Potlakaya Kura (Snake Gourd Curry)

I like to pair my dal/ kootan (the dish that is mixed with rice) with the vegetable main dish (broadly curry). I will call this dal for the sake of convenience. So, if the dal is bland, then the accompanying curry must be spicy and vice versa. What I have discovered while planning meals every evening for the following day is that there are very few spicy curries in Indian cuisine – as opposed to common belief. I am therefore always delighted to discover a spicy dish in my search for traditional recipes.
Snake gourd is one of the blandest vegetables that one can find. And it is not generally consumed in the northern parts of the country. I had planted some snake gourd in my tiny garden last year. The harvest was so good that I was overrun with the vegetable. I could not consume it as fast as it grew. I therefore distributed it to my gardener, driver and neighbours. None of them knew how to cook the vegetable. So, I told them to cook it exactly as they would bottle gourd. The response invariably was that the dish turned out incredibly delicious.
It was during this period that I discovered this wonderful traditional recipe from Andhra Pradesh/Telengana. And really loved it. This is a spicy dish, but can be made bland by adjusting or omitting the chili.

Snake Gourd Curry

1 small snake gourd, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 green chilis
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tbsp roasted sesame seed powder (til powder, ellu podi)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (add more for a spicier dish)
1 tbsp rice flour
Unrefined salt to taste
1/4 cup plant based milk (any will do)
Heat a wok and add mustard and cumin seeds
When they begin to splutter, curry leaves, onion and green chilis
Sauté till the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes
Add the snake gourd and 1/2 cup water
Cover and cook till the snake gourd is tender – about 8-10 minutes
Add salt and mix well
Add the tomatoes, cover and cook well till they turn mushy – another 5 minutes
Add the roasted sesame powder and chili powder
Mix well
Cook for another minute
Adjust salt
Whisk the rice flour into the milk and add to the curry
Mix well
Simmer for 2-3 minutes
Remove from flame and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve hot with red/brown/millet rice or Indian flat breads

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