Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol is another Bengali dish from the Bengali kitchens of yore, which definitely needs some limelight. This traditional Bengali dish called Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol or Bengali Style Broth with Moringa Leaf Fritters is an almost forgotten Bengali dish that has humble origins but is so flavourful that it befits the menu of Durga Puja 2020, when people are opening up to the flavours of the bygone era. Women in simple, traditional Bengali joint families always created a few dishes out of very ordinary ingredients, as they had to feed many people in the family. Simple ingredients would become the element of praise at lunchtime. Ingredients like vegetable peels, jackfruit seeds (Kaathal Beechi), pumpkin seeds, stems of banana (Thorh) and water lily (Shapla) and tender stolons of Colocasia (Kochur Loti) would turn into beautiful culinary pieces with touch of the expert hands of a Bengali homemaker. These women would be praised as “Sugrihini,” meaning a good homemaker.
The Drumstick Tree in the Backyard
In those days, almost every household had some common kitchen plants and trees in their backyard garden: mango tree, banana tree, pumpkin plant and drumstick tree were the most common ones. The Drumstick Tree or Moringa Tree in the backyard wasn’t just for drumsticks. In those days, it was quite common to cook with moringa leaves or even flowers as well, as told by my grandmother. The moringa leaves were carefully chosen preferably from a tree that had less bitter drumstick leaves or Shojne Pata. And if someone was lucky, they might come across a drumstick tree with leaves having almost no bitterness at all.
Shojne Pata or Moringa Leaves
So, a drumstick tree and a moringa tree are the same thing. In Bengali it is called Shojne Gaach. In the present day, when the health freaks around the world swear by moringa powder, we Indians have started considering moringa powder more seriously. But hey, moringa leaves or Shojne Pata were always there in Indian cuisine not only in Bengal and Orissa, but also across other states in India, especially in the South.
My maternal grandmother, who was one of the finest cooks that I have ever come across, used to cook up a storm with moringa leaves. I clearly remember of an extraordinary moringa-flower pickle which she made for her grandchildren: the flavour of which still lingers. Another dish very close to my heart is Shojne Phooler Bati Chocchori, a traditional Bengali vegetarian dish with drumstick flowers.
Bengali dishes like Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol are special. Tell the name of this dish to a Bengali millennial and they would probably not know what we are talking about. Moringa leaves or Shojne Pata were a part of Bengali cuisine since a very long time, although it was probably not that common in the kitchens of the affluent Bengali families in the olden times in Bengal. But for an ordinary Bengali household, frugal dishes like these not only filled several empty stomachs in the family, but helped in building immunity due to the medicinal properties of Shojne Pata or Moringa. The Shojne Pata (or Sajna Pata) was commonly consumed in olden times as a preventive for Diabetes and as a blood purifier. Modern-day research validates that Moringa leaves or Shojne Pata is indeed good!
Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol: A Fantastic Recipe
I am thrilled to present this traditional Bengali dish called Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol. The recipe is a bit different than a regular Bengali Borar Jhol that you would come across: it is a kind of Shukto, but uses onions and chillies and is cooked without any ghee. Bora means fritters. In this recipe of Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol, the fritters are made of Bengal Gram (Cholar Daal) and moringa leaves.
Towards the end of cooking, a small amount of fresh moringa leaves is added to this jhol (broth). This step is, however, optional. If eating for medicinal benefits, then of course, you must add these leaves towards the end. It all depends on the bitterness of the drumstick leaves, too! If too bitter, then it is advisable that you skip this step. The leaves that I used were hardly bitter: so, I added some fresh leaves towards the end of cooking as well, in accordance to what the old recipe demanded.
On another note, the Western world has now accepted the Turmeric-Latte craze, which was originally believed to be an Indian concept. The Haldi-Doodh (Turmeric-milk) is common all over India, but once the Western world promoted it, we took it even more seriously. But did you know that we Indians have been using this magic potion called Haldi-doodh in cooking as well? This Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol is one such recipe that uses turmeric-milk. This is Indian culinary wisdom that has been passed from one generation to the other.
Cooking Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol: Tips to get the Perfect Flavour
- Use just the leaves. Do not use leaves more/less than the amount mentioned in the recipe. However, in case the leaves are quite bitter, you may avoid adding some extra leaves towards the end of cooking.
