Lowly chowchows and the alchemy of mustard

What’s this weird thing that looks like something that Hanuman carried to Lanka across his shoulders to squash Ravana’s head with? Or maybe Fred Flintstone as a club to deal with enemies? It has a name as unappetising as it’s looks – chow-chow – meaning’eat, eat’? In Brazil, they call it a ‘chuchu’….hmmmm….wonder what they call…..can just about imagine a baby being held over the pot and being encouraged to produce a knobbly, light green vegetable??! chuchu….
Sometime soon after i got married, i had a tummy infection and got served chowchow boiled with turmeric and salt – some kind of vendetta against a new bride was my first thought was till i realised even in such a lowly avatar, this was one vegetable that could actually taste pretty decent. !!
Today, my shopping basket is incomplete without this most incredibly versatile of all vegetables – you can curry it, mustard it, soup it, bake it au gratin, and even use it as a substitute for part or all of the apples in apple pie! Don’t believe me? check out wiki aka Son of God on this (Google being God)! 
But the strongest argument for eating this is that Colombians believe till today that because they eat so much chow chow or chayote as they call it, the skin on their mummies (err… the preserved ones inside cases a la King Tut – yeah, yeah, i know, wrong continent but honest-to-god they have mummies in S.America too!) is still super smooth. Who knows, what works for one variety of mummy……might work for others too!
So here’s a recipe – for chowchow called ‘Bangalore vankaya’ in Andhra but the Bangaloreans were so surprised to have a vegetable named after them that they don’t use this name – they modestly call it a ‘seeme badnekaya’ – paying reverse tribute back – it literally means the brinjal of the plateau!
Chow chow – 2 medium sized tender ones. Peel, core and chop into small cubes.
Mustard seeds – ground in a stone – 1 tsp
Green chili – 1
Red chili – 1
Grated fresh coconut – 2 tbsp
Cumin (jeera) seeds – 1/4 tsp
Urad dal – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Oil – sesame or any refined oil – 1 tsp
Whiz together in a mixer for just a couple of seconds – the mustard paste, chilies, and coconut till till the chilies just break up.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the urad dal, cumin and curry leaves and stir for a minute. Add the chopped vegetables, one tbsp of water, cover and cook till tender. Add the salt and stir about again. Add the ground coconut mixture and mix well. Switch off. Voila – one more low-fat, nutritious but yum recipe from my urban kitchen! Serve as a side with rice and a sambar or a rasam or a dal. What’s unique about this is the mustardy ‘kick’ that it delivers. Oh, and watch heads turn as a ‘well-preserved’ you walk by!! 😉

One Reply to “Lowly chowchows and the alchemy of mustard”

  1. the picture of the food brings back many memories from long ago… not a day went by without the bengalur katrika, it seems. i used to love it! probably one of ten people in the world. nobody owns up or wants it even – bangalore says, as pointed out, it’s from somewhere foreign. no one takes responsibility for this delicious thing. strange 🙂 SN

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