Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Green Banana Curry, Shukta Vegetables and Panch Phoron

**Post Factum:** 
This is one of a series of posts for Vegan MoFo 2010; my theme was a 'Virtual Random Road Trip', where I used random.org's random geographic location generator to select locations around the globe, I then attempted to cook a few dishes from the traditional cuisine of that place. I didn't have a lot of time between generating the locations and coming up with recipes (~ 1 day). So, lacking time to do proper research, I can't vouch for the authenticity of anything I came up with. However, they are what they are, and it was a fun theme. 

The road trip has fizzled out a bit over the  last week or so, but I wanted to put up one last post in honor of wrapping up VeganMoFo. The last locale for the road trip turned out to be Bangladesh, so here's my shot at a couple of recipes I found on this Bangladeshi cooking site.

The first recipe that caught my eye was a green banana curry. As with the green mango recipes, I can't say whether the plaintains I used are the same variety of hard, cooking banana that would be traditional, but at least these plaintains were truly green, and I think,  probably similar in texture starch content to ones used in that part of the world.

Kanchkolar Dom or Green Banana Curry from Bengali Cooking Recipes
(Serves 6)

4 green/unripe plantains, peeled and sliced  into 1/2-inch pieces
2 green chilis, chopped (I used green serrano chilis)
2 potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 small or 1 large onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil as needed/or desired
1/4 teasoon ground cardamon
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon sugar or other sweetner of choice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt to taste

In a sauce pan add two cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and the plantain slices, bring to a boil and allow to cook for ~5+ minutes. (I boiled mine for ~ 7-8 minutes). Drain the plantains and pan fry in ~ 1 tablespoon oil/or use a non-stick pan w/o oil, unitil the plantain slices are browned on both sides.

While the plantain slices are browning, parboil the potatoes in salted water until somewhat tender, but not cooked all the way ~ 6-8 minutes. (Alternately, you could process the potatoes along with the plantain, but keep in mind that depending on how big your potato slices are, the plantain will probably take a little longer to cook.)

When the plantains are brown, remove from pan and set aside. In same pan with remaining oil, or a touch more if there's none left, add cumin seeds, onion, green chilis, cinnamon, and cardamon and allow them to saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and saute for another few minutes. Finally, add the plantain back in with the lemon juice, sweetener, and 1/2 cup of water, bring to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for another ~ 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

The starch from the potatoes and the plantain should help thicken the broth. (Use more water for more broth if desired.)

An easy way to peel the tough skin from the unripe plantain is to cut the ends off, slice through the skin lengthwise and then pry the skin off slowly by running your fingers underneath the skin. (I hope that doesn't sound x-rated or anything.)

I was tempted to add coconut milk to this, but didn't in order to keep with the original recipe. The dish is quite pretty because the turmeric turns the plantains a lovely yellow hue. It is nicely spiced, and I especially like the lemon juice added at the end. 

The second dish I made is called Shukta Vegetable with Lentil. The recipe calls for a lauo (or lau), which is bottle gourd. Bottle gourd is a squash/or melon (whatever you want to call it)...a curcubit at any rate that is described as having a light green skin with white flesh inside. Harvested young, it is used as a vegetable. Harvested when mature and dried, they can be used as bowls or bottles. (Very cool, I totally want some gourd bowls now.)

Well, it probably won't come as a surprise, but I did not use bottle gourd. It's not generally available in my local grocery, and I will admit that I'm a bit lazy when it comes to sourcing ingredients. Instead, I used another member of the curcubit family: chayote, which is like bottle gourd in so far as it has a green skin and white flesh inside...outside of that, I do not have a clue as to how they might compare. 

I had never tried chayote before, and didn't actually buy it specifically for this recipe. But rather, I bought a couple a few weeks ago after being inspired by Zoa's cool post on this squash earlier this month. With no bottle gourd around, I figured what the hey, let's give the chayote a try.

Shukta Vegetable with Lentil from Bengali Cooking Recipes
(serves 6)

1 lb lauo/bottle gourd (I used 2 chayote squash (unpeeled)), cut into 1/2-inch peices
1/2 cup dry mung beans
1 cup green peas, (not dried)
1 teaspoon sugar or other sweetener of choice
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
handful of coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt to taste

In a sauce pan over medium-low, dry roast the mung beans slightly (~1 minute). Now add the ginger and turmeric, salt and 2 cups of water, cover and cook over medium-high until mung beans are tender. About halfway through cooking, add in the chayote pieces. When the mung beans and squash are tender, toss in the peas, the sweetener, and cilantro and cook for another minute or so.

