So, what is Snake Gourd?
Looking eerily akin to dangling green serpents, snake gourds are not an item you will see available in the supermarket.
Snake gourd (also called Serpent Gourd) is a vine plant that climbs up a trellis and then unfurls its flowers and fruits to hang down to the ground. Some of the largest specimens can grow up to five feet in length! This plant is native to the Southeast Asian region that includes countries like Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, as well as some parts of Australia and Africa. It may not be a type of vegetable that is well-known around the world, but certain cultures have been utilizing this unique food variety for hundreds of years.
Extremely popular in Indian dishes, it’s no surprise that snake gourd has found its way into Ayurvedic medicine, often used as a cooling ingredient. Seeds of the snake gourd were sent to Europe from China in 1720. They have long been known to the American and European community, but were never cultivated since the plant needs warm nights to fruit. Today, there is renewed interest in its cultivation due to the rapidly increasing Indian communities in these areas of the globe.
Several of my friends in the southern part of the United States grow this vegetable. If you have room for a strong trellis, these are relatively easy to grow and are prolific producers. Their striped, speckled and dangling looks are sure to elicit frequent comments from your garden visitors. There are several varieties of seeds that you can browse through here.
And now to this recipe
This is a very simple vegan/vegetarian recipe that involves minimal ingredients – coconut oil, salt, cayenne pepper and seasoning ingredients that are fairly standard with South Indian recipes (fresh curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds, urad dal, green and dry red chili peppers). I typically store some fresh coconut pieces in my freezer that I can defrost and blend for recipes like these. Apart from its impressive health benefits, fresh coconut adds a great flavor and texture. From start to finish, this recipe takes about 25 minutes, tops. To make this recipe more flavorful, you can add a tablespoon of Chutney Powder. I keep a jar of this in my fridge and add it to dry dishes like these, for that extra dash of flavor.
In the US, most Indian groceries sell snake gourd. You can’t miss it – it is long, narrow and has green and white stripes running length wise. Pick ones that are firm. Also note that some of them have seeds that may be very hard in texture, so it is generally a good practice to remove the seeds when you cut the vegetable for this recipe. Also ensure you rinse it well with fresh water to get rid of any contaminants.
Honestly, with an easy-going and versatile dish as this one, the sky is the limit on what you can pair it with. Traditionally, this side dish was eaten with white rice and ghee, or with chapathi/roti, but we are on the Healthy Indian website, right? So, let’s take this to the next level: we have several recipes on the Healthy Indian website that will be great accompaniments to this wonderful dish. You could eat this with our Methi Paratha instead of plain roti or Brown Rice Khichdi or even our Brown Jeera Rice instead of the mundane white rice. Or better yet, this saute is great served as a side of salad. Why not?