Tetor Dal

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Bitter gourd or what we call karolla/karela is one of those vegetables which even veggie lovers try to avoid. A somewhat smaller in shape is the ucche which is quite hard to find in Kolkata, leave aside somewhere outside India. These two cousins with their bitter taste, avoided by almost all have a niche in Bengali cuisine. During my childhood, summer lunch always meant a bowl of alu-karolla sedho (boiled potato and bitter gourd) drenched in mustard oil or even the dudh shukto. While most of my friends hated these preparations, I was and am in love with this bitter vegetable.

I was in Spencer’s yesterday, when I got hold of some fresh karolla and there I was holding a couple of bitter gourd thinking of what to prepare with it. The first thought was preparing some fried karola, but then left the idea because of the amount of oil that comes along with it. Shukto is my all-time favorite, but then raw papaya is quite hard to find in Bangalore. Do let me know if you are aware of any place where you get fresh green papaya in Bangalore.

After some thinking and peeping into my refrigerator, I thought of preparing the tetor dal (pulses with bitter gourd). Tetor dal is my mom’s specialty. I have never tasted such mouth-watering dal anywhere. And, after all no restaurant not even Oh! Calcutta or some Bengali specialty restaurant will serve tetor dal, whatsoever. So, here’s a beginner’s guide to preparing the karola, lau and jhinga diye dal (lentils with three different gourds).

Serves 4


  • 200gms bitter gourd, cut into rings
  • 1 medium size ridge gourd/ jhinga, chopped into rings
  • ½ of a small gourd/ lau, cut to 1” size hemispherical pieces
  • 1 cup yellow lentil/ mung dal
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 green chili
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 3 tablespoon mustard oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Wash the lentils and start boiling with 2 cups of water
  • As the lentils get half cooked, put in the ridge gourd and the gourd
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of mustard oil in a wok and fry the bitter gourd till half done
  • Add the fried karola to the boiling dal
  • Once the vegetables are completely cooked, add the turmeric, and cumin powder
  • Heat the extra oil in a deep bottom pan, throw in the bay leaf and cumin seeds
  • As the seeds start sputtering, pour in the dal and stir once
  • Keep over flame till the dal starts boiling
  • Take out of flame, add a dollop of ghee (optional) and serve hot with warm rice and fries.

Hot Tips – If you are an absolute hater of bitter gourd, then just give it a miss .

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There is a saying “Bhojon Rashik Bangali” (“food loving Bengali”). I won’t say it’s absolutely a myth. Bengalis are really fond of eating and feeding others. A usual Bengali lunch starts with a shukto, dal, fries or fritters, a vegetarian curry, and then the non-vegetarian item, most likely to be fish if not a egg, chicken or mutton curry, and ending with a chutney. And of course there are a few guests at home, then there is always a chance to feast on some sweets at the end of the meal. So, it is always a heavy meal in a Bengali household whether you like it or don’t like it. Talking about lunches, there has to be a shukto to start with. Shukto is a typical Bengali dish with minimal spices and all the vegetables that you can find in the kitchen, the refrigerator, or for that matter anywhere in and around the house. But, a statutory warning here, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbages are not allowed to be a part of this bitter sweet preparation.

Shukto is of various types, depending on the type of spices used or even at times the absence or presence of some particular vegetables. But, in general it is a bitter in taste because of the bitter gourd, which is the most important ingredient of this preparation. Among all the types of shukto the most popular one is the dudh shukto, here milk is used to temper the taste of the whole preparation.


My mom is an avid lover of shukto, first because she can use all the vegetables in her stock and secondly because she gets an alibi to feed us bitter gourd. She prepares shukto in different style, and this one is one of her own creations. There another very interesting part about having shukto, it is never served for dinner, but is only had at lunch time. While writing this post, I called up my mom, my aunts and even my father, but they all had the same statement, “shukto raat e khete nei” (You should not have shukto at night), but nobody actually knew why not to have it at night. Baba (my father) tried to solve the mystery saying that with so many vegetables its quite a heavy preparation and so one should avoid having it at night. He also added that may be its because of that bitter gourd, which may create some digestive trouble if had at night. Truly speaking, I am not satisfied with his solution. I would love to hear from any of you if you have any suggestions or solutions to this.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 15 -20min


Aubergine (Begun): 1 medium

French Beans (Bean): 5 -6

Bitter gourd (Karola): 2 medium sized

Pumpkin (Kumro): 100gm

Potato (Alu): 2 medium sized

Ridge gourd (Jhinge): 1

Mustard seed (Sarse): 1 tablespoon

Drumsticks (Sajner data): 2, cut into one inch lengths

Raw rice (Atop chal): 2 tablespoon, coarsely made into paste

Turmeric powder (Halud guro): ½ teaspoon

Ginger paste (Ada bata) 1teaspoon

Mustard paste (Sarse bata): 2 tablespoon

Mustard oil (Sarser tel): 4 tablespoon


  • Dice the vegetables into even size pieces.
  • Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in a wok, throw in the mustard seeds and grinded rice
  • Add all the vegetables as the mustard seeds start popping
  • Mix the oil well with the vegetables and let it cook in low flame under cover
  • Take out the cover when the vegetables are half done, pour in little water (about half cup), ginger and mustard paste, turmeric powder; mix well
  • Cook for about 5 min or till the vegetables are well cooked
  • Pour in the rest of the mustard oil and take out of flame
  • Shukto tastes best with warm white rice


Hot Tips – You can add squash or green papaya to this, it enhances the taste. Bodi also tastes good with shukto, so you can just fry some and garnish shukto with the bori.

Further Reading – Dudh shukto, Shukto with bori

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