Shukto – The Mixed Vegetable Delicacy

It’s a strange name isn’t it and just in case you are wondering if this is some exotic foreign dish, let me tell you it certainly is not. Shukto is the start to any traditional Bengali meal. Irrespective of whether it’s a wedding or a baby shower or even the Saptami or Ashtami Pujo meals, the Shukto always finds its place in the centre of the plate ahead of the other fare. Essentially the Shukto is a mixed vegetable dish with a bitter sweet taste. There are some essential ingredients in this dish i.e. drumsticks, bitter-gourd, sundried lentil dumplings and wild celery. A combination of milk and ghee in the preparation provides a creamy texture to the gravy. There are several variations of the Shukto depending on which part of Bengal you are in and the choice of vegetables are also linked to the place. In general popular vegetable choices for the Shukto are raw banana, sweet potato, brinjal, beans, raw papaya, radish, ridge gourd apart from the drumsticks and bitter gourd. You have the option of adding roasted and ground masala (bhaja masala) at the end. The Skukto is always served with steamed rice and a small helping of ghee at the beginning of the meal. It serves as a palate cleanser for the rest of the meal. So, if you are learning about this unique and authentic dish for the first time, I would urge you to give it a shot. Happy Fooding Around!

   

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Shukto – The Mixed Vegetable Delicacy

  • Author: Reetika Mitra
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins

Description

Start to a Bengali Meal


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 Uchhe/ Bitter Gourd (Karela), cut into rounds
  • 1 Begun ( Eggplant)
  • 1 small Kanchkola ( Raw Banana)
  • ¼ Kacha Pepe (Raw Papaya)
  • 2 medium sized Potatoes
  • 2 Shojne Danta  (Drumsticks)
  • 5 Sheem/Sem Phali (Hyacinth Beans)
  • You may also add a 1 -2 Jhinga (Ridge Gourd) or ½ of a large Mulo (Radish)

Ingredients for Tempering :

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil for tempering
  • Oil for frying or sauteing the vegetables
  • ½ Tsp Radhuni (Can be replaced with Panchphoron, in case Radhuni isn’t available. Panchphoron is the Bengali Five Spice Mix )
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Tsp Ginger paste (or finely grated ginger)

 

Other Ingredients :

  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable/ Mustard Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Ginger paste
  • ½ Tsp. Turmeric Powder (optional)
  • 1 Tsp. Sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Ghee/clarified butter
  • ½ cup Milk
  • 23 cups Water
  • 1015 small size Bori (Sundried Lentil Dumpling)

 

Soak and Grind to a Paste  :

  • 2Tbsp Mustard Seeds (I use 1 tbsp Black + 1 Tbsp white mustard seeds)
  • 1 Tsp Poppy Seeds/Posto/Khuskhus
  • A pinch of Salt
  • 56 Tbsp Water

 

Bhaja Masala  – Dry Roast and Grind to a Powder  :

  • 1 Tsp Panchphoran
  • ½ Tsp Cumin seed

Instructions

  1. Soak both the mustard seed and the poppy seed in water for 10 mins. Blend the soaked seeds together in a food processor or in a grinder jar with a pinch of salt to a smooth, semi -liquid like consistency. Using a strainer strain the mixture to remove the husks.
  2. Wash and cut most of the vegetables as shown in the picture. The Sheem or Hyacinth Beans should be cut to 1 inch, the Uchhe or the Bitter Gourd can be cut into rounds and the rest of the vegetables cut into about 2 inches long. Peel the outer skin of the vegetables, except for the Eggplant and the Uchhe (Karela).
  3. Par-boil the shojne danta or drumsticks , sheem (Sem phali) and potatoes. This is optional but doing so will help in using less oil.
  4. Heat mustard oil or any other vegetable in a deep bottom pan. Lightly fry or saute the remaining vegetables one by one in batches. Also remember to sprinkle a pinch of turmeric powder while frying them. Next fry the bitter gourd, as they are best done last. Keep aside. Deep fry the Dal Boris (sun-dried lentil dumplings) and drain them over a paper towel.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp more of oil to the deep bottom pan or wok. Temper oil with Bay leaf, Panch phoron, Radhuni.
  6. Add rest of the vegetables and saute for 2 – 3 mins over medium- high heat or until the colour changes a bit. Now add the par-boiled vegetables (drumsticks, Hyacinth Beans and the potatoes) into the pan.
  7. Stir for 1-2 minutes. Lower flame to a medium. Add the ginger paste and the mustard – poppy seed paste. Stir and saute for 2 mins more. You may add a pinch of turmeric powder (optional) and salt to taste. Cook for a minute before adding the water and the milk to the pan.
  8. Cover and cook over medium flame for about 4 – 6 mins or until the vegetables are properly done. Can take even less time if you have already par-boiled them.
  9. Check the water level. Add some more in case you require.
  10. Finally add the ghee cook no more than 1 minute. You may add the sugar at this stage. Before switching off the flame add the fried Boris or sundried Lentil Dumplings. Your Shukto is ready.
  11. Sprinkle with a generous pinch or two of the dry roasted and grounded Bhaja Masala powder.
  12. Serve hot coupled with some steamed rice to initiate the meal.

Notes

  • In case you do manage to use Radhuni during tempering, it’s a good idea to crush it lightly with a mortar and pestle. This will help the aroma and unique taste of the spice to come out.
  • Though the traditional way to cook the Shokto is to fry the vegetables in batches, I mostly do not follow that. To save on oil consumption I always put them into the pan over the Tempering Oil All At One Go. I usually add a little more oil to retain some of the original of this Bengali delicacy. So instead of a 2 Tbsp of oil, I often add 4 Tbsp to the Tempering pan Instead of a 2 tbsp.
  • It is a good idea to par-boil the shojne danta or drumsticks , sheem (Sem phali) and potatoes. This will help in using less oil.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4

 

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