Shukto – A traditional Bengali mix veg curry with bitter gourd

Shukto is a quintessential vegetarian Bengali curry, served as a starter with rice mostly in a multi-course menu. The name ‘Shukto’, quite short with just six letters in it, actually needs a long list of vegetables. Perhaps this is the reason why ‘Shukto’ is hardly visible these days on our plate. What discriminates Shukto with other veg curries is the ample usage of bitter gourd that adds a mild bitterness to it. The presence of green banana, eggplant and drumstick strikes a rare combination and enriches the food value unlike any other does. In fact I grew up hearing its super nutritional values which came with great taste as well. These days, when we complain about the lack of variety in veg curries, I think it is the time to start experimenting and get back to the traditional food like Shukto and similar dishes which are on the verge of slipping into oblivion.

Generally Sukto comprises of five to six vegetables, among which bitter gourd, green banana, eggplant and drumstick are must. Rest of the vegetables can be any of your choice. For example I used potato and ridge gourd as they were in my stock. One can use sweet potato instead of potato, green papaya, pumpkin, broad beans or point gourd.

‘Panch phoron’ (five spice mix) and ‘radhuni’ are the main spices used in Sukto. Unfortunately, I didn’t find ‘radhuni’ in Europe, so altered the recipe a little bit, which at the end didn’t make any difference. Enjoy. 🙂

Sukto

Sukto

Ingredients to serve 4 :

  1. Green banana – 1/3
  2. Brinjal/Eggplant – ½
  3. Potato – 2 (medium size)
  4. Bitter gourd – ½
  5. Ridge gourd – ½
  6. Drumstick (sojne danta) – 1-2
  7. Slit green chilli – 2
  8. Bori (Sun dried lentil nuggets) – 6-8
  9. Ginger paste – 1 tbspoon (heaped)
  10. Panch phoron (five spice mix) – 1 teaspoon
  11. Fenugreek seed – ½ teaspoon
  12. Mustard seed – ½ teaspoon
  13. Pinch of turmeric powder
  14. Poppy seed paste – 1 tbspoon
  15. Milk – 2-3 tbspoon
  16. Wheat flour (atta) – 1 teaspoon
  17. Ghee/Clarified butter – 1 tbspoon
  18. Cooking oil – 5-6 tbspoon
  19. Salt & sugar to taste

Procedure :

Cut all the vegetables into long pieces. I also cut the bitter gourd into long pieces, but you can cut it into thin rings, if you wish.

Vegetables used in Sukto

Vegetables used in Sukto

Heat 3 tbspoon of oil in a frying pan over medium flame and fry the lentil nuggets (bori) till they get golden brown. Keep them aside.

Add remaining 2-3 tbspoon of oil in the pan and fry the bitter gourd pieces, followed by adding salt & pinch of turmeric powder, till get crispy. Take them out from the oil and keep aside.

Now add fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds to the remaining oil in the pan, let them splutter. Add potato, green banana and drumstick pieces into it and fry for 3-4 minutes.

Then add eggplant, ridge gourd, green chillies and turmeric powder and fry for another couple of minutes. Now cover the pan with a lid and let it cook over medium-low flame.

After few minutes as the vegetables start releasing water add ginger paste, poppy-seed paste, salt and sugar, mix them well and cook for 2 minutes or until raw flavour of poppy seed goes away.

Mix the wheat flour with milk and add to the vegetable mixture, give it a good stir.

Now add 2½ – 3 cups of water and let it boil.

Through fried bitter gourd into the boiling water.

Again put the lid on and let it cook over low-medium flame.

Meanwhile dry roast the five spice mix i.e ‘panch phoron’ and grind it into a fine powder.

Add fried lentil nuggets (bori) only when vegetables almost get cooked.

As the vegetables get completely cooked and gravy thickens to the desired consistency, put the gas off. Sprinkle over the ghee and panch phoron powder and cover the pan for few more minutes.

Serve only with steamed plain rice. Roti or paratha doesn’t go with ‘Sukto’.

Note :

  1. ‘Panch phoron’ is a mixture of five spices – fenugreek seed, black cumin seed, cumin seed, radhuni and fennel seeds in equal parts. Sometimes black mustard seeds are used instead of radhuni.
  2. One can use ‘panch phoron’ at the beginning instead of adding fenugreek seed & mustard seed. Then use ‘radhuni’ paste at the end instead of roasted ‘panch phoron’ powder.
  3. One can use mustard seed paste instead of poppy seed paste.
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