Cooking with bottle gourd: A Bengali Lau Chingri recipe
There was a time when dudhi or bottle gourd would put me off, and I would delay my meal as long as I could. But the fallacy of my life is that now I take this vegetable day in and out, and have started discovering many of its virtues and sort of developed a liking for it.
It is known by various names - dudhi in Maharashtra, louki in Delhi and lau in West Bengal. But, as it is said a rose is a rose (in this case dudhi) by whichever name you call it. In Delhi and Mumbai, it is mostly long in shape but in Bengal, it is round in shape, although long ones are also available.
I call this vegetable simpleton because it is neutral in taste, and can be cooked in any way you like. There are various ways Bengalis cook this vegetable, and believe me, they are delicious. Here are some of those recipes, which I intend to share in the next few posts.
I have made some changes from the traditional way of cooking this vegetable to save time and fuel.
Recipe for Lau Chingri/ Bottle gourd with prawns (serves 3-4)
This is an all-time favourite dish of the Bengalis. The best part of this dish is that you can cook it with small or medium-sized prawns. Hence, the price quotient is not very high. It is not that you cannot cook with big prawns, but it is equally or more tasty if you use the small or medium-sized ones.
One bottle gourd or lau of about 1.5 kg or more
500 gm deveined small/ medium prawns
3 tbsp of oil
1/2 tsp each of turmeric powder, ground jeera powder and chilli powder
1/2 tsp of whole cumin seeds
2 washed and split bay leaves
2 split green chillies
1 small tomato chopped
1. Peel the lau and cut it into thin pieces as you do for a vegetarian dish. Boil it in the pressure cooker with little water and salt. Drain excess water and keep it aside.
2. Next, wash the prawns thoroughly and smear them with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt. Put two tablespoons of oil in a wok, and fry the deveined prawns in it. Take them off as soon as they turn pink. Do not fry them too much or they will become hard. Keep the fried prawns in a bowl.
3. Now put another tablespoon of oil in the same wok where the prawns were fried. Add half a teaspoon of whole jeera/cumin seeds, and two washed and split bay leaves to it along with a split green chilli. Make a paste of turmeric, cumin and red chilli powders with little water. When the cumin seeds start crackling, put the paste of the spices in the oil and keep stirring. Add the chopped tomato and smash the pieces of the tomato and keep stirring till the oil gets separated.
4. After that, pour the boiled lau in the oil. Add one split green chilli and salt to taste. Let it cook for a few more minutes, stirring it occasionally.
5. When it is almost ready, add the fried prawns and cook for two/ three minutes. Check the salt. When it is dry and a bit sticky, switch off the gas and cover the pan and let it stand on the gas burner for five minutes.
6. Mix the curry well so that the prawn and lau complement each other. Serve it with hot plain rice. I am sure the delicious smell of the prawns will make you hungry at once.
Rekha Karmakar is a proud mother of two sons, and having retired as a college professor, spends her time writing about her varied life experiences in her blog Tabulous Mom on her computer tablet. She started blogging in 2010 as a guest blogger on Finely Chopped. She writes mostly about her stay and travel in foreign countries and her teaching experiences.