My last recipe post for the month comes to you from my mother’s kitchen in Delhi (well, Gurgaon technically). I am writing this up 12 hours before my scheduled departure. By the time it posts my plane will be approaching North America and I will be approaching an altogether healthier diet for the next few months. As I noted in my post on the Chittaranjan Park fish market, I have been eating a lot of my meals in Delhi at home but that’s not to say these have all been light meals. In the sea of richness, however, there has been one dish that I’ve asked to be made a number of times and it’s for a very simple preparation of lau (in Bengali) or lauki, doodhi, ghia etc. depending on where you are. In English it’s bottle gourd and in most East Asian markets you’ll see it called opo. I like it by any name and I particularly like this minimalist preparation with just a bit of kalonji and a couple of green chillies to accent the subtle flavour of the lau, and a bit of milk and sugar to enhance the texture and natural sweetness. The directions below may seem a bit imprecise—a hallmark of all my recipes, I suppose—but that’s home cooking. If you want to see an edited, abbreviated video of this being made, check out this reel on my Instagram (where I’ve also posted other cooking videos from this trip).
- 1 lau/lauki/doodhi/ghia/bottle gourd, roughly 1 lb, peeled and chopped (not too fine)
- 1 pinch kalo jire/kalonji/nigella seeds
- 2 whole Thai chillies
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tspn sugar
- 2 tblspns oil of choice
- 2 tblspns chopped dhania/cilantro leaves for garnish
- Place the chopped lau in a small saucepan with salt and about 3/4 cup of water, bring to a boil and then cook covered on medium till the lau softens considerably and becomes translucent. The water should be mostly absorbed/evaporated by this point.
- In a small karhai or wok or pan heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat and add the kalonji.
- As soon as the kalonji becomes aromatic add the green chillies.
- Let the chillies splutter for a bit and when they become glossy all over add the cooked lau and mix thoroughly.
- Saute for a few minutes, stirring all the while.
- Add the milk and mix and saute some more.
- Add the sugar, mix and saute some more till the liquid has mostly, but not completely, been absorbed.
- Add the chopped dhania, mix in and saute for another minute.
- Take off heat, let it sit covered for a bit and serve with mushoor dal and rice.
- This is a fairly standard Bengali preparation. With some plus/minus this would be a very common preparation in many Bengali homes.
- Resist the temptation to add more things to this. It is perfect as is.
- And don’t worry if your lau/ki is slightly more or less than 1 lb—it’s not really going to make much of a difference.
- We make this with shaada/white tel, i.e not mustard oil, but you could use mustard oil too if you want.
- The cook in the Instagram video—and the person who made the pictured dish in this post—is Siyaram Mondal, who has been cooking for my parents for over three decades now (with a few hiatuses in between). He is a very skilled cook and a very good teacher. I learnt a few new things from him as well on this trip and might share some of those down the road as well.