Bottle gourd (Lauki, Doodhi) curry
My mother, who still lives in my hometown of Mumbai, India, visited me here in Minneapolis a couple months ago. I bid her goodbye at the airport only last Friday and miss her so much!
My mother, who to me is the best cook ever, taught me several recipes that she never had a chance to share with me on the phone (what with my control freak detailed questions). The amazing part was, I got to learn hands-on how she prepares food, observing her style and sense of taste, something that is very different from mine now, after several years of living on my own.
One dish she taught me how to make was Bottle Gourd Curry. Also known as Lauki in Hindi (India’s national language) and Doodhi in Gujarati, it is a vegetable that has many uses in Indian cooking. Apart from curries, this fruit of a vine, is also grated and used in varied Indian desserts such as Halwa and Falooda. The vegetable has several health benefits. I found this great article that details them.
Now this is one of the many vegetables I hated as a child. I’ve become a far less fussy eater over the years and motivated by my husband’s love for freshly prepared vegetable curries, I diligently took notes while she made this curry. The method of preparation is a little different from my style with other veggies. Here, special care is taken to get a good curry consistency before the vegetable is added to allow it to cook. To get a thick curry-like dish, tomatoes and onions are cooked on low heat and simmered till they cook down to a paste. Read on to see what I mean.
You will need:
- A pressure cooker or other cooking utensil
- 1 medium size Bottle gourd, available at any Indian store
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp Ginger & Garlic paste
- 1 tbsp Cumin & Coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Chili powder
- Salt to taste
- Water for cooking
- 2-3 tbsp tomato ketchup
- A handful of fresh chopped coriander or cilantro leaves
To cut the gourd -
- Slice off the stem portion of the gourd and peel the green skin with a potato peeler. Then, slit it half lengthwise
- Further halve each side of the gourd
- You will find that the gourd has a spongy portion in the middle, with several seeds in it. Remove this with a knife or a spoon, leaving the harder portion below it intact. Make sure all the seeds are removed
- Slice the gourd like so:
To prepare the curry-
- In a pressure cooker or pot, heat oil on medium heat
- When heated, add the onions and fry till they soften and are light brown
- Add the Ginger & Garlic paste and chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover the utensil, and cook on low heat till the mixture becomes mushy
- Now add all the dry spices, mix well and cook for about a minute
- Add about 1/4 cup water, mix well, put on the lid again and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 more minutes or till a curry like consistency is achieved
- Finally add the sliced gourd and salt to taste
- If using a pressure cooker, cook for about 5 whistles on medium heat; If using a pot, add enough water to cover the vegetable, put on a lid and allow to cook for at least 25 minutes, adding water and stirring frequently. You’ll know the gourd is done when it is soft to touch like a cooked potato
- Once the vegetable is done, add the tomato ketchup (this is my mother’s secret ingredient and it really adds a nice tang to the dish!)
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy with your favorite hot Indian flat bread such as naan or roti.
Variation: You can also add cooked Channa daal to make it a truly authentic Indian dish. Soak 1/2 cup Channa daal for 2 hours and pressure cook till they are cooked. Drain and add to the above dish at the end. Simmer for 10 more minutes.