Dudh Shukto

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Bengalis mostly live to eat, and with the scores of spices we use to prepare food each day, it’s really important to have something soothing and less spicy to nullify the effect of all these rich food. Shukto is an answer to all these questions. This typical Bong favorite is a concoction of all seasonal vegetables.


A Bengali lunch is never complete without Shukto. Shukto can loosely be compared to the Western culture of having soup before starting the main course. Though, Shukto is totally different from soup, it’s always made with vegetables chopped in large pieces and best tastes with warm white rice. There are many variations of shukto, and it depends on the availability of the vegetables, but the most popular is dudh shukto (vegetables cooked in milk). Before saying anything more about this classical Bengali preparation I should warn you, bitter gourd is one of the must have ingredients in this preparation. Even if you hate that bitter vegetables, I’m sure if you have shukto once, you’ll definitely ask for more.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup each of potato, sweet potato, papaya, carrot, beans, string beans, green banana chopped to 1” size pieces
  • Drumsticks cut to 2” length
  • 10 – 12 Bodi
  • ½ cup of bitter gourd, cut to small round-shaped bite size pieces
  • 4 tablespoon of mustard oil
  • 1 teaspoon clarified butter (optional)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoon panch phoron
  • 1 tablespoon wild celery
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • ½ cup milk

Preparation:

  • Heat 2 tablespoon of mustard oil and fry the bodi and bitter gourd separately, keep aside
  • Pour in rest of the oil and throw in half the spices (panch phoron, wild celery, and mustard seeds), as they start sputtering add all the vegetables except the fried bitter gourd
  • Sprinkle a little water
  • Cover and cook till all the vegetables soften. Stir once or twice in between
  • Heat a thick bottom skillet and roast rest of the spices, grind them to fine powder and mix with the milk
  • As the vegetables get cooked pour in the spice mixed milk, fried bodi, bitter gourd and pour in the ghee

Hot Tips – The trick to prepare shukto is cutting the vegetables, so while chopping the vegetables always try to keep the pieces almost the same size. Panch phoron is a concoction of fenugreek, fennel, wild celery, nigella and mustard seeds in equal proportions.

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Shukto

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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.

Shukto

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

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:

  • 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

Shukto

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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