top of page

Sign up for emails on super healthy, delicious plant-based recipes, cooking tips, events, announcements & the latest on plant-based nutritional research.

Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC

www.cathyskitchenprescription.com

 

Shukto, Bengali Vegetable Curry

 

Beloved throughout West Bengal and Bangladesh, Shukto is comfort food at its finest. It is a celebratory amalgam of local vegetables and fruits in a milky sauce, seasoned with flavorful poppy seed, ginger, and mustard pastes. Typically, the vegetables are fried in a prodigious quantity of mustard oil and finished with ghee. This Shukto, however, is a more climate-friendly, healthier low-fat alternative; it excludes mustard oil, ghee, dairy milk, salt, and sugar.

 

A unique dish, Shukto resonates with Ayurvedic traditions with sweet, spicy, sour, salty, and bitter notes that excite and engage the entire palate. It is a longer recipe for those occasions when you have the time to cook something really special, especially if you ferment your own Bori dumplings. Shukto is often served at feasts and banquets, early in a multicourse feast, to prime the senses and stimulate the appetite, but it’s also grand as a special family dinner, accompanied by a fluffy steaming bowl of whole grains.

 

Prep Overnight soak of mustard and poppy seeds plus 1 hour

Cook 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 5

 

2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds, soaked and ground into a soft paste

2 tablespoons white poppy seeds, soaked and ground into a soft paste

1½ inch knob of ginger, peeled and ground into a soft paste

1 tablespoon date paste from ½ cup pitted dates, or to taste

2 teaspoons radhuni seeds

2 fresh drumsticks (moringa pods) or ½ cup frozen drumsticks, fibrous outer strings removed, cut in 1-inch pieces

1 young firm Italian eggplant, cut in 3-inch lengths, then cut in wedges

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

½ pound young hyacinth beans, strings removed, cut in half

1 small bitter gourd, sliced in half lengthwise, deseeded, sliced in ½-inch pieces

1 large potato, peeled and cut in wedges

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in wedges

1 small daikon radish, peeled, cut in 3-inch lengths, then cut in wedges

1 cup green papaya, deseeded, but in 1-inch cubes

1 small green plantain, peeled, cut in 3-inch lengths, cut in wedges

4 large Indian bay leaves

2 tablespoons Panch Phoron Spice Blend (see page    )

1 to 2 green Indian chilies, thinly sliced, or to taste

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

15 homemade Bori, Bengali Dried Fermented Lentil Dumplings (see page    ) or commercial bori

1/3 cup aka (red) miso paste, diluted in 1/3 cup water, or to taste

 

Hints

  1. If you can’t find hyacinth beans, use another flat green bean, like Romano.
  2. Traditional recipes call for more bitter gourd, salting them to draw out their bitter juices. Rather than use salt here, I have dialed down their quantity. Bitter gourds are super healthy but so alkaline, their bitter flavor can overpower the dish. Use as much or little as you like.
  3. Find brown mustard seeds, white poppy seeds, radhuni seeds, moringa pods, hyacinth beans, bitter gourd, daikon radish, green papayas, green plantains, Indian bay leaves, and green Indian chilies in South Asian groceries.

 

  • In a small bowl add mustard seeds and cover with ample water. Do the same for the white poppy seeds. Soak the seeds overnight or for 8 hours. Using a mortar and pestle grind the seeds separately with as much of its soaking water as needed to create soft, milky pastes.
  • To make the ginger paste, peel and chop the ginger. Toss in a spice or coffee grinder to crush into a soft paste.
  • To make the date paste, add the dates to a small pot, cover with water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Alternatively, place in a small bowl, cover with water, and microwave for 2 minutes. Cool. Transfer the dates with as much of its soaking water as needed to a high-speed blender. Run on high until you create a soft, smooth paste.
  • Grind one teaspoon of the radhuni seeds. This will be used to finish and garnish the dish. Leave the other teaspoon of radhuni seeds whole.
  • Moringa pod drumsticks have a woody, inedible exterior. To prep them, use a knife to grab its surface stringy covering and pull down along its length to strip off its outer layer. Then cut the drumsticks into 1-inch sections.
  • As you prep the potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantain, and eggplant, transfer them to a bowl of water to prevent their oxidation and browning until use.
  • Instead of frying the vegetables and fruits in mustard oil before combining them in the curry, we will par cook and toast them in large nonstick skillets. Heat one or two good quality lidded nonstick pans over medium heat for 3 minutes or until a spritz of water dances across its surface. Consecutively toast each side of every vegetable and fruit by type, turning them as they lightly brown. Covering the pan will accelerate their browning. Keep close watch because the beans, for example, cook swiftly, while the potatoes take a few minutes per side. Transfer each vegetable, by type, to their own plate as you proceed to the next. Lastly, lightly toast the dry Bori dumplings until they are lightly golden. The entire process will take about 30 minutes. After browning the eggplant, dredge it in the turmeric to enhance its visual appeal and flavor the curry.
  • Now we’ll put it all together. Rinse and dry the skillet. Reheat over a medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves, Panch Phoron, and remaining teaspoon of radhuni whole seeds. Dry roast, stirring, and as soon as the spices become fragrant, in less than one minute, stir in the mustard seed, poppy seed, and ginger pastes, followed by the date paste and as much of the green Thai chilies as you like.
  • Add the vegetables now, in order of their density and the time they need to cook. Start with the potatoes, coating them with the sauce. Cover the pan and cook for two minutes. Then add the drumsticks, sweet potato, and eggplant. Cover and cook for 5 minutes before stirring in the hyacinth beans, daikon, green papaya, plantain, and as much or as little of the bitter gourd as you like.
  • Add the soy milk and two or more additional cups of water as needed to create a flavorful brothy sauce.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. When all the elements are tender but still intact, add the toasted Bori and sprinkle with the reserved teaspoon of ground radhuni.  Plate individually, stirring in 1 to 2 teaspoons of diluted miso, or more to taste. Serve with a steaming bowl of whole grains.

 

Shukto, Bengali Vegetable Curry

    Cathy's Card
    bottom of page