Gojju, Huli, thokku, thovve, kootu… not exactly pleasant or attractive names, but don’t let their names turn you away from making or eating these dishes. In my teenage years I discriminated against them purely because of the way they sounded. Now things are different. My palate has evolved, rather matured, I am very open to different things and have come to love and appreciate these traditional gems.
One of them is the Gojju from Karnataka. It really is a concoction in the sense that many ingredients go into making the paste, which is the main part of the dish. This spicy paste, when boiled with a vegetable, tamarind juice and jaggery makes your roti or rice just come alive. I am blogging this recipe with my North-Indian and Gujarati friends in mind. A lot of them love the taste of South Indian curries and I think they will like this recipe. Apart from providing a new and different way to include more vegetables in your diet, these tasty concoctions bring a nice variety to a meal and enhance the overall enjoyment of your thali.
No hard and fast rule on which vegetable to use for gojju but some popular ones are eggplant (baigan/brinjal), onion, bitter melon (karela/haagalkayi), okra (bhindi/lady fingers), and green onions. Generally only one vegetable is used. In all cases, the vegetable is cut into medium size pieces and shallow fried in very little oil until it is almost cooked. I prefer the gojju to have a slightly sweet taste. If you don’t, put a little less jaggery.
2 cups okra/bhindi cut into medium size pieces
½ cup fresh grated coconut (little more or less ok)
2-inch diameter ball of tamarind
1 table spoon jaggery/gud
¼ tea spoon turmeric/haldi
1 cup water to add to the gravy
For masala paste:
½ tea spoon fenugreek seeds/methi seeds
½ tea spoon mustard seeds
½ tea spoon sesame seeds/til/yellu
1 tea spoon jeera
1 tea spoon chana dal
7-8 dry red chilies or a combination of green and red chilies
1. Cut okra into about 1 inch pieces.
2. Soak tamarind in ¼ cup warm water for a few minutes. Crush the tamarind softly with your fingers and extract juice. Throw away the pulp.
3. Heat 1 table spoon oil, and do a vaghar/tadka with ¼ tea spoon mustard seeds.
4. Add cut bhindi pieces and turmeric and cook on medium-low heat.
5. On the side, fry all the ingredients for masala powder in ½ tea spoon ghee or oil for about 3 minutes.
6. Grind the fried masala along with fresh coconut to a fine paste by adding about ¼ to ½ cup of water.
7. When bhindi is almost cooked, add tamarind water and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
8. Add the masala paste, jaggery and salt to the Bhindi and bring everything to boil.
9. Add about ½ cup to 1 cup water to make the gravy a little less thick. Boil for another 3-4 minutes and shut off the stove. Gojju will thicken slightly after it cools down.