Shojne Danta Diye Neem Pataa Bhaja/Stir-Fried Drumsticks With Neem Leaves.


Stir-fried drumsticks with neem leaves is so typical of my home back in Bengal,India. I don't know if other Bongs ever came across this particular recipe because some recipes are kitchen experiments of certain households, that turn out to be so tasty that they leave a permanent mark, are much-loved, cooked more often and they stick around forever and passed on by generations. Likewise this " shojne danta diye neem pata bhaja" is one my grandma's meticulous kitchen experiments that acquired an everlasting place in the recipe trail of my maternal home and now my home here in the overseas. My husband never knew any such recipe ever existed, he never tasted Stir fried drumsticks with neem leaves at his paternal house or maternal house and to my utter delight he loves it a lot when I cook it. I too never came across this recipe in any of my relatives or friends place. So, I consider this to be a signature dish from my grandma's cookbook and rest my case!


It's very important to choose the fat and mature drumsticks for this recipe, the ones that have crunchy seeds. This particular recipe is a way to bid goodbye to the seasonal drumsticks, so only the mature variety (just before they become stiff like a stick) works well for this particular dish. Tender drumsticks will not render it the authentic taste. The bitterness of the neem leaves acclaim the crunchy, juicy drumsticks in this recipe and give it that rustic signature taste. It's bitter, its succulent and oh-so-tasty appetizer to die for (only and only if you love bitterness in bitter gourd and neem leaves)! After eating "shojne danta neem pata bhaja" for a while in the early weeks of April in India we permanently bid goodbye to drumsticks for the year.

Neem Leaves are very bitter in taste and one has to acquire the taste in order to relish the recipes prepared with neem leaves, yes they are even bitter than bitter gourd (Karela/korola/uchche). We love neem leaves and it's a springtime ritual in my maternal home and my in-laws place too to cook neem leaves almost daily and to relish it with plain white rice. It serves as an appetizer in Bengali households back in India, it's simply stir-fried in mustard oil with small pieces of brinjals ("Neem Begun") or as is. And in my maternal home, it's also stir-fried with drumsticks (stout and mature drumsticks) and the woody part of jackfruit (my grandma's recipes). The slightly red tinted and tender baby neem leaves are much preferred for these recipes.


We don't get Neem Leaves here in the USA where I live, so a trip back home brings back jars of dried neem leaves which I use to cook the above-mentioned recipes. In my maternal house, we have a huge neem tree, it's still growing and so back home we get fresh tender baby neem leaves plucked from the tree just before cooking. Ahhh that delectable taste can never be replaced with the dried leaves or the ones bought from the market. But, I am still happy with my dried leaves from the tree in my mom's garden, after all, they are a part of home brought back here. Whenever I cook them my whole house smells like my mom's kitchen, that lingering smell floods me with once upon a time childhood moment. The fascinating part of Neem pata bhaja/ drumsticks stir-fried with neem leaves is that it's not eaten throughout the year, it's seasonal and only eaten in spring and early summer days.


This is how I cook it. RECIPE FROM MY GRANDMA'S COOKBOOK.


INGREDIENTS:
* Mature Drumsticks(shojne danta), roughly peeled, washed and cut into 3" pieces (refer the picture).
* Fresh tender Neems leaves washed or dried neem leaves (according to taste).
* Mustard oil.
* Turmeric powder.
* Salt.

METHOD:
* Wash, cut and roughly peel the drumsticks.
* Wash the fresh tender baby neem leaves and allow them to air dry.
* Boil the "Shojne Danta" or drumsticks in hot water with a pinch of turmeric and salt until slightly tender (al dente stage).
* Heat mustard oil in a kadhai or pan.
* Leave the neem leaves in the oil carefully.
* Fry them until crispy.
* Now add the strained al a dente drumsticks into the fried neem leaves.
* Stir-fry until golden.
* Serve with hot plain rice.

TIPS:
* It's very important to boil the drumsticks until al dente stage if cooked more they will break while frying with the neem leaves.
* Fry the neem leaves until crispy.
* Don't ever completely peel the green part from the drumsticks it will make the drumsticks very soft and mushy.

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