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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Off to a bitter start with SHUKTO

To a Bengali, Shukto needs no introduction!

And for others, who probably find a Bong's love affair with the bitter, a trifle eccentric or incomprehensible, Shukto is a mixed vegetable stew with a predominantly bitter - sweet flavour. A traditional Bengali lunch meal begins with Shukto. Why? Frankly, I'm not too sure of why only at lunch, but regarding the bitter beginning....but maybe it has something to do with the Ayurvedic Six tastes or rasas which need to be incorporated into our daily diet... The six rasas being (source - here)
  • madhura--sweet
  • amla-- sour
  • lavana--salty
  • katu--hot
  • tikta--bitter
  • kashai--astringent
Well, coming back to the Tikta rasa or bitter taste.....the bitter beginning may be anything from boiled and mashed potatoes & bitter gourd, or a mix of tender neem leaves and cubed brinjals fried in ghee (neem-begun) or the Crème de la Crème of the tikta Rasa... SHUKTO!

In the days of yore, a woman's culinary expertise was measured by how well she could cookishukto!! And every family, has over the years, added their own little personal touch to the shukto!!

Well, as is true for most traditional dishes I cook, I learnt how to cook Shukto from Ma. She cooks a variety of shuktos....Lau shukto, Lal Shukto, Maachher Shukto to name a few. I cannot muster the courage to learn so many and have restricted myself to two similar ones whose final touch at the end lend to their slightly different tastes. In one, I finish off the dish with a mix of milk-maida before adding a dash of ghee and the other is the one which I'll be posting here goes the recipe...

Ingredients :
*Bitter gourd - 1 sliced in circles (I also added some grated bitter gourd which I soak in warm water overnight to prepare SD's morning drink!!)
*All other vegetable need to be cut lengthwise-
Potato, Brinjal, carrots, ridge gourd, pumpkin, bottle gourd, carrots, Potol or pointed gourd, raw banana, raw papaya, pumpkin, drumsticks....any of these vegetables in combination may be used.
* Badi (small lentil dumplings) - My badis had been exhausted ...hence didnt use any.
* Rice (Gobindobhog chaal) - about 30 gm soaked in water and made into a smooth paste.
* Mustard paste - about 2 tbsp. (the rice paste & mustard paste should be in equal measure)
* Bay leaf - 1
* Seasoning (phoron)-1 tsp of a mix of whole fenugreek(methi) + radhuni(Wiki says it's wild celery in English) + mustard
* Ginger paste - 1 tsp
* Coriander powder/Dhone/dhaniya-1 tsp
* Sugar to taste
* Salt to taste
* Ghee - 1 tbsp
* Ghee/White Oil for cooking

Procedure :
1. Take oil in a wok and heat it and fry the sliced bitter gourd and keep aside

2. Take some more oil. Add the bay leaf/ves and the temper with what I call the Shukto phoron (methi+mustard+radhuni).

3. Add the fried vegetables ....though, what I did was - after frying the bitter gourd, I poured oil, added the bay leaf and tempering and added all the vegetables and fried together all at once to save time. Then added the bitter gourd too.

4. Toss them around. Add sugar, salt, Dhone/Dhaniya powder and ginger paste. Stir lightly to mix well.

5. Add 2-3 cups of water, lower the flame, cover with a lid and let the veggies cook.

6. Once the veggies are almost done, mix the rice paste+mustard paste with some more water and add to the simmering almost done vegetable. Mix well.

7. Check the taste. It should be bitter with a sweetish touch. Add sugar accordingly.

8. Crumble the boris and add them now. I didnt have any!

9.The gravy should not be runny. Should be thick and we say in Bangla, maakha maakha.

10. Finish off with a dash of ghee.

11. Serve with plain white rice.


Tina said...

Its a new recipe to meee. Sounds great....

HR said...

awetulonio......... puro bhat khao jaay... bhishon fav...

Ushnish Ghosh said...

Dear Sharmistha
Great snack before the main dish (I mean intro and the recipe)as usual.
Amar mon-e PaD-e chhele byalae, roj sakal-e Pithuli bata hoto ( rice paste)and was to be added to many kind of jhol, sag , sukto etc.
3 phoDon-er sukto sekha hoe gyalo..thanks.
Sab vege ek song-e deoa jae, sequence of addition and relative size of the vege wrt their softening point is the key (thats why the Chinese chef was angry with me in KL for messing up with size and also sequence of addition, double fault

Ebar bhabchhi sukto-r opor ekta recipe book likhbo!! Sabai ke ek ta kritagNata janiye, paesa ta Pocket-e ( Jodi keu boi-ta kene) :-)
bhalo theko

Urmi said...

Uffffffff shukto hochhe amar favourite kintu Townsville e eshe r khawa hoyni kenona ekhane kanchkola r baki ja jinish dorkar sheigulo pawa jaina. Tumi to shob lobhonio khabarer recipe diyechho.

Sharmistha Guha said...

@Tina-glad you liked it! It's a very typical Bengali first course during lunch

@HR-Amar ekdom favourite noy!! chhotobelae jol diye giley khetam.... emoni irony je SD'r khub priyo and hence banate hoy!! ;))

@UG-Thanks!!! apnar anecdotes er shonge rannar boi kintu jombe bhaalo!!

@Babli-Thanks! :))