Fighting for the rights of the ivy gourd
- The humble ivy gourd or tendli finds new champions on the Indian twitterverse
- Konkani cuisine reveres the tendli and the dish is interpreted in a variety of ways
Two weeks ago, journalist and author Shiv Aroor tweeted about his extreme dislike for kundru (tendli/ivy gourd). Within a few hours, there were over 2,000 responses to this tweet. Most of them were outraged at how someone could hate this vegetable and a few of them agreed on how disagreeable kundru is. A couple of people even chimed in that the best use of this vegetable is as an eraser for blackboards.
Food bloggers, cookbook authors and chefs joined the pullulating discussion with views, recipes and childhood experiences, and soon it felt like an all-India Kundru Symposium on my Twitter timeline. Most of them were trying to convince Aroor that he had somehow only tried bad versions of dishes made with kundru. By the end of the day, he had several invites to try out kundru specialities in people’s homes so that he could change his mind. I was surprised to find that this underdog vegetable had so many fans, eager to fight for its rights.
This was probably the first time the humble kundru was trending on Twitter.
Ivy gourd belongs to the cucurbitaceae family from which watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, ridge gourd, zucchini and many other popular vegetables hail. Owing to its fast-growing nature and easy propagation, it is one of the vegetables easily available in Indian markets.
If there’s one Indian cuisine that absolutely reveres the ivy gourd, it is Konkani. The Saraswat cuisine cookbook Rasachandrika lists nine ways to prepare ivy gourd.
One of the noteworthy Konkani dishes using ivy gourd is bibbe upkari, even though it is not the main ingredient in the dish. This dish made it to the headlines for being on the menu at actor Deepika Padukone’s wedding. It is a dry curry made using tender cashew nuts and ivy gourd. Tender cashew nuts are expensive, and pairing them with an inexpensive vegetable like ivy gourd makes complete economic sense. Nowadays, dried cashew nuts are used as a cheaper and easy substitute, which robs the dish of its fresh delicate flavours.
Louvina Andrade from Mangaluru is an avid food lover and it is always a joy interacting with her on Twitter about topics related to food. She explains that tendli creepers are easy to grow in kitchen gardens. These are plucked off the vines while still very tender. Tender ivy gourds can also be used in salads with boiled chana (chickpeas). “We make a pickle of tendli along with carrots, green papaya and dates. This lip-smacking pickle with a sweetish masala is served at Mangalurean Catholic weddings," she says. Andrade adds that this pickle is in demand with NRIs (non-resident Indians) who visit on annual holidays.
While I do not hate this vegetable, it is an easy one to get wrong. Choosing the right tendli is half the job done. Select thinner ones which are green-white inside. The thick ones tend to be more mature, with tougher skin, red flesh and seeds, and a sour taste.
Boil it in water or pressure-cook it and it can completely lose structure, resulting in a goopy mess. Fry it in copious quantities of oil with a bunch of spices , however, and it can turn out to be a good accompaniment to dal and rice. My favoured way of cooking tendli besides the fried-until-you-don’t-recognize-it version, is in the Maharashtrian masale bhaath, the rice and spices giving cosy company to the tendli.
TENDLI ALOO SUBZI
1 medium potato
1 tbsp sunflower oil
A pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp rice flour
Top and tail the tendli. Cut into thin slices. Peel and dice the potato finely. Microwave the tendli and potato for 3-4 minutes. If you do not use a microwave, steam in a pressure cooker (minus the whistle) for 5-6 minutes.
Place the steamed vegetables in a sieve to drain any water. Heat oil in a pan. Add the asafoetida, cumin, red chilli, coriander and turmeric powders and salt. Fry on a medium flame until the cumin seeds crackle.
Add the steamed vegetables along with the rice flour and stir fry on a medium-high flame until any residual moisture dries out and the vegetables turn somewhat crunchy and golden brown on the outside. Serve with dal and rice.
SERIOUSLY LOW-CARB FRIES
2 cups tendli
1-2 tsp rice flour
1-2 tsp chaat masala
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp sunflower oil
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or, if using air fryer, set to 180 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes.
Top and tail the tendli. Halve each lengthwise and slice each half further into two-three juliennes. In a bowl, mix together the julienned tendli, chaat masala, rice flour and red chilli powder.
Adjust the quantity of rice flour to absorb all the extra moisture from the chopped tendli. Mix in the oil and coat the tendli in spices and oil.
If using the oven, line the prepared tendli in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius until crunchy and golden brown. If using an air fryer, transfer the tendli into the basket of the preheated air fryer. Open the basket after 4 minutes to give it a shake and put it back in for another 3-4 minutes until the tendli is crunchy and golden brown. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the “fries" and serve immediately. It goes well with a hung yogurt dip.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting seasonal ingredients. Nandita Iyeris the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.
FIRST PUBLISHED30.06.2019 | 10:15 AM IST