Gundruk [a fermented green vegetable]

Sunita Giri 10:48 PM |

 Gundruk is very much part of our food life; I mean kitchen life. In fact, to some, its a part of our lifestyle also. It very Nepali, inside out.  I love the citrusy, soury and tangy taste of it, and why me only, everyone loves its taste, purely because of its simply lovable taste.

Gundruk is also related with winter seasons. No, not because of its taste, but because gundruk is made during the winter seasons; just like many of the pickles, we make during  winter seasons. Normally, people talk about the gundruk being very tasty, if its the radish leaves, or if its the mustard leaves or garlic. But I guess, its the individual taste, which people are used to of liking and eating during their childhood, because when people talks about gundruk, I know, only one of it and that is made of green leaves of Cauliflowers that they used to grew in Bal Mandir, where I grew up as a child.

They grew plenty of Cauliflower in our kitchen garden, that it was not only enough to feed  200 people for more than two months; in some years, there was so much of it, that they even sun dried it, to manage it for summer time, when normally people face scarcity of enough curry to cater the palate. But that was not the one of my favorite memories of curry from Bal Mandir.

Its not that the soil was not fertile for radish because they grew plenty of it and it too was enough to slice it and then sun dry it  but they only made the gundruk from the leaves of cauliflower, not the radish leave or I just forgot it now. I don't have much good memory at times.

Making of gundruk, used to take place during long winter vacations day. In those days, we used to get really long winter vacation from our schools, like fifty days straight, and those vacations are called ‘min pachas’ holidays. It took me years to understand, why those days are called ‘min pachas’. In those 50 days, even fish feels cold, thats why; its called min pachas [min = fish, pachas = fifty ].

Making gundruk was a good time pass for didis and housemother also took part in it. Housemothers used to supervise for it, and didis [room nannies] used to make it. Big girls used to help those green leaves cut and clean. Although I have seen them making it for so long and for many years; yet I do not know how to make it, and I have never ever made it myself.

How they made gundruk : I think, first they used to let the green leaves sun dry in crisp winter sun for a day. then next day they clean it in water. and then they bang it with bit heavy wood to tenderize it and then they cut it in small piece i mean in about 2” size and then they stuffed it  in big tin can of oil or ghee. after filling the big can they used to pour hot water to fill the empty space and then they used to close its top with hey and then plastic cover on top of it and then they used to pressure the can with two big size brick so that the gas won't enter in it, and then they used to let it stay like that under the winter sun for may be about 15 days or 3 weeks. For a good quality gundruk winter sun is a must; otherwise, all the hard work and  the vegetables will go wasted. I have seen in those cold months of January when they used to open the tin and half the tin was wasted just like that.
Once it completes its time under the sun then they used to sun dry it for about a week. may be due to dim power of sun was not enough for couple of days to dry it under the winter sun. Once its completely dried they used to store it for summer. Okay, this tells me now that, we have plenty of curries during winter season than in summer to cater our palate.

Gundruk is normally eaten with soupy way, better if you are not planning to make lentil for the day. Its so tasty, it more than sufficient to replace the lentil for the day. Some use it to make the pickle also. Pickle can be made from the raw or dried gundruk. I have tasted the pickle of raw gundruk, its taste is so wow. Those who love the taste of it, will go gaga for the fresh scent of gundruk, when it fills the air. For a soupy curry, in Bal Mandir, they used to make it with some dried soybean and potatoes and then once its done they added  lots of water. That's how normally its eaten.

Although gundruk is regarded poor man's delicacy but its taste is so good that it is not just the poor man's meal. Gundruk is in fact is hassle free curry for some working class people. Adding some tomatoes and topping it with egg is icing on the cake and only some well-to-do people can have it this way.

I do love gundruk like many and like the taste of it for long; but once I grew up and started noticing lots of pigeons which had settled in the Bal Mandir walking on the open drain that carried the kitchen waste and water to the drain holes, which passed the round of the front yards walls. Every time ever one passed them to go to the tap  all of them flew up in the sky and then rested on top of the roof, where  the gundruk was kept for sun dry. Since then, the thought of eating gundruk as a curry started to make me, not only sick; but it started giving me diarrhea. It may have been the psychological sickness, but I could not help watch the pigeons wander on our summer curry and then forget about it when eating it. Its good  taste meant nothing for me after that, and I forgot but only remember it make me sick. I can eat it, if I don't know the whole story behind  it of how its made and how many flies or pigeons flew over it; otherwise I might still throw up.

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