Bengali cuisine is known for its spread of confectionaries and sweet delight, but is not limited to it. According to Wikipedia it is the only cuisine in the Indian-Subcontinent which has been traditionally developed as a multi-course meal, quiet similar to the modern structure of continental food. I am not sure about the ‘only’ part, but it sure is a multi course meal. A typical meal is geared towards a balanced meal and incorporates a lot of vegetables. It starts with a dish made of something bitter to serve as a palette cleanser, followed by a Shaag (leafy green vegetables), then comes the Dal accompanied with a Bhaja (fried vegetable) or Chorchori (stir fry) or both, then Macher Jhol (Fish), chatney, Doi (yogurt) and finally a dessert. Served with rice. And within this nutrition packed diet lies the secret behind the good skin and good hair bengali women are famous for.
I grew up in a nucleus family with two working parents, so every day meal was not this elaborate. However, a non-elaborate meal still included Dal, Shaag, Bhaja or Chorchori, Maacher Jhol and Doi. When I got married, my South-Indian husband thought (Still thinks) I was crazy to cook so much for a single meal. I changed my habits a little and now cook a minimalistic meal of Dal, Rice, Shaag and a side of vegetables. Yes, that is minimalistic in my book!
Making this takes care of my serving of vegetables and Leafy greens in one dish! Plus it is delicious. This is one of my very favorite side dishes and my entire life I have called it ‘Mast Mast Chorchori’. Traditionally Eggplant (Brinjal) is one of the main ingredients in this dish and if your not allergic to it (Like I am!) I recommend adding some, apparently it tastes better.
This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion.
Time for Prep: 10 mins Time to Cook: 15-20 mins Yield: 4 servings Level: Easy
One important thing to keep in mind before you start prepping, this dish is a medley of hard and soft vegetables all cooked together, while chopping keep that in mind and adjust size accordingly. Also the green is added right at the end.
- The vegetables
- 1 medium size potato, chopped
- 1 bunch red radish (10-12), chopped (keep the greens)
- 1 medium sized carrot, chopped
- 1/2 butternut squash chopped (traditionally pumpkin is used)
- 1/2 acorn squash, chopped (optional)
- 1 yellow beet, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
- 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
- 2-3 cups of mixed greens, roughly chopped
The picture above shows approximate quantity of greens, its a dinner plate heaped with greens. I used a combination of the greens from the radish, baby spinach, baby kale, collard greens and broccoli rabe. Traditionally only spinach is used.
- 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ghee (optional)
- salt to taste
- Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and celery seeds. Sauté till aromatic.
- Add all vegetables (except the greens), turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
- Add the green and mix slightly. Cook till the greens wilt. Don’t overcook the greens, this dish is suppose to be dry, overcooking the green will make them release too much water. (Also its healthier)
- Remove from heat and add a spoon of ghee at this point if your using it.
- Serve with rice or enjoy it as is.
- If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go. Cook the them separately and mix it in before you add the greens.
- The biggest chunk of effort for this dish is the chopping. To save time use frozen chopped vegetables. I buy my produce from the local farmers market on Sunday Mornings (benefits of living in California). Once I am back I spend a couple hours chopping, bagging and freezing. I have high quality ziplock bags labelled that i rinse and re-use. That way during the week when I actually cook, it’s easy and I don’t have to clean up everyday.