Category Archives: Shak/ veggies

Chop Type Sabji

If you havent been to Kolkata, you’ll wonder why I’m talking jibberish. Bhej chop (The veg chop… I’m not trying to be nasty here, but that’s how they say it on the streets!) is a yum type of Kolkata street food. A fried patty/ croquet kind of thing, with potato and a mysterious red interior, is my pick of street food in these bird flu infested times when we must stay away from egg rolls, another Kolkata street classic. But I’m blabbering and diverging here.

Back to the chop. I love the stuff. Growing up in Jamshedpur with ample bengali neighbours, my grandmother – an avid recipe-and-food-exchanger-with-neighbours, learnt to make the bengali ‘bhej’ chop. So come winter, she would prepare this glorious red coloured vegetable mix, shape them into patties, and fry them into delectable chops. I would happily eat the veggie mixture itself, but fried, it got a few degrees closer to heaven.

Seeing beets in the veg market the other day, I decided it was time to venture into chop wonderland myself. With a vague idea of constituents flavours, I decided to try making a veggie preparation inspired by the chop. I cant afford the frying until I lose about 10 kgs or thereabouts in weight, so had to stop with a chop-inspired veggie preparation! But if you’ll take my word for it, it turned out quite a dish.

Bhej Chop Inspired Sabji


2 cups cubed veggies (beet is the only must, I also added carrots, sweet potato, regular potato, beans, peas)

1 large onion chopped

1 tbsp ginger – garlic paste


1 tbps raw groundnut

1 medium bay leaf

1 tsp whole mustard

1 tsp fennel seeds/ saunf

1/4 tsp hing/ asafoetida

Spices/ flavouring:

1 tbsp gud/ sugar only if you must

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp dhania/ jeera powder (coriander-cumin mixed)

salt to taste



Add 1 or 2 tbsp oil in a kadhai/ wok. Add bay leaf and mustard seeds when hot. Once it starts to sputter, add the fennel/ saunf and groundnut. The nuts will also sputter and the whole mixture will be beautifully fragrant. Add the hing/ asafoetida. Add the onion and wait till translucent.

Add the veggies, some water to cook it in, the ginger garlic paste, and salt (to help the veggies cook faster.

Once the veggies are half cooked, add the spices and gud, and cook till your desired degree of softness. We eat our veggies not very spicy, so feel free to add more spices if you like.

Eat with chapatis, rice and dal, or use as sandwich stuffing (its great!).


I barely remembered to take a pic…

Note: I suppose, if you do want to make the proper chop, add more potatoes, and cook till soft. Shape into patties, roll in bread crumbs, and fry.

I got inspired to post this thanks to the RCI: Bengal event, so that’s where this post is headed.


Panchratna Shak, or a gravy that doesnt need grinding

Along with the sweet dal, this was the first thing I learnt make in the kitchen. A fairly exotic starting point, considering that this shak (meaning a veggie preparation in this case) comprises dry fruits in the main. This shak is often made during the week of paryushan, a week in September when Jain kitchens do not cook any greens and veggies. I wouldnt quite call this a time of austerity since the veggie absence is made up with an overload of dryfruit and besan preparations like the one mentioned below.

I wouldnt imagine people making this very often in their kitchens, but its a good combo to have up your sleeve. Its ingredients need to be procured and pressure cooked, after which it is a breeze to put together. The spices and resultant gravy is also fairly typical, in that there are sweet and sour and spicy notes in every mouthful – the dates make it beautifully sweet and the dried mango beautifully sour.

I’m sending this in to ‘grindless gravies‘ since this is a gravy that, well, doesnt need grinding!

panchratna shak

Panchratna Shaak

For 5-6 persons, you will start with

Dried dates/ chhuara/ kharek – 20 pieces

Raw groundnut – 1 cup

Cashew – 100 grams (split in half)

Raisins – 100 grams

Dried raw mango – 6 pieces (if salted, wash it with water before putting it in pressure cooker for removing extra salt; and if you live outside Gujarat, I have no clue where you can find it!)

Soak the dates dates, raisins and groundnut separately in clean water for 1-2 hours

Pressure cook the dates, groundnut, raw mango pieces in separate containers till four whistles blow*.

Take a biggish pan/ wok/ kadhai and add 3 tspn oil, ¼ tspn hing, 2 glasses of water, 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp haldi/ turmeric powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder and a table-tennis sized ball of jaggery. Let the whole thing boil.

Add the cashew and raisins, let it cook for 2 minutes and add the other ingredients. Let it simmer for 15 min. Add more water if you feel the need for more gravy. And if the gravy feels too thin, add 1 tbsp of besan.

Adjust the chilli, jaggery, salt according to your tastes, and have it hot with chappatis.

