Somebody stop me I feel a thesis coming on. It is about this vegetable:
This is not the kind of vegetable that one expects paens to be written about. It is found anywhere that vegetables are sold in India; and being India, that could be a basket at a railway platform or a sheet laid out on the sidewalk:
It is known to me and other Sindhis as ‘kaddoo’. It is so devoid of glamour that if you call someone a ‘kaddoo’ you may as well call them a doofus. But don’t underestimate it, because the kaddoo has mystique. For one thing, it is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Humans have been eating it for ten thousand years. Recently some stands of wild kaddoo were discovered in Zimbabwe, which is probably where it originated. News of the cultivated kaddoo seems to have spread like wildfire, from Africa to Asia to the Americas; the kaddoo discovered America before Columbus.
Check out its pretty flower:
Like other plants from the Cucurbitacae family (squashes, melons and gourds), it is a vine and climbs by means of tendrils. Kaddoo flesh is pale, watery and very mild. Some would say boring. It cooks down to become squishy and somewhat gelatinous. The skin is thin and pale green, but one does have to peel it before cooking. The seeds of the young fruit are quite edible.
So where is the mystique? I knew that kaddoo is also known as lauki, bottle gourd, opo or dhoodhi, but I didn’t know that it also goes by the romantic name of Calabash. In India we mostly eat this as a young vegetable, when its peel and seeds are rather soft. But apparently when it ages, the peel hardens, the flesh dries up, leaving a sort of bottle behind; In this form, it is called a calabash. It has been used by old cultures as a vessel, or even as a musical instrument. Apparently the fact that the size of these gourds roughly matches the size of the human head gives it its resonant qualities.
Musical instruments, hmm…what kind? Some tribal folksy thing no doubt, that street performers play and bystanders throw change at? Sure…but also, think Ravi Shankar and the sitar. The calabash is used for the shell of the deeply buzzy and resonant sitar…the main resonating chamber of which is called…wait for it…the kaddoo.
Kaddoo koftas in gravy.
- One large kaddoo, peeled, quartered and seeded
- Quarter cup besan
- Half a teaspoon coriander powder
- Some sprinkles red chili powder
- One teaspoon aamchur
- Salt to taste
- 4 – 5 tablespoons oil
- One recipe of browned onion tomato gravy
Grate the kaddoo quarters. Salt it with about a teaspoon of salt and mix it with your fingers. Leave the grated kaddoo aside for about half an hour; during this time the salt will draw out most of the moisture.
Now you can do the rather tedious task of squeezing out the water from fistfuls of kaddoo my means of your hands. Save the water, it has some kaddoo-ness and we will use it later.
Meanwhile start off the process of making the browned onion tomato gravy. When it calls for water (at the end) use the kaddoo water, would you please? Lets not waste it.
The volume of the grated kaddoo will have much reduced, and it will be dry. Put in the besan and the dry spices. You do not need more salt. Mix it with your oiled fingers; it should now be amenable to form patties. Form about 6 patties and leave them side by side on a plate.
Panfrying them is next. Heat a non-stick pan with oil about an eighth of an inch deep. When nice and hot, put in the patties with liberal gaps around, and sort of flatten them. Let them cook for 5 – 7 minutes or until they brown at the bottom; flip them, some more oil perhaps, and cook for another 5 minutes.
The patties are ready, all that is needed is to slip them into a nicely simmering pot of the browned onion gravy.
And you are done. This dish goes very well with rotis/chapatis.