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.