Friday, February 15, 2013

Dida's Gota Sheddho -- traditions reborn

Before I go into the recipe of Gota Sheddho let me be honest and tell you that this is the first time I made it.

I had never made Gota Sheddho before. Neither has my Mother. It is my Dida, my Ma's mother, whose Gota Sheddho is what I remember today. Her Gota Sheddho was much in demand in the North Kolkata neighborhood she lived. Younger women who had turned new mothers would send out a request to her before Saraswati Pujo. "Mashima, amar jonyo ektu gota deben", they would say.  In the years that we lived in Kolkata, she would send it for my Mother too, in steel tiffin carrier boxes, the day after Saraswati Pujo.

The dish did not look appetizing with its dull brown black color and I never really wanted to taste it. It was supposed to be had cold and my Ma would implore me to have at least a serving of what Dida has sent.. "It is good for you", she would say. I would swallow it like I would a lot of other veggies at that age. Fast. Pushing the morsels at the back of my throat.  Refusing to taste it with my tongues or senses. I wish I had better adjectives to describe that dish my Dida cooked with love for the wellbeing of her children and then theirs. But I hardly tasted the dish and every year I wondered if the young women in my Dida's neighborhood had gone bonkers to send request for "Gota Sheddho".

"Why would anyone want to have Gota Sheddho ?", I often wondered.

The Five vegetables: Red Potatoes, Purple Eggplant, Green Sheem, Whole peas in a pod, Baby Spinach

Yesterday on my FB page, a reader asked if I had a recipe for Gota Sheddho."Nope", I told her. And there the matter rested. Until another reader came by and shared a recipe of her Mother's Gota Sheddho. Anuradha's Mom's recipe was simple like it should be and it instantly reminded me of my Dida's Gota Sheddho. I had a hunch that this was how Dida made it. Strangely, at that point, I did not remember it as the dull black unappetizing dish instead I remembered it as something my Dida cooked. It must have been good, I told myself, she was a fantastic cook after all.

So I called my Mother. I wanted to know the story behind the dish. Why was it had cold ? Why was it cooked at all on Saraswati Pujo ? Information trickled down and a tradition shaped up.

I did not have Masshkolai so I used Green Moong

Ma said, "The day after Saraswati Pujo is Sheetol Shoshti. Shoshthi is the goddess of  fertility and worshiped by Mothers as a guardian angel of their offspring. Sheetol==Cool. And on the day of sheetol shoshthi, cold gota sheddho that had been cooked the previous day, is to be had by Mothers worshipping Ma Shoshthi.

The way your Dida made Gota Sheddho was by boiling kali urad(the urad dal with skin) known as maashkolai in Bengali with five different vegetables in season which were to be added whole, little salt, sugar to taste, some pieces of ginger and drizzle of  raw mustard oil to finish off. The vegetables most commonly used were small red potatoes, small eggplant, sheem, whole green peas in their pod and baby spinach."

Okay, so the Gota Sheddho was cooked on Saraswati Pujo but had cold only the next day and it was done apparently for the long life of one's children.

My Mother also said that on the day of Sheetol Shoshthi, Dida wrapped the sheel-nora in a fresh new cotton cloth and worshiped it. It was the sheel-nora's day off and no masala(spices) were to be ground or made into a paste. Amazingly, the gota sheddho is cooked sans any spices also. Not even a speck of turmeric is added to it. I am not sure if this was as a respect for the sheel-nora but that is how the story goes.

Now that I think of it, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the whole thing. Saraswati Pujo heralds the advent of Spring and with Spring came many diseases in those days. So along with the prayers for well being of the children, the food cooked was something healthy and brimming with nutrients from the steamed fresh new vegetables and dals. A diet like that would keep any disease at bay, given that you had it every day.

Now, there are many different versions of this dish. Each home in Bengal has their own little touch to Gota Sheddho. I closely followed my Dida's recipe, as narrated by my Ma. But I had to adapt and make some changes. I did not have the black urad dal and so I used green moong. I used five vegetables but did not follow the rule of six parts or numbers of each. Also instead of the raw mustard oil I heated up mustard oil, tempered it with few dry red chillies and added that oil to finished dal.

I am not a ritualistic person and I did not do this with the religious goal in mind. Everyday I pray for my children's well being and I do not believe that having a cold dal on a certain Spring day would do any extra good. But I am sure my Dida and the women of their generations had their own reasons and nothing beats the fact that this is a dish brimming with nutrition. I liked it hot though. And a squeeze of lime made it better.

