A vegetable skin recipe

Recently, my wife gave me a vegetable on a Friday evening and called it a gift. I smiled partly because I had never received a vegetable as a gift before, but mostly because I was considering a vegetable skin recipe from India. Ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula) or peerkangai as it is called in tamil, is a popular vegetable in Tamil Nadu, India. I was thinking about it because a friend who is working on a project to reduce food waste asked me to suggest an Indian recipe that would suit her goal.

Here’s a recipe for peerkangai thol thogayal or ridge gourd skin paste:

Ridge gourd: available at international markets

Grated coconut

Tamarind extract or lemon juice

Salt

Dry ingredients

Mustard seeds

Split black gram

Split red gram

Dried red chillies

Clean the ridge gourd thoroughly and peel the dark green skin using a vegetable peeler (the skinless vegetable can be used in any number of ways including simply sautéing in some butter). Add some oil to a skillet on medium heat and roast the dry ingredients (a tablespoon or less of each per ridge gourd) for a few minutes; add the coconut (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and roast for another minute or so and then keep aside to cool. Using the same skillet, heat a little oil and sauté the peeled ridge gourd skin; cook covered with a lid for a few minutes or until the skin is tender; once done, keep aside to cool. Using a stone-on-stone mortar and pestle or grinder, pound the dry ingredients first followed by the cooked ridge gourd skin into a coarse paste. Add some water or oil to adjust the consistency and season with lemon juice or tamarind extract before serving.

Peerkangai thol thogayal or ridge gourd skin paste

 

Growing up in Chennai, South India, as much as I was aware of the popularity of ridge gourd, the vegetable, I had never heard, much less tasted a savory paste made from its skin. It is not common in south India, it seems, as evidenced by its absence in many contemporary South Indian cookbooks including those dedicated to vegetarian recipes. I heard of it for the first time when I was in the US as a graduate student and my aunt’s family mentioned it as a favorite of my grand-uncle who was visiting from India.

When does a culture begin to use commonly discarded parts of food to make new dishes? How do these recipes sustain themselves over time?

 

Ridge gourd skin paste accompanying south Indian style lentil pancakes

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “A vegetable skin recipe

  1. Jyothi Thomas

    Wow , I love this post , one of my most favorites.

    A variation I have learnt from my great grandma and grand aunts which I follow :- As you have mentioned , we add a little grated coconut and grind it to a thick paste consistency it makes a great chutney,
    I have also used it as a spread or dip it tastes really good, yum , mix it with butter / white sauce/mayo and voila ! .
    An interesting sandwich - when I used go road trips or picnics , we would carry diff. types of chutney sandwiches and this was an all time favourite.

    Now that you have mentioned no waste , I remember my paternal grand mom ( my Dhadi ji) the Rajasthani side . She would cut up watermelon for us and use the outer layer normally many discard , it was as vegetable for us , use a peeler and get off the green part and chop up the white flesh and make it just like how we make pumpkin... Voila ! nothing went to waste ...

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you.

      I enjoy the variations you suggest: the chutney sandwich especially brings back memories.

      The watermelon rind-based dish sounds interesting. I've heard of it in a non-Indian context but never tasted it. One more to consider for the future.

      Reply
    2. Sibel Pinto

      Great information Jyothi Thomas, thanks! We also make a marmelade from the skin of watermelon in Turkish-Sephardi cuisine. What a nice way to stop/reduce food waste! Pls visit our Action Kashkarikas site if you're interested in learning more about our international food waste awareness tour: http://www.kashkarikas.com

      Reply
      1. Bala

        Mrs. Thomas,

        Sibel is the friend I refer to in the post who is working on a project to reduce food waste. She is a chef residing in Paris who has also published an award winning book on Turkish-Sephardic cuisine.

        Reply
  2. Nirmala

    Brings back memories of my mother serving peerkangai thogayal with morekuzhambu and steamed rice. ( a light gravy made using yogurt and coconut paste) typically from southern India-kerala to be precise.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you. I have not tried the thogayal and morekuzhambu combination but maybe I will try it. Thanks.

      Reply
  3. Sudha

    One of our family favorites Bala. I never can resist the ridge gourds when they are fresh and green. As much as we enjoy the preparations with the flesh of the gourd, we like the thogayal made with the skin even more. At our home the paste is served with ghee for steamed rice or with yogurt for dosas and idli.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Yes, the combination of the thogayal with steaming hot rice and ghee sounds appetizing! Thank you.

      Reply
  4. Ravi L Sankar

    Bala - The Peerkangai skin for the chutney is a favorite of amrita and shrutika. We usually make kootu with the vegetable itself and make the pachadi or chutney with the skin. For the chutney recipe I usually also include a few green chillies and cilantro when making the chutney,

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I will try the green chillies and cilantro next time I make this dish.

      Reply

I look forward to reading your thoughts...