Sorekayi Majjige Huli
Sorekayi, or as it’s known in Hindi, lauki (or, rather picturesquely in English, bottle gourd) is one of those workhorses of the Indian kitchen that people rarely talk about outside of the country. Its unassuming nature may not play well on high-octane restaurant menus, but its mild vegetal sweetness and ability to showcase the flavors its paired with make it an indispensable part of many regional Indian cuisines.
This dish from Karnataka showcases sorekayi’s lovely bland softness against a tart, unctuous, yoghurt- and coconut-based sauce laced with just a touch of green chilli heat and the lovely, earthy bitterness of black mustard and asafetida. And because this dish comes together so quickly and is so refreshing, it’s just the thing for warm weather, when you want to get out of the kitchen and away from the heat of the stove as quickly as you possibly can.
A note on sorekayi: You can find sorekayi at most Indian grocery stores with a produce section, where it is usually sold as lauki or ghia. If you can’t find it, though, tender young zucchini make a lovely substitute, as do—believe it or not—cucumbers! The texture won’t be quite the same with either of these, but they’re delicious all the same.
SOREKAYI MAJJIGE HULI
2 small sorekayi, peeled, seeds removed and discarded
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup fresh or frozen coconut
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground to a powder
2 small green chillies (or to taste)
6 curry leaves
1 tbsp toor dhal (soaked for 1 hour)
1 tsp channa dhal (soaked for 1 hour)
1 cup sour yoghurt
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin
1 sprig curry leaves
4 dried red chillies
A pinch of asafetida
Cut the sorekayi into 1-inch cubes and place in a large saucepan along with the turmeric and just enough water to cover halfway.
Cook, covered, over medium heat, for 10 minutes, or until the sorekayi is tender to the point of a knife but not falling apart.
While the sorekayi is cooking, put all the ingredients for the spice paste (except the yoghurt) in a small blender jar and blend to a smooth paste. Add upto a half cup of water to the jar if needed to help the ingredients move around.
When the sorekayi is cooked through, add the spice paste to the pan along with a teaspoon of salt and stir well to combine. Add water as needed so that the sauce is about the consistency of thick pouring cream. Cook at a medium simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the flavors are integrated and the sauce is lightly reduced.
Turn the heat down to low.
In a medium bowl, whip the yoghurt together with a cup of water to thin it out.
Slowly add the yoghurt to the pan, stirring constantly as you do. Make sure not to let the mixture boil, or the yoghurt may split.
Turn the heat off once the sauce is very hot to the touch but has yet to begin bubbling.
In a small pan, heat the ghee till shimmering. Add the cumin to the hot ghee and allow it to toast until it smells aromatic and has turned a darker shade of brown. Add the curry leaves and stand back—the oil will sputter impressively as you do. Add the red chillies and allow them to blister all over and turn glossy. Turn off the heat and immediately add the pinch of asafetida. Stir all the fried ingredients together in the seasoned oil, then tip the mixture over the sorekayi. Stir together to combine the ingredients.
Serve while still hot with hot rice and sandige.