Chapor ghonto – the beautiful mish mash of seasonal vegetables seasoned with Bengali spice blend, the panch phoron, beautifully scented with cumin-ginger paste which has become a backbone for all the Bengali vegetarian dishes. Like other Bengali vegetarian dishes, this one too uses no onion and garlic in the recipe. And as I have discussed earlier in my previous posts on Bengali vegetarian dishes (aloo posto), we attributed solely this to the community of Bengali widows of yesteryears. These group of socially secluded and deprived women have unconsciously been shaping up the most revered culinary aspect of Bengali cuisine through years, the vegetarian aspect of Bengali cuisine.
Rules were kept quiet stricter while cooking the vegetarian dishes, kitchens and utensils were usually kept separated and as the widows were prohibited from eating any non-veg food, to fulfill their daily intake of protein, they had devised many ways to add protein power to the other way dull and lean vegetarian dishes.
Chapor gonto is one such dish. Similarly there is a tradition of addng lentil bori or wadi in most of the Bengali veg dishes, not only that put the food a notch higer on nutritional profile, it also enhance the taste of the dish. Like shukto, lau (bottlegourd )er ghonto and so on. But bori or wadi making is time consuming process, as you need plenty of strong sunlight to dry them, as these are sun dried food. Making chapor or lentil patties is quite easy and almost instant. You soak up the dal overnight and then make a paste out of it, make small patties and heat them on hot griddle or tawa and then roughly break them into pieces and add in the dish.
Bengali culinary culture also put lots of emphasize on eating seasonally and locally. This trend is still observed in many homes, including ours. And keeping in mind with this, chapor ghonto is preferably a summer dish when markets are flooded with fresh produce and summers in Bengal are known for gourds. Hence jhinge (ridge gourd) chapor ghonto is much more common than this mix vegetable chapor ghonto, and is popular among the people of un-divided India East Bengal (now Bangladeshi hindu community)
Eating seasonally and locally has its own health benefits. You get to taste the freshest produce, whose nutrient profile is not tempered with cold storage chemicals. They taste better, cheaper on pockets, high nutritional value that will support body’s natural nutritional needs as per the season and more importantly you end up in supporting local farmers, thus contributing towards sustainable farming.
Ghonto in Bengali culinary language is a typical dry dish, not gravy one as you might see some on the net. When it comes to cooking traditional dish, I prefer not to tweak it as per my whims. You can tweak it by adding vegetables of your choice or you can add few more spices, but tweaking it to such a level to change its appearance, and then calling it a authentic dish, in my opinion is serious offense and disregard to that culture.
This recipe is not mine. This recipe has been adapted from the book “The Calcutta Cookbook” by Minakshie Dasgupta. For making chapor, motor dal or split peas are preferred. I have eaten split peas before and love their unique taste. But since I can not source it in my current city, so I have replaced it with Bengal gram or chana dal or chola r dal.
- Chana dal or Matar dal (split peas) : 2 cups
- Green chillies, finely chopped : 1-2
- Oil for shallow frying
- Salt to taste
- (All vegetables cut into chunks)
- Potatoes: 1 cup
- Wax gourd / Potol / Parwal : 1 cup
- Ridge gourd / jhinge / Turai : 1 cup
- Brinjal / eggplants / Baingan : 1 cup
- Flat beans / sheem / sem : 2 cups
- Mustard oil : 2 tbsp
- Ghee : 1 tbsp
- Cumin powder : 1 tsp
- Ginger paste : 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder : ½ tsp
- Dried red chillies : 2-3
- Panch phoron : 1 tsp
- Bay leaves : 2-3
- Sugar : 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Wash and soak the chana dal overnight. Drain and grind coarsely with salt and green chillies.
- Whip the batter lightly.
- Heat a griddle or tawa and grease it with oil.
- Make 2-3 inch round and ¼ inch thick patties, and place them on the heated tawa.
- Let it cook over medium heat till the underside turns brown.
- Flip it over and cook the other side. Pat them lightly with the help of spatula for even cooking.
- Patties must be crisp and drizzle more oil along the sides to prevent sticking and burning.
- Keep aside until needed.
- This can be made ahead and the lentil patties goes good with the evening tea also.
- Wash and cut all the vegetables as mentioned.
- Heat the mustard oil in a kadhai till the smoking point.
- Reduce heat and add the bay leaves, red chillies, and panch phoron.
- Fry till the panch phoron sputters, red chillies change their color.
- Add all the vegetables, little salt and turmeric powder and fry on high heat till the rawness disappear.
- Lower the heat, cover and let the vegetables cook in their own juices.
- Once they are partially cooked, and become soft, add ginger paste, cumin powder and lentil patties cut into chunks.
- Adjust salt, add sugar and mix well.
- Close the lid and cook further for 5 minute till done.
- If the vegetables does not release enough juices, then feel free to add 1 or 2 cups warm water.
- This is a dry vegetable dish and not a gravy one.
- Mix well, and final dish should look like vegetable mish mash blend perfectly with pieces of lentil patties with clinging gravy.
- Dry up the excess water if there is any.
- Add the ghee before taking it off the fire.
- Serve warm with steamed rice.
Make ahead - make the lentil patties one day before. Reheat on tawa and add.
This dish taste best with the fresh vegetables.