Eating neem leaves during Spring- Summer time is an age old ritual and tradition that is being practiced till today in many Bengali homes. This neem jhol is one such recipe from the vast repertoire of ancient and ethnic Bengali cuisine, very old school types, lost amidst the chaos of imported flavours that we savour now a days but a treasure trove none the less.
In this difficult times, when the world is threatened with a pandemic, it is time to sit back and listen to what Mother Earth wants to tell us, to learn and unlearn what is not sustainable, to lean back and understand the ancient wisdom and knowledge that we hold dear to our heart but somehow forgotten in this pandemonium. Like this – Neem Leaves or Margosa Leaves.
Since ancient times, neem leaves are known for its medicinal properties, widely known for its anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and in Bengal, mothers still think that eating neem leaves precisely this time will keep their offspring protected from all kind of seasonal maladies. Hence Bengali cuisine is enriched with all kinds of recipes that uses neem leaves, like neem begun, that I have already blogged about, neem shukto, neem narkel bhaja (sauteed neem leaves with coconut) and very popular this- Neem Jhol.
Neem jhol is an essentially a summer time light curry made with sauteed neem leaves and vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, radish and eggplants. The sweetness of the vegetables beautifully complement the bitter taste of neem leaves, the roasted spices elevates the flavour to another level and makes this dish pleasant on palate.
Bengali Neem Jhol Recipe
- 2 sprig Neem Leaves
- 1 Potato, cut into medium chunks
- 1 Sweet potato cut into small chunks
- 1 Radish cut into medium cubes
- 1 Eggplant / brinjal cut into cubes
- 2 tsp Ginger paste
- 2 tsp Coriander seed paste
- 1 tbsp Mustard seed paste
- ½ tsp Cumin Paste
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Panch Phoron (Bengali Five spices) , Roasted and coarsely powdered
- Salt and Sugar to taste
- 2 tbsp Mustard oil
- 2 tsp Ghee, melted
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 tbsp Rice flour
- Remove the neem leaves from the sprig, wash and clean it properly. Dry it.
- Arrange all the vegetables as mentioned in the ingredient lists.
- Heat a kadhai or deep bottom pan. Pour little mustard oil and all the vegetables, salt and turmeric powder, lightly sautee them. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, close the lid, lower the heat and let it boil till the vegetables are cooked through.
- In a separate pan, heat remaining oil, singe coarsely powdered panch phoron, bay leaves. When aroma rises, add dried neem leaves and fry till the leaves are lightly crisp.
- Add this to the boiled vegetables, give it a nice stir and add mustard, coriander and cumin paste. Adjust salt, add sugar and bring to a boil. Cook little more around 5 minute till everything comes together.
- Make a paste of rice flour with water and that to the curry.
- In a tadka pan, heat ghee and ginger paste, mix and sautee. Add that to the curry.
- Sprinkle the curry with remaining roasted panch phoron powder. Serve warm with steamed rice.
No doubt neem jhol is an extremely bitter dish, but its a potential immunity booster. Immunity comes naturally to us, it develops over time. If you eat this, it can not prevent you instantly from an any viruses as such but it can certainly prepare the next generation for a better life.
Please read Bengali Tetor Dal – unique Bengali dal recipe with bitter gourd, soothing on palate and packed with immunity boosters.
Stay Safe, Stay At Home,