Uchchhe Begun Sobji: Bittergourd & Eggplant Stir-fry
Recipe #3: Ma Baba's home cooking.
Bengali cuisine is perhaps the only Indian cuisine that practices the multi-course meal tradition. First comes the bitter or 'teto' which is a palate cleanser and it will most definitely end on a sweet note. However, nowadays the more health conscious bongs shy away from 'sesh paatey mishti' (to end the meal with something sweet) and settle with homemade yogurt with a pinch of sugar and salt. Many will argue that it is nothing less than 'doodh er saadh ghol ey metano' - a harsh compromise!
Since my Baba is diabetic, a lot of things that is on the menu at my parents' place will not have potatoes. I have included potatoes in this as I just love aloo!
- Bitter Gourd - 1 Cup, thinly sliced (also known as Karela/Bitter Melon)
- Potato - 1/2 Cup, cut into small cubes
- Eggplant or Brinjal - 1 Cup, cut into slightly bigger cubes than the potatoes
- Paanch Phoron - 3/4 tsp (See Notes)
- Green Chili - 1, slit
- Mustard Oil - 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Couple of pinches of turmeric
Heat the mustard oil in a deep bottomed non-stick frying pan. Temper it with the Paanch Phoron and slit green chili. Once the Paanch Phoron starts spluttering, add the sliced bitter gourd and cubed potatoes. Fry for few minutes till the potatoes start turning slightly golden brown. Now add the eggplant pieces. Cook, stirring often till the eggplant pieces start to soften. Add a little water along with salt and turmeric. Cover and cook till done.
Notes: A special mix of 5 spices that we Bengalis call 'Paanch Phoron' is used in this dish for tempering. Typically, Paanch Phoron will include Fenugreek Seeds (Methi), Nigella Seeds (Kalo Jeera), Fennel Seeds (Mouri), Cumin Seeds (Jeera) and Wild Celery Seeds (Radhuni) in equal parts. 'Radhuni' is rarely available outside West Bengal, so celery seeds or black mustard seeds are also used as the 5th spice.