Let me start by Translating Peerkangai Thogayal to English. Peerkangai is the Tamil name for the Ridge Gourd. Thogayal is a Tamil word that describes a thick and slightly chunky chutney, usually with a bit of coconut and sometimes lentils. If you’re not familiar with Peerkangai or Ridge Gourd, it is a dark green, long and slender gourd with thin ridges along its length. It is a much grown and eaten vegetable across India and best eaten while still tender.
Here in our home, it’s a vegetable I rarely buy because none of us really like it. To be honest, I cannot remember when I last bought Peerkangai or Ridge Gourd. Last week, I bought a couple after years! There’s this lady who brings fresh vegetables and leafy greens to my door twice a week. I had not seen her since the February this year, thanks to the pandemic situation. It turns out she had gone home and couldn’t travel back due to the restrictions.
Last week she came with baskets of vegetables and it was nice to see her smiling face again. She had very fresh and tender Ridge Gourds and they looked so good, I gave into impulse and bought two. Then I was stuck with the realisation that I now had to cook something no one was likely to eat!!
Ridge Gourd, thankfully, is a vegetable that doesn’t necessarily have a strong or unique taste. This means that it is easily disguised or hidden amongst other flavours. A Thogayal is generally strong on spice (read chillies), tang and asafoetida making it perfect to disguise this vegetable. Peerkangai adds very little by way of taste but more in terms of body and nutrition.
There are many different ways of making Peerkangai Thogayal. The recipe below is how I make mine. Traditional recipes might omit onions altogether. It is usually good served as an accompaniment to rice and Molagootal (a mild vegetable gravy with lentils, coconut and spices). It’s also very good with just plain hot rice and ghee. You can serve it even with chappathis or dosas. This Thogayal is quite good as a dip too. I personally like it as a spread on bread, as odd as that might sound.
- 1 ridge gourd
- 1 large onion sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil
- 2 gram tbsp skinned blacklentils ural dal
- 2 to 3 dried red chillies or to taste
- 1/4 tsp asafetida
- 1 to 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 piece smalltamarind
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp coconut oil for drizzling optional
- Using a peeler, remove just the ridges off the ridge gourd. It will peel off in ribbon like bits. Leave the rest of the skin on. Chop the ridge gourd into small-ish pieces. You don’t need to remove the central part/ core of the vegetable, if it is tender.
- Heat the 1/2 tsp of oil and pan sauté the sliced onion until it is soft and starts caramelizing. Remove and keep aside. In another 1/2 tsp of oil, sauté the ridge gourd pieces over medium heat until they’re soft and cooked. Let it cool.
- In the last remaining 1/2 tsp of oil, sauté the lentils till golden brown. Stir in the asafoetida and dried red chillies and take off the heat. Stir in the curry leaves and transfer all this to your blender jar.
- Add the tamarind, the sautéed onions and ridge gourd pieces to the blender with salt. Grind/ Blend till smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with a little more coconut oi, if using. Serve with rice and molagootal, or chappathis, or dosa.