Monday, 14 May 2012

Tita Chhechki

Hot on the heels on the rather exotic bitter gourd and cottage cheese, comes this very local, very Bengali, very daily summer delight, the tita chhechki. Well, I say Bengali. Most of my friends with ancestors from this side of the border, however, deny any knowledge of this dish. So provisionally, we'll say this is a Bangal dish, brought over in metaphorical potlis and tholis by people, crossing invisible lines between imagined nations.

It is perhaps poetic accuracy, then, that this dish is both bitter and sweet -- the slightly crispy, appetising bitterness of the korola/karela/uchhe complemented perfectly by the sweetness of the golden pumpkin. It's a beautiful dish -- cleansing and invigorating, yet mild, simple, and light. Reminiscent of endless sun-baked lunches after school, when nothing except tita chhechki and toker daal would make their way down the gullet and stay there.

An uchhe/karela/bitter gourd, sliced.

Then diced. If you're new to the flavour of Indian bitter gourd, soak this in salt-water for half an hour, then wash thoroughly under an open tap.

Heat a tablespoon of mustard oil in a wok till it loses its rich golden colour. Turn the flame down, let cool for ten seconds, and add the washed and drained uchhe. Stir very, very wel.

Now add the peeled and sliced pumpkins. Toss them about. Sprinkle a little sugar -- a quarter level teaspoon -- couple of pinches of salt and a large pinch of turmeric. Mix thoroughly and keep satuéing till the pumpkin take on a slight golden-brown fried tinge. Then, sprinkle a palmful of water on it, cover and simmer.

After the gourd and pumpkin have become tender enough for your tastes, serve with plain boiled rice, preferably white.

This above is nowhere close to the lovely green-and-golden deliciousness that is the wonderful tita chhechki, but don't let my shoddy camera and photographic abilities keep you from giving this a try. This summer, especially, if you let yourself be hooked in, you'll probably be eating this thrice every week.

And your body will thank you. Deeply.


Tushita said...

We eat this often - I do a kalo jeere phodon and once in a while add alu as uchche is not easy to get outside Kolkata - karela is not the same thing.

Rimi said...

Jah! I use korola and uchhe interchangeably -- I always thought they were pretty much the same. What's the diff?

Also, kalo jeere phoron. Interesting. I think we have some uchhe languishing in the fridge. Must try. Thanks for the tip, Tushita :-)

Daisy said...

Altho deeply Ghoti, this dishy dish has been served up at our place for centuries. Sometimes with chopped begun thrown in with the kumro. And we *never* soak the korela in salt-water.. why do you do that, does it reduce the bitterness? *clueless*

Daisy said...

Ah yes it does, (from your karela-paneer concoction, I note). And can also try karela deep-fried with aloo-pNeyaj. Amazing thing to have with the dal-bhat.

thalassa_mikra said...

This looks so yummy - I should try to make it one of these days! Since we are discussing uchhey/korola recipes, here are some my mother makes - shukto (the ghoti version), mug daal with uchhey, uchhey bhatey (this is uchhey and potatoes boiled and mashed up together with salt, shorsher tel and lonka - divine!), thinly sliced deep fried uchhey.

Sue said...

I can't stand karela you know. Although I suppose we should have some occasionally at home.

Mallika Ganguly said...

oh the uchhe ! oh the Korola ! Oh the Rimi ! I love uchhe/korola and neem pata.

Rimi said...

‎Daisy -- we don't soak the korola/uchhe for this dish, but I recommend it for first-time eaters. And for sissies like Suny, who can't *handle* the lovely bitter taste :P

t_m -- I love uchhe bhaja myself, kintu while a fan of all things bhaate, I can't bring myself to eat uchhe bhaate. I need a little bit of stir-fry with my uchhe :-)

Ruma mashi -- the same goes for neem. Love uchhe, only grudgingly swallow the neem every summer because, apparently, it's good for me :-)