When you are ready to serve, heat the oil in a separate pan, add the mustard seeds and stir quickly. Remove from heat and pour cooked vegetables/mung beans in the oil and stir through.

(Note: the original recipe says to add the bottle gourd in at the beginning and cook it with the mung beans the whole time, but I wasn't sure whether the gourd might be a little harder than the chayote, so I added it in later, probably  ~10 minutes before the mung beans were done.)

Both dishes were tasty, especially with a little Frank's Red Hot sprinkled over the top.

And finally, this is more of an aside, but I wanted to quickly mention Panch Phoron, or Bengali 5-spice (panch=five, phoron=flavor). I thought I would use it for this destination, but as it turned out, none of the recipes I ended up making called for it. It consists of fenugreek, anise, nigella, mustard (some sources call for yellow mustard, some for brown), and cumin. It can be used to aromatize oil, or stewed into dals and other dishes. The overall flavor is a little bittersweet, a little licorice-y, and I think it looks pretty.

So there you have it. This random road trip has come to its end. I had a great time and learned a lot from trying new (to me) recipes from other countries and veganizing them. Although, I didn't get to many destinations, I think Algeria and Hungary were my favorites.

I didn't get to read nearly as many blogs as I would have liked either, but I intend to keep perusing the blog roll at over at Vegan MoFo HQ throughout the year to come. There are so many great blogs out there, in MoFo land and beyond!

Bye, bye Vegan MoFo, until next year! Thanks for all the great blogging and good luck to all MoFoers everywhere! And to all vegan bloggers in general (MoFo or not): you guys rock my world! --Love Central--

Finally, *thank you most sincerely* to everyone who came along on the road trip...I really appreciated your company, humor, wisdom, and fun comments!

So long, farewell, and adieu to yieu, and yieu, and yeiu in the languages from the road trip along the way:

Catch ya later
Ma’a salama 
Aabar dekha hobe


  1. Those bananas look great. Wonderful post. So sad the road trip is over. Can't wait to see what you do next year.

  2. Every time I read your blog I end up with a growling stomach, and today is no exception. I really enjoyed your road trip, Rose, you discovered so many interesting foods and flavors for all of us to enjoy. You could keep road tripping, even though mofo is over, but I'd understand if you wanted to stick around home base for a while. :)

  3. Beautiful! Thank you, Rose.
    We're linked.
    Here's farewell in Vietnamese (when you have a chance to get there): Chào tạm biệt.
    Grace for Vegan Việt Nam (VietNamAnChay.blogspot.com)

  4. I've loved reading your blog so much, I'm so happy to have found you. Well done for all your awesome MoFo'ing.

  5. Wow! Your dishes totally caught my eye in my reader. I even have a chayote squash in the fridge just waiting to be used (for the first time) I am inspired by your dish for sure!

  6. The road trip was so much fun! You did an awesome job! Today's food looks and sounds EXCEPTIONAL...as usual! Oh, and now I want gourd bowls too...those sound fun!
    Maybe you can take us on an occasional road trip??? :o)

  7. What you call lazy ingredient sourcing I consider completely practical.

    I've really enjoyed the road trip and all the new things you've shown us - I might even try that green banana curry, or a Hungarian recipe - but I'm also looking forward to you doing your own thing again. Great MoFo, Rose!

  8. Thank you for sharing so much awesome food and information this Mofo! I learned a lot and enjoyed it so much ( I just wish I had been there eating with you! )

  9. My hat is off to you Rose, you did an amazing job! Above and beyond, my friend! That was literally some world class MoFoing, congrats.

