We love the taste of peerkangai when cooked in the traditional manner by adding a little milk and turmeric with other spices and seasoning. It cooks to an almost melt-in-the-mouth consistency and contains a natural sweetness that is enhanced through the cooking process.
While we enjoy eating this ridgegourd poriyal ,there’s one thing that spoils the taste of it and that’s when the skin isn’t properly removed. A lot of cooks are in haste while peeling veggies and this lack of attention to detail can sometimes have an unsavoury effect on the entire meal. It's not about being difficult or fussy but think of how unpleasant a sensation it would be to have some coarse bits while chewing.
Instead, when removed thoroughly there are ways to use the ridge gourd peel to advantage. In fact a favourite chutney is the peerkangai thol chutney. Have you tried it ? It’s a recipe that is believed to have originated in the southern most parts of Tamil Nadu at a time when people made the most of every part of the fruit or vegetable.
Since most of the produce was home grown back then, nothing was really allowed to go to waste. The kind of experimentation that was done to find out that which was and wasn’t edible is simply astounding. This is one of the main reasons why many of us home cooks have a deep regard for traditional cuisine.
Before recommending that you give this delicious green chutney a try, I must first insist that you buy a peerkangai that has been cultivated in a natural manner without any exposure to harmful toxins in the form of chemical pesticides or fungicides. Why am I particularly insistent with regard to the peerkangai you may wonder… It’s quite simple. While it is always best to eat un-tainted produce of any kind, it becomes all the more important in this case because we are talking of consuming the skin of the vegetable. If it is coated with heavy doses of harmful substances the whole point of eating it becomes irrelevant.
It’s rather ridiculous to say that one can imbibe the health benefits of the ridge gourd peel when in reality it could indeed have a more harmful effect! So please bear that in mind before trying out a recipe of this nature. The peel adds dietary fibre, is low in saturated fats and a good source of essential minerals. Once properly peeled it can be cut and sautéed in a cold pressed oil of choice or ghee along with lentils like thuvar dhal and urad dhal, dried red chillies, tamarind, salt and a little cumin. My helper at home also likes to add coconut when she makes it for her family but since it tastes great without the addition of coconut we leave it be. And also, it makes an interesting alternative to the more common coconut chutney. So when we cut up the peerkangai, we make two dishes out of it. A poriyal and a chutney.
If perhaps the vegetable is slightly stale then we don’t cook it separately but end up adding the pulp as well to the ‘thol’ chutney. In doing so, it does not make a difference in taste but the consistency does tend to get a bit more paste like. The hand worked ammi kal is ideal to get the right consistency but in case that isn't possible, the mixer jar can also somewhat replicate the same.
Like most gourds the peerkangai too has a fair amount of water content (part of the cucumber family). So it takes quite well to an assortment of spices and other ingredients. Once you have the basic idea of how to make this chutney, it’s easy to add other flavours based on individual preferences. For example, green chillies, ginger, garlic, black peppercorns, curry leaves, channa dhal or even fresh manjal are all some options that could easily resonate on the palate when included with the ridge gourd peel.
Give it a try. Why should vegetable in take be limited to gravies and poriyals?! There are a myriad other ways to add goodness to your diet and enjoy yourself while in the process of discovering them!