Have you ever heard of this curry? Have you heard of this vegetable?
If you’re heading to the Indian market to get some ingredients and spices for my other friends’ recipes (or mine), you should nab a bagful of these cylindrical green mini-squashes and make this pretty straightforward South-Indian style curry. They would go beautifully with the other curries highlighted in my friends’ cooking series! My friend Hyma made this dish for an Indian feast I hosted several years ago. The theme of the Indian feast was to highlight curries from the region of Andhra Pradesh, the state in South India that my husband’s family is from and the state that is home to the bustling city of Hyderabad.
Many Indian food lovers might be aware of some Hyderabadi foods like biriyanis and kebabs, but some aren’t aware of the region’s homestyle cooking: vegetable stir-fries drunk with spices, thick porridge-like lentil curries, fragrant rice dishes, pungent pickles, and thin broth-like accompaniments like rasam that are often spicy and tart and perfect over rice.
The cuisine of the region typically doesn’t use paneer and nut-rich gravies such as in some Northern states, but they are not missed; the flavor profiles typically include lots of onion, garlic and ginger, tamarind, fresh chilies and even uncooked lentils for crunch. Every time we go to India, we surely visit the city of Hyderabad as well as the rural districts. And when I go, I take the time to get tutorials from my family members on this fairly unknown (to the USA) cuisine.
I learnt a variation of this dish from my mother-in-law in the 3 weeks I spent with her, apprenticing, right after my marriage. I was of course intrigued with this new-to-me Indian cuisine (since I am from the Western State of Gujarat) and I was extremely fond of cooking. But I tend not to publish a lot of those recipes on my blog, saving them for my classes 🙂
My mother-in-law’s version is similar to this one, but I love how Hyma’s recipe calls for chopping the gourd in really small pieces. This step was a key difference in improved taste, as the little bits of squash absorbed all the spices, which are actually very few and far between! This is rather atypical for an Andhra vegetable recipe: often there is ginger and onion in addition to the garlic, and more spices. Trust me on this, you don’t need them here.
Serves: 2-3 servings
- 1 pound Tindora/Dondakaya/Ivy Gourd
- 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil or other high-heat oil
- ½ teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon raw urad dal (creamy colored lentils shaped like orzo pasta)
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 red chilies (use green Thai bird chilis if you can't find red, or Serranos for less heat)
- 2 stems curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup cashew pieces (I used peanuts since I didn't have cashews)
- Wash the tindora and cut into small pieces, horizontally or vertically. Have everything else ready to go for the next steps.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. If you use a stainless pan, you'll need more oil to prevent sticking.
- Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and urad dal. Let sizzle for 30 seconds (the mustard seeds should begin popping, the cumin seeds should sizzle but not blacken, and the lentils should be slightly darker) Turn the heat to low or off if needed to avoid burning and increase again when you get to the next step.
- Now add garlic, red chillies and curry leaves (rip off the stem like you would do for rosemary) for another 30 seconds or until they pop (keep a lid nearby because curry leaves do splatter!) Stir continuously.
- Stir in all the sliced tindora. Add salt and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes; keep stirring so it doesn't burn. Now reduce to low flame and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring in between. The tindora should now turn to a deeper color. Taste for additional salt.
- Stir in the cashews and serve hot with steaming rice.
Curry leaves can be obtained at the Indian market in the produce section. They are best fresh (omit if you can't find fresh ones). They last in the refrigerator about a week to 10 days in a zip baggie. Urad lentils are also optional but lend texture and crunch. Buy a small amount at the Indian market and they will last you a long time in your pantry.
© Shefaly Ravula/ Shef’s Kitchen