Today I am going to share with you all, a very classic and traditional Bengali vegetarian recipe called “saag chorchori”. Saag / shaak meaning greens in Bengali is essentially a mix vegetable dish with greens as star ingredient. Greens could be anything ranging from the usual spinach – malabar spinach (pui shaak) duo to the unconventional ones like cauliflower greens, pumpkin greens, bottle gourd greens or this one – the greens of kohl rabi / knol khol / gaanth gobhi or Ol kofi as understood in Bengali.
Besides this, there are other class of chorchori exists in traditional Bengali cooking, we call it khosa chorchori and bati chorchori.
Khosha chorchori is nothing but using the leftover peels, shavings, and scrapes of vegetables , which highlights the frugality of Bengali housewives and an intelligent ways of using the most nutritious part of vegetables into a scrumptious and appetizing dish. In fact, dishes like khosha chorchori has its origins during the dark ages of Bengal when the entire gangetic deltaic belt succumbed under the forced Bengal famine.
In our home, we usually made this with peels and shavings of bottle gourd, green pumpkin skins, thickly cut peels of pointed gourd (parwal) and some vegetables to make this a filling one.
Bati chorchori is rather a different technique to make chorchori whereby the vegetables, spices tightly sealed in a bati or katori or bowl and then steamed or baked (on earthen chulha or oven).
Equally enticing are non-veg chorchoris too which are essentially made with fish head and shrimps.
Except bati chorchori, all chorchoris are essentially a quick stir fry kind of dish which uses very little or no water at all. Hence one school of thought support this idea that Bengali chorchori are basically a desi version of Chinese stir fry, and influence of Chinese cooking techniques on Bengali cuisine as early as 18th century can not be overlooked. In my opinion, bati chorchori is much older and traditional way of cooking the veggies.
Here, featured is ” Ol kofi r saag chorchori” with mustard relish with few drops of extra virgin cold pressed mustard oil takes it to new levels. Mustrad relish or sorshe bata is commonly used to make chorchori but there are plenty of recipes where mustard has been ignored in favour of more milder flavours, sometimes with hing, panch phoron (Bengali five spice mix) or with posto bata / poppy seed paste.
Kohl rabi usually made their appearances at the beginning of winter but there are some strange green vibes on my summer table these days.
There are some bit of an oddity in the market produces now a days. Winter was long gone, but strangely I spotted few kohl rabi ( knol khol are essentially a winter produce) last week, fresh and young with juvenile leaves and stalks. I was totally amazed to see that. Eating unseasonal food practices are not followed and encouraged in our home but I can’t resist myself from bringing home these beauties.
I washed thoroughly the leaves and stalks (use only young and juvenile leaves) of the kohl rabi, then roughly chopped them. Together with potatoes, eggplants, sweet pumpkin and bori (wadi in hindi) with little kiss of mustard paste and green chillies, I stir fried them to make this relishing dish, which we call “chorchori / charchari” in Bengali.
To make a killer chocchori you need to hone your cooking skills a bit. It is not that easy as it sounds. Sizing and cutting the vegetables is an important part of making a good chorchori. If sizes are not similar and equal in proportion, then chorchori wont taste that good, also it favours easy and fast cooking.
There are nothing as such , called zero -oil chorchori, you need oil, quite a good amount to make a truly enticing one. I first stir fry the vegetables (always use fresh ones, no frozen, freeze-dried or old vegetables) on high heat to char the contents a bit. Once the veggies absorbs beautiful brown hues, I lower the heat and steam cook them till soft and tender. I never use water to cook the chorchori and I also recommend the same. Once again, when veggies are soft and tender, increase the heat, cook till all the veggie juices are soaked up, add some ghee and fry them on high heat till you get nice texture in the final dish.
A good chorchori is the one where all the components of the dish display a uniform composition and texture, completing each other yet retaining their individual characteristic.
- Leaves or greens and stalks of kohl rabi : collected from 4-5 kohl rabi
- Potato cut into medium size chunks : 1 cup
- Eggplants with less seeds cut into medium size chunks : 2 cups
- Sweet yellow pumpkin cut into medium size chunks with skin on : 1 cup
- Daler bori wadi : medium size 10
- Mustard paste use homemade only : 2-3 tbsp
- Ginger paste : 1tsp
- salt as per taste
- Sugar : 2 tsp
- Turmeric powder : 1 tsp
- Green chillies : 2-3
- Nigella seeds : 1 tsp optional
- Mustard Oil : 1/4 cup
- Ghee : 1 tbsp
- Wash the leaves, greens and stalks of kohl rabi very well. Roughly chop the greens / leaves and cut the stalks into julienne.
- Cut all the other vegetables as mentioned and try to keep the size of the vegetables same as much as possible.
- Now heat a kadhai and heat the oil till its smoking point.
- Temper the oil with nigella seeds, this is optional.
- Add first the eggplants and let them fry till they are lightly brown.
- Add other vegetables and ginger paste and fry till they turn brownish in color.
- Once done, add the mustard paste, followed by kohl rabi stalks and keep sautéing on high heat till everything looks braised well.
- Add salt, turmeric powder, sugar, green chillies and cook on high heat for another 5 minute.
- Lastly add the chopped greens or leaves of kohl rabi.
- Leaves will release lots of water, so mix well, cover, lower the heat and cook till vegetables become soft and tender.
- Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon oil in a separate pan and fry the bori. Keep them separated.
- After around 15 -20 minutes check if the veggies become soft or not. Add the bori at this stage when almost 80 percent cooking is done. If not, cover and continue with the cooking.
- Once done, check for the seasonings . Increase the heat and stir fry it nicely till all the juices has been soaked up..
- Chorchori are dry to semi dry dish and keep the consistency as per your likings.
- Drizzle ghee over it and serve it with plain steamed rice.
Please note that this recipe can be replicated with cauliflower greens and stalks too.