Bengali Peper Shukto Recipe: An Immune-Boosting Summer Dish
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Ask any Bengali and they’ll tell you, irrespective of whether they like bitter dishes or not, that their traditional meals are incomplete unless they start out with a Shukto. And why not! Shukto, for those who are unaware, is a medley of vegetables that has one bitter element—usually bitter gourd, neem leaves or a bitter herb like watercress—which turns the entire dish into the perfect first course.  

The reason behind this is the simple science of gastronomy which says that bitter foods release more digestive enzymes and allow you to eat more and enjoy your food even more. And so, Shukto is an invariable starter dish in traditional Bengali meals, and a Bengali vegetarian gem of a dish at that. And while you may have been aware of this already, many people may not know that there are many variations of Shukto that are cooked up throughout the year. 

Peper Shukto is the perfect example of this. Made with green or raw papayas, Peper Shukto is a slightly sweeter variation of the dish. Raw papayas are packed with dietary fibre, antioxidants and enzymes like papain, all of which aid digestion and boost metabolism. So, apart from the regular benefits of eating Shukto, Peper Shukto is additionally beneficial during the summer months when our metabolism slows down anyways. 

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Peper Shukto is also quite a hassle-free dish. You need raw papayas as well as a bitter ingredient like bitter gourd or watercress. Shukto is always mildly spiced and prepared without any turmeric powder or red chilli powder. Green chillies may be added to add some heat, but the predominant flavours are savoury, bitter and sweet thanks to the addition of sugar. 

Want to whip up Peper Shukto for your next meal? Here’s the easy-peasy recipe. 


½ green papaya, diced 

½ bitter gourd, chopped 

¼ cup lentil bodi 

½ cup milk 

1 bay leaf 

½ tsp black mustard seeds 

½ tsp ginger paste 

2 green chillies, slit 

1 tsp sugar 

Salt, to taste 

2 tbsp vegetable oil 

1 tbsp ghee 

Water, as required 


1. Heat water in a pot, add salt and the diced papaya. 

2. Simmer the papaya for five minutes, then drain and set aside until needed. 

3. Heat oil in a wok. 

4. Add the lentil bodi and fry them until golden. 

5. Remove the bodi from the oil and set aside until needed. 

6. In the remaining oil, add the bay leaf and mustard seeds. 

7. Once these stop crackling, add the ginger and chopped bitter gourd. 

8. Mix well, cook for a minute, then add the boiled papaya. 

9. Add the salt and green chillies, and continue to cook until the veggies are almost done. 

10. Now add the milk and sugar and cook until the milk is absorbed. 

11. Pour in some ghee on top, mix well and cover until your meal begins. 

12. Serve the Peper Shukto as the first course with hot rice.