Why limit oneself to the common vegetables like brinjal, spinach, and potatoes when nature has bestowed us with so much more? Like a snake gourd sabzi? Yes, Padavalakai Sihi, a Kannada veg curry made with snake gourds, uses this rare vegetable in its everyday cuisine and in an interesting way. The cucumber resembling snake gourds tastes to an extent like it too but is blander. The right approach to cooking without undue effort sets it right for taste and health. In just two steps, boiling the snake gourds with jaggery and salt and cooking it with coconut and pepper ground masala, the curry gets ready to savour. However, a Karnataka typical curry leaves and mustard seeds tempering gives a flavourful completion to the whole dish. 

Snake Gourd also comes from the pumpkin family and inherits various characteristics from various members of this family. For instance, its seeds are similar to watermelon, however more jagged and with a wavy outline and resemble taste-neutral and fleshy like cucumber albeit a bit blander. Now coming on to why it's named as such? Well because of their appearance, these are long, slender and wriggly like snakes. When it comes to length, these easily reach up to 1.5 metres. It's consumed while it's still raw as it becomes bitter and gelatinous once it becomes mature. Some of the health benefits of this vegetable include detoxification of kidneys, strengthening the respiratory system and improving digestion.

Padavalakai Sihi is Karnataka’s typical snake gourd curry recipe cooked with mildly-spiced and flavoured coconut-based curry. It is eaten generally during the meal along with rice. The dish does not have the usual spicy curry of the coastal region but It's a rice side dish that tastes sweet and spicy, and pairs very well with hot rice. 

Here’s the recipe for Padavalakai Sihi.

Preparation time: 35-40 minutes

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Servings: 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 small snake gourd 
  • 1 tbsp jaggery 
  •  1tsp salt 
  • ½ cup coconut 
  • ¾ tsp pepper 
  • 1 cup water

For the tempering:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil 
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds 
  • A few curry leaves
  • 2 red chillies (broken)

Method:

  • Cut snake gourd into two halves, and remove the seeds completely.
  • Then chop it finely into small pieces.
  • Transfer it to a pan, add water and let it come to a boil.
  • Then add jaggery and salt and give a good mix. 
  • Cook it on medium to slow heat until it becomes soft.
  • On the other side, blend grated coconut and peppercorns into a fine paste.
  • Add the paste to the snake gourd when it has softened. Mix well and let it cook for a few more minutes.
  • In a tadka pan, heat coconut oil, add mustard seeds, red chilli and curry leaves and let everything splutter.
  • Add this tempering to the pan. Turn off the flame and serve hot.