Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

Potoler Dolma | Potol er Dorma | Stuffed PointedGourd

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

The word Dolma, from the Turkish verb Dolmak, means to be filled and refers to all kinds of stuffed food in the Ottoman cuisine, the most popular being stuffed grape leaves. The Persians call it Dolmeh. The Bengalis call it Dolma or even Dorma. Potoler Dolma or Dorma is a very popular Bengali dish made with the summer vegetable potol or pointed gourd. It is believed that dolma came to Bengali households holding the hands of Armenian families who were originally from Persia and had followed the trade route to finally settle in Chinsurah, near Kolkata. While the original Dolma was stuffed with minced meat and rice as mentioned earlier, the fusion potol’r dolma in Bengali households was stuffed with minced meat, fish and even a vegetarian stuffing of paneer and coconut.

Potoler Dolma is the kind of dish that always, always reminds you of your grandmother and her kitchen. A slightly hunched figure, sitting on the kitchen floor, on a raised wooden plank called pinri, her gnarly fingers expertly stuffing hollowed out potols (pointed gourd) , which would then be lightly fried and simmered in a gravy. I don't know how my Dida felt about making Potol er Dorma or where she learned it from. It was not really an easy task and since it was always made when there was a house full of people, there were lots of Potols to scrape and stuff. She cooked happily, tired but satisfied, and we thought it was given that she would make Potol er Dolma for us.

My Mother prepping Potol

More than the potol or pointed gourd, I loved the stuffing that went in it. My Dida's standard stuffing for Potoler Dorma would be made with fish. Fish filet was not easily available in North Kolkta in those days and my Dida steamed pieces of Rohu, deboned them patiently and then made a delicious stuffing with the fish. Usually when she was making a large batch of Potoler Dorma for the whole family, my mom or one of the aunts was delegated to make the stuffing. But rest of the Dolma was always hers and hers alone.

Ma stuffing the Potol. This stuffing was made of Ricotta as I was too lazy to make Chhana

Unlike my grandmother, I never ever make Potol er Dorma when there is a house full of people. I want to hold on to my lyaad-quuen crown and cooking difficult stuff for a crowd doesn't get you one!
So it is always made in small quantity for the family and then depending on the availability of the right size Potol(Pointed Gourd) in our Patel. I think I made it multiple times a few years back in 2019, while writing "Those Delicious Letters" as there was a chapter around this dish. This summer I made it once more. My mother was surprised and couldn't believe her eyes that I was doing such a thing !!

Now what I have realized is with a dish like this if you can break it down into smaller tasks, it is much easier to do. 
1. Day 1/Task 1 -- Make the stuffing. Depending on your choice you can make a niramish stuffing with chhana/paneer or  amish stuffing with fish or keema. Refrigerate and make sure no one eats it.
2. Day 2/Task 2 --  Make the base for the gravy/curry. Scrape the potol, Peel in alternate strips, hollow it out, wrap it in a damp cloth and refrigerate.
3. Day 3/Task 3 --  Fry and stuff the potol. Finish the gravy. Simmer the potol in the gravy. 

There are two things I do to make stuffing the potol more easy

1. I first sauté the potol, cool and stuff. In the original recipe, the raw potol is stuffed and then fried. There is a chance that the stuffing might come out if you do this so I do the sauteing first.
2. I try to make my stuffing with a very smooth texture, so that it kind of sits nicely inside the potol and doesn't  spill out. My Dida would securely tie the potol but I don't do that and so far it has been fine.

Hope you make this dish at least once to see what a star Mr. Potol Babu can be too. I have shared the recipe for both the vegetarian Paneer stuffing OR the Fish stuffing, you can use either.