Gosalem Thel Piyao (Ridge Gourd Oil & Onion Style)

Today's recipe is probably one of the simplest things that one learns in Mangalorean cuisine - so much so that there is no real recipe for it. It is just a method of 'dumping' all the ingredients together in a pan and letting them cook together. I don't think there is anything more simple than this method - perfect for lazy people like me and perfect for those who like their veggies cooked in a minimum amount of spices and in a dead simple way. It is also probably the only way in which many people in Mangalore knew to cook their veggies before they left the place or got more adventurous in the kitchen. 

The 'thel piyao' or o'il & onion' style of preparing a vegetable applies to a variety of vegetables from ivy gourd (tendli), string beans (sango/chawli), french beans/double beans, spinach (red or green), bottle gourd (boblem/badane kai) and many others. Maybe that is why many Mangalorean Catholics never bothered to learn any new recipes as they apply the 'one size fits all' theory to preparing veggies. Add to it the fact that not many Catholics eat veggies religiously. We are essentially fish/meat eaters and hence these two items figure on our lunch and dinner plates on a daily basis. However, all through my growing up years my mother used to prepare a kilo of vegetable everyday - a kilo to cater to a large joint family and just for the love of it - a legacy she has passed on to me. I love veggies in any form, shape and size. Any preparation, any cuisine. So yes, I learnt to make the oil and onion style first and then proceeded to learn to make vegetable fugad ('phonn' - seasoning) method. The fugad method is applicable for lentils especial like black garbanzo beans, chick peas (kabuli chana) or sometimes french beans, pumpkin, yam etc.

You can prepare this dish when you crave for something really simple. It tastes great with chapathis (love the sweetness of the vegetable that goes so well with freshly made chapathis) and also with rice and fish/meat curry.

Ridge gourd is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in dietary fibre, vitamin C, zinc, iron to name a few. It has blood-purifying properties and is found to be good for eyes as it has high beta carotene (ok, I didn't know this before!). It is known to aid weight loss and is used in skin treatment against eczema and psoriasis. A glass of ridge gourd juice every morning can help strengthen your immune system against any infection. 

So there! You have enough reasons to include this simple vegetable in your menu! If you've twitched your nose whenever you were presented this vegetable on your plate before, just suck it up and eat it now! Your body will thank you for it!

Gosalem Thel Piyao
Prep time: 5-8mins | Cook time: 10-12 mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
1. Wash and peel the ridges off the gourd - do not discard the peel as you can make a chutney out of it (recipe coming up). Cut the gourd vertically and then make thin slices out of it.
2. Transfer the ridge gourd pieces into a pan and add the rest of the ingredients, give it a quick toss and sprinkle just a little (1/4 cup approx) water, cover and cook till the pieces are tender. Stir and sprinkle the grated coconut and allow to boil for a minute or two.
3. Serve hot as a side dish to any main meal.

To speed up the cooking time you may prepare this dish in a pressure cooker. Just ensure that you place the weight (whistle) and turn off the flame when the hissing sound starts - just before the whistle goes off. If you let the whistle blow the vegetable will overcook. Allow the cooker to cook down and loosen up the weight a bit before you open it. Stir once and then add the coconut (if desired), cover for a couple of minutes and allow the steam to cook the coconut a bit. Then you may serve it.

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