I seem to gravitate towards strong tasting vegetables – the pungent and very-brassica smells and tastes my husband likes to categorise as oogra. Nothing brings out the link between all the diverse members of the brassica family (such as broccoli, kohlrabi, haak, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, mustard, kale, and collard) like their flowers and seeds. All of them have the characteristic four-petal blooms (thus the name crusiferae – from ‘cross’ – for this group of plants, also collectively called the mustard family) and the brown-to-black oval-spherical seeds borne in tapering bean-like seedpods (a silique). Maybe now Nabeela will see why I first identified the mustard pods in her quiz as radish pods. The flowers vary in colour from white or cream to lavender or yellow, and are all edible!
In North India radish pods are known as moongre. They are crunchy with a strong radish taste. They come in varying length – while the long ones have obviously been bred for easy handling (they are sold in bundles) I find their long tails quite fibrous and the pods themselves less flavourful. I favour the shorter kind (2-5 inches in length) that can be found piled for sale in the street-side vegetable markets.
You can eat moongre raw or cooked. As a kid I have munched on many in my Dad’s kitchen garden. He loves sharp flavours and used to make a chutney by pounding these with some green chillies, and mixing in salt and yoghurt. Radish pods are also great in salads and stir fries.
While I love their texture and flavour, I cannot guarantee you will. Just as for cabbage and radish, there will always be two camps for this too. As usual, I am in a camp of one in my family. Yet I love it enough to make it a few times every year; the other camp has agreed to endure it those few times. For them, I put in an additional potato.
You can make this with the everyday zeera (cumin) -hing-haldi-mirch tadka. But this present version is based on my recollection of what was served to us many years ago at Indore. My friend Prati and I were there for some work and were staying with her sister’s family. Her sister’s mother-in-law, who is originally from Rajasthan, cooked this dish with lots of garlic, which is favoured in much of that State. The chilli quotient was also significant. I have always cooked moongre like this ever since.
250 gms fresh radish pods
1 T grated ginger
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, chopped
1-2 T oil
1 t cumin seeds
pinch of hing
1/2 t turmeric
1 1/2 t coriander powder
1 t red (cayenne) chilli powder
coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
Rinse the radish pods. Top and tail them. Snap into 1-1 1/2″ lengths. Peel and cube the potatoes.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the cumin seeds followed by hing, then garlic and ginger. Once the garlic is fragrant add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and cook till the tomatoes turn to mush and the oil begins to surface. Add a pinch of salt if the mush starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add turmeric, coriander powder, and red chilli powder, in that order. Give a stir and let fry for a few seconds till the spices are cooked, taking care to not let the chillies burn. Add the prepared vegetables. Sprinkle salt and mix. Cover and cook till potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Moongre aur aloo ki subzi, nani-wali dal, Pachranga mango pickle, and roti
I like to cook till there is still a slight crunch to the radish pods. It is hard to overcook them, but keep an eye nevertheless. Serve with roti, dal, dahi, and any North Indian pickle.
Some gardening history (with recipes) of this humble vegetable.