The grand Bengali panchmishali shukto with lots of vegetables, cooked individually to the perfect doneness, and assembled carefully in the end, isn't for everyday. This quick and easy shukto on the other hand is perfect for weekdays and requires very few ingredients. For the bitter element we have used bitter gourd leaves in this recipe. Bitter gourd leaves can be hard to find if you don't have a garden—you can easily substitute it with thankuni pata (centella, Asiatic pennywort or Gotu kola), which is easier to buy from the market.
By definition, a shukto is a mild, sometimes bitter, milky curry that is eaten after shaak (greens) and before dal (lentils). As such, it is not the name of a single dish, as is commonly believed, but an entire category of curries (like dalna or ghonto) in its own right. Lau'er shukto (made with bottle gourd), shosha'r shukto (cucumber), and dhula shaak'er shukto are some of the other kinds of shukto known today, albeit among few families. Within the structure of the Bengali meal, shukto is eaten right at the beginning. It is said to stimulate the appetite and prepare the palate for the oncoming spicier courses.
- 225 g pepe (raw papaya)
- 5 g salt
- 200 g water
- 50 g mosur dal (soaked for 2 hours)
- 15 g vegetable oil
- 2 pcs bay leaves
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- 4 pcs korola pata (leaves of the bitter gourd plant), or else thankuni pata
- 10 g ginger paste
- 8 g sugar
- 45 g milk
- ¼ tsp maida (plain flour)
- ½ tsp ghee
- First, make dal'er bora. For that, soak mosur dal in water for 2 hours.
- Grind the dal with salt to a coarse paste. Whip the ground dal to incorporate air.
- Drop tiny dollops of the batter into hot vegetable oil (~170ºC). Fry on medium heat until light brown. Reserve the bora.
- Peel the raw papaya and slice them into small squares, about 5-mm thick.
- In a saucepan boil the papaya with salt and water for 8 minutes. We'll use this water later, so take the exact quantity.
- Strain to stop it cooking further. The pepe should not turn too soft. Reserve the water.
- Heat vegetable oil in a pan. Temper with bay leaves, and mustard seeds.
- Fry the korola or thankuni pata briefly, until the leaves turn bright green. Remove them from the oil and set aside.
- Add ginger paste and fry for a minute. Add the boiled papaya and cook on low heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the reserved water left behind from boiling the papaya, along with sugar.
- Add about 12 pieces of dal'er bora (fritters) and the fried korola pata. Stir and let it bubble for 2 minutes. Submerge the fritters to let them soak up the liquid.
- In a small bowl, mix a little plain flour in some milk, and pour the mixture into the korai. this will help thicken the gravy. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Finish with half a teaspoon of ghee.