- If you are allergic to milk, use soybean milk instead. Light almond milk is also ok.
- The fritters take around half an hour to get fried. These have to be fried on a simmered flame.
- Once the fritters go in the Jhol (broth), these become quite fragile. So, add the fritters at the very end and do not stir much.
- Once in the jhol, the Bora (fritters) absorb a lot of water. Eat the dish within 1 hour of cooking: otherwise you might end up with only fritters and no jhol.
- So, the best way is to keep the bora and the broth in two different bowls after cooking. But before serving, do make the Bora moist with some jhol. In this way, the jhol will not get completely absorbed.
- This is best eaten with steamed rice.
- Onion has been used to make these fritters. It can be made without onion also.
- Radhuni is a kind of Bengali spice that imparts a characteristic flavour to the dish. However, if unavailable, then use black mustard seeds instead.
This Durga Puja 2020, along with modern spin on the classics, the traditional and forgotten Bengali recipes make a comeback in my little Bengali kitchen and blog Cosmopolitan Currymania. If you like the recipe, do give it a five-star rating here and tag me on Instagram (@purabinaha) and Facebook. Please stay by my side in propagating these beautiful, old-school Bengali recipes. Old is gold, after all!
Durga Puja 2020 Recipe | Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol | Bengali Style Broth with Moringa Leaf Fritters
Ingredients for the Bora and potatoes:
- Handful Moringa leaves/Drumstick leaves/Shojne Pata
- 1 cup Bengal gram (Cholaar Dal/Chana Dal)
- 2 Big-sized potatoes (cut into 8 pieces each)
- 2 Medium-sized onions (sliced) (100 g in total weight)
- 2 tsp Ginger paste
- 1 tsp Salt for frying potatoes
- 1/2 tbsp Salt for the Bora/Fritter paste
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 Pinch Radhuni (a kind of Bengali spice that looks similar to Ajwain, but the taste is different)
- 2 tbsp Water
- 1 cup Mustard oil/White oil
Ingredients for the Jhol (Broth):
- 1 Pinch Radhuni
- 1 Pinch Fenugreek seeds (Methi)
- 2 Dry red chilli
- 1 tsp Ginger paste
- 1 Pinch Asafoetida (hing)
- ¼ cup Water
- 2 tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Turmeric powder
- ⅓ cup Milk
- 1 tsp Wheat flour
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp (or 30 leaves) Moringa leaves/Drumstick leaves/Shojne Pata
- Heat oil and simmer. Fry the potatoes to a light brown colour. Sprinkle a little salt (1 tsp) over them while frying. Remove from the oil and keep aside.
- Make a coarse paste of the Chana Dal (Bengal gram), 1 tsp turmeric powder, ginger paste and ½ tbsp salt. Take a small portion of this paste and grind it coarsely with a handful of Moringa/drumstick leaves and 2 tbsp water. Mix these pastes together with a spoon. Take small spoonfuls of this paste and shallow-fry in the oil in which the potatoes have been fried.
- Remove the Shojne Pata er Bora or drumstick fritters on a plate lined with absorbent paper. Keep aside.
- Discard the extra oil, keeping just 1 tbsp in the pan.
Making the Jhol:
- For the Jhol (broth), add the dry red chilli, Radhuni and fenugreek seeds in the pan. In case Radhuni is not available, use mustard seeds.
- After a few seconds, add ginger paste and a pinch of asafoetida (hing) mixed with 2 tsp water.
- Sauté continuously to prevent burning of the spices.
- Add the water and salt. Stir and cover.
- Once the water starts boiling, add ½ tsp turmeric powder and 1 tsp wheat flour dissolved in milk.
- Stir the Jhol and add sugar.
- Add the fried potatoes and the fresh leaves of Moringa/drumsticks.
- After the Jhol starts boiling again, check if the potatoes are cooked. Then add the fritters or Shojne Pata er Bora carefully into the pan.
- Do not stir too much, otherwise the fritters might break. Check and adjust the seasoning of the Jhol, if needed. After 5 min, switch off the gas.
- It is advisable that you separate the fritters and keep them in a bowl and the rest of the contents in another serving bowl. In this way, the fritters do not break and do not absorb all the water in the Jhol.
- Just before serving, mix the two. Or, serve one over the other on a serving plate. This Shojne Pata er Borar Jhol tastes the best with steamed rice.