What do you do after peeling the skin while cutting veggies especially Potato or Bottle Gourd! The simplest answer would be “What else! I throw away!” This is, however, may not be the answer you can expect from a Bong. We often cook the Veg Peel. Surprised, aren’t you! Don’t be… believe me if cooked properly, Peel from Potatoes and Bottle Gourd (separately or as a combo) turned out to be an amazing dish; Lau ar Aloo er Khosa Bhaja or Stir-fried Bottle Gourd and Potato Peel!
I asked many people about the origin of this dish and found two answers that are common; one is by my father while discussing this dish prepared by his mother (my Thakuma). When Dadu (my grandfather) died in 1946 she was only 29 and had 7 children to taking care off. My father was only 11 months at that time and my other uncle/aunts were also little. She was the only person responsible for the wellbeing of her offsprings and she did her best to nurture her children.
Thakuma was out of money and other economic resources given Dadu’s sudden death . She used to try hard to give proper diet and education to her children. To supplement the food requirement Thakuma did not even throw the veg peels and used to cook those and this is how this dish came into existence in my house. Another version, I heard from my friend’s granny who came to India during the partition of 1947 from Bangladesh. At that time they had no option but to vacate their residence and luxury in Bangladesh and came to India almost empty handed and the same story follows. Not to throw anything edible; to utilize every eatable as much as possible.
Both the incidents are actually same by heart; both are real-life stories of battling for existence. Today; while having this kind of dishes we just cherish the taste but sometimes forgot the real reason behind making these; the pain; battle… I never met Thakuma in her lifetime given she died before my father’s marriage but I respect her from the core of my heart. This is not because she is my granny but because of her strong persona; her stamina; how she was able to overcome every up and down in her life; how she succeeded to make each of her child successful and strong in their life. I have never seen my father (or uncles) to misuse food. Neither I have seen them relaxing over their success but always found them down to earth and strong.
All of them claim this is because of their mother. Till date everybody praise for Thakuma’s amazing cooking skills; how she used to cook with very limited resources; which is not only limited to cooking the veg peels but to cook 250g mutton with 1kg Potato and to serve a family of 14 members so that she could be able to give quality education to them with the excess money! My father believes that she is reborn to him as his daughter! I was told that I have Thakuma’s character!
Yes, I do! Am I! I don’t know! For me she is special; a strong yet loving lady; whom I didn’t meet but I am strongly influenced by her; mostly by her cooking skills. She used to share her processes with my Mamoni (My uncle’s wife) and I tried to jot down as much as possible. Most of my Bengali recipes have her strong influence especially vegetarian part of my cooking that includes Chanar Dalna; Dhokar Dalna etc. My loving lady this post is dedicated to you and I believe you are my #madeofgreat who inspired me more to cultivate the world of cooking; you are the person who has given me the best man of my life; my father.
What should I say about this recipe! This is nothing but to utilise the Veg peels in form of a amazingly flavourful No Onion no garlic Stir-fry; this is my Grand Mom’s recipe. All of us, starting from her daughters/ daughter in laws to her grand Childs follow it as it is. Lau ar Aloo er Khosa Bhaja with steamed rice and Bhaja Mooger Daal is treated as a comfort food in my ancestral house. Even my hubby and daughter also love to have it. Whenever I planned for a dish with Bottle gourd and/or Potato I peel the Skin with little extra flesh on and then chop the skins into julienned pieces followed by simple stir-frying with some basic spices.
Here’s how I cook Lau ar Aloo er Khosa Bhaja at Debjanir Rannaghar:
- Peel of Bottle Gourd: 1 Cup (peeled from a medium size Bottle Gourd)
- Peel of Potato: 1 Cup (Peeled from 3-4 Potatoes)
- Poppy Seed: 1 Tsp.
- Nigella Seed/ Kalojire/ Kalonji: ½ Tsp.
- Dry Red Chili: 1
- Green Chili: 1-2
- Sugar: ½ Tsp.
- Salt: ½ Tsp.
- Mustard Oil: 1 Tbsp.
- Peel Bottle Gourd and Potatoes with extra flesh on and use the main veggies in some other dish.
- Take the pieces of Peel and cut into long strips or julienned slices.
- Wash peel strips under running water 2-3 time.
- Now heat Mustard oil in a pan and temper the oil with Dried Red Chili, Whole Poppy Seed, and Nigella Seed.
- Add Peel strips to the tempering and add Salt and Sugar and mix it thoroughly.
- Add slit green chilies and cover the pan with a lid and cook in medium flame for 10 minutes.
- Stir in between.
- Switch the flame off and take the Stir-fried veggies out in a bowl. Serve this with Hot steamed rice and Dal.
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Few more simple Bengali side dishes to try out from Debjanir Rannaghar apart from Lau ar Aloo er Khosa Bhaja:
- Aloo Posto (also known as Bengali potato curry with poppy seed paste)
- Bengali Fish stew with veggies (Also known as Aloo Potol Diye Macher Jhol)
- Aloo Phulkopir Dalna (also known as Bengali Potato and cauliflower curry)
- Bhangachora Shukto (also known as Bhangachora Torkari)
- Macher Teler Chorchori (also known as Fish Fat Mishmash with Potatoes and Eggplant)
- Phulkopir Roast (also known as Bengali Roasted Cauliflower)
- Pui Chingri Ghonto (also known as malabar Spinach Mishmash with Prawns)
- Mangsher Ghughni (also known as Yellow Pea Curry with Minced Mutton)
- Mamlette er Torkari aka Omelette er Torkari (also known as Bengali Omelette Curry)
- Narkel diye Cholar Dal (also known as Bengali Cholar Dal)