Thursday, April 03, 2014

Indrani's Kumro Begun Chingri Charchari -- with fresh Methi greens

I have been in a vegetable rut for the last one week and I have realized that no one makes simple, subtle vegetable dishes as well as the Bongs do. Call me biased but honestly the variety of vegetable dishes that a Bengali will cook is mind boggling. Remember, I am not saying vegetarian dishes, because no Bong can beat the masala dosa or the dhokla, but I am saying "vegetable dishes" as in preparations which have vegetables beyond potatoes and cauliflower in them. Not that those aren't vegetables but you get my point. Why, those vegetable dishes might even have shrimp in them.

I do believe that a person's association with food is deeply rooted in his genes. We have a natural fondness towards the food our fore fathers ate. Gradually we branch out and diversify from that core cuisine and yet we never go so far as to lose our anchoring the core. We are ready to be reeled in like a kite flying high and wide in the right moment. And it is not only an emotional attachment but the body too seeks the comfort of the familiar. Take me for example. I love a mean pasta, a hearty coconut-y Thai curry, a kadhi-chawal and yet after 2 weeks of eating straight through any of those, my body protests and looks around for aloo-posto. In those times, it never ever craves for a pulled pork sandwich or a creamy macaroni cheese.

This realization donned on me only recently, when after a week of eating dal, garlicky sarson saag, spice coated chole and aloo-gobi, my soul and body craved for some subtle vegetable dish. Something light, with no over powering smell of  musky cumin, earthy coriander or any other masala. A simple tempering of PaanchPhoron or Kalonji and some green chillies is all it wanted. As much as I loved the chhole, my body protested, veering me around, pushing me towards what my Bengali grandmother ate. I am thinking, this phenomenon has also something to do with age because a younger me would have waded through months of noodles and dosa without a worry.

I was out of idea, as to what vegetable to cook and hence eat. So, I asked on my FB Page and many many excellent suggestions tumbled in.

Of all of those, on that particular day, Indrani Bhattacharya's "Begun Kumro Chingri" inspired me. It was just the kind of thing, my body wanted and of course the soul always wants some chingri/shrimp. Always.

So I went out to get some Kumro(Pumpkin) and also got some methi greens which looked dusty and bored but fresh sitting on the grocery aisle. And then I had to get some Uchhe aka bittergourd as those are my daughters' favorite veggies. Back home, I decided to add the fresh methi and uchhe to this charchari too, kind of like a one pot vegetable dish that you cannot get enough of. Because though there are vegetables is this dish, there is also chingri aka shrimp in there. Didn't I tell you, no one treats vegetables better than a Bong does.

The shrimp made it a favorite for the 10 year old Big Sis who is inching towards becoming a vegetarian these days. LS will not eat a shrimp but she too loved this dish with white rice.

I asked Indrani Bhattacharya to say a little about herself. And here she is in her own words

"I am a mother of two girls (7 and 3 years). I love to eat and try out different types of food. I didn't know anything about cooking until I got married. Now I enjoy and love cooking. For the last 3 years I am not working and enjoying my time with the kids. My husband inspires me the most for cooking. He always appreciate my effort."

Thank you Indrani for sharing your recipe with us.

Don't forget to check the new post on the kids' blog about a simple experiment to understand Newton's third law.

More Readers who shared their recipes:

Ahona Gupta's Methi Machhi
Sunetra's Piaayjkoli Maach
Piya and Chandrani''s Dhonepata Bata Sheem

 Kumro Begun Chingri Charchari -- with fresh Methi greens

Chop 1 eggplant in cubes. Soak in salt water for 15 minutes.

Chop half of a pumpkin in cubes

Chop 1 small Karela in half moon slices

Snip a bunch of methi leaves so that you have about 1 cup of methi greens

Chop any other veggie like carrot or zucchini if you want

If using fresh shrimp de-vein and clean them. Then toss them with turmeric powder and salt. If using frozen shrimp just defrost and toss in turmeric powder and salt.

Heat Oil in a Kadhai. Mustard Oil is best but I also use Olive oil if there is no fastidious foodie around.

Add the cubed eggplants and saute them with turmeric powder until the eggplant softens a little. It will not be fully cooked yet. At this point, remove sauteed eggplant cubes and keep aside.

Add little more oil to the same kadhai and heat.
Temper the hot Oil with 1/2 tsp of Kalonji/Kalo jeere and about 4-5 green chillies. Note: Another option is to use paanchphoron for tempering as Indrani does in the original recipe.

When the spices pop add the chopped bittergourd. With a sprinkle of turmeric powder, saute bittergourd for 3-4 minutes.

Next add the pumpkin and carrots(if using). Saute for a few minutes and then cover the kadhai. Occasionally remove cover and give the veggies a stir.

When pumpkin has softened, add the eggplant and toss all vegetables together.
Add salt to taste.
Add 1/2" ginger minced or grated

Now push the veggies to the side and add the methi leaves. Saute the methi leaves along with the other vegetables for a couple of minutes. Now cover the kadhai and let all vegetables cook. You won't need to add any water as the softer veggies will provide enough moisture to cook.

Once veggies are all done and have kind of lost their individual identity, taste the dish. Add salt or sugar as needed.

Now move the vegetables towards the edge of the Kadhai and add a little more oil at the center. You will have to do this only if you have started with less oil in the first place.
When the oil has heated up, will only take a minute, add the shrimp. Saute the shrimp until it loses its raw color. Toss the shrimp with other vegetables.

And there your vegetable dish is done. Done. And ready to be devoured with some dal and rice.


  1. I agree about what Bongs can do with vegetables (and not vegetarian dishes). I have been to Calcutta only a few times till now and I am absolutely in love with what Bengalis can do with food! So much so that I have already started lamenting that I cannot get good Bengali food in Mumbai like a local Bengali would! :-) Now if only my kitchen were non-vegetarian, I'd have loved to cook this! Sigh.

  2. Oh Calcutta in Tardeo Very pricey, but what the hell, it's not an everyday thing

  3. What a super combination of things! I'm suddenly very excited about throwing this together - weekend-e try korbo.


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