lau(pron-laaoo)-bilahi maasor jool / bottle gourd-tomato fish curry…

by Sunita on April 18, 2007

The bottle gourds have been cultivated since time immemor­ial and they are, probably one of the earliest vegetables cultivated by man. It appears to have originated in Africa where it occurs spontaneously as it also does in India. It is now widely cultivated throughout the tropics, especially India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, tropical Africa and South America. The bottle gourd is a warm season crop and grows best in a warm humid climate. It is yellowish green, having the shape of a bottle. It has white pulp, with white seeds embedded in spongy flesh. (http://www.indiangyan.com/books/healthbooks/food_that_heal/bottle_gourd.shtml)

In Assam, this is a very frequently used vegetable and so is this fish curry. In fact, deuta (father), who had a really green thumb, had a plant in his vegetable patch, and he would proudly pluck them and hand it over to ma to cook. Needless to say, there was nothing better than savouring food cooked from fresh produce grown in one’s backyard. In fact , I remember, once there were so many of them, and with their huge sizes, that they were repeatedly shared with the neighbours as well.

Typically, our fish curries have a light texture, and are not overtly spiced…the richer versions are usually less frequent. In fact I can remember literally drinking some off our bowls. They are called’patla jool’, referring to their soupy consistency, the word ‘patla’ meaning ‘light’. Fresh riverine fish are found in abundance in Assam and they go into a variety of these ‘jool’s.

The bottle gourds found back home are the larger versions than the ones I happened to pick up at one of our local Indian stores. However, they were tender enough, so I had no complaints…

Speaking of fish curries, I was surprised that I have’nt posted any fish recipes of late, considerin g the volume that we consume every week…my freezer is rarely devoid of fresh fish…as I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, we are a really fishy family…no, not that kind, of course, so don’t get any ideas!!!

What’s needed-

1 small bottlegourd, peeled and cut into really fine strips

4-5 pieces of fish.
1 potato, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 pods of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder and some more for the fish
a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 whole red chilli
1 green chilli, split halfway through
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp panch phoron(a mix of cumin seeds, fennel seeds,fenugreek,mustard seeds and nigella seeds in equal measure)
a pinch of sugar
salt to taste

How to-

Boil the gourd and potatoes in a glass of water with salt and the pinch of sugar.

Rub a little salt and turmeric powder on the fish pieces, fry them and keep them aside.

In the same oil that the fish was fried, add the whole red chilli, bay leaf, green chilli and panch phoron. When they begin to splutter,add the onion and garlic and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy.

Add the turmeric and cumin powders and stir for a few seconds.

Add the boiled gourd and potato along with all the juices. At this stage, add a glass of water and bring it to a boil. Mash a couple of pieces of potato, to very slightly thicken the gravy. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the fish pieces along with the coriander and continue to simmer till the oil rises to the top. Adding the coriander at this stage releases more of its aroma than just sprinkling them at the end.

That’s it . Remove from heat and serve hot with plain rice!!
Enjoy!!!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Asha April 18, 2007 at 9:51 pm

Looks so yummy Sunita.I am hungry now ,almost dinner time here.Thanks for the recipe:)

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2 Sig April 18, 2007 at 11:26 pm

yummy, yummy, I am not a big bottle gourd fan, but mix fish with anything and I’d eat it… I am a fishy girl too :) I am drooling looking at that picture…

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3 REENA April 19, 2007 at 7:27 am

sunita, yum..yum..yummy!!!!love fish and rice. my comfort food.

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4 sunita April 19, 2007 at 8:48 am

Hi Asha, the best I can do is to ask you to satiate your hunger by drooling over the pictures…

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5 sunita April 19, 2007 at 8:51 am

Sig, adding fish gives that nice oomph to a dish…nice to know that you’re fishy as well…

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6 sunita April 19, 2007 at 8:52 am

Reena,it is really comforting, is’nt it…

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7 Sandeepa April 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Ooh the fish curry makes me hungry. Never mixed lau with fish but the fish curry is swell

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8 sunita April 19, 2007 at 6:42 pm

Sandeepa,we have this curry quite often.. I love it for its sheer simplicity…very mild flavours here…quite soothing at times…

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9 Cynthia April 20, 2007 at 1:28 am

Sunita, the bottle gourd – does it grow larger than the one you have in the photograph and also, is the vegetable translucent when cooked?

Fish curry is my favourite dish. I can eat it everyday and never be tired of having it. :)

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10 sunita April 20, 2007 at 8:34 am

Cynthia,yes, they do grow larger than the one in the picture…I remember my brother prancing around with in of them on his shoulder, pretending that it was a club… let’s say the one in the picture is roughly 1/4th of the size we get back home.

And yes.. it does acquire a translucency when cooked…it contains lots of water, which it leaves on cooking…

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11 Harry December 8, 2009 at 3:52 pm

it is ok to eat meat with all kind of cooking with it, but i prefer to eat that lower calories and fat such as fish product. consumpting fish will make body more health..what do you think? leave the meat and go to fish..

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12 Selvam, Sivagangai May 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

Delicious! I am inspired to try this one too.

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