2 hour 30 minutes
- 280 g potato
- 240 g sweet potato
- 280 g gathi kochu (taro corn)
- 500 g brinjal
- 220 g unripened banana
- 240 g banana stem
- 200 g cauliflower
- 450 g cabbage
- 150 g sheem (flat beans)
- 120 g borboti (yard-long beans)
- 700 g kumro (ripe pumpkin)
- 350 g mustard oil
- 6 pcs dried red chillies
- 6 pcs bay leaves
- 2 tsp panch phoron
- 24 g green chillies
- 70 g ginger paste
- 150 g grated coconut
- 6 g turmeric
- 28 g salt
- 56 g sugar
- 40 g ghee
- 20 g bhaja moshla
Growing up in a Bangal (immigrant East Bengali) household in a refugee colony, Lokkhi pujo was the biggest pujo at home. The sudden emptiness one feels knowing that Durga pujo is over was somewhat ameliorated by the knowledge that Lokkhi pujo is just around the corner. On the eve of Lokkhi pujo, heaps of vegetables would be cut and prepped for the array of dishes that were to accompany thamma's bhuna khichuri (a dry polao like khichuri). The star of the show—aside from the bhuna khichuri—was thamma's labra'r torkari. On the evening of Lokkhi pujo friends, family and neighbours would sit down to eat thamma's bhuna khichuri and labra. The next morning, we would have the leftovers for breakfast. Some family members argue that it tastes better stale than on the same day.
This recipe was passed on to thamma (my paternal grandmother, Durga) by her mother-in-law, my great grandmother. It has a particular set of vegetables cooked in a specific order. Family recipes differ based on which vegetables go into the labra—in our family, for example, mulo (radish), common in many households, is not added.
- Prep the vegetables taking care to maintain uniform size for even cooking. Follow the video to see how each vegetable should be prepped. Since labra is usually made on a large scale, it is not uncommon for everyone in the house—man, woman, child—to get involved.
- Bring water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the borboti (yard-long bean) and boil covered for 2 minutes. They will turn bright green. Take them out of the water and set aside. Blanching the borboti allows us to add it later in the cooking so that the they stay juicy. Frying them in directly in oil makes them shriveled up and dry.
- In the same boiling water add the gathi kochu (taro corm) next. Boil covered for 5 minutes. This helps precook them and reduces the sliminess. Take them out of water and set aside.
- Heat a large korai (or thick bottomed wok). Add all of the mustard oil. Heat well until it smokes and turns pale yellow. It's a lot of oil, so it will take a long time to change colour and will produce a lot of smoke!
- Once smoking, lower the heat and add the brinjal. Fry on medium high heat for five minutes until golden brown. Using a perforated spoon fish out the brinjal and set aside.
- Now add the unripe banana and fry for five minutes until brown. Set aside.
- Temper the same oil with dried red chillies and panch phoron on low heat for 30 seconds. Don't let the phoron burn. It will turn bitter.
- Add the ginger paste and stir to fry for a minute.
- Add the potato and thor (banana pith) and fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin and fry for 3 minutes.
- Add green chilli paste and cook for a minute.
- Next, introduce the sweet potato, cauliflower, and cabbage to the korai and stir well to mix. Fry for 5 minutes covered, stirring gently a few times in between.
- Add the parboiled gathi kochu and the sheem (flat beans). Cook, stirring in between for 5 minutes.
- Add the grated coconut and stir to mix. Cook for a minute.
- Now, add the salt, sugar and turmeric. Mix thoroughly taking care not to break the vegetables at this stage. Cook covered for 10 minutes. Stir every three minutes
- Add the blanched borboti. Cook, stirring in between for 10 minutes.
- Add the slit whole green chillies, fried brinjal and unripe banana. Cook for 10 minutes. At this stage the vegetables are very soft. So, stir gently.
- Turn off the heat, pour all of the ghee and freshly made bhaja moshla. Cover tightly with a lid and rest for 30 minutes before serving with khichuri, begun bhaja, alu bhaja, kumro bhaja, chutney and payesh.
- Knife or bnoti
- Chopping board
- Vegetable peeler
- Korai or large thick round bottomed pan
- Khunti or metal spatula
- Mortar and pestle or sheel nora