South Indian style Peanut-Sesame Curry (Vegan) with Gourd and Squash

This is a Chettinad (region in south india) inspired curry,  with some variations by me. The dish is incredibly fragrant and creamy from the fennel seeds, curry leaves, peanuts, coconut, ginger and sesame seeds. This Vegan curry packs a powerful punch, and is nothing short of gastronomic perfection.

Bottle Gourd (Sorakkai in Tamil) and Chayote Squash (Chow Chow or Bengaluru Kathirikai in Tamil) are perfect vegetables for this style of curry; because much like zucchini, when cooked they are juicy and filled with water and absorb whatever sauce they are cooked in. In this case, the pieces of Sorakkai and Chow Chow are little bursts of globules filled with the spicy creaminess of this curry.  If you have trouble finding gourds easily, you could absolutely substitute with zucchini, or yellow squash.

Served with south indian breakfasts, or any Indian bread or grain of your choice; this is my home flavor, my childhood, my heaven on a plate.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6
1 medium sized bottle gourd, peeled, chopped into bite size pieces
(if your bottle gourd is tender and fresh like below, there is no need to scoop out the center/seed part)
2 chayote squash, peeled, core removed, chopped into bite size pieces
1 medium onion, any kind you prefer, thinly sliced lengthwise
2-3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 ” piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
10 curry leaves, about 1 sprig (save a couple for garnish)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp channa dal
2 tsp coarse kosher salt (adjust your quantity based on the kind of salt you use)

For Toasting and Grinding:
10 curry leaves, about 1 sprig
3 dried red chillies (this makes the curry spicy; please use 1 to keep it mild, and still infuse the smokey red chilli flavor)
2 tsp white sesame seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
10-15 roasted peanuts
1/2 cup fresh coconut, grated (I use frozen, and make sure it is thawed to room temperature completely)

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Method:

Prep for grinding ingredients:
Over medium heat, in a small skillet, add sesame seeds and fennel seeds to start roasting. Keep tossing since sesame tends to burn easily. After about a minute, once the sesame seeds start to turn golden add in the peanuts and curry leaves. Continue to roast and toss for another 2 minutes until well toasted, golden and fragrant. Turn off the heat, and toss in the dried red chillies. The residual heat is sufficient to get these toasty.

Transfer to a blender, add in the measured coconut and set aside to cool. Once cooled, add about a 1/3 cup of water and grind to a fine paste. If the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon more water.

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Putting the curry together:
Heat a wide bottom skillet over medium heat with the measured oil, and add mustard seeds. Once they start spluttering (about a 45 seconds) add in chopped ginger, chopped curry leaves, the measured urad and channa dal, turmeric and coriander powders. Toss this all together for about 2 minutes until the dals turn golden and crispy and the spice powders are toasted.

Toss in the thinly sliced onions, and saute for 5 minutes until the onions soften and turn golden.

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Once the onions are cooked, add in chopped chayote squash. This is cooked first since they take a bit longer to cook compared to the bottle gourd.

Toss the squash and onion mixture well, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Now toss in the chopped bottle gourd, sprinkle salt evenly all round, and toss well together. Cover and let this cook for another 8-10 minutes.

Check for doneness of the veggies, they should be firm but thoroughly cooked and tender. I use the hand pinch method; take one and you should be able to easily break them into two with your hands.

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This is how the final mixture should look.

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Now pour in the blended peanut-sesame-coconut mixture and mix well. Once this comes to a boil (about 7-8 minutes), sprinkle more fresh curry leaves on top and turn off the heat.

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Serve hot with any indian bread or rice of choice. This is also a fantastic side for traditional south indian breakfast of idli or dosa.

For me, just a bowl as is does the trick!

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