Chorchori, Chochchori or Charchari is an extremely flexible Bengali vegetarian dish that can be cooked in a jiffy. Chorchori comes handy when you have a little of each vegetable and don’t know what to cook! You just throw-in everything together in a kadhai, with minimal or no addition of water, and what you get is something that is so humble, so unsophisticated, yet so rich and beautiful. A Chorchori or Chochchori is an almost effortless, semi-dry Bengali preparation. Most often, it is a mixed-vegetable dish, made by including leftover vegetable stems or skins as well. Non-vegetarian versions of Chorchori are also very popular among the Bengalis. It can be cooked in many ways, as there is no fixed recipe, ingredient or spice for making Chorchori. Garam masala, however, is not conventionally added to Chorchoris. A Chorchori may or may not have mustard paste in it. Paanch phoron/Panch phoron, which is a Bengali five-spice mix, can be used as a tempering for Chorchori, along with dried red chillies and bay leaves (tej pata). By Paanch phoron, we mean a combination of cumin seeds (jeere), mustard seeds (shorshe), fennel seeds (mouri), fenugreek seeds (methi) and nigella seeds (kalo jeere). Another tempering that is popular in a Chorchori or Chochchori is the nigella seeds alone. People also use mustard seeds. My Hing Chorchori, however, is different and unusual. It uses asafoetida (hing) as the tempering agent and just that! It is a very old-school way of making Chorchori: the way it was done many decades ago. Good traditional-style Chorchoris, according to me, are never ever low-oil recipes: these dishes taste many levels downwards if the correct amount of mustard oil is not added while cooking!
Every Bengali has his favourite combination of Chorchori. I love drumsticks (shojne dnata) in my Chocchori. You may add boris (vadis in Hindi) too. These boris are easily found in any grocery shop, and these are basically made out of lentil paste. Bati Chocchoris (Chochhori cooked in a bowl) are very popular. For this, the vegetables are cooked normally (Chochhori style) in a kadhai, and then the gas is switched off. Then the contents of the kadhai are mixed with green chilli paste, mustard pate, poppy seed paste and raw mustard oil. This is stuffed in a bowl and steamed for a few minutes. Another school of thought says that the name Bati Chorchori comes from the fact that the raw vegetables can be mixed with all other ingredients and raw mustard oil and then this mixture (kept in a big bowl or bati) is slow-cooked with lid covered, until the Bati Chorchori is ready.
There is a big list of different kinds of Chorchoris that can be made with an extra ingredient: the quintessential maach or fish! Macher Chocchori exists (and in many variations), in which fish is often cooked with vegetables, in Chochchori style. Small freshwater fishes like Chanda, Tengra, Morola, Bele, Kochki, shrimps, etc., work extremely well, but big freshwater fishes like Rohu (Rui) or Catla are also used conveniently. In fish Chochchoris, you don’t need to fry the fish separately. Just mix the raw veggies, raw fish, onions, mustard oil, salt, turmeric powder, etc., and simmer it on a low flame. There are certain fishes that marry very well with a certain kind of vegetable. For example, a small-fish variety called Morola maach tastes great with winter vegetables, especially the peyaj koli (spring onions that have developed flowers). Some fishes taste particularly good with shapla (water-lily stems). Some aromatic fishes like Ilish or Hilsa are even cooked with the flavourful kochur loti (colocasia or taro stolons). A Bati Chochhori version with ridge gourd (jhinge) and shrimps is also great, and so is the popular version called Kaanta Chochchori, in which big-sized spines, fish bones or kaanta and fish heads are cooked together with vegetables like ridge gourd, drumsticks, pointed gourd (potol or parwal), brinjal, hyacinth beans (shim or papdi) and potatoes. The Chochchori recipes with small fishes just demand mixing the onion, garlic, tomatoes, basic masalas and small fishes with hand with a generous amount of mustard oil, and covering and cooking on slow fire, until cooked and soft.
As said earlier, old-style Chochchoris use vegetable peels as well. In fact, there is a separate chochchhori cooked with just vegetable peels. It is a delicacy and is called Khosa Chocchori. In my home, for instance, we cook a Khosa Chochchori using slightly thickly shaved (but finely chopped) bottle-gourd peels. When you eat this, you will never realise that this tasty dish has been made by parts of the vegetable that are always discarded! These are the dishes that came into existence and gained popularity in Bengal more during the Bengal famine, when even access to basic food was very limited.
