Shukto is a Bengali delicacy served with rice and fish curry and I believe, its actually is a palate cleanser. Bengalis are known for their sweets but what people do not know is, a bitter tasting dish is a part of a their everyday afternoon meal. There has been quite a debate about the origin of Shukto because some say it is Portuguese in origin. They had a similar dish which they cooked with Bitter-gourd or Karela but, when Bengalis cook Shukto, they incorporate lot of summer veggies with karela and bori(dal kisses) . A sweet touch by adding milk and sugar transforms this dish to a different level altogether.
To cook this dish we have to cut the veggies in a particular way as shown in the pic below. You can substitute the milk with 50ml of cream to give it a royal touch.
- 1 large potato
- 1 raw banana
- 1 long brinjal
- 2 pointed gourds (potol/parwal)
- 8 french beans or lima beans
- 1 small sweet potato
- 7 or 8 pieces of drumsticks(sahjan or sheng or phalli)
- 1 bitter gourd
- 8 to 10 Bengali Urad dal boris (wadi)
- 1 tsp of whole panch phoran (Bengali five spice mix contains equal proportions of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds)
- 1 and a 1/2 tsp of dry roasted and ground panch phoran
- 2 tbsps of mustard powder (see my post Macher jhaal)
- 1/2 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of poppy seed paste(see my post aloo posto)
- 1/2 tsp of dried whole black pepper corns
- 1 bay leaf
- Oil to deep fry boris and karela
- 2 tbsp of oil to cook
- 1 tsp of ghee
- 200 ml of milk
- 1 whole dried chilli
- Salt to taste.
- Peel the potatoes, raw bananas and potol(pointed gourd) . Remove strings from the beans and cut them. Soak the potatoes and the cut brinjal in water.
- Cut all the veggies as shown in the pic (you can use radish as well)
- Cut the bitter gourd or karela into half, lengthwise and then cut them into thin half moons.
- Mix mustard powder and poppy seed paste and keep aside.
- Dry roast panch phoran and grind it and keep aside.
- Mix sugar and 1/2 tsp of powdered panch phoran in milk and keep aside.
- Deep fry the boris till they turn brown. It takes a minute or so. If you fry for too long you will end up getting charred ones. Keep them aside.
- Now rub salt in the karelas and deep fry them till brown. You can saute them, but I deep fry to avoid the overpowering bitter taste in this otherwise mildly flavored dish . Keep them aside.
- Now, for the final assembly take oil in a pan with lid and add whole panch phoran, red chilli, peppercorns and bay leaf.
- As soon as the spices start to splutter, add all the veggies one by one begining with potatoes. Leave the karela and the boris for later.
- Stir fry all the veggies well and once this is done, add salt and mustard and poppy seed mix and fry.
- Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame. The veggies release lot of water which helps to cook them through.
- Remove the lid to check whether the veggies are half done. Now , add the milk mix and after stirring well, add karela and the boris.
- Cover and cook for 5 more mins on low flame.
- Remove the lid and add ghee and Powdered panch phoran mix.
- Mix well and its ready to serve.
What makes this dish so adorable is, every household recipe for this dish varies. Still somehow we love each and every variation. Well, I think it is because of the combination of veggies and panch phoran. Cooking this dish needs lots of arrangement and patience, but once cooked and had with rice, you will forget all the pains you took to make this dream come true. It is heavenly!