Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sorakkai (Bottle gourd / Lauki) Kootu

When I first moved to Boulder in 1994, there were no Indian stores in the near vicinity.  My husband had moved here just a few months before I joined him.  An Indian colleague of his told him about a Vietnamese grocery store that sold sorakkai.  I don’t think my husband even knew what sorakkai was at that time. 

This store was called Asian Seafood Market.  The owner would stock basic Indian groceries and she would also get fresh vegetables once a week.  She would get okra, bottle gourd, taro root, eggplant, raw plantains, and some other variety of squashes.  The only problem I had with her store was that she would put the okra bin right next to one with live crabs.  I used to be terrified that they would jump boxes and latch on to my fingers as I was picking okras.

There is a wonderful Indian store less than 5 minutes from my house now and I get all my vegetables there. I buy bottle gourd on almost every visit.  This was not a vegetable I grew up with.  My mom never used it when we were young, but I have come to love it.  I make kootu with it, or use it in sambar or avial.  My friend Soni makes an excellent raita with it.  I will share that recipe soon.

Sorakkai (Bottle gourd) Kootu

Kootu is another of those tam bram (Tamil Brahmin) staples.  There are different varieties of kootu.  This recipe is the most simple one.  It is extremely easy to make and taste great.

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup moong dal
  • 1 medium sized bottle gourd
  • 1 Tbsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 tsp. urad dal
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 2 red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. jeera
  • ½ tsp. urad dal
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I make it: 

  1. Pressurecook the dal till it is done
  2. Peel the outer skin of the bottle gourd, remove the inner seeds and dice it into cubes.
  3. Put the bottle gourd in a pan with water and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook till the bottle gourd is done.
  4. In a small saucepan, dry roast the jeera seeds, urad, peppercorns and red chilies, till the dal changes color.  When it is cool, grind this to a coarse powder.  Set aside.
  5. Drain the water from the bottle gourd, add the cooked dal, salt, and turmeric and bring this to a boil.
  6. Let it simmer on medium heat for about five minutes.
  7. Add the dry powder and then turn off the heat.
  8. Heat oil for tempering in a small saucepan.  Add mustard seeds, jeera, urad dal, and red chilies.
  9. When the mustard seeds sputter, turn off the heat, add curry leaves, and pour this over the kootu.

Serve with rice or rotis.

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