Pudalangai Kootu (Snake Gourd, Chichinda Curry)

Snake gourd is a summer vegetable. There are several varieties that are available, some very tasty, others rather tasteless. I do remember a time when this vegetable used to grow up to 6 feet long! But the varieties that are now available in the market are about a foot long. I had grown this in my back garden last year. The creeper climbed on my moringa tree (about 30 feet tall) and my ashoka trees (about 12 feet tall). The gourds from the vine that crept up the moringa tree were about 5.5 feet long while those from the ashoka trees were about a foot long. Seeming to indicate that the gourd will grow longer if it is permitted to climb to greater heights. Whatever the case may be, it is a tasty vegetable and can be prepared in several ways. This curry is one of the more common ones.

I snake gourd, cut into small pieces after removing the spongy inner part
1 cup Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai paruppu)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
2 dried red chillies
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
Salt to taste
To Grind
1/4 cup fresh coconut
1 tsp coriander seeds (sabut dhania, kothamalli varai)
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
3 green chillies
Wash the Bengal gram and transfer to a pressure cooker
Add the chopped snake gourd and 3 cups of water
Pressure cook for about 3-4 whistles (the Bengal gram should not be mushy)
Remove lid after steam releases naturally
Meanwhile, grind the coconut, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and green chillies to a smooth paste, adding very little water
Set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the red chillies
Roast for a few seconds
Add the cooked Bengal gram and snake gourd
Add a little water, if necessary
Add turmeric powder, salt and asafoetida
Mix well
Add the grated coconut paste and mix well
Cook on low flame for 5 minutes till it comes to a boil
Remove from flame
Serve hot with red/brown rice

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