Tindora Fry


Tindora, which goes by many names in India and is, I believe called ivy gourd in English, is a vegetable I’d never eaten in India and indeed had not eaten until fairly recently. It has a name in Bengali as well—kundri—but it’s not a vegetable that was ever cooked in the kitchens of my extended family. That’s not the final word, of course: even at the age of 50 I’m constantly learning how limited my knowledge of Bengali cuisines is, leave alone the cuisines of the rest of India. I do believe it’s eaten more commonly in the southern parts of the country. If you’ve never seen or eaten it, it looks and tastes a bit like a miniature cucumber, with textural crunch and snap and a mildly acidic, lemony flavour. After years of seeing it in Indian groceries in the US I purchased some on a whim some months ago and improvized a version of the recipe I have for you today. I’ve been making it off and on ever since; at some point I should really consider making it some other way as well.

This recipe involves techniques and ingredients common in a number of South Indian cuisines: you pop some mustard seeds in hot oil, add curry leaves and red chillies till glossy, add the veg you’re going to stir fry, then your spice mix and cook till done. Regulating the heat to keep things from scorching or burning is the key.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tindora, cut in half lengthwise with ends trimmed
  • 1 tspn black mustard seeds
  • 1 tspn urad dal
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 3-5 dried red chillies (optional)
  • 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • The following ground to a coarse powder: 1/2 tspn each of fennel seed, sesame seed, poppy seed and coriander seed plus 1/4 tspn fenugreek seed
  • 2 tblspns shredded dried coconut
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Oil (coconut oil, if you have it)

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a karhai or wok and send the mustard seeds and urad dal for a swim in it.
  2. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves and the dried red chillies (if using) and saute quickly till just glossy, taking care not to let the chillies scorch.
  3. Add the cut tindora and the haldi and salt, mix in thoroughly and stir fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the powdered spices, mix in thoroughly and stir fry for another 5-7 minutes.
  5. Add the water, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover for another 5-7 minutes.
  6. Uncover, raise the heat to medium and cook till the water has evaporated.
  7. Add half the dried coconut, mix in and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Take off the stove, mix in the rest of the dried coconut and let it sit for a few minutes to soften from the heat of the dish.
  9. Serve with steamed rice and dal.

Notes

  1. Stir-fries of vegetables with mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies with coconut added at the end abound in South India; the specific spices added may change from place to place. In this case this is cooked in the style of a Tamil-style poriyal with a mix of spices that seemed like a good idea to me. While I haven’t followed a particular recipe, it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve ended up approximating a traditional way of cooking tindora or similar veg. If you know this to be the case please write in below.
  2. I make this with and without the dried red chillies—it comes out very well either way.
  3. You could use shredded fresh coconut if you have it; I prefer the nuttier taste of dried coconut.

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