Simple Spicy Bottle Gourd Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe

One of the great improvements in modern urban living over the past generation has been the vast increase in the availability of foodstuffs from around the world — ingredients that many of us never grew up with and that many of our parents had never heard of are now found in both supermarkets and a variety of ethnic grocers that continue to pop up in our cities. Last year a large Asian supermarket opened up a few blocks away from my house with a huge array of fresh exotic produce and shelves upon shelves of astonishing ingredients from every part of the continent, including India — I could spend days roaming the aisles in delight at the new discoveries.

The opportunity to cook with bottle gourds is just one of the many that these kinds of stores have afforded North American shoppers. Also known as long gourds or calabashes, these large bright green gourds look like a Granny Smith apple stretched into a rolling pin shape. The thin skin is easily peeled, and the pale flesh inside holds its firm and juicy texture when cooked. The mellow but sweet taste is cooling and makes a perfect base for spicy and flavorful Indian dals and vegetable curries. Bottle gourds are also rich in essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus and iron, as well as containing a healthy amount of dietary fiber.

Tender chunks of sweet and juicy bottle gourd surround a light hot and sour curried broth in this simple but astonishingly flavorful south Indian dish, loaded with plump cooked channa dal for protein. Adapted from Giri Jigyasa and Jain Pratibha's delightful Sukham Ayu, this dal takes very little time to prepare and cook. It can be served as a thick curry alongside some fresh hot cooked rice for lunch, or thinned with more water to serve as a soup starter at dinner.

The instruction for a 1-inch piece of tamarind is based on the cake form of the dried pulp sold in every Indian and Asian grocer — however, a tablespoon of tamarind paste can be substituted. Similarly, split yellow peas can be substituted for channa dal — this will impart a slightly sweeter but earthier taste that many will find pleasing.

Simple Spicy Bottle Gourd Dal Simple Spicy Bottle Gourd Dal
Recipe by
Adapted from Sukham Ayu: Cooking at Home With Ayurvedic Insights
Cuisine: Indian
Published on May 9, 2012

Tender chunks of sweet and juicy bottle gourd surround a light hot and sour curried broth in this simple but elegant and astonishingly flavorful south Indian channa dal soup

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 to 50 minutes

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  • 1/2 cup dried channa dal
  • 1-inch piece tamarind pulp or 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 bottle gourd, chopped (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • small handful of fresh or dried curry leaves
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon black salt or sea salt, or to taste
  • small handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Wash the channa dal under cold running water and add to a small saucepan. Cover with 2 cups of cold water and soak for 2 hours or longer at room temperature. After soaking, bring the channa dal and water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the dal is soft but not falling apart. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of the tamarind pulp. Discard the pulp and set aside the liquid.

  • Prepare the bottle gourd just before cooking to avoid discoloration. Peel the gourd and cut lengthwise to scoop out the seeds and pith. Chop the gourd into 1/2-inch or bite-sized cubes.

  • Heat the ghee or olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to splutter and pop — a few seconds — add the cumin seeds and stir for a few moments. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the turmeric, green chilies and curry leaves. Cook for a minute or two, then add the chopped gourd and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the gourd pieces are just tender when pierced with a fork.

  • Now stir in the cooked channa dal along with its remaining cooking liquid, ground coriander and cayenne. Add more water if you desire a thinner dal. Cover again and let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and season with black salt or sea salt. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with fresh hot cooked rice.

Makes 4 servings

Other vegetable and dal curries you may enjoy:
Toor Dal Palak
Green Bean and Toor Dal Poriyal
Mung Beans with Mixed Vegetables

On the top of the reading stack: Simply South: Traditional Vegetarian Cooking by Chandra Padmanabhan


janet @ the taste space said...

Looks great, Lisa! I haven't tried bottle gourd yet but I will definitely scope it out next time I hit up an international grocer.. sadly a bit further out after my recent move. :(

Unknown said...

wow, that looks delicious and healthy. Please do send it to my MLLA event.

Spicy-Aroma said...

very delicious and healthy recipe..loved it!

Sailu @ Indian Recipes said...

The addition of ghee enhances the flavor by leaps and bounds.