Regional Indian Cuisine: Chocchori, A Favorite Bengali Vegetable Recipe


My novel Oleander Girl, which I've been working on for a long time, is finally completed, edited, revised, and sold! The publisher is Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. I am really looking forward to working with them, especially as Martha Levin, the publisher, was my wonderful editor at Anchor Books when I began my writing career with Arranged Marriage and Mistress of Spices! Oleander Girl will come out in March 2013. I'll blog about more details once I have them, so watch this space.

So now I'm back to my sadly neglected blog, and ready to write on topics that people have asked me about. I thought I would start with a recipe from my part of India--Bengal. This is a staple dish which I grew up eating. As you might know, although people talk about Indian food as a category, the regional cuisines of India are quite diverse. In restaurants, you will usually be served a smattering of North Indian dishes, often from Punjab, or a few South Indian ones, often from Tamil Nadu. You will rarely find food from Bengal. So here's a dish for you. The 5 spice mix in the recipe, panchforan, is very typical of Bengal, and gives the dish its distinctive taste. This spice-mix is ayurvedically balanced and is supposed to be extremely healthy. Bengalis are also known for adding a little sugar at the end into their dishes, so you can experiment with that.


Bengali Chocchori

This is a mixed vegetable dish and can be made with all kinds of vegetables, along with some potatoes. Carrot, cauliflower, spinach. Sweet potatoes. Drumsticks. Broad beans. Green  beans. Banana squash. Chayote squash. Even bitter melon. Basically whatever's in season, and whatever you like. I made it with potato and 3 different kinds of squash--zucchini, yellow crookneck, and calabash.

Chop 4 large potatoes (don't peel--the peel adds a special authentic flavor)
Chop all the squash (8-9 of them; don't peel)
Chop 1 large onion, or 2 medium onions (white or purple--purple has a stronger flavor).

In a large pan, heat about 2 T oil (I use Canola, but any kind of vegetable oil will do), add one dry red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon panchforan. (Panchforan is a mix of 5 spices: cumin, fenugreek, mustard, black cumin and fennel--2 parts of cumin, one part of each of the others. You can mix about 1/2 a cupful and keep it in an airtight container for future use. Sometimes Indian stores will have it ready-mixed). When they sputter, add 1/2 the chopped onion. Brown onion, add chopped potatoes. Add salt, ½ tsp. turmeric and chili powder according to taste. (I add ½ tsp. chili powder, which makes it fairly spicy). Cook until golden-brown & almost done. May sprinkle with water to aid cooking and cover for a while.

While potato is cooking, in another pan, heat 2 T oil, add 1/2 teaspoon panchforan, and one dry red pepper. When they sputter, add rest of the onion. Brown onion; add squash. Add 1/2 tsp. turmeric, and salt and chili powder according to taste.(I put ½ tsp chili powder, which makes it fairly spicy.) Cook until golden-brown & almost done. May sprinkle with water to aid cooking and cover for a while.

Add the cooked squash into the potatoes. Add 3/4 tsp sugar ( you can add more or less according to taste) --white or brown. Mix in well. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Should be moist but not watery.  Serve with hot rice.

To make this into a complete meal, you can serve it with the following dishes, recipes for which are all on this blog: pakora appetizers (Dec. 4, 2009), yogurt chicken (May 13, 2010), and mango ice cream (March 10, 2009).

I'd love to hear from you. If you try the recipe, let me know how it turns out. If you have regional dishes of your own that you'd like to share with readers on this site, that would be wonderful. If you want to find a particular recipe, let me know. You can also post your comment on my facebook page,