NOTE 1: If you shudder at the thought of such quantities of nuts, replace the groundnut, cashew and raisins with peas. Add a handful of cashew for fun and adjust cooking times accordingly. I think the final shak will still be great, it just wont be suitable for paryushan any more!

NOTE 2: As required by grindless gravy rules, this dish uses the following utensils: A pressure cooker, at least 4 cooker containers, and a wok/ pan. That’s not too bad I should think!

* The reason why the ingredients are cooked separately is to ensure that their colours do not leak into one another.

‘Punjabi’ Shak

I first came across an entire range of foods known as ‘Punjabi’ food here in Gujarat. It referred to just about all the rich, tomato/ onion gravy based veggies, naan/kulcha/ parathas that was dished out in restaurants in Ahmedabad, and probably in other parts of Gujarat as well . Needless to say such a category does not really exist ( I doubt if one could find a homogenous ‘north Indian’ cuisine) and the foods in this category broadly refers to stuff not usually cooked on an everyday basis in a Gujarati household, and comprising richer gravies and (non-Jain*) ingredients such as tomatoes, onions and garlic.

To come back to the recipe in question, when my MIL makes a gravy using onions and tomatoes, it is called a Punjabi shak (shak being the Gujarati terms for veggie preparations and raw vegetables both). Its simple enough, and tastes great!

Punjabi shak/ Veggies in tomato- onion gravy

Cube/dice veggies of choice (carrots, peas, cauliflower, beans) and boil with a little salt. We had about 4 cups of boiled veggies.

Grind to a watery paste 1 large onion and 2 largish tomatoes. We had 2 cups of paste.

In a wok/ pan, add 3-4 (or more) tbsps of oil/ ghee/ butter, add 1/2 tsp of hing/ asafoetida, and the onion-tomato paste. Add 1 tsp of crushed garlic, add some more if you like the veggies garlick-y. Keep on a medium flame/ heat throughout.

Add 1/2 tsp each of chilli powder and turmeric, 1 tsp of coriander-cumin powder, and 2 tsp of garam masala// kitchen king. Let the whole thing cook till it lets off oil.

You can add 2-3 tsps of sugar/ jaggery. But feel free to leave it out if it hurts your non-Gujju sensibilities to add sweet stuff to spicy veggies, but I personally think jaggery rounds off the spices quite well.

Add the veggies, a fist full of chopped coriander, and let it simmer. Adjust salt, spices at this point and let it simmer for about 10 mins. The gravy should not taste raw, and the veggies should have taken on some of the spice and flavour as well.

Garnish with more coriander and eat!

Punjabi shak

* A pedestrian understanding of Jain food is that it simply does not include anything that grows below the ground, such as onions and garlic. I hope to develop a better understanding of Jain dietery logic in the coming years of association of my Jain family-in-law.

The Fantastic Four

The four ingredients that I have unfailingly used in these early days of cooking are chilli powder, turmeric powder, dhana jeeru or coriander-cumin powder, and jaggery (solid molasses (for want of better description) or gud). There’s also hing/ asafoetida, which makes it the Famous Five actually, but anyways.

This is especially true of daily veggies which are spiced with these ingredients, give or take different quantities.So what I describe for cabbage and ladies fingers/ okra/ bhindi below, could be well adapted to potatoes, cauliflower, bottle gourd/ winter melon/ lauki/ doodhi, and veggies that I dont know the english terms for, like turia and tindoda.

Veggies simply sauteed

Start with finely chopped cabbage or okra/bhendi (These are the two variations I’ve made and you can see photos for). You should have about 6 cups of chopped veggies.

In a wok/ pan/ whatever you have, add 3-4 tbsps of oil. (Add more if you like, it doesnt matter really; the veggies will taste great and about 50 yrs later your arteries might clog!)

Add 2 tsp of mustard, and once it sputters, add 1/2 tsp hing/ asafoetida. In case of bhindi/ okra, add 20-25 grains of fenugreek/ methi seeds instead of the mustard.

Add the veggies, add salt and mix it up. Cover the pan and let it sit till the cabbage is cooked, or in case of bhindi/ okra, till the stickiness is almost gone.

Add 1 tsp each of chilli powder, turmeric, and 1 and 1/2 tsps of coriander-cumin powder. Adjust and add more if you like. (the MIL says that the colour of the veggies is dulled by too much coriander-cumin, so beware. You want the final dish to look bright and yellow, or bright and green in case of bhindi.)

If your making cabbage, add some jaggery, like 1 tsp full. Again, sugar can, but the taste is sharper and not quite the same. No jaggery to bhindi.

Let it cook to your satisfaction. Then eat with previously mentioned dal and rotis/ rice.

cabbage - the parts and the whole

Bhindi - before and after

Notes: Again a case of approximation of spices to suit your taste. I would suggest doing a trial run with the amounts I have written and then adjusting. Also the amount of cooking/ leaving the veggies crisp is entirely up to personal preference.