Neem Jhol

A hearty Bengali stew of drumstick, sweet potatoes and other summer veggies, with neem leaves adding a hint of bitterness.

  • Cooking time
    1 hour
  • Calories
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Neem jhol is a type of bitter that is served at the beginning of a Bengali lunch. This is cooked in spring and the beginning of summer with the tender brown neem (margosa) leaves, and the tender drumsticks that become available in the markets at this time. The neem jhol recipe shown here is a very light version that is made in our house when the weather is very hot. It is light and satisfying.

This recipe only uses neem leaves, drumsticks, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and almost no ground spices apart from turmeric. However, there are more elaborate versions of neem jhol that use more ground spices, ginger, etc., and a tempering of either panch phoron or methi + mustard.

Additionally, neem jhol can include a lot of other summer vegetables such as pointed gourd (potol), jhinge (ridged gourd), green bananas, green papaya, brinjal, and if you are making this in the beginning of spring, sheem (broad beans). This is best enjoyed with a small quantity of rice in the beginning of a lunch meal.

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6 servings
  • 3 g (or ~4 sprigs) neem leaves
  • 20 g vegetable oil
  • 20 g bori (sun-dried lentil dumplings) 
  • 1 pinch kaalo jeere (nigella seeds)
  • 250 g shojne data (drumstick) 
  • 140 g potatoes 
  • 110 g sweet potatoes
  • 8 g salt
  • 14 g sugar
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • 350 g water
  • ¼ tsp atta


  1. De-string the shonje data and chop them in 4–5 cm sections. Peel and cut the potatoes and sweet potatoes into long segments, similar in size and shape to the drumsticks.
  2. Heat the korai and dry roast the neem leaves on low flame until they are crispy but still green in colour. Add half a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the korai and stir-fry the leaves for about 30 seconds more. Set aside.
  3. Add 20 g vegetable oil to the korai and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, fry the dal'er bori until golden. Set aside.
  4. Temper the oil with a pinch of kaalo jeere. Add potatoes and fry on low heat for 3 minutes.
  5. Then add the sweet potatoes. Season with salt. Fry for about 2 minutes.
  6. Next add the shojne data and turmeric. Fry for about 3 more minutes before adding hot water. Taste for salt and add the remaining salt and sugar.
  7. Once the vegetables are tender, add the fried dal'er bori (crushed) and fried neem leaves.
  8. Bubble for a couple of minutes to let the flavour of neem permeate the stew. If it's too watery, you can mix in ¼ tsp of atta (or plain flour) to adjust consistency.

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