  10. Your road trip was so much fun. Having tried them both this month, I bet chayote was even better than bottle gourd in your dish ;-)

    I still have a ripening plantain. Too ripe for your Green banana curry, unfortunately, which I'm now eager to try. What a beautiful presentation you've made of it.


    i always want to add stuff to recipes, coconut milk would have probably been really good:)

    i had a good time with mofo but i feel like i didnt get to read as many new blogs as i would have wanted. i will go to the mofo blog and check that out. ttys

  12. chayote, not my fav. this gives me a dif way to prepare it though. i tried to grill mine. i wasnt to sure on the flavor....forgot to add this in my last comment:)

  13. I'm sad to see the fun road trip come to an end too, but I guess even magic buses probably run out of fuel eventually! :-) You did a SUPERB job, Rose! I had a wonderful time riding along and exploring the countries we visited and some of their cuisine. My favorite destinations were also Algeria and Hungary, but Miami (with its cute bartenders and refreshing beverages - and let's not forget the brilliant sandy beach trompe l'oeil!) was fun too. :-) Thanks so much for all your very hard work and time spent putting a fantastic Vegan MoFo together!

    (And I love how you ended the adventure with a little food porn plantain strip-tease!) ;-)~

  14. omgoshimvegan

    Thanks for coming along on the road trip: I'm glad I found your blog!


    Thanks for all your fun comments along the way Andrea! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I had fun too. To say that MoFo gave forth a lot of delicious food would be an understatement! I'll be hanging out at home base for a while and trying out all the fab recipes from other blogs that I didn't have a chance to try this month! :)

    Thiên Ân

    Thank you for your nice comment! ...you know by now that I've already visited your lovely blog and will be visiting again often. I've linked to your blog too!


    Thanks for all your nice comments, and all your roundups at VeganMoFo HQ too! I'm staying tuned into your blog for the Christmas Cake decorating for sure...and all the other fab food!


    Thanks for your nice comment and for stopping by. I'll be visiting your blog very soon! :) It'll be fun to see what you do with the chayote!


    Thanks for traveling along and for all your fun and insightful comments! Glad you enjoyed it...and thank you too for all the great MoFo posts! :)


    Thanks for commenting and all your chef expertise! I'm so glad I found your blog, where I always learn so much too!


    Thanks so much, and good job to you too on the MoFo front!

  15. Michelle-lovinglivinvegan

    I think we gotta get ourselves some gourd bowls too! Maybe we could grow our own, that would be fun...and with your tomato growing skills, I'm sure bottle gourd would flourish! :) I don't know about continuing the road trip as such, but I'm still dreaming of Ethiopian food, so I see some of that in my future. Have fun, and good job completing your first MoFo!


    You cooked bottle gourd? What's it like? Did you blog it? I'm off to search for that...I'm so curious. I thought the chayote was fine in it...I liked it a lot raw too, and would probably use it that way more often than cooking it. How does it compare to the bottle gourd?

    Thanks for all your comments in the road trip and all the great inspiration to try out new things...even if I am a bit lazy about trying to find them...


    Oh yeah, coconut milk would be really really good in the banana curry! I didn't get nearly as blog reading done either! Thanks as usual for all your fun and interesting comments too! Oh, and I think the chayote was good raw...did you try it raw? I think it would be good in salad.


    Thank you for all the MoFo support!! Your comments are always a pleasure, and as hard as it is blog a lot...it's also a job keeping up with all the blogs! Thanks so much for all your encouragement. Oh, and I was worried about the plantain being a little risque, but let's face it; fruits and veggies are just sexy! :)


    Thanks for stopping by and for all your amazing blog posts during MoFo too!

  16. What can I say that hasn't been said before? We laughed. We cried. Fantastic job, Rose!

  17. Shen

    Thanks for sharing the tears, the fears, and the good times! =D

  18. What a way to wrap up our road trip! Farewell, MOFO 2010!

  19. BlessedMama

    Yes, farewell to MoFo...thanks for all your commenting! :)

  20. Wow what a colorful dish! I never know how to incorporate turmeric in any of the meals I make, so this is a great example of how to use that spice that I know very little about.
    You did a great job with your vegan mofo posts. I had a lot of fun traveling around the world with you. I really did learn a lot. Great job!

  21. Thanks, Rose! I'm almost jealous of myself haha.

    Portland continues to be amazing as all hell. I love it here...sometimes I wish I wasn't an actress so I could relocate.

    Your dish looks gorgeous!

  22. You did an outstanding job with MoFo, one of the best, in my opinion. "catch ya later"

  23. Whoa the green banana curry sounds so flavorful!

  24. That looks so so good. I'm going to have to look through the rest of your posts when I get time :)


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