A to Z Challenge (Letter P): Peerkangai (Tamil for “Ridge Gourd”)
Also pictured: Chettinad Crab Curry
If you are currently a vegetarian and have so far lacked an introduction to Indian food… I feel every kind of edible sorrow for you. To put further emphasis India’s place on the world vegetarian hot plate, the food is categorized as “Veg” or “Non-Veg.” Which, if you think about an American menu, is a fundamentally different way of prioritizing your dishes.
I love going into grocery stores when I travel and I love hunting out in the Asian, Indian, middle eastern, central american, and European markets which seem to be in good supply near my new place in California. Mostly because I’m kinda a boring person, but also because spices and vegetables I don’t usually see at Safeway get my panties in a twist. Let’s just say, if you were to look at my phone, pictures of my baby and my dog are separated by semi-blurry photos of bags of long pepper and other spices.
On that note…
Enter: ridge gourd.
Ridge gourd looks like a comically long cucumber with, of course, ridges. The skin tastes like a less-bitter cucumber skin, and it has a similar texture to eggplant. I forgot to google it I shouldn’t be eating the thing raw before I did, but I have once-again survived with no excitement, and will learn my lesson eventually.
Ridge Gourd Fry (Peerkangai Poriyal)
Special ingredients: urad dal, mustard seeds, curry leaves, ridge gourd, (fresh/frozen) shredded coconut
Special tools: pan with lid
On medium heat, add:
- 2 tbsp oil (I use olive)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp urad dal
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
When mustard seeds pop, add:
- 7-10 curry leaves (NOT powder)
When curry leaves are done sputtering, add:
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced (3-4 pods)
- 1 Onion, chopped (I use red)
Fry until the onion is soft, but not yet browned (5-7 mins). Then add:
- 2 Ridge Gourd, washed, lazily shaved (just the ridges mostly) and chopped (~1 cm cubes).
Toss and cook for 2-3 minutes, then mix in:
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
Once the spices have coated everything, mix in:
- 2 tablespoons fresh/frozen shredded coconut (thawed)
Note: you can buy bags of frozen shredded coconut at most Indian grocerers, then you can just break off a piece and thaw it.
Put your lid on, and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, the ridge gourd will release a lot of liquid so don’t add water.
Enjoy as a side dish, with chapathi/roti, or with rice.
A “fry” is mostly a dry curry, so when the liquid is reduced enough that the dish is not in a complete sauce it’s done; however, it can retain some of the watery liquid.