Bengalis are known for their love towards non-vegetarian dishes. Meat or fish is a part of everyday meal, either as a light stew or rich spicy gravy. I also have a special love towards meat and fish but I don’t crave for it every day and neither does my brother. But even today, my Dad cannot survive without fish for more than 2 days.
Having said that, most Bengali families will dedicate at-least one day of the week to pure vegetarian dishes. When I say pure vegetarian, I mean absolutely pure, with no onion or garlic. Even otherwise, Bengalis don’t tend to use a lot of onions or garlic in vegetable curries.
On such pure vegetarian days, Mom would sometimes cook Bandhakopi Torkari. Bandhakopi is green cabbage and torkari refers to stir-fry vegetables or vegetable curry served with some rice. There are different versions of preparing this side dish and this is a pure vegetarian version where panch phoron and hing (asafoetida) is used to add the flavor.
It’s one of those quick and easy side dishes that can be prepared with absolutely no effort. The only effort that you might need is to finely chop the green cabbage uniformly.
Some prefer to slow cook the cabbage to get the soft texture and add char at the edges. I absolutely enjoy this technique except for this particular recipe. I wanted to keep it light and something that can be served as a warm salad with bread. Hence, I made sure that the cabbage was a little crunchy.
Ideally, Mom would add some crispy fried bite-size potatoes close