Hello everyone. How have you all been? How the onset of winters is treating you all?
There was a silence on this blog as we were on a vacation in the mountains. We visited Gangtok and Darjeeling in the north eastern part of India and enjoyed loads of local food and culture. We always prefer to have a walk around the local markets and look around for local produce. Understanding a bit of local language, seeing how they dress up, how they generally live their lives. Life in the mountains is really very different from cities in the plains, most people walk to work, even kids walk to school chatting with friends and having a great time while walking. I saw the most happy faces walking slowly chatting with friends and giggling all this while. The life that is not running after one or the other goal-post and still on the move all the time. We tried to soak in the calmness and beauty and came back feeling exhausted and refreshed at the same time.
Seeing so many exotic looking vegetables in the markets was my high point. Many herbs and greens that are not easily available even in metros were seen being sold at pavement shops. Bok choy they called Chinese saag and Chives were called lasoon saag.
The Culantro got all wilted but I used some of it for making chutney and the roots were planted. To my pleasure two of them sprouted new leaves and I will be growing my own Culantro if all goes well. You can see me grinning ear to ear :-)
This Cucurbit family vegetables was seen growing in many homes and gardens, and freely over hills and fences, possibly a popular vegetable there. I clicked this picture while walking towards Rumtek monastery...
Pretty miniature flowers and spiny little fruits...
This vegetable is called Chuche karela in local language that means beaked karela ( a bitter gourd with a beak), though the vegetable is not at all bitter. Just a hint of bitterness as we experience on Ridge gourd. I asked the seller how to cook and she instructed me to just stir fry with onion and chilly. And to remove the seeds if mature. So I did the same.
I left the softer seeds intact and removed the mature ones. To my surprise, the seeds had a cross mark on them. Very intriguing :-) I have sown them too, waiting for a creeper with miniature flowers in my own garden. Am I too greedy?
Coming to the recipe that is quite simple. I found most of the Sikkimese food very simple in cooking techniques but outstanding in flavors. There was no use of spices most of the times and the use of Dallae Khorsani (the round chilies of the region, similar to Naga chilies) made the difference in most dishes. We ate local foods most of the time and were appalled to see the simple flavors of a few fresh ingredients making the dish outstanding. Many time we kill the natural flavors of fresh greens and vegetables by over seasoning and over spicing. I dare not risk that with the precious baggage I brought home. The exotic vegetables.
This is the 10 minute stir fry made with the Chuche karela. I would like to know any other names if any of you know.
200 gm chuche karela
100 gm chopped red onion
one Dallae Khorsani (the round chilly)
2 tbsp mustard oil
salt to taste
Scrape the spiny surface of the vegetable if they are too spiny. Chop off the tips and halve them lengthwise. Then chop them into semi circle slices.
Heat oil in a pan and tip in the onion slices, cut to match the sizeof the chuche karela slices. Add the finely chopped Dallae Khorsani too. Add salt to taste.
Fry till the onion starts getting pinkish brown. This is to be done on medium low flame.
Add the chopped vegetable and keep stirring and cooking till the vegetable gets soft and the onions are nicely caramelised.
Serve hot or warm with chapatis or as a side dish as part of a detailed spread.
The taste of the dish was quite similar to a miniature variety of Ridge gourd grown in Eastern UP and Bihar. That variety is called Satputiya (the one who has seven sons) as it grows in bunches of seven or more. Both the vegetables are anyways close relatives.
The heat of this chilly called Dallae Khorsani is very unique, quite hot to make the dish really spicy even when a single one is used, the flavor and aroma of this chilly is really unlike any chilies I have tasted yet. I am thinking why I didn't get a few kilos of this chilly to last me long. I know I will be buying it whenever I spot it. Even the Chuche karela for that matter.
For the time being I am waiting if the seeds germinate and a vine adores my garden :-)
More Sikkimese vegetables and food stories to come so stay tuned...