Friday, April 11, 2008

Parwal Masala (Wax Gourd Stir Fry)

Parwal(potol/wax gourd) is one of those vegetables which don't even have a local name in certain regions where they are not traditionally grown while in other regions you can find them in every kind of preparation. So while tendli or kovakai is quite popular in the South and in Maharashtra, it isn't in the North. On the other hand, parwal is not a local vegetable in Maharashtra and the South, but the North and North East use a lot of it in their cooking (its is even made into a mithai in Bihar and UP!).

Parwal (Trichosanthes dioica) is basically a mini gourd - one of the family of bottlegourds (lauki/sorakai/ghiya), snake gourds (padwal/podalangai) and ivy gourds(tendli/kovakai/kundru). I love this vegetable - the crunchiness of the seeds when they are cooked and the sharpness of the edges when they are fried to a crisp.

But there are many who consider this and the other members of its family, including the tinda and the petha (ash gourd/pushnikai) to be poor summer substitutes for the rich winter fare of cauliflowers, carrot, peas and beans.

Dubbed as "patient food" by some and "peasant food" by others, its precisely their lightness on the stomach which makes them so perfect for the summer! Its low calorie and high water content makes them easy to digest and even easier to prepare. Rich in Vitamin C, dietary fiber, riboflavin and zinc and low in cholestrol and saturated fats, this vegetable is recommended by traditional healers in Chattisgarh for women who have just delivered a child, for its unique healing properties and tonic effect.

Pick green vegetables which are not very big or too soft which might mean they are mature and the seeds will be hard. The younger vegetables will be a tad lighter green, firm to touch and when you cut them open vertically, you will find creamy yellow flesh inside with tender seeds half buried. For some perfect photos of this vegetable see Indira's pictorial here.

I remember my mother making this as a spicy preparation all crisp and crunchy - so many years back in Mumbai. So I picked this up on the weekend (probably the first arrival in the market this summer) and decided that I would cook something special for myself (hubby doesn't like the crunchiness!). I had asked my best friend who was coming to Delhi on work to bring some Goda masala and when she gave it to me I knew that it was going into the parwal!

Goda masala is another childhood memory - eating half my daily meals at our neighbours house when I was a child means that the smell of this mix of spices is hard wired into my memory. What gives it its distinctive taste is dagad phool - an aromatic spice which is actually a lichen. Some recipes also call for nagkeshar - but then its like our sambar powder recipes I guess - as many recipes as the families who make them! Read more about Goda Masala and its preparation here and here.

Alu parwal is a favourite in the North while it is given pride of place in Bengal in a simple tarkari preparation called potoler dalna. Other versions I have seen is to make it with a saunf and onion tadka or a a gravy with onions and tomatoes.

What I did was to include some garlic, onions, spice powders including Goda masala,curry leaves and simply stir fry till it was nice and crispy, its edges curling up and the seeds getting all crunchy. Served with chana dal and ghiya and hot phulkas, it was simply heaven on a plate!

I am sending this dish on to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted at Jugalbandi this week. This event which shines the spotlight on any herb, vegetable, fruit or flower and is the brainchild of Kalyn .

Parwal Masala


Parwal (wax gourd/potol) - 1/2 kg
Onion - 1 chopped
Garlic crished - 4-5 cloves

Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds (jeera) - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds (rai) - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 5-6
hing - pinch

Turmeric powder (haldi) - pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Goda masala - 3/4 tsp
Salt - to taste


1. Heat oil in a non stick pan or kadai, add the mustard and wait for it to splutter. Put in the cumin seeds and then the curry leaves and the hing.
2. Add the garlic, give it a stir for half a minute and then put in the chopped onions and saute till transluscent.
3. Meanwhile, wash and chop the parwal into half vertically and then again into halves. Some people like to lightly scrape the skin, I leave it as it is.
4. When the onions are done, add the parwal and the spice powders including turmeric.
5. Fry for about 5-8 minutes, then cook covered for another 5 minutes till the parwal is cooked, stirring in between. Uncover and cook on low flame till the parwal turns crisp and its edges start curling.
6. Serve hot with dal and phulkas or rice.


Happy cook said...

You can send the last pic to me any time, delicious

Anonymous said...

I wonder if I can find this vegetable in the US.... I prepared my first Indian dish the other day & am totally hooked. This looks wonderful!

Thanks for sharing, Amy

bee said...

until i read about this veggie in blogs, i'd never seen it in india. in maharashtra, parval means snake gourd.

Kalai said...

Looks gorgeous!

TBC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miri said...

Bee - I used to wonder too about the snakegourd connection...and then some people used to say it is padwal and nor parwal for snake gourd...

Miri said...

I have seen a pic of a packet of frozen parwal in the US, Amy...Am sure it is available.

Miri said...

Thanks Happy Cook, Kalai!

Vaishali said...

Miri, I cook parwal but am not crazy about it. Your post makes me want to run out and try it again. The dish looks really delicious and appetizing.

Anita said...

Not one of my fave veggies but I do make it when the pickings are low in our summers here. It's already that time so, I'll be trying your masala version very soon! That parwal ki mithai is a totally different thing though ;-)

Kalyn said...

Sounds really tasty, especially with the way you've prepared it. I haven't had this vegetable but I am starting to think that most of the Indian vegetables that are called gourds are somewhat similar to zucchini?

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Am curious to know how this lovely recipe tastes...have never had the courage to cook it. Your post is tempting me to try Miri!

Miri said...

Kalyn, I think most gourds too have that soft watery flesh....the difference in this particular gourd is that the skin turns crisp and the seeds become crunchy when you cook them this way...the rest of the gourds usually turn to mush!