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Snake gourd curry — Chettinad-style

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

A snake gourd is one of those vegetables that you look at in the grocery store and wonder "What do you do with that?" It is between 3-5 feet long and about an inch thick and tends to wind and curl around itself, hence the name. But this very nutritious vegetable is used extensively in Indian and Asian cuisine. It belongs to the cucumber family and has a very light delicate flavor.

The Chettiyars are a small community in South India, mainly very successful traders and bankers in South India. This link has a wonderful history of this community. Chettinad food is very distinct, yet quite varied in nature. They specialized in slow braised meat curries and also lighter vegetables. I chose this recipe because of its light flavors and the use of a lentil with the snake gourd. The light curry was simple, yet delicious. The earthy split mung beans added a wonderful flavor to the delicate gourds amplified by the chili and spices. This is that perfect side dish that will surprise everyone.

This book is definitely the bible on Chettinad cuisine. It is filled with recipes, history and stories. I will be cooking from this book quite often. The flavors are authentic and beautifully balanced with spices and herbs. This book is a must have for those who would like a specialized cookbook on this cuisine.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


2 cups snake gourd, cut into thin circles

1/3 cup split mung beans, soaked overnight

1/3 cup grated fresh coconut

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon split chana dal, toasted lightly on a pan

1/3 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon split urad dal

6-10 curry leaves

1-2 green chilies, cut in half lengthwise

2 cups water

Salt to tatse

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Drain the split mung beans and add 1 cup water and a touch of salt. Bring to a simmer, scoop off the scum, and cook for about 15 minutes till the beans are just cooked and still have a bite.

In a separate small pot add the sliced snake gourd, a touch of salt and 1 cup water and simmer for 10-12 minutes till the gourd is barely cooked through, and still has a good bite.

On a pan lightly toast the peppercorns and cumin seeds individually. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee mill. On a pan lightly toast the grated coconut on a low flame. Mix often so the flakes do not burn. Take off the heat when most of the coconut is a golden color. Add to the ground spices with a touch of water and grind to a fine paste.

When the mung beans are cooked, add the cooked snake gourd and the paste. Mix together well and keep at a slow simmer.

In a small pot or tadka pan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, green chilies, curry leaves, urad dal and chana dal. Fry for 30 seconds and pour over the curry. Mix in well and taste for salt and spices and adjust as needed.

Serve heated in a bowl topped with fresh cilantro, with rice or a Kerala style steamed bread.

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