Gongura Pappu is an Andhra style dal cooked with local greens – gongura leaves. The end result is a sour and spicy dal that is perfect with steamed rice.
The first time I tasted gongura was some 12 years ago when we used to live in Bombay. My husband’s aunt sent us two bottles of her special gongura pickle along with some other homemade pickles. I could not taste more than a smidgen with my rice, because in true Andhra style, the pickle was wildly hot. That plus given that my spice tolerance is next to zero, I left it entirely to the husband to do justice to these bottles of homemade goodness, which he did.
Later, when I moved to Hyderabad for a couple of years, a wide variety of leafy greens were regularly sold by the push cart vendors on our street. That was my introduction of some of the leafy greens that I had never cooked with when we lived in Mumbai – Gongura, Kulfa, ponnangani keerai (water amaranth) and so on. If I asked anyone how to use these greens, the first standard response was, “add them to dal”. That is not a bad idea at all, because while Dal Palak is one of the most popular dal recipes with greens, all kinds of greens pair well with dal, and also improving the nutritional value of the dish.
Methi is one of my favourite greens and I make a delicious methi dal, with lots of ginger and garlic to boost the taste. I made a similar Gongura Dal / Gongura Pappu with the fresh bunch of these greens from my garden.
Gongura works as a souring agent, so you can also add it to sambar and omit tamarind altogether. Make sure you add an extra chilli or two to the gongura pappu, because the sourness from the greens needs to be complemented by a good measure of spiciness from the chillies.
Home grown Gongura
My resourceful house help stuck the stems of used up gongura (ordered from my grocery delivery service) and to our joy, it took off so well. Now the plant is thriving and I can pluck 3-4 handfuls of leaves every other day if I want to.
If you have a windowsill garden, it is easy to grow gongura at home. Try planting stems of gongura in the pots or directly in the soil. My blogger friend, Sangeeta has had similar good luck with purslane. This method also works well for mint and rosemary.
Roselle / Gongura in other Indian cuisines
While gongura is predominantly used in Andhra cuisine, it is also used in Maharashtra where it goes by the name of Ambaadi. Ambadicha Patal Bhaji is one of the popular dishes made using Sorrel in Maharashtrian cuisine. Called Pundi Soppu in Kannada, roselle leaves are used in Pundi Soppu Palya that is eaten with rustic millet bread – Jolada roti. Check out this interesting recipe – Pundi Palya of Bijapur. Gongura leaves are also a part of Manipuri and Arunachal cuisine.