Did you know Bengalis are pretty much obsessed with food, especially dishes that include fish? I remember my maternal grandfather going to the market every morning to buy fresh vegetables and fish. There is a distinct memory of my parents enthusiastically joining him, or other family members, for this morning ritual.
“There are so many fruits, vegetables and types of fish that we’ve grown up eating but miss now,” my parents would often say. True that. There are some products native to the region that my parents – among those who moved away from their roots for a better life – miss a lot.
To a limited extent, my parents have tried their best to follow this ritual in our adopted home, Ahmedabad, especially when it comes to leafy greens, vegetables and fish. We love our fresh spinach and ilish. And we also love the fresh, crunchy bottle gourd, a much-popular item in a Bengali palette.
A family favourite, Maa cooks the lau by itself with light seasoning. But when there are shrimps or prawns in the house, we are in for a treat because it’s time for lau chingri, a recipe wherein finely chopped bottle gourd is cooked with the seafood and served as a side dish.
Cooked without garlic or onion, this is a dish perfect for the summer months when you want a meal that requires the least time in the kitchen, has minimal spices and is not heavy on your tummy. I loved it when Maa taught me this! Such a simple, easy and hassle-free dish that can be eaten with rice or roti. I hope you enjoy eating what is a family favourite.
- 500 grams Bottle gourd (peeled, chopped)
- 150-200 grams Prawns (deveined, deshelled)
- 2 Green chillies
- ½ teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ginger paste/grated
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon Corn flour (diluted)
- ½ tablespoon Coriander powder
- ½ tablespoon Cumin powder
- Mustard Oil
Place the prawns in a bowl, coat in ½ tablespoon salt and ½ tablespoon turmeric powder. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the prawns.
Beginners tip: You will know the prawns are cooked when they give off the ‘eat me now’ scent. Try not to snack on them while you cook. The first time I tried this dish, I ended up eating all the prawns. We ended up eating stir fried bottle gourd.
Set aside the cooked prawns. In the same pan, add ½ tablespoon of oil – if needed – and throw in the cumin. Sauté till slightly brown.
Add the bottle gourd and sauté for a minute.
Slit the green chillies lengthwise and add them to the gourd, along with the turmeric powder and ginger paste.
Let the gourd cook for 5 minutes before adding the fried prawns.
Pour in 2/3rd cup water, mix, cover and allow to cook until most of the water has evaporated.
Add the diluted corn flour to the vegetable-prawn mix and stir. Adjust the seasonings. Cook for a minute and remove from heat.
Sprinkle the cumin and coriander powders, mix and serve hot with rice or roti.
• If you are not a fan of bottle gourd, replace with green cabbage and follow the same process.
• You can substitute the prawns with shrimps.
• Marinating is an optional process. You can jump to the frying bit if in a rush. But if you do opt to marinate the prawns, then 30 minutes is the minimum time.
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