SNAKE gourd is a vegetable that has a permanent place in my parents’ garden since my childhood because it grows easily and bears plenty of fruit.
With so much snake gourd (podalangai in Tamil) at our disposal, it was common to see it being prepared in variations.
My mum prepares snake gourd stir-fried, in batter then deep-fried, stuffed with minced meat or cooked in dhal. The term dhal is used interchangeably to refer to curries cooked with lentils or even lentils itself.
There are different types of lentils, in interesting colours to cook with but it pays to know which pulse to use when making a particular dish. For those unfamiliar with lentils, it is best to follow a recipe and use the right lentil to get the desired result. Malawi dhal, mysore dhal, split mung bean, chana dhal and urad dhal are some of the lentils ever-present in my kitchen.
Snake gourd with lentils (podalangai kootu) is common in many Indian homes but different cooks have their preferred dhal to make this dish. I use a combination of chana and split mung beans for this recipe.
Most people cook the dhal, then add the vegetable in before the tempering process but this can result in a very mushy version of the dish if the vegetable is overcooked.
My family does it differently by boiling the dhal and then in a separate pot, the snake gourd is stir-fried after the tempering process.
This way the vegetable’s lovely green hue and taste is preserved when added to the tasty yellow dhal.
Snake gourd with lentils
Dhal ingredients (A)100g chana dal (split chickpeas)
50g split mung bean
½ red large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, slivered
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Vegetable ingredients (B)
3 tbsp ghee/vegetable oil
3 dried chillies, sliced into big pieces
1 sprig curry leaf
2 green chillies, sliced into big pieces
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 inch ginger, slivered
½ red large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 snake gourd, approximately 60cm, seeded and sliced into half rings
¼ tsp salt to tasteMethod for A1) Wash chana dhal and soak in water for two hours or more.
2) Transfer soaked dhal to a deep pot. Also add rinsed mung beans and approximately 600ml water. Reserve some water (hot water) for later.
3) Add turmeric powder, garlic and red onion to the pot.
4) Let the ingredients come to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and turn the heat to low. Chana dhal can take up to an hour or more to cook.
5) Do a taste test to check if the dhal is cooked. The chana dhal must hold its shape and soft to taste while the mung beans, which cook fast will meld into the dhal.
6) Keep the dhal on low fire. If it thickens, add some boiled water.
7) Turn off the heat.
Method for B1) Put the desired amount of ghee into a pan on the stove.
2) Once ghee is hot, add dried red chillies and curry leaves. These will crackle in the oil.
3) Speedily add fennel, mustard seeds and green chillies into the pot and stir to allow the aromatic oils of these ingredients to combine.
4) Add ginger and sliced onions. Allow these to cook for a minute or so before adding the garlic. This is to prevent the garlic from burning as it cooks fast. Add salt.
5) Once the onion sweats, add the snake gourd and stir.
6) Close the pot and reduce the flame to allow the vegetable to cook.
7) Once the snake gourd has changed colour to deep green, turn off the heat. Do not overcook the snake gourd. Taste it to ensure it is still slightly crunchy. Add an extra 1 tbsp ghee if needed.
8) Add cooked snake gourd (B) to the dhal (A) and stir.
9) Taste and add salt if needed.
10) Add hot water if dhal is too thick.
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