 Dida's Gota Sheddho -- my version
The day before cooking, soak 1/2 cup of Green Moong (1 Cup if you want more dal type) in water. Actual recipes asks for Black urad aka maash kolai. 

The next day, in a big pot, add the soaked dal. In my case this was the pressure cooker.

Along with the dal add the following veggies whole. No chopping or cutting. Makes life easy.
Small Red Potatoes
Small Round eggplant
Whole peas in their pods
Baby Spinach with stems
Ideally each vegetable should be added in six-es. But I did not follow this rule

Add enough water to the pot to cover the veggies and dal.
Add salt to taste.
Add 5-6 whole green chillies
Add a tbsp of grated or minced ginger
Note: Instead of only ginger you can use this -- 1 tsp of fennel seeds(mouri) + 2" inch piece of ginger, pounded in a mortar-pestle. Amazing flavor.

Cook till dal and veggies are done. Since I did it in a whistling pressure cooker, I did it for about 5 whistles at low medium heat.

When done, dry off excess water if you wish. Add sugar to taste. Drizzle some mustard oil. Serve hot or cold.
Instead of raw oil, I heated 1-2 tsp of Mustard Oil (more if you want, I keep oil low) in a separate kadhai. Tempered the hot oil with 4 Dry Red Chillies. Added the Oil+Red Chillies to the cooked dal.

This dish also goes to Jaya's event  "I cooked Gota Sheddho in my Indian pressure cooker and it did not blow up in my face".


  1. This is traditional...

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  2. I was told that the mashkolai and the small eggplants are good for prevention of small pox - not sure whether there is any truth to it.

    1. Small pox is eradicated completely from our country.... Gain some education

    2. She is saying about the times when gota seddho was done with all the good things which were immunity booters and protected the body from several diseases that came along with spring. One of them was small pox. Also when you say eradicated, it is because of vaccination. If not vaccinated you can still get it. Recently a kid in my daughter's school(here in the US) got small pox, in a less severe form, but still.

  3. Hey,
    Just had gota sheddho for lunch and chuckled when I opened your page.
    We are 'bangaals' living in a north cal neighbourhood and every year, thoughtful 'ghoti' neighbours send us the 'gota'.
    when I was young, I hated it. Maa had to literally force down a spoonful down my throat.
    Over time, I have realised that the health benefits are too many over the small compromise of lack of taste. Also, as you grow older, somehow rituals and traditions start to appeal more.
    Hope your daughters realise the wholesome goodness and sheer maternal love and concern that this dish stands for :)


  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Like yours, my mom never made gota sheddo and only gota sheddo I had was courtsey of my neighbours. Last night after I finished posting my gota sheddo recipe,, I saw you had posted it few minutes before. Yours was a wonderful read. I skipped ginger since I heard that no spice is added to it. Nonetheless, wonderful dish and wonderful story too.

  6. I made this today for lunch with moong and urad dal mix and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Loves to read this post Sandeepa. This dish looks so nutritious. I would love to give it a try.
    Btw..I visited a Bengali restaurant this time in Bangalore. I remembered you when we were there. All of my knowledge of Bengali food is from this blog.

    1. Which restaurant was this ? When we lived in B'lore there were no Bengali restaurants but in the last few years some Bengali restaurants have become famous both in Calcutta and outside. Also what are the things you ate ? Would love to know :)

  8. Very informative post. What is Sheem? Forgive my ignorance... I have black whole urad.must give this a go.

    1. Sheem is Hyacinth Beans. Wait, I should update in the post.
      If you don't have sheem, use any other beans.

      Let me tell you though this recipe is very simple and basic. I still do not understand why people went ga ga over it. As someone said in the comments, the black urad and the veggies were seen as a prevention against small pox so the "health" thing might be it.

      Also my Ma just called and said, that her sister also adds a little fennel ground with the ginger which adds to the flavor. You improvise on this. I will now make this often but I am thinking while serving I might top it with fresh dhania patta, cut tomatoes etc.

