Food Talk

Gourd-for-you lauki

One of the most undervalued vegetables, bottle gourd can be used to prepare a variety of delicacies, writes Pushpesh Pant

Lauki or bottle gourd is arguably one of the most undervalued vegetables. Easy to digest, rich in water content, low, almost zilch, in calories, it is prescribed for the convalescent weak in stomach. What a pity! It offers many opportunities for enjoyment as a delicacy.

No, we are not talking of the kofte—other ingredients like yam and plantains provide much more interesting texture and intriguing flavour nor are we particularly partial to exotica like the Rajasthani aal ke sule that we were once treated to by Sriji Arvaind Singh Mewar—a dish scoring high on novelty but certainly not addictive.

Kashmiri dum ki lauki is always tempting with its subtle seductive magic worked by saunth and saunf but for sheer visual delight and promise of almost infinite improvisation, nothing comes close to Awadhi lauki musallam aka lauki lazeez. The Lakhnavi gourmet had a penchant for musallam—in tact—dishes be it murgh, raan, macchi or gobhi.

Lauki is in the TV parlance a natural. The ‘marrow’ can be stuffed with a ‘richie rich’ filling fit for a prince or make an elegant show of virtuous austerity—aesthetic asceticism if you please. If need be, it can don a non-veg garb with mutton or chicken mince. You can serve it on a bed of scarlet tomato gravy, an emerald spinach sauce or dark brown fried onion base. Never disappoints without any drape either.

Khoya and paneer are excellent if you are not watching your weight and if diet is your delight then broccoli, spring onions carrots, bell peppers, florets of cauliflower peas, tomatoes and mushroom can be relied upon.

The filling can be spiced with good old garam masala, laced with pickle oil or just have a hint of mixed herbs or swadeshi shahi zeera.

We, on our part, favour blending hung yogurt with a little paneer to bind the mélange of vegetables, pepping up the proceedings with chopped green chillies and diced green ginger. A sprinkling of pine nuts or a few slivers of pistachios will transport the guests to the realm of sublime.

Chef’s special


Peel the lauki and remove the core carefully ensuring to obtain a hollow tube without puncturing the gourd. Heat oil in a thick bottomed wide pan and shallow fry the lauki till it is evenly golden brown.

Remove drain on absorbent paper and allow to cool. Lightly stir-fry the vegetables to remove moisture and sprinkle salt, spices/herbs and the nuts.

In the same oil ‘scramble,’ like you would eggs, the paneer-yogurt mixture incorporating the assorted vegetables of choice. Stuff the gourd with this mixture pack tightly and replace the lauki in the pan.

Cook covered on very low heat—sprinkling a few drops of water to avoid scalding—for about 15 minutes turning gently in between. Slice and serve on a bed of fried onions.