Shukto Is Not Always Vegetarian
Image Credit: Shukto Ayandrali Dutta

Whenever you think of vegetarian Bengali plate, shukto is a must. This bitter sweet medley of vegetable, Shukto has mostly been the star when it comes to a Bengali vegetarian fare. The word “shukto” comes from shukuta — the dried leaves of the bitter jute plant — according to Bengali narrative poems of the 15th and 16th centuries. While the shukuta lost it’s essence in this dish the more evolved version sees the use of Bitter gourd. Loaded with all variety from Bitter Guard, Eggplant, Green Banana, Potato, Sweet potato, Drumsticks, White radish, and Hyacinth Beans, the main trick of cooking this dish lies in it’s tampering with that one exclusive spice. It’s the “Randhuni”( wild celery seeds).

This dish is known to have a p Portuguese connect. Having drawn inspiration from  the Portuguese practice of stir-frying vegetables that were locally available and making it into a stew that was more like a palate cleanser, this dish came into existence. Thought we all know this dish to be vegetarian, there’s another version too, the non-veg version in which fish is added either Pabda or Rohu anything that you prefer. Also known as the Thakurbarir Macher Shukto (a dish that was cooked in Tagore’s household) this version sees no use of bitter gourd unlike the veg version. Also, in this version the use of Turmeric, Randhuni and ghee is a must


    Take 4 big Pabda (but you can use any other fish like rohu too)

    3 long brinjal, chopped to 1 inch pieces

    2 medium sized ridge gourd, chopped to 1 inch pieces

    2 potato, vertically diced

    3 tbsp mustard seeds

    1 tbsp poppy seeds

    ½ tbsp panch phoron

    3 slit green chillies

    2 dried red chillies

    1 tbsp chopped ginger

    2 tsp turmeric powder

    ½ tsp cumin powder

    ½ tsp coriander powder

    5 tbsp mustard oil to fry 

    1 tsp sugar

    Salt as per taste


    Dry roast mustard seeds, poppy seeds and panch phoron together. Once they cool grind to powder. Add little water and mix them. 

    Marinate the fish with turmeric and salt and fry them. 

    If it’s pabda break it into small pieces and take the centre bone out. Mash the fish little bit and keep aside.

    Heat required oil and then fry the vegetable one by one. Add a little turmeric powder and little salt. Take all of them out and keep aside.

    Now in the same oil temper with dried red chillies and ginger. Allow them to splutter.

    Then add cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt. Make sure to sprinkle some water. Keep everything on low flame. 

    Add the mustard-poppy-panch phoron mix to the same and add the vegetables. Add the water and cover and let it cook for 5 minutes on low flame.

    Once vegetables are done then add the fish and give a quick mix.

    Cook in low medium flame, cook for 15 minutes. 

    Cook and keep the required gravy. It should on thicker side. 

    Add some sugar and ghee and give it the final mix. And turn off the flame. And the Macher Shukto is ready

    Serve with hot steaming rice.