Are you familiar with Ivy gourds? I know it is quite common in India and probably in a lot of other Asian countries and it goes by many names.
I was quite young when my first encounter happened with this vegetable. It was one of those trips to the bazaar with my grandma and we came back with these along with more vegetables in the burlap shopping bag. As I sat down sorting the vegetables in the big orange basket, I collected all of the Kundri (as we call it in Bengal) and bit into one. My grandma smiled. I do not remember what I thought of it; I did not know that these were not supposed to be eaten raw. But I guess one could, just like I did. The young tender ones are actually nice and crunchy with not much taste to it except a faint trace of tart.
Now that I have an uncontrolled vine growing in my yard, I have started nibbling on the little gourds again as I slice and cook – reliving my childhood.
It feels good growing them at home. The everyday grocery stores do not sell these here. We see them in the Indian groceries, often not that fresh or young. But for these many years I have been buying them as we get them. This is the first year that a friend brought in young plant and I could not have been more grateful. The vines are known to be “invasive” and they grown as much as four inches a day! So if I had not contained them within the boundaries they would have taken over my yard.
They are really ripe when the interior starts taking on that reddish hue, and then the entire gourd turns bright red…
If they are not home grown and harvested late, they tend to get tough. Back home, when we got “ripened” ivy gourds, they would be partially cooked in salted water to soften them before stir frying. I have been doing the same. This year is different. The little gourds are picked before they get tough on the vine and I find no need to pre cook them.
This happens to be one of those vegetables we all adore in our family. Ivy gourd can be cooked in many many ways. Different states of India have their own way to do it. The recipe today is done the way I have always had and loved.
So here we go, we have another humble recipe from home, Kundri Bhaja (Koondri..) as we call it.
Stir Fried Ivy Gourd with Onion
Ingredients:(serves 2 as a side)
- 30 – 40 Ivy Gourd/Tindora/Kundri
- 1.5 cups loosely packed onion sliced thin in half moon
- 1.5 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 dry red chili pepper
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- red chili pepper/cayenne/paprika – optional – to taste
- optional – fresh lemon juice to finish off and fresh herbs if you want
Wash the ivy gourds. You might need to slice off a tiny bit at the two ends to remove the stem and the remains of the flowers if there are any. Then slice them in half and then in fours; in thin strips.
If you have to pre cook them, take 1- 1.5 cups of water, and add salt, and the sliced gourds. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or as long as it takes them to be just more than half done. You could uncover towards the last few minutes of cooking for the water to evaporate.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed skillet. Add the dry chili pepper and the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle, add the sliced onions and cook at high heat until the onions just start to brown. Add the sliced gourds to the pan (if you have pre-cooked, drain out any water) along with salt, red chili powder/cayenne/paprika and turmeric and cook on medium heat, while stirring and tossing frequently. They will tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the gourds and onions are soft to bite in. The onions and the gourd might brown and that is okay. The slight caramelization adds a hint of sweet which is really lovely.
Finish off with a little drizzle of fresh lemon juice and herbs if you want.
The is a side dish, served along with rice and dal. Or it may be just served with parathas/roti/any flat bread along with raita.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves: 2 as a side