Serpentine Delight: Snake Gourd

Snake gourd is known as 𝐏𝐮𝐝𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐤𝐚𝐚𝐢 in Tamil, 𝗟𝗮𝗯𝘂 𝗨𝗹𝗮𝗿 in Malay and 𝗣𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗮 in Singhala.  Snake gourd is a unique and versatile vegetable widely used in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. This elongated, slender vegetable earned its name due to its resemblance to a snake, with its long and curvy shape. It belongs to the cucumber family and is characterized by its smooth, light green skin.  Snake gourds can grow quite impressively, reaching up to 4 feet or more.

The outer skin is usually thin, and the flesh inside contains small, soft seeds. While peeling is a common practice, some recipes or personal preferences may call for leaving the skin on. In such cases, thorough washing is essential to remove any dirt or residues. Peeling it allows the true, mild taste of the vegetable to come through without any potentially bitter notes from the skin.

To prepare snake gourd for cooking, it is typically cut into sections, and the seeds are removed. The vegetable can be sliced into rounds, into tubes or chopped into smaller pieces depending on the desired recipe.  Since the flesh has a crisp and tender texture, it is a versatile addition to different culinary preparations.

One popular Tamil dish featuring snake gourd is Pudalangkaai Kootu, “புடலங்காய் கூட்டு” a nutritious lentil-based curry. It is frequently used in sambar, a traditional South Indian lentil stew. The mild flavour of snake gourd allows it to complement the robust and aromatic spices commonly found in Tamil cooking.

Snake gourd is low in calories, a good source of dietary fibre and contains vitamins such as A, B, and C, as well as minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. In traditional medicine, snake gourd is often associated with blood purification, potentially assisting in detoxification.

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