Lauki ke kofte

Bottle gourd dumplings in a yoghurt and fragrant spice curry. No onions, no tomatoes and no garlic. A delicate and delicious dish, with hints of the flavours of Kashmir.

The humble and mellow tasting bottle gourd or lauki, as we love to call it. Maybe doodhi too, yes, cute names in Hindi, in a strange kind of way. Nonetheless, they seem to be flooding the Chinese/Asian produce markets in Chinatown and other pockets of the city these days. They must be in season then, and every reason then to bring them back to my kitchen. Because it’s rare that you find them in these produce stores, of course, it’s very commonly found all year round in India and the local Indian grocery stores here.

It is a relatively bland, yet very cooling vegetable, and very good for ones tummy, if cooked simply with a few spices, maybe some onions thrown in. In my home in Mumbai, it marries well with good ol khichdi (a rice and lentils dish), a perfect combination to cool the tummy and bring it back in order and balance 😊

Well, in our home here, it’s not the favorite vegetable, to be very honest, cooked in its original form. Thus, I came up with this recipe, dressed up the lauki and served it deep fried, floating in a delicious curry.

I moved away from the regular ingredients like onions, tomatoes, garlic and coriander powder, which seem to be the most popular foundation of a good curry. Instead, I relied heavily on yoghurt and mild spice. The result, is a lighter, more delicate and definitely less of the stir-frying involved curry. The predominant components and spices are asafoetida or hing, ground fennel, ground ginger, paprika or Kashmiri red chili powder( imparts a nice color), cardamoms and mustard oil. It definitely resembles a curry one would make in a Kashmiri household. All these spices are found practically in all stores nowadays.

A few pointers:

When adding yoghurt to any curry, one has to always add it on very low heat and whisk continuously. Otherwise, the chances of it curdling are very high.

– In our home, we always heat the mustard oil on high heat till it starts smoking. Turn of the heat and let it cool. This removes the very pungent flavour of the oil.

– I recommend not to make this dish ahead of time. For best results, make it just before you sit down to eat a meal. 

– Bottle gourd has a very high water content, I guess that’s why it’s cooling for the system. Grate the lauki, add the salt and make the dumplings or koftas and fry immediately! Otherwise it will leave a lot of water, especially after adding salt.

Servings : 2-4

Ingredients :

For the koftas:

1 bottle gourd or lauki, peeled and grated

Besan or Bengal gram flour – 2 tbsp.

1/2 tsp. ajwain or carom seeds

1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

A handful fresh cilantro and mint leaves, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

Oil, for deep frying

Salt, to taste

For the curry:

A pinch of asafoetida or hing

3/4 tsp. cumin seeds

1 bay leaf

Fennel seeds, powdered – 2 tsp.

Ginger powder – 1 tsp.

Paprika or Kashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tsp.

A pinch turmeric powder

Green cardamom seeds, powdered – 1/4 tsp.

Yoghurt – 1 cup

Mustard oil – 2 tbsp.

Method :

For the koftas : In a large plate, mix together the grated gourd(squeeze out any excess water), besan, ginger, a few pinches of fresh coriander, mint, carom seeds and green chillies. Add salt and immediately shape into koftas or small balls. Heat oil on high heat till very hot. Oil should be very hot otherwise the koftas can break. Immediately deep fry for a few minutes on low to medium heat till golden brown. Be gentle while handling them, they are delicate. Drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside.

For the curry :

Whisk together the yoghurt with the ground spices, namely, red chilli powder, fennel, ginger and turmeric .

Heat the mustard oil in a wok or kadhai, till smoking. Turn off heat and let cool. In the me Turn on heat on medium to medium high heat. Add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, bay leaf and ginger. Turn heat to low and add the yoghurt mixture, stirring all along. Keep stirring on low heat for a few minutes, till the oil starts to separate. Add the cardamom powder. Add 2 cups water and simmer on gentle heat till curry is well combined. Add salt to taste.

It is important to add the koftas to the curry, just before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with rotis and rice.

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