Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dudhi chick pea masala

Adventures in new veggies part one: The dudhi. 

I'm taking an online nutrition class right now, and one of our assignments (for bonus points at the end of the semester) was to find a vegetable we'd never eaten before and share the experience, and/or recipe as appropriate, with the class.  Well, I didn't think I'd have much luck at a regular grocery store - sometimes they have jicama, sometimes not - so after work on Friday I stopped by Royal India Bazaar (formerly J.M. Emporium, next to the Big Lots on Two Notch Rd. in Columbia) to check out their modest produce section.  It turns out that they have several items there that I'd never heard of, and the three that I ended up buying are called dudhi (pictured above), Chinese okra and bitter melon.  In the near future, I'll post on new veggie adventures 2 and 3 as well.

But back to the dudhi: unfortunate name, good squash.  According to my quick Google search, "dudhi" translates to "bottlegourd" in English.  It's about the size and shape of an eggplant, and the texture of the raw vegetable is about the same.  Unlike with eggplant, you do want to peel the skin before cooking.  Some people recommend removing the seeds, others say they're fine.  I went with a recipe that called for removing the seeds but didn't do a very thorough job.  A few seeds made it into the final product, and they didn't hurt anything.  I borrowed heavily from this recipe but made several changes: I added about two teaspoons of urad dal with the aromatics at the beginning, skipped the potato and onion (didn't have any), only used two cups of water and added a can of chick peas (drained) at the very end.  And since I don't have chappatis in my freezer, I served it over rice."Salt to taste" ended up being about 2 teaspoons.

The end result (pictured here) is what we had for lunch today.  The wedge-shaped things on the plate are the stewed bottlegourd.

This definitely would have needed 3-4 cups of water had I used the potatoes, even if they were cooked ahead of time.  Without any extra starch to thicken it up, this maybe would have been all right with only one cup of water, simmered with the lid on for about 10 minutes and then cooked uncovered on a higher heat setting until it was thick enough to eat with a fork.  With two cups of water, I had to cook it for about 30 minutes on medium heat and then on medium-high heat to thicken it up.

Since I did use the sambhar powder, it came out spicier than it would have with the garam masala.  This, I suspect, is the reason that Steve suggested having some sour cream or plain yogurt on hand as a topping the next time.  Anyone who has difficulty digesting spicy foods might consider adding a dollop of plain yogurt on top or even stirring in half a cup of yogurt right before serving.  (Sour cream's too pedestrian for a dish like this.)

So this was my experience with my first new veggie since...okra, I guess, but that was about 15 years ago.  If you live near an Indian grocery store and want to try something different, the dudhi/bottlegourd runs about 99 cents a pound.  Some things, like shallots, are also cheaper than at a supermarket.  Plus the people are very nice, love new customers and will answer any and all questions you have about whatever catches your eye!

Happy Sunday, and enjoy this beautiful weather while it lasts!

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