Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bazaar treasures - Monsoon special (1)

- By Deepa Krishnan

It is the monsoon season now, and every time I go to the markets, I see some seasonal specialty. Some of them are available in other seasons too, but right now they are extra nice and fresh. Since many of these monsoon treasures may disappear in October, I clicked some photos. 

The first photo below is of the teasel gourd; the Bengalis call it kakrol and the Gujaratis kantola. It is available in large sizes in the monsoon. Doesn't the photo look like a lot of little mice and their tails? :) :) If you haven't tasted it yet, then try it this monsoon! It's a bit like a karela, but without the bitterness. You can make a simple sabzi with it (just slice it, add salt and red chilli powder and fry it), or you can make a stuffed version with masalas inside. 
The Teasel Gourd or Kantola
This year in the market I noticed for the first time, a pale green whitish okra (ladies finger, bhindi). It is much larger than the dark green ones, in fact, in one shop it was almost twice the size. When I asked the vendor about it, he said that it is less sticky than the dark ones. I first thought it was some new-fangled hybrid, but on further questioning the vendors, it looked like this is a traditional seasonal veggie. Among Gujaratis, it is cooked for a particular fast during the Ganpati festival. I'm told even when cooked, it doesn't become as soft as the regular bhindi. Have you tried this bhindi? Do you know more about it?
White ladies finger
Here's a fruit that I don't cook at all. Breadfruit is found in Kerala cuisine, as well as the cuisine of the Konkan coast. The Malayalis call it kadachakka, and if you search online you will find several recipes for it. I've seen a recipe from Karnataka, where breadfruit is sliced, rubbed with tamarind paste, chillies and salt, and after about 5-10 minutes, it is coated with powdered rice batter and fried. I'm tempted to buy it on my next market visit! 
Breadfruit (no it is not raw jackfruit)
These days there are lots of colocasia leaves in the market. Who doesn't love them, fried or steamed into patra and vadi? In the monsoon you see these appear in more frequency, with the leaves dripping rainwater. It is hard to resist the lure! The outer pale grey of the leaves repels water. If you go to Matunga, elderly Gujju ladies can be seen in pale cotton sarees haggling with vendors and giving them a tough time :)
Colocasia leaves
In the monsoon we sometimes get a kind of chives in the market. It resembles spring onion or garlic, but it is distinctly different and even a little bitter. The local names for this vegetable are phodshi or kuli, and it makes for good pakodas. The big difference from garlic or spring onion is that with kuli/phodshi, we do not use the white roots. Also there is a thin stem in the blades which needs to be removed. Not available in any other part of the year.
Kuli / Phodshi
Another vegetable you see a lot in the monsoons is chow-chow or chu-chu, which the Kannadigas call seemey badnekayi. In South Indian cooking it is used to make kootu. The Bengalis temper it with panch-phoron and bayleaf, and sometimes add a little milk, to make a sort of side-dish. In Shillong it grows abundantly in the backyards, and is cooked along with meat.
Chayote / pear squash / chow chow / chu chu
Here's another interesting find from the monsoon season: Brahmi leaves. This is a small leaf, shaped like the ear of a mouse. It has huge medicinal benefits, you'll find it if you just google it. You can make a chutney with it, with coconut, tamarind and green chillies. Or make hair oil with it. In Tamil it is called vellarai keerai. Konkanis call it ekpanni, because there is only one leaf at the end of the stem. I think even in Kannada it's called ondelaga (one-leaf). Do you use it? What do you make with it?
Brahmi Leaves
There are still several more monsoon delights, but it is late now and I better stop blogging! We are off to a trek early morning tomorrow in the hills nearby. I'll come back and post the next instalment of monsoon specials!

Update: Here's Part 2 of the Monsoon Special!! 


paul said...

Looks all very interesting and exotic. We have chokos in NZ, and colocasia, but the other items are unknown to me. Thanks for sharing.

Haddock said...

Appetizing pictures.
Love Breadfruit.

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Anonymous said...

Love the Kantola just had the other day we do get Kantola and pantra in London during Sumer months .
Never seen
Kuli bhaji yet in London
I remember my younger day in Mumbai it was Bombay then we use to make (muthiya) in Gujarati like steam pakora
Thank you for sharing Deepa

Unknown said...


Aakash said...

Great information! I happened to land in here after googling "phodshi". Can you also write a post with nutritional recipe of these 'not so famous' veggies for newbies like me?