In a traditional Bengali household, Shojne Phool is one of those edible flowers that is usually eaten during the winters. Shojne Phool or the drumstick blossoms are the flowers of the Moringa tree. It is popular in Bengali Cuisine not only because of its flavour and texture, but because of its medicinal properties. In Ayurveda, it is believed that the Moringa flowers or the Shojne Phool, as we call it in Bengali, can prevent Chicken Pox, relieve joint pain and treat cough and cold.
As my mother told me long back, there are two types of drumstick tree: the Shojne and the Naajne. These two trees look similar. The Naajne has smaller fruits (drumsticks) and bitter flowers. However, Shojne doesn’t generally have bitter flowers, though it depends from tree to tree. As a kid, I was told that even if the drumstick flowers taste bitter, one should eat them because these are good for your health. No questions asked.
During my childhood spent in New Delhi, there were two Shojne trees in our vicinity. Our helper called Kali would climb up those trees and bring home the fresh blossoms of Shojne. Sometimes, she would bring the tender, baby drumsticks. Those were heaven! I still crave for baby drumsticks, which just melt in your mouth when you chew them. Back then, the vegetables tasted way different. I never get the same flavour of the simplistic Shojne Daatar Jhol (drumsticks in broth) similar to how it tasted in my childhood days. The air, soil and probably my tastebuds have changed!
Back to the Shojne Phool. The flowers are quite flavourful, especially if these are not bitter. There are many ways to cook these flowers. My maternal grandmother, who is a homecook par excellence, used to make a traditional Bengali pickle out of these flowers, which was one of my favourite pickles of all times. One of my grandmother’s dishes was this Shojne Phooler Bati Chocchori, which is a rather easy dish, but oozes with flavour. This old-school method of making a Bati Chocchori is simple. You just mix all the ingredients with a generous amount of mustard oil, dump it in a bowl and cook with lid on until done. A Bati Chocchori comes handy when you have to make many dishes at a time, a common phenomenon in a traditional Bengali lunch. Till today, for a shombhranto (affluent) Bengali family, having six kinds of curries (excluding the desserts) during the meals is normal. In that case, the cook has to plan their time allotted for each dish wisely. The Bati Chocchori comes to rescue since it hardly needs any attention once on slow flame. It keeps cooking in its own juices and doesn’t even need too much of stirring. While the Bati Chocchori gets cooked on its own, the cook could finish off the rest of the enormous kitchen work in a relatively relaxed manner.
Today, I made this Shojne Phooler Bati Chocchori not to save up time but to go back in time. When you make this dish and eat it with steamed rice, you will realise the potential of this dish to take you back to the olden times in Kolkata, when cooking was done in Maatir unoon or clay ovens and people used to eat only fresh, organic, seasonal produce that never experienced the refrigerator!
As the year comes to an end, we all are looking up to the new. But there are certain things that are best savoured in old fashion. You don’t want them to change with time. For me, one of them would be the flavour and appeal of old-style Bengali dishes, like this Shojne Phooler Bati Chocchori of yesteryears.
Do check out my detailed post on Chocchori here. Wish you a very Happy New Year in advance!
Shojne Phooler Bati Chocchori (Bengali-Style Drumstick Flower Curry)
- Drumstick blossoms use only the flowers and buds, washed thrice in cold water: 3 cups
- Medium-sized potato chopped into small cubes: 2
- Black mustard seeds: 3 tbsp
- White mustard seeds: 2.5 tbsp
- Poppy seeds: 3 tbsp
- Finely chopped green chillies: 8
- Commercial Kasundi Bengali mustard sauce: 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder: ¾ tsp
- Salt: 1 tsp or according to taste
- Sugar: ½ tsp
- Mustard oil: ¼ cup
- Mustard oil for garnishing: 4 tbsp
- Water: ¼ cup if needed
- Soak the mustard seeds and the poppy seeds in minimal amount of water. After 15 min, make a fine paste of the seeds along with the Kasundi, two green chillies and ½ tsp salt. As this paste turns rancid on standing, it should be freshly made just before the cooking starts.
- Take a medium-sized aluminium bowl (or a Kadhai) and throw-in the drumstick blossoms and cubed potato. Mix the mustard-poppy paste into it, along with the rest of the ingredients. If the mixture looks too dry, add little water.
- Cover the bowl with a fitting lid and put it on slow fire for around 20 min, stirring just once in between.
- Check the potato for doneness. If the potato cubes are cooked through, the cooking has to be stopped. Otherwise, cook for ten more minutes. The final dish should be almost dry.
- Switch off the flame and add 4 tbsp of raw mustard oil. Mix well and serve with steamed rice.