All About Choddo Shak – A Traditional Almost Forgotten Bengali Recipe

 All About Choddo Shak – A Traditional Almost Forgotten Bengali Recipe

“Choddo” means fourteen and “shak” means leafy vegetables in Bengali. Yes, as the name choddo shak suggest this recipe is about making a dish with 14 types of greens. 

I still remember my grandfather used to bring “choddo shak” on “bhoot chaturdashi”- the night before Kalipujo/ diwali. The ritual didn’t end there, we used to lit “choddo prodeep”- fourteen diya (lamp) after sunset. The aim was to keep light in every dark corner of the house. Why? I never asked. May be back then I was more excited to firecrackers afterward. Well, it’s never too late. Today, as my grandparents are no more so I seek help from uncle google to know “why”. The answer that I received is pretty much what I was guessing.

choddo shak 1

Why choddo shak? 

All of us avoid green leafy vegetables during monsoon for obvious reasons – 

  • cleaning greens is a daunting task as the muddy water, constant rainfall, extreme humidity enhance the chances of insects, worm infestation
  • most of us suffer from poor digestion

Green leafy vegetables contain great nutritional as well as medicinal properties. So after a long wait when the season starts changing from rain to winter, it’s time to bring your greens back to the plate to boost immunity and tackle winter diseases.

The same concept has been translated as per the ancient script “Charaka Samhita” in an interesting way. It says that Kartik mash (the Bengali pre-winter month) is the time when Yamraj (the god of death) become powerful and all the eight gates to his kingdom are open.

To protect ourselves on “bhoot chaturdashi” two rituals have been prescribed – 

  • eating “choddo shak” to boost immunity and,
  • lighting “choddo pradeep” for 14 ancestors to protect from the evil power

“Bhoot” means past. “Bhoot chaturdashi” occurs on the 14th day of krishna paksha (waning phase of moon). Probably the number “choddo” i.e 14 has come from that.

choddo shak ol kopi

The List of choddo shak – 

As per Bengali panjika (Hindu astronomical almanac), the list of “choddo shak” is as follows – 

Name English Name (if any) Scientific Name
Ol kopi shak German Turnip leaves Brassica oleracea
Keu/ Ketoki Pata
Costus speciosus
Beto /Bethua shak Wild spinach, lamb’s quarters Chenopodium album
Shorisha shak Mustard Leaves Brassica campestris
Kalkashunde/
kashunde Pata

Cassia sophera
Neem Pata Neem Azadirachta indica
Jayanti Pata Sesban or Egyptian riverhemp Sesbania sesban
Shanche /Shalinche
Pata
Sessile Joywood Alternanthera sessilis
Hingche/ Helencha/
Hilmechika Pata
Buffalo spinach Enhydra fluctuans
Polta/ Patal Pata Pointed gourd (Pawal) leaf Tricosanthes dioica
Shoulak/Sheluka
Pata
Indian Cherry Cordia dichotoma
Guloncha/Guduchi/
Giloy/Amrutha Pata

Tinospora cordifolia
Ghetu/Bhant pata Hill Glory Bower Clerodendrum infortunatum
Shushni shak Waterclover Marsilea quadrifolia

choddo shak 3

Choddo shak nowadays – 

Choddo shak is available in the market on the day of “bhoot chaturdashi”. Nowadays it is sold as a bunch of 14 assorted greens. However, the greens are not the same as per the list is given in panjika. It generally consists of a combination of 14 leafy vegetables from the following list – 

Sl No Name of Choddo
Shaak in Bengali
English Name Scientific Name
1 Palong Shak Spinach Spinacia oleracea
2 Lal Shak Red Amaranth Amaranthus cruentus
3 Kolmi Shak Water spinach /Ipomoea leaves Ipomoea reptans
4 Shorshe Shak Mustard Leaves  Brassica juncea
5 Mulo shak Radish leaves Raphanus sativus
6 Pui Shak Malabar spinach Basella alba
7 Methi Shak Fenugreek leaves Trigonella foenum-graecum
8 Paat Shak Tender jute leaves Corchorus olitorius
9 Chola Shak Bengal gram leaves Cicer arietinum
10 Hincha/ Helencha Shak Helencha leaves Enhydra fluctuans
11 Lau shak Bottle gourd leaves Lagenaria siceraria
12 Kumro shak Pumpkin leaves Cucurbita pepo
13 Kochu Shak Colocasia leaves Colocasia esculenta
14 Thankuni Pata
Centella asiatica
15 Notey Shak Amaranth Amaranthus gangeticus
16 Beto Shak Wild spinach Chenopodium album
17 Shushni Shak
Marsilea minuta
18 Ol kopi Shak German Turnip leaves Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group
19 Neem Pata Neem leaves Azadirachta indica
20 Polta/patal Pata Pointed gourd leaves Trichosanthes dioica
choddo shak 4

Benefits of choddo shak – 

Green leafy vegetables do not only provide nutritional benefits but also contain various medicinal properties. (1, 2)

These are –

  • loaded with minerals and vitamins specially carotene, folic acid, vitamin C, K, iron, calcium, potassium etc
  • rich in soluble and insoluble dietary fiber
  • high in antioxidants
  • Posses antihistaminic, anti inflammatory properties
  • contain antimicrobial, anti fungal properties
  • helps to destroy worms in the body
  • protect liver, keep liver enzyme (SGPT, SGOT, ALP) level under control
  • protect eyes
  • good for skin, prevent skin rashes, pimple, acne outbreak
  • few greens contain anti asthmatic properties
  • act as pain reliever, has analgesic effect
  • keeps body hydrated
  • low on glycemic index thus control blood sugar
  • helps to keep blood pressure low
  • helps in weight loss
  • act as natural detox
  • few greens helps to control mood swing, insomnia and seasonal depression
  • retain water, increase the bulk of stool, reduce colon transit time thus cure and prevent constipation
  • keeps gut healthy
  • boost overall immunity
choddo shak 12

Recipe of choddo shak – 

Ingredients 

  • Choddo shak ( assorted 14 greens) – 500 gm
  • Brinjal – 1 small
  • Mustard oil – 2 tbs
  • Panchphoron; a mixture of 5 seeds – kalonji (black cumin), methi (fenugreek), fennel (saunf), jeera (cumin), mustard (rai) – 1 tsp
  • Red dry chili – 1-2 nos
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Green chili – as per taste
  • Peanut – 1-2 tbs or, Bori ; sun-dried pulse flour dumpling – 7-8 nos (optional) 
Choddo shak 2

Process – 

  • Clean the bundle of choddo shak and wash thoroughly
  • Chop the greens
  • Cut the brinjal into small dice
  • Marinate the brinjal pieces with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and salt
  • If using peanut/Bori, fry them first and keep aside
  • Heat 1 tbs of mustard oil and lightly saute the brinjal pieces, keep aside
  • Heat 1 tbs of mustard oil and tamper with pachphoron and dry red chilies
  • Add the greens and pinch of turmeric powder, saute lightly 
  • Put the lid on until it gets reduced and partially cooked
  • Add brinjal and salt and allow to cook
  • Add green chili
  • Once the water evaporates, add peanut/ bori
  • Serve hot with steamed rice
Choddo shak5

Bottom Line 

No matter how busy you are, it’s nice to follow a certain tradition. If you are in Bengal, look for choddo shak this year. If you are like me, staying away from hometown, buy a few types of green whatever available in your region and follow the same recipe. Trust me it’s healthy and yummy. Celebrate “bhoot chaturdoshi” with “choddo shak” and “choddo prodeep”. After all, it’s Bengali Halloween.

Dr. Soma Chakrabarty

http://wellnessmunchcom.wordpress.com

Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 10 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goal for wellness. She believes in practical diet which help people to live rather than survive.

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