In North India kohlrabi is known as knol khol, ganth gobi and monj (in Kashmir where it is a staple). I’d never associated it with Bengali cooking and indeed when I posted a picture of this dish on Twitter a few days ago, I said that kohlrabi isn’t used in Bengali cooking. It turns out that it’s not as unusual as I’d thought; it’s just that it’s not cooked in my extended family. It’s known as olkopi in Bengali—the “kopi” part is a reference to the cauliflower family (cauliflower is phool-kophi/kofi in Bengali, where “phool”=”flower”; cabbage is “bandha-kofi” where “bandha”=”tied”); I’m not sure what “ol” refers to there. The lesson, as always, is to not trust my generalizations about Indian cuisines too far. You can trust this recipe though as it’s quite good.
There’s a popular Bengali torkari (a term for vegetables cooked with some gravy) called “panch mishali torkari” which features a mix of five vegetables. I basically approached this in a similar way but only used three vegetables. In addition to the kohlrabi there’s carrot and potato in there. I wanted to use veg that would all cook in about the same amount of time, thus simplifying my life.
- Kohlrabi, roughly 1.5 lbs, peeled and cubed
- Potato, roughly 3/4 lbs, peeled and cubed
- Carrot, roughly 3/4 lbs, peeled and cubed
- One medium red onion, a tblspn or so worth of fresh ginger and two roma tomatoes made into a coarse paste
- 4-6 hot dried red chillies
- 1 heaped tspn cumin seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorn and 2 or 3 small pieces of cinnamon, ground to a coarse powder
- 3/4 tspn turmeric powder/haldi
- 2 cups water
- A pinch of bhaja moshla or garam masala (optional)
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- Heat oil in a large wok or similar and add the dried chillies.
- Once they begin to darken, add the onion-ginger-tomato paste, the powdered spices and salt to taste. Mix and saute over medium heat till the oil begins to separate.
- Now add all the cubed veg and mix in fully.
- Add the water, stir to mix, cover the pan, lower the heat to a high simmer and cook till done.
- Sprinkle the bhaja moshla over off heat and garnish with the chopped cilantro. If using the more common garam masala then sprinkle it over and stir lightly before taking the pan off the heat.
- Eat with rice or chapatis.
- You could add a pinch of sugar but as the carrot and kohlrabi are both sweet, I didn’t bother.
- Depending on how hot your dried chillies are, this has a nice bite to it. You can reduce it by using fewer or milder chillies, but do use some.
- Other veg you could add to the mix: spinach or other greens, pumpkin/squash, eggplant, green beans or snow peas. Some peas mixed in at the end would be a nice addition too. And if you want to make this without kohlrabi you can do that too (or substitute turnips).
- Though you can’t tell from either picture, there’s quite a bit of thick gravy under the veg.
- Bhaja Moshla is a blend of roasted spices made in Bengali homes, mostly used for sprinkling over veg dishes and some dals. Every kitchen makes its own variation. I’m not sure if there’s a commercial version out there.