    2. Thanks Sandeepa. Yes I was thinking of tomatoes and a bit more spice too,otherwise quite a healthy dish.

  9. Never heard of this dish. Sounds interesting and nutritious.

  10. Like most non bengalis I have never heard of the dish but it looks interesting.

  11. Saraswati pujor porer diner kotha mone koriye dei. Asadharon baniyecho gota seddo Sandeepa. Feeling nostalgic now.....

    today's recipe:

  12. Hi, I love your blog and feel that you are a wonderful bong :) Most of your Bengali dishes are unknown to me but I would love to try many of them:) glad i found your blog :)

  13. Has Gota-Shedhho ever made anyone's mouth water? It just did mine. Eta banate hobe - how strange that I've never had it before. I do remember the sheel-nora's day off though :)
    I also made your Thai fish in banana leaves the other day - and it was A-MA-ZING! I used Basa, my fish of the moment.

  14. This one reminded me my childhood! Loved it! I used to go to my mashi's house to gorge on "gota sheddo".... I just relived those moments with this blog of your! Thanks! :)

  15. Eta miss kore giyechilam. Gota sheddho ... chotobelaye kheyechi ... emni sheddho veggies bhaloi lage ... but yes , hot. Sometimes simple things give a whole new taste and feel to life. I remember the hobisshi we had when my dadu passed away and ekhono oi simple taste bhulte parina.

  16. tomar gota sheddho try korechhilam, khubbhalo laglo kheye, tobey aami taar sathe shudhu ektu mouri foron ar olpo mouri guro-o diyechhilam - emni beuli-r daal jebhabe banaay ar ki. eta likhte giye mon ey porlo last week Quick Indian cooking er Veg dhanshak try korechhilam - 3 rokom daal diye (aami oboshyo toor er bodol ey beuli mane urad daal diyechhilam) - otao khete besh bhalo hoyechhilo

    1. Mausumi, hyaan Ma pore bollo kalo urad er korl ektu mouri-ada bata ditey. Tumi ki kalo urad er korle na ki shada ta , jeta diye biulir dal banai ?
      Mallika'r veg dhanshak ta dekhe try korte hobe tahole

    2. amar friday-r reply ta kono karon ey published hoyni dekhchhi. aami kalo urad daal-i use korechhilam, shudhu mouri (ar tejpata) foron ar mouri bata add korechhilam bachcha der kotha bhebe :-)

    3. amar Friday-r response ta kono karon ey published hoyni dekhchhi. aami kalo urad daal-i use korechhilam. shudhu mouri (ar tejpata) foron ar mouri bata ta add korechhilam bachcha der kotha bhebe :-) - Mausumi

  17. oh taai. aami seta jantam na, konodin gota sheddho korini. tomar recipe dekhei prothim try korlam,kalo urad diyei korlam. tobey chheleder kotha bhebe mouri foron ar mouri bata ta add korechhilam :-)

  18. Eta tik Gota seddho hoyeni.eta asto muger dal.Gota seddho korte gele kalo kolai diye korte hoye ar ada mouri bata ditye hoye.

    1. Indrani, if you read the post and the recipe, I have mentioned about the black urad. I have also said about the ginger. The mouri is added in some homes while not in others

    2. It's ok to use Green Moong, but mashkolayi enhances the taste. What is missed out I guess is "kul". My Mom and Grand Mom used "kul" as well. I use cherry tomato as I donot get kul easily where I stay .

  19. excellent recipe.....thks.....

  20. This is such a lovely read as are all your recipes n the tales which accompany them. For us gota sheddo was a mix ofvroma kolai n moong with the veggies....accompanied with jol dhala bhaat macher tok alu posto n dataar phooler jhaal.....all cold:))

  21. Hi.... Great recipe....
    My used a small variation though
    She used 5 dal mix.... Moong, Mosoor, motor,urad,Chana ...5 whole veggies.... A few whole chillies, seasoning and boiled till tender.
    Serves it with a dash of mustard oil. Mix dal gives the dish a lot of texture

  22. Same here, my dida used 5 daal, more veggies, and most importantly "sojne phool" whih is known for its medicinal properties preventing small pox and measles. Very nostalgic read though.....eyes watery....cant write anymore.

  23. Very nice article. Post my grand ma's death gota has ceased to exist from my family. This article brought back those memories. My grand ma used to fry all the veggies and make it, so it was more of got a chachhori than seddo!! We (me and my brother) were asked not to touch it till the day after but we used to wait when grandma is not looking and steal some out from the bowl!!

  24. Tumi sheem kotha theke kinle? Indian stores e pawa jay?

  25. Ei je kono mosala deoa jabena, eitar Mane ki, eita keno? Keu ki bole diyechilo, jeta amra ondher moton manchi kono karon Chari, naki eitar pichone kono scientific reason ache


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