The good ol’ Chochchori goes well with khichuri (khichdi) or steamed rice. Although bitter gourd is not added in Chocchoris in general, there does exist a separate Ucche Chocchori, which is a dry preparation of bitter gourd with veggies like potato, brinjal or pumpkin. Ironically, a Chochchori can also be cooked without vegetables or fish. For example, an East Bengal/Bangladeshi recipe exists, which is called Dal Chocchori, in which red lentils (musur dal) is cooked with bay leaves, Paanch phoron or kalo jeere, spice powders (coriander and cumin), onion and garlic, until it is dry and cooked through.
I cook my Chorchori by first cooking the vegetables and/or fish under high heat, so as to char the contents a bit. I then put a lid, reduce the flame and cover the kadhai or bati (bowl) while the food gets cooked uniformly because of the steam that escapes from the vegetables. I never add water to my Chorchoris! My Hing Chorchori uses a tried-and-tested combination of ingredients. I collected this recipe from my mother, when I was in school. Please note that in a Chochchori, the way you cut each vegetable is extremely important, as it affects the flavour and the texture of the final dish. This dish is incomplete if you omit the cauliflower stems (the juicy sticks surrounding the outside of a cauliflower: the first thing that we discard when chopping a cauliflower) or the sugar snap peas. For any Bengali recipe using brinjals, always buy brinjals which are young, so that the seeds are very small.
[Cauliflower stems (phulkopir dnata) in this recipe refers to the sticks on the outside of a cauliflower, which we always discard at the beginning, while chopping a cauliflower.]
Cabbage (chopped into big pieces): 1 cup
French beans: ½ cup
Potato (cut into medium-thin, boat-shaped pieces): ½ cup
Cauliflower stems or phulkopir dnata (chopped thinly, lengthwise): 1 cup
Carrots (cut into rectangular pieces): ½ cup
Cauliflower florets (medium-sized)
Brinjals (cubed): ½ cup
Sugar snap peas (young peas in the pod): 15
Red chillies: 2
Asafoetida (hing): 3 pinches
Slit, green chillies: 4
Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
Salt: little less than 1.5 tsp (or according to the taste)
Sugar: ½ tsp (or according to taste)
Mustard oil: ½ cup
- Heat the mustard oil. Add the dry red chillies and quickly fry on both the sides. Reduce the flame and add the hing. Immediately add the cauliflower stems. Increase the flame and sauté for 4-5 min.
2. Add the cauliflower florets now and sauté for another 5 min, or until the florets are little browned from the edges.
3. Add the rest of the vegetables, along with the salt and turmeric powder. Sauté for another 5 min. Add the green chillies.
4. Add the sugar and mix well. Cover and cook on a slow flame until the vegetables are cooked, but firm (not crunchy, though).
5. Serve the Hing Chorchori with steamed rice or khichuri.
Traditional Bengali Recipes: Hing Chorchori
- Cabbage chopped into big pieces: 1 cup
- French beans: ½ cup
- Potato cut into medium-thin, boat-shaped pieces: ½ cup
- Cauliflower stems or phulkopir dnata chopped thinly, lengthwise: 1 cup
- Carrots cut into rectangular pieces: ½ cup
- Cauliflower florets medium-sized
- Brinjals cubed: ½ cup
- Sugar snap peas young peas in the pod: 15
- Red chillies: 2
- Asafoetida _hing_: 3 pinches
- Slit green chillies: 4
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Salt: little less than 1.5 tsp or according to the taste
- Sugar: ½ tsp or according to taste
- Mustard oil: ½ cup
- 1. Heat the Mustard oil. Add the dry red chillies and quickly fry on both the sides. Reduce the flame and add the hing. Immediately add the cauliflower stems. Increase the flame and sauté for 4-5 min.
- 2. Add the cauliflower florets now and sauté for another 5 min, or until the florets are little browned from the edges.
- 3. Add the rest of the vegetables, along with the salt and turmeric powder. Sauté for another 5 min.
- 4. Add the green chillies. Add the sugar and mix well. Cover and cook on a slow flame until the vegetables are cooked, but firm (not crunchy, though).
- 5. Serve the Hing Chorchori with steamed rice or Khichuri.
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