Although I live in a fairly remote location in Canada’s North, we have a store in town called ‘Arctic Ventures’ that carries a pretty decent selection of imported foodstuffs – Shiitake mushrooms, pappadums, curry pastes, etc. Quite often, they also have fresh vegetables from overseas and the far south and, during this past year alone, we have seen bitter melon (both the Indian and Chinese varieties), lemon grass, Thai chillies and Okra. A few days ago, I was visiting the store to pick up a few items and I happened to spy these bags of a curious item I had never set eyes on before. The label identified these rather cute little green things as ‘Tindora’ and I realized that I have never even seen a recipe for them in my, fairly extensive, cookery book collection. Although I am all alone at home for the week, and thus hadn’t planned to do much in the way of experimental cooking, I couldn’t resist grabbing a bag.
Naturally, the first thing I did when I got home was to Google the word ‘Tindora’ and I discovered, as I half-suspected, that this is an Indian foodstuff. It is especially popular in Southern India, but also consumed in Indonesia and Thailand. Apparently, it is a vine-grown product known, most commonly, in English as the ‘Ivy Gourd’, but also known, somewhat less-appetizingly, as ‘Gentleman’s toes’. Biologically, it is actually a fruit, but, like the tomato, it seems more appropriate to classify it as a vegetable for culinary purposes.
The name ‘Tindori’ is a Hindi name and there are a lot of other, very different, names for it in the various Indian languages and dialects. In India, and elsewhere apparently, the leaves, as well as the fruit, are eaten and, according to the Wikipedia entry, it has supposed medicinal properties. Personally, my immediate interest lies more in how it tastes…
As you can see, there is a definite resemblance to little cucumbers, and, indeed, at a number of sites, I saw the word ‘gherkin’ used to describe them. I am not sure how easy it is to tell from my photographs, but each fruit is about two to three fingers in length and about the thickness of a man’s index finger or thumb. They have a pretty green colour, as you can see, but apparently they take on a red-color as they age and are not supposed to be good to eat at that point. I actually read a few web-pages that claimed that people who eat them when they are red can suffer ‘brain-death’ (whatever that means exactly) whilst other sites say that people can and do eat them in this state without any noticeable effect. This would, of course, beg the question as to what these people were like *before* they ate the red-fleshed fruit!
And the taste?
Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Wikipedia suggested that these gourds have been compared to bitter melons and, although some sites describe these as delicious raw, others were quite adamant that these are *not* a good food for eating uncooked. I presumed, after reading what I could find on the web, that Tindora must be something of an acquired taste but, ultimately, I found that Wikipedia is completely wrong; these are nothing like bitter melon and, indeed, have no bitterness at all. Biting into the raw fruit was very like biting into a cucumber but not not quite as succulent. There was no bitterness, as I say, but there was also no sweetness at all. If pressed, I would have to say that the taste experience was somewhere between cucumber and watermelon rind. It was nice and fresh and I think that Tindora would make a great salad vegetable, particularly in preparations where you don’t want too much water to be thrown off after it has been added. I will try it that way sometime, but, having just discovered this interesting foodstuff, I most want to see how it can be cooked…
I spent an hour or so searching out recipes on the web and came up with quite a few, all of which are from various regions in India. I am listing a sample few for those who are interested:
- Tindora Masala
- Tindora Fry
- Tindora and Sweet Corn Curry
- Tindora Bajji
- Tindora Bateta
- Crispy Tindora Roast
Tindora seems to be amenable to a variety of cooking methods but the majority of the recipes I came across seemed to rely on frying, in one form or another. Quite a few employ shallow-frying methods along with a variety of spice blends to produce dry or ‘wet’ curry type side-dishes. In some recipes, the tinder are deep-fried, with batter or otherwise, and served as appetizers, snacks, or as accompaniments for rice. I also saw quite a few recipes where deep-frying was used as a precursor step before shallow-frying them with other ingredients and even an interesting one that roasts the fruit. In the next few days I am going to try a couple of experiments… quite probably a shallow-fried ‘curry’ type dish and maybe a deep-fried appetizer-type preparation in a chickpea-flour batter. I am home-alone this week so the small bag I have may even allow me to try a cold preparation as well. I have some other stuff I want to post first, but I will certainly share the results of my experiments as soon a I can…