Food

From Rare to Remarkable: 10 Exotic Vegetables Shaping the Taste Of Indian Cuisine

The culinary richness and diversity of Indian cuisine are renowned for its rich and diverse flavours. While staples like potatoes, tomatoes, and onions dominate most Indian recipes, exotic and uncommon vegetables add a unique twist. A must-try for food enthusiasts, these vegetables deliver exciting flavours, textures, and a range of health benefits.

July 21, 2023: The use of spices, masalas, and vegetables contributes to the richness of Indian cuisine. A few rare vegetables are discussed in this article.

Drumstick (Sahjan Ki Phalli)

Drumstick, known as Sajjan ki phalli in Hindi, is a long, slender vegetable that grows on the moringa tree. Among the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, it is one of the most popular ingredients. The taste of drumsticks is earthy and slightly bitter at the same time. Often, they are used in sambar, a tangy lentil and vegetable stew, and mixed vegetable curry with coconut. These dishes are enhanced by drumsticks’ tender flesh and fibrous texture. Moreover, drumsticks are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Red Amaranth Leaves (Lal Chaulai)

Red Amaranth leaves, or chaulai, have a distinct, slightly sweet flavour. Indian cooking often uses them, particularly in Maharashtra and Gujarat. In addition to being rich in iron and calcium, amaranth leaves are also high in dietary fibre. In addition to sautéing, they can be added to lentil dishes and used in stuffed flatbreads. They provide various health benefits and add a vibrant touch to any dish.

Elephant Foot Yam (Suran)

In Indian cuisine, elephant foot yam, locally known as Suran, is a large tuberous root vegetable. Despite its rough, brownish exterior, the flesh is creamy-white and starchy. The taste of suran is mild, slightly sweet, and its texture is unique. Cutlets made from mashed boiled yam are a popular snack. The yam is stewed in an aromatic, rich sauce in a Suran curry. Suran is also an excellent dietary fibre, potassium, and vitamin source.

Ivy Gourd (Kundru)

Known as Kundru or tendli, ivy gourd is a small, elongated vegetable with green skin and white flesh. Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala use it extensively in their regional cuisines. It is widely available in Indian markets. Crisp and crunchy, ivy gourd has a slightly tangy taste. It is often stir-fried with spices, onions, and tomatoes as a side dish. As well as being low in calories, Kundru has a refreshing taste.

Lima Beans (Sem Phali)

A Lima bean, also known as a sem phali bean, is an elongated pod that contains tender beans. These beans are excellent for vegetarians and are a great source of protein, iron, and folate. Indian broad beans are commonly used in Indian households, especially in regions like Gujarat and Rajasthan. They have a mild, slightly sweet taste and are delightfully crunchy. Sem Phalli are often prepared as Sem Phali ki sabzi or added to rice dishes like Sem Phali pulao for a nutritious and flavorful meal.

Pointed Gourd

Green pointed gourds are known as parwal. It is widely used in North Indian cuisine, especially in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Parwal has a firm texture and mild taste. When cooked until tender, it is usually stuffed with spices, ground meat, or paneer (Indian cottage cheese). A popular preparation of gourds is parwal curry, which simmers them in a flavorful gravy. It contains vitamins A, C and dietary fibre and is delicious.

Banana Blossom (Kele Phool)

Banana blossoms, or banana flowers or hearts, thrive in India. These large, teardrop-shaped purple flowers grow at the end of banana clusters and are packed with nutritional benefits. Particularly popular in South Indian and Bengali cuisines, they offer a slightly bitter taste and a unique texture. Before cooking, the rigid outer bracts of the blossom need to be removed to reveal the tender inner florets. Banana blossoms are commonly used to prepare dishes like poriyal in the South of India, where the delicate florets are cooked with spices and grated coconut.

Raw or Green Bananas (Hare Kele)

Although bananas are typically enjoyed when ripe and sweet, raw or green bananas also have their place in Indian cuisine. Raw bananas are used in many dishes as a vegetable due to their starchy and firm texture. Green bananas offer several health benefits, including aiding digestion and providing a good source of fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics. They are particularly helpful in managing diarrhoea and improving overall gut health. In Indian cooking, green bananas are transformed into delightful culinary creations.

Taro Root (Arbi)

Taro root, known as Arbi in Hindi, is a starchy tuber that offers a versatile and nutritious addition to Indian cuisine. Whether boiled, steamed, fried, or mashed, taro root adds a nutty flavour and a slightly sticky texture to soups, stews, curries, and side dishes. In addition to its culinary appeal, taro root provides numerous health benefits. It is an excellent source of dietary fibre and good carbohydrates, aiding in digestion and contributing to healthy weight loss. The high levels of vitamins C, B6, and E in taro root help maintain a robust immune system and may provide antioxidant properties.

Malbar Spinach (Poi patte)

A leafy green vegetable native to India, Indian spinach is also known as Poi or Malabar spinach. Malabar spinach leaves are fleshy and thick and have a mild, slightly tangy flavour. From curries to stir-fries to soups, it appears in various dishes. This vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, a leafy green vegetable full of iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

As we explore Indian cuisine’s exotic vegetable gems, we continue to discover the wide range of flavours and health benefits. A variety of vegetables contribute to traditional recipes. We unlock a world of culinary possibilities and well-being by including these lesser-known ingredients in our meals.

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