An integral part of the five course Bengali meal is the ‘Teto’ or bitter dish that one starts the meal with. Usually served in small portions in one corner of your plate, the teto is meant to cleanse your palate and make everything that follows taste a notch above the usual. As children, it was difficult to find too many fans of the bitter course in our age group. I, for example, have often discovered an extra course of bitters hidden under my rice that clearly did not belong to me. Of course I had a good idea who placed it there but then of course he never owned up to it. I chose to keep quiet knowing how dad would have reacted to this violation his simple dining rule – ‘finish everything on the plate!’
Of course I have now grown to love all forms and variations of the teto – ranging from neem begum (tender neem leaves fried with tiny bits of brinjal) or the fried karela, often fried with or without potatoes. The shojne phool bhaja or chechki also kind of qualifies under the teto owing to its slight bitterish taste. The gime (or ghimmi) shaak is a seasonal green, I have no clue what would they call it in any other language, but a closest substitution could be young methi leaves, in terms of the taste and level of bitterness. The potato is usually added to mellow it down and make it less offensive, to those who don’t like teto. This particular creeper has numerous health benefits especially in terms of beating the heat and aiding an ailing liver. This article talks more about it.
- Gime shaak: A bundle, chopped leaves only
- Potato: 1 medium, chopped into tiny cubes
- Garlic: 1 large clove, crushed
- Green chilly: half a tsp, chopped
- Salt: to taste
- Sugar: a pinch
- Mustard oil: a tbsp
- A pinch of turmeric is optional. I do not use it.
- Heat mustard oil in a frying pan
- Add the crushed garlic, potato cubes and fry with a pinch of salt
- When the potatoes are almost cooked, and slightly crispy outside, add the greens, turn the heat low and adjust the seasoning
- It is done once the potatoes are thoroughly cooked and there is no moisture left in the frying pan.
- Serve by the spook at first, as a first course with piping hot rice.