I discovered Madras Cucumbers only when the husband moved to Chennai for work a couple of years ago. This member of the Cucurbit family isn’t quite easily available in the Northern parts of the country, where we had lived in until then. The first time I spotted it on the shelves of the Chennai supermarkets, this beautifully striped yellow green vegetable, which looks like a cross between water melons and gourds, caught my attention; but I resisted buying it, not knowing what to do with it. A few enquiries with locals and some of my collegues taught me that this was also called Managlore Cucumber and it can be used in Sambar. I also came across another Mangalorean recipe which combines Madras Cucumbers with horse gram, to make a thick curry. My subsequent use of this vegetable during our short association with Chennai remained restricted to these two preparations; but I kept feeling that none of these preparations let the Cucumbers remain the sole focus of the dish. Recently, a friend made a South Indian style curry using a vegetable called chow-chow; and I thought that the same flavors would work perfectly for a Madras Cucumber curry. I adapted her recipe to make this curry, which went perfectly with steamed rice.
1 regular size Madras Cucumber (Mangalore Southekaya);
1 medium size red onion;
1 cup freshly scraped coconut;
1 tbsp each of skinless split black gram (urad dal), pigeon peas (arhar dal), Bengal gram (chana dal);
4 cloves of garlic;
1 slit green chili;
1/4th tsp Cumin seeds;
Salt (to taste);
A pinch of turmeric;
1 cup buttermilk (or ½ cup whisked yogurt)
For the tempering: Coconut oil, mustard seeds, 1 dried red chili, a handful of fresh curry leaves, a pinch of asafetida.
1. Peel, deseed and dice the Madras Cucumber. Cook with a pinch of turmeric and salt, in water, until soft. Keep aside.
2. For the masala paste: Dry roast the cumin, Bengal gram, black gram and pigeon peas until they turn pink and start releasing and aroma. Keep aside and allow to cool. Add a few drops of coconut oil to a pan and cook sliced red onions in it, until the onions turn translucent. Allow the onions to cool. Transfer all these ingredients to a blender jar. Add garlic, green chili and coconut to the jar. Make a smooth paste out of these ingredients with a little bit of water.
3. In another pan, heat a bit of coconut oil and then add the masala paste to it. Allow it to cook with constant stirring for about a minute, then add the cooked Madras cucumber. Add salt to taste. Stir well until the masala coats the vegetable properly.
4. Add a cup of buttermilk, mix well, and turn off the heat immediately (so the buttermilk won’t curdle).
5. For the tempering: Heat 1tbsp coconut oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Reduce the heat and add the curry leaves, dried red chili and asafetida. Pour this tempering over the Madras Cucumber curry.
6. Serve hot with steamed rice.