I’m not sure if you are familiar with the spiny gourd. It’s a smaller, rounder version of the bitter gourd/ bitter melon covered in green pines. This is a vegetable that I’ve never seen till a few years ago when I discovered it in the local market her in Goa. I’ve never eaten this vegetable before and was wondering how to cook it. A friend suggested I try Indian Style Stir-fried Spine/ Spiny Gourd (Kantola/ Phaagil) And Potatoes.
The Spine Gourd is a seasonal vegetable. It usually floods the markets here sometime in July/ August every year. Though slightly bitter in taste, it is an absolute local favourite in Goa. People wait for it to reach the markets and will buy it even though priced on the more expensive side. I’m not sure why it isn’t cultivated on farms or even kitchen gardens here as it grows very easily.
That said, for the past two seasons I have been buying spine gourd and exploring ways to cook with it. So far, I have made it a few different ways. One is this Indian Style Stir-fried Spine/ Spiny Gourd (Kantola/ Phaagil) And Potatoes. The other is this Phaagila Phodi which is semolina encrusted pan-fried Spine Gourd.
This stir-fry is very easily cooked. It is somewhat similar in taste to the Bitter Gourd or Melon. However, it is not bitter until it starts ripening when it is not edible. The bright green tender gourds are the best. They have to be cut open and the seeds in the middle are discarded. If the seeds are very tender they can be left in.
The stand out is the combination of spices that go into it and the slightly bitter-salty-sour-sweet taste. You can serve this on the side with rice or chappatis. It is a common enough recipe among those who do cook this vegetable. Each recipe would have its own minor variations in the spices used depending on who is cooking it.
Indian Style Stir-fried Spine/ Spiny Gourd (Kantola/ Phaagil) And Potatoes
- 10 to 12 spiny gourds
- 2 largish potatoes cubed (3/4" approximately)
- 2 medium onions sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes chopped
- 2 tbsps oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafoetid apowder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsps coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
- 1 tsp dried amchoor or mango powder (optional)
- to taste Salt
- 1 1/2 tsps jaggery (or brown sugar)
- 2 tbsps fresh coriander leaves chopped, to garnish
- *Wash and trim both ends of the spine gourds and chop them up into approximately 3/4" pieces. Don't remove the centre portion with the seeds so long as the seeds are soft. The tender spine gourds are always the best to cook with.
- Parboil the cubed potato and keep aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan, and add the mustard seeds. When the crackle/ pop, add the asafoetida powder and stir once or twice. Then add the onions and saute till soft and translucent. Then add the tomatoes. Cook over medium heat till soft.
- Now add the turmeric, red chilli, coriander and cumin powders and the salt. Stir and cook for a minute and then add the chopped spine gourd and the potatoes. Mix well, turn down the heat a bit and let them cook till almost done.
- Now add the amchur and the jaggery. Mix well and let the spine gourd and potatoes cook well. Finish off by adding the chopped coriander. Mix well, take it off the heat and transfer to a serving dish.
- Serve warm as a side dish with rice or chappathis.