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- Duration: 30 minutes
- Serves: 4 people
Spice Level: Medium
Shukto derives its distinctive flavour from Paanchphoron, which is an integral part of Bengali cuisine. It is a mix of 5 spices—methi seeds, kalonji, jeera, kali sarson, and saunf in equal parts with a popular variation using radhuni (celery seed) instead of kali sarson. The minute Paanchphoron is added to hot mustard oil, a staple in the region, it begins to pop and sizzle. This technique is called 'phoron' in Bengali.
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Ever wondered how Shukto gained popularity among Bengalis? The Portuguese, who left a strong influence on the Bengali cuisine, were often seen consuming the bitter vegetable 'Momordica Charantia' before meals. Curiosity around this habit led Bengalis to experiment with karela, a bitter vegetable-fruit from the same family, and thus came about the bittersweet dish of Shukto. This delicious mix of veggies, offset by karela’s bitterness, is a must in every festive Bengali meal today. It pairs well with steamed rice and usually follows ghee-bhat, the first course in an authentic meal.
- Potato, cubed (½ cup)
- sweet potato (Shakarkand), cubed (½ cup)
- Papaya, cubed (½ cup)
- Carrot, cubed (½ cup)
- French beans, chopped (½ cup)
- Kaccha kela (raw banana), cubed (½ cup)
- Drumstick(Sahjan), halved (½ cup)
- Bitter gourd(Karela), chopped into roundels (½ cup)
- Bori (dried, crispy dal dumplings or badhi) (10 - 12)
- Mustard oil (Sarson ka tel) (4 tbsp)
- Ghee (1 tsp)
- Bay leaves(Tejpatta) (2)
- Paanchphoron (a mixture of methi seeds, kalonji, jeera, kali sarson, and saunf) (2 tbsp)
- Black mustard seeds(Rai) (1 tbsp)
- Milk (½ cup)
- Heat half the sarson ka tel and fry the boris till they turn crisp and set aside. (Check "Get It Right" on how to make the best Bengali boris at home.)
- In the same oil, fry karela till crisp and light brown. Keep this aside.
- Heat the rest of the sarson ka tel. Add the tejpatta and half of the paanchphoron and rai to it. Be careful to stand back as the seeds will begin to splutter immediately.
- Add all vegetables except karela and let them coat the spice mixture evenly.
- Sprinkle a little water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables have absorbed the spices and change colour.
- Meanwhile, heat a thick-bottomed pan. Roast the rest of the paanchphoron and rai. Grind this mixture to a fine powder in a mixer-grinder.
- In a cup, mix the paanchphoron powder and rai with milk.
- Add this milk mixture, fried bori, and karela to the vegetables. Cook the vegetables on medium flame, stirring gently (ensuring the veggies remain intact) till the gravy is nice and thick.
- Pour warm ghee over the Shukto, allowing it to evenly coat the dish, and serve hot with steamed rice.