Here’s my haul of tindora from Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights! Also called Tendli, Dondakaya, Kovakkai, Ivy Gourd, Baby Watermelon, or Gentleman’s Toes. Those are some creepy toes, sir. But as a vegetable, they’re pretty cute (mine were about 2 inches long). Don’t be fooled, though, it’s a fiercely invasive species in Hawaii.

The woman next to me in Patel Brothers was also picking out tindora, and when I asked her what to do with them she said she stir-fries them in mustard oil in a wok with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, and garlic. She also helpfully advised that the smallest ones are the best. And sometimes when you cut tindora open they’re red inside, but they’re still ok to eat. I used her advice as the base for my recipe, and poked around until I found this recipe from Sailu’s Kitchen, which explained how long to cook them and also included the addition of amchur and asafetida.

I was really pleased with the spicing, but one advantage of this vegetable is that it’s so mild in taste that you could pretty much spice it however you want. If you don’t have asafetida, you can leave it out. It’s extremely pungent when raw, and basically tastes like onion and garlic. Amchur (green mango powder) is a souring agent, so if you don’t have that, you can add a bit of lemon or lime juice (maybe 1 teaspoon or 1/2 Tablespoon? just guessing).

And what were they like? Pretty great: they tasted cucumber-like but with a texture (when cooked) closer to zucchini, except crunchier. If you like cucumbers as much as I do, this is a cucumber that you can cook without its texture getting all soggy and weird. I’d definitely get these again. A new vegetable success!


Serve with rice as a side

1 pound tindora
1 clove garlic
1 fresh serrano pepper
2 tablespoons mustard oil (or a neutral oil like peanut or canola)
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
pinch asafetida (optional)
salt to taste

1. Wash the tindora and slice them lengthwise in quarters. Mince the garlic and the serrano pepper.

2. In a wok or frying pan, heat the mustard oil over high heat. When hot, add the whole cumin and black mustard seeds.

3. As soon as the seeds begin to pop, add the garlic, serrano pepper, and all the rest of the spices. Stir once, then add the tindora. Cover and cook until tindora are tender. This will take at least 10 minutes.


Patel Brothers

Patel Brothers supermarket in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the things I miss most about NYC. I jump up and down a little bit when I go in. Or sometimes a lot.

It’s a massive Indian supermarket, and it has basically everything. Any kind of spice you could want. Whole dried coconuts that look like brown monkey heads. Five-pound bags of whole garam masala or ground cumin. Giant bags of all kinds of lentils, beans, and rice. Canned pulp of Alphonso mangoes, the best kind of mangoes whose season is the occasion for a mango craze in India, which you can rarely if ever find fresh in the US,

a giant section of many chopped and frozen exotic vegetables including frozen cut lotus root,

and most exciting, an awesome fresh produce section full of all kinds of things that are totally unfamiliar to me:

Patra leaves are leaves of the genus Colocasia (one species, Colocasia esculenta, is called Elephant Ear, and the root is also eaten as the vegetable taro). The leaves are rolled up with chickpea flour (gram flour) to make a really really delicious Gujarati dish that is sold at Rajbhog Sweets around the corner from Patel Brothers.

So when we stopped by Patel Brothers recently, we stocked up on some fresh curry leaves and fresh turmeric (my picture of turmeric was blurry, so check out this one). Fresh turmeric! I always thought turmeric was just a powder, or I guess I might’ve thought it came from a seed, like powdered cumin does, but no! It looks like mini fresh ginger, but bright orange inside.

And finally, I was standing there admiring these tiny striped cucumbers, and a woman began filling a bag with them, so I asked her what to do with them. So I got some, and I cooked them, roughly according to her instructions, and I’ll tell you about it in the next post.

Weird fruit 1

These round green fruits were hanging out outside a bodega on 37th Ave. between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights, Queens. Just about here. Woohoo! A fruit I’d never eaten before! I’d never seen anything like them and I had no idea what they were.

They’re about the size of a golf ball. This is what one looks like inside.

It tasted good: like an underripe peach, with a little bit of quince. The texture was crisp, and a little gritty like a pear. What was it, though? I asked the cashier and he said, “voroi.” At least I thought he did. Ian thought he’d said “boroi,” and Ian turned out to be right. They are…

Jujube (also called boroi or kul), scientific name Ziziphus mauritiana.

They’re mainly eaten raw, and grown in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. According to the Wikipedia article, “In Ethiopia, the fruits are used to stupefy fish.” How, I couldn’t say.

Lots of exciting jujube pictures here (fresh! dried! green! yellow! red!)

Winter survival strategy

Here in Ithaca, we had the first frost this weekend. It’s completely dark when I wake up. Soon, it’ll be dark when I get home from work too. Ugh. Winter has its upsides, but it is not my favorite season. But hey! I have a new strategy for surviving and coping with winter! Here it is:

It is six quarts of summer peaches in syrup! Half have medallions of fresh ginger in the bottom, and half are plain. “Peaches in the summertime/ Apples in the fall/” goes the verse in “Shady Grove” (and this Gillian Welch song which I could listen to forever). Peaches in the wintertime, tasting like summer.