apparently wrong way of chopping bottlegourd peel
The bottlegourd---the one we call lau is a favorite summer vegetable for the bangali. It is a beautiful shade of green that captures your senses in the baked brown heat of an Indian Summer. Top it with its cooling qualities and high water content,and you have a veggie that is brought back from the haat every other day along with two more favored summer veggies -- potol and jhinge. By the time the hottest summer is over Bengalis are only too glad to tuck away their lau recipes and look around for a fulkopi.
Everytime my Ma made a Lau, she saved away the peel, the lau er khosha, to make a quick stir fry. She did a similar thing with potato skins. No points for guessing which I liked better.
Friday on a whim I saved the lau er khosha -- the peel. It is not a regular feature. Mostly I am lazy and throw it away. This time I didn't. I did not chop it fine though as is the norm. I have little patience with such things. The kitchen Nazi husband was aghast. "Jhiri Jhiri kata hoy ni!", he bemoaned. The peels are not julienned being the essence.
I ignored and posted the pic of the bottle gourd peels which were not "jhiri-jhiri" on my FB blog page. Well it turned out 99% of Bengalis were as aghast as the kitchen Nazi husband. Most of my blog readers are very polite and so they protested only meekly. I stir fried my un-jhirijhiri peels with kalonji and dry red chili. They tasted fine enough.
The Bong's right way of chopping bottlegourd peel
The next morning the husband who was obviously itching to get the peels done right got hold of another bottlegourd. He peeled strips of the pale green peel in three-quarter of an inch width and piled them high. Then he chopped them fine along the width -- jhiri jhiri. Everyone breathed relief. I made the stir fry again. It tasted the same. I guess if the skin or peel is a tough one the fine cut is necessary else the peel might burn before it gets fully cooked. In this case the peel was soft and tender and both ways worked.
But I dare not tell a Bong that. If it is Lau er Khosha -- they want it jhiri jhiri.
Peel the skin of a bottlegourd. Chop it in julienne. There will very little peel from a single gourd, I had only 1/4 cup of it.
Wash it well. Now toss it with little salt and turmeric powder. Keep aside for 10 mins.
Heat 1 tsp Mustard Oil
Temper oil with 1/4 tsp Kalo Jeera(Kalonji) and 2 Dry Red Chili
Drain any excess water from the peels and add it to above. Now saute the peel at medium high heat. Sprinkle water as needed.
Add sugar and salt to taste. Go easy on the salt as you added some earlier. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on top and cook till the skin has softened and is cooked.The poppy seed is optional.
A variation from Reshmi Bose as suggested on Facebook: Temper with Kalo jeera, sliced garlic and one green chili
Predominantly a Bong, who loves being a Mom and loves to cook among other things for the li'l one and the big ones.She loves to write too and you will find her food spiced up with stories. Mainly a collection of Bengali Recipes with other kinds thrown in, in good measure. A Snapshot of Bengali Cuisine