Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aloo-Begun-Bori-BokChoy er Jhol -- Bengali soupy vegetables

Broccoli, Eggplant,Bok Choy,Potatoes

"Kolkata te ajkal BokChoy paoa jaay", said my Mother. "Ar oi beguni bandhakopi, the purple cabbage". (You get Bok Choy in Calcutta these days. Also that purple cabbage)

"Where do you get all these weird things ?" I asked

"Reliance Fresh," said my Mother with an air of someone who is not astounded by a BokChoy or surprised by a purple cabbage.

"But why would you buy it? You get enough Bangali shaak as it is," I said.

"Arre, your Baba bought purple cabbage the other day. It had absolutely no taste. But Namita buys it all the time. She also buys basil, broccoli and zucchini," continued my Ma, her voice brimming with pride for her neighbor, Namita, who undoubtedly was a global food connoisseur.

Then my Mother went onto further elaborate about her very Bengali neighbor Namita, who makes pasta with sausage and fresh basil for dinner, sautes bok choy in olive oil and has no idea how to make a patishapta or kochuri.

Musur Dal er Bori

It was my turn to be surprised. Not by Namita. I care less if she cooks pasta and outsources patishapta.

But by BokChoy's entry in India. Bok-Choy had come into my life only 7 years back via Asian Farmers Market in the US and had started featuring regularly in the menu only in the last two years. The foremost reason I buy a bunch of baby BokChoy these days is because it hardly needs any chopping like other greens and also tastes pretty decent. Even then, I am not sure if it has enough merits to take over a culture rich with greens like Palong, Pui, Note, Methi etc. etc. I knew about the Broccoli taking over Indian market but even Bok-choy ? Really? I hope they grow them locally and don't fly it in from China like they do the garlic these days.

Fried Bori

But then again why not ? I think. If I can eat potol by the Atlantic why not BokChoy by the delta of the river Ganges.

After all the world is getting flatter and everyone is eating everything.

The only difference is unlike Namita, I make a jhol, a light soupy gravy with my BokChoy, just like the Alu-Begun-Bori'r jhol that my Ma makes. That Alu-Begun-Bori'r jhol is awesomeness by itself, or awesomeness with a squeeze of lime. And it is not at all necessary to add Bok Choy to it.

Many summer afternoons, some potol and fish would be added to this very staple jhol in our home. Come winter, it was sweet peas in their pods and cauliflower's turn  to grace the soupy gravy. The Dal Vadi or Bori would make it extra special. There were these larger sized bori called jholer bori which tasted fabulous when soaked up in the soupy vegetable gravy. The jhol had minimal spices and just a dash of mustard paste towards the end to add some zing. Since Bok Choy and also broccoli  is easily available and I like it for the reasons stated above, I tend to add them to this jhol. The jhol tastes as good.

Do try this, very quintessential Bengali dish. Healthy, flavorful and simple, it is the perfect example of how simple home cooked dishes can hold their own against rich curries and enevelop you in that warm fuzzy feel of home.

Alu-Begun-Bori-BokChoy er Jhol

What You Need

Baby Bokchoy -- about 2-3 bunch. Washed and chopped roughly, including the softer part of the stem. I discarded the tougher part of the stem
Broccoli -- 1 small head cut into large florets
Potatoes -- 2 medium cut in thick slices along the length
Eggplant -- 1 Japanese eggplant cut in 2" lenghts

Vadi or Bori(optional) - few, say about 8-10 small ones and 5 of larger ones

PaanchPhoron -- 1 tsp
Green Chilli -- 4-5 broken
Jerra or Cumin Powder --- 1 tsp
Mustard paste --  approx. 1 tbsp Mustard Powder mixed with 1 tbsp water to make a paste or 1 tbsp of fresh mustard paste

Mustard Oil -- 3-4 tsp

How I Did It

Heat 3 tsp of Mustard Oil in a kadhai

When oil is hot, add the bori and fry them brown and crisp. Remove and keep aside.

Add a tsp more oil if needed to the kadhai and temper the oil with
1 tsp of PaanchPhoron
4-5 green chilli broken or slit

When the spices sputter add the potatoes. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of Turmeric powder and saute the potatoes for a minute

Next add the eggplant and toss with potatoes. Fry for couple of minutes until skin of eggplant starts softening. Now add about 1/4th cup of water, cover the saucier/kadhai and let the potatoes cook a little.

Now goes in the broccoli which you saute along with potatoes and eggplant. Follow with chopped bokchoy. Toss everything together gently and keep sauteing until you see the bokchoy wilt.

Now add
1 tsp cumin powder
1" ginger grated
salt to taste
and about 2 cups of water.

Mix everything well and add
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
 the Mustard paste

Cover the saucier/kadhai and let it cook. In between, remove cover and check the water. You need a soupy gravy so add little more water if necessary. Once the vegetables are cooked, taste and adjust for salt.

Add the fried vadi or bori and let the gravy simmer for a minute

Serve with steaming rice and a quarter of lime


  1. Darun combo..aami onek din dhore bhabchi squash greens diye aloo borir jhol korbo. Feeling inspired

  2. Incidentally, I made this jhol for dinner today as well. I usually add barbati (long beans), radish and carrots in the ingredients, along with aloo-begun-bori. Today I threw in a couple of garden-fresh tomatoes which gave a nice zing to the jhol :) Love these simple recipes!

  3. Hmmmm....we plan to have a jhol with fish and veggies...all in 1 with a purity in taste and flavour...almost a healthy comfort food before we leave home before dawn breaks tomorrow morning for a long long weekend out....thanks for making the simple trivial dishes so special

  4. nice preparation....this post reminds me that i have run out of boris.

  5. Hi. I'm new to Bengali cooking. What is Bori?

  6. This reminds me my ma's cooking......

  7. When we went to Calcutta 5 years ago, there was very little available in the supermarket, because of some clash to do with big retailers and small shopkeepers. Guess things have improved on that front, since.

    I see bok choy only rarely here.

  8. I love bok choy -- now *that* I can get fairly easily here. I finally have a day off tomorrow and hope to get reading your book! :)

  9. Hello..

    U mentioned mustard paste.. How to make it? Please help

    Warm regards,

  10. Yes I have tried ur recipi, but since I dont want broccolli in this dish, so I omitted it and instead added some raddish and tender stems of cauliflower, and it turned out simply awesome...


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