Last week, my mother-in-law mentioned to me that, one can make tasty fritters with ash gourd, known as ‘pacchi vadiyalu. Hmm, I thought to myself and exclaimed, I saw it at the local grocers shop, just a few days ago. But was wondering what we would do with such a large fruit. Like me, she also is very much interested in trying out traditional recipes. And asked me to check whether I could buy one. So I was now, really keen on getting my hold of this particular fruit. I went to the local vegetable shop and luckily, it was still there – as if waiting for me. The owner of the shop, a quiet and helpful lady, Prabhodhini, was very courteous and told me to first check whether the fruit was good or not. And asked me to pay only if the ash gourd was good. So armed with this ‘bounty’ I went home. My mother in law was very glad to see it. When I mentioned about this ‘ash gourd’ episode to my mum, she too was very happy and wanted it, to make ‘vadiyalu’ and sun dry them. So I decided to keep half of this ‘gourd’ and give my mother the other half. So this way both my culinary gurus are happy: my mother and mother-in-law.
What is ‘ash gourd’?
Native to South East Asia, it is a large pumpkin like fruit, which is eaten as a vegetable, when mature. This highly nutritious melon may grow as large as 80 cm in length. Hmm, indeed a huge fruit! It is cut in wedges and sold in vegetable markets especially in South India. We do not find this fruit, often in Goa.
So that afternoon, I set about making ‘boodida gummidakay garilu’. This was my first experience in making this dish. These fritters or vadiyalu are made with diced ash gourd pieces and soaked black gram, ground with green chilies and salt. A simple and easy to prepare dish.
Once I made these fritters, with bated breath, I waited to hear the comments from my daughter and mother in law. They loved it. When I tasted it, I too immediately liked it!
The ash gourd pieces seem to blend smoothly along with the spiced dal batter. With each bite, these fritters simply dissolved in my mouth. You have to taste it to believe it!
What’s in a name?
Ash gourd is also known as winter melon, white gourd, winter gourd, large fuzzy melon, tallow gourd or wax gourd, Chinese preserving melon or Chinese watermelon. It is known as Boodida Gummadikaya in Telugu and Neer Poosanikai in Tamil. It is known as Kuvaddo in Konkani, Petha or Pethakaddu in Hindi, Komora in Assamese, Boodagumbala is Kannada, Kohla in Marathi and Kumbalanga in Malayalam.
The various names for this vegetable in some of the Asian countries are:
China: dong gua, dong gwa, tung kwa
Indonesia: beligo, bleego, bleegoo, bligo, koondoor, tangkue
Japan: kamo uri, togan
Korea: ho bak
Philippines: kondol, kundol
Sri Lanka: alu-puhul
Thailand: fak khiao, fak kib, phat
Vietnam: bi bee, bi chanh
Why is it known as wax gourd?
The immature melon has a thick white flesh, which is sweet when eaten. The mature fruit loses its hair and sweetness. Now, it develops a waxy outer coating, which provides a long shelf life to this gourd. Thus this melon remains good, off the vine for a long time and can be stored for many months. The ash gourds of the Indian subcontinent have a white coating with rough texture. And the South East Asian varieties have a smooth waxy texture.
Use in Indian cuisine:
In Andhra Pradesh, this gourd is used to prepare ‘vadiyalu’, which are again two types. Pacchi vadiyalu or raw fritters, which are deep fried in oil and relished as fritters. And vadiyalu, are the sun dried fritters, which can be stored for many months. Whenever required, these can be fried in oil and savored with rice.
In South India, this gourd is used to make curries and halwa, a sweet dish.
Petha is a famous specialty of Agra, it is popular sweet candy is made from ash gourd.
Did you know?
In South EastAsia, this ash gourd is sweetened with caramelized sugar and bottled as a drink, known as winter melon punch or “melon tea.”