Nenua Chana: Sponge Gourd with Chana Dal

21 Nov

Confession time: I had to Google "nenua in English" for this post. I learnt that the vegetable is called sponge gourd: the name comes from the fact that the fibrous core of the gourd is dried and used as a sponge/loofah. Not surprisingly, the Latin name of sponge gourd is Luffa cylindra.

Be that as it may, it feels stilted to call the very Bihari nenua "sponge gourd" especially since I’m blogging about a very Bihari recipe. I’ll continue calling it nenua in this post.

Gourds pair well with dal, as in the lovely ridge gourd moong dal. Nenua chana is another case in point. This is a very uncomplicated recipe with few ingredients, the perfect kind for a new cook to test their skills on.

PS: Elsewhere in North India, nenua is called torai or tori. Nenua tastes somewhat like ridge gourd, the close cousin more popular in the southern states of India.

You Need:

  • Chana dal – 2 tablespoons
  • Nenua – 250gm*
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt – to taste
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Asafoetida – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Mustard oil – 1 teaspoon

*I used 3 slim gourds, each about 8 inches long.

How To:

Wash and soak two tablespoons of chana dal for two hours. Drain.

Peel and slit nenua vertically, then slice them into 1/2-cm thick half-moons.

Heat a teaspoon of mustard oil in a kadhai or wok. When smoking hot, add cumin seeds and asafoetida. When the cumin seeds have spluttered, add nenua slices. Saute for a minute.

Add salt, turmeric powder. Mix. Add chana dal and a cup of water. Simmer covered till the dal gets cooked – about 30 minutes.

Serve with chapatis/parathas, yogurt and (for the spice-lovers) some green chili pickle.


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