Shukto is a favourite Bengali dish made with varieties of seasonal vegetables including at least one bitter vegetable like bitter guard or deep fried neem leaf with little sugar and milk to balance the bitterness of the bitter vegetable.
While sharing the recipe I must share the culinary style of Bengalis(for my non Indian readers, Bengalis belongs to eastern part of Indian sub-continent) . I have mentioned in my earlier post that traditionally Bengali meal consists of course-wise meal, minimum 5 course. The items differs season-wise and the course progress from lighter to richer. In starts with spoonful of clarified butter on piping hot rice accompanied with hot green chili and pinch of salt. Next comes something bitter, either deep fried bitter gourde or shukto, specially in summers. This course is generally a cleanser and has medicinal value. Portions are tiny but varieties are must. Then comes lentil (daal) with some deep fried vegetable , chochori (mix veg), dalna(veg curry) Fish or meat and Chatni comes to clear the palate,, generally accompanied with Papad (savoury wafers). Then comes the dessert, which is usually sweet yogurt (mishit doi). Meal concludes with a Bangla Paan(beatle leaf) which is considered to be an digestive agent. Rice remains common throughout the whole course till chutney.
As a child I have seen my Gandmaa and Mom, cooking minimum five course meal. That is how our gradmaa and mom spent most of their time in kitchen. I usually accompanied my father in fetching fresh vegetable from market. Probably, that’s how I learnt to differentiate between fresh and stale veggies and pick up the right one. I still do not depend on home deliveries and love to visit vegetable and meat shops.
However, these days, the foods of a daily meal are usually simpler, and have reduced to 3 course. Daal, sabzi and minimum one non veg dish. It is generally balanced and makes extensive use of vegetables.
Coming to my today’s post, Shukto is a summer special and palate cleanser. Lot of seasonal cool vegetables are used in this dish. The key vegetables are, raw papaya, green banana, brinjal and beans(best are broad beans) and bitter guard and drum stick. Most of these vegetables have medicinal value. Main spices are, randhuni(wild celery seeds), mustard seeds and fennel seeds. Another important ingredient of Shukto is the Bori (wadi). These are lentil ball (skinned black gram paste and sundried),
I have prepared Mishti Shukto that is shukto without bitter guard using most of the seasonal vegetables. .Its very healthy and full of nutritional value.
While sharing the recipe I must mention that cutting and chopping of vegetables is very important in preparation. Every dish requires distinctive type of chopping. if we are using drumstick in shukto then all other vegetables should be cut lengthwise, in curried vegetables it is diced etc etc. Bengalis are popular for their natural artistic instinct and it reflects in chopping vegetables also.
Ingredients: All vegetables to be cut lengthwise.
- Green papaya thinly sliced lengthwise – 100gms
- Jhinga Tori(Shrimp Tory)- 50 gm
- Sweet potato- 50 gm
- Green(raw) banana- 1 small
- Pointed guard- 1
- Green Beans- 50 gm
- Carrots- 50 gm
- Brinjal – 50 gm
- Drumsticks – 50 gms (2 sticks)
- Panchphoron – 2 tspn(equal mix of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, carom seeds, kalonji)
- Randhuni (dry wild celery seeds)
- Poppy seeds ½ tspn
- Mustard seeds (black or yellow) ½ tspn(for paste)
- Bay leaf
- Milk ½ cup
- Sugar 1 tspn
- Salt 1 tspn(to taste)
- Clarified butter – 1 tblspn
- Oil – 2 tblspn
- Ginger paste – 1 tblspn
- Water – 2 cups
- Bori (Bengali wadi- black gram paste sundried balls)
Cut all the vegetable lengthwise , rinse and keep in a strainer to discard extra water.
Make paste of mustard seeds and poppy seeds. Keep aside.
Heat 1 tblspn oill in pan, Break the bori in small pieces and fry till brown. Take out and keep aside.
Add balance oil, heat and add bay leaf and 1 tspn of panchphoron. Stir till aromatic.
Add the vegetables except the bringals because it is a soft vegetable and wilts faster than other veggies. Stir fry the veggies in medium flame till it changes colour a bit.
Add brinjal stir for a min.
Add Ginger paste. Mix and stir alongwith ginger.
Add fried bori. Stir for another minute. By this time the vegetables will look little wilted.
Add Salt and sugar. Mix and stir for 1 min.
Add water, cook covered in slow flame for 5 mins. Cook further, covered, if vegetables are not yet cooked.
Uncover, add mustard poppy paste. Mix up properly.
Add milk. Check the seasoning and add up if required.
Cook for another 2-3 mins. Switch of the stove.
Dry roast balance panchphoron and grind it in a mortar.
Heat ghee in a small tarka pan. Switch off stove when ghee is hot.
Pour the panchphoron powder. Immediately over the cooked shukto. Give a nice stir.
Shukto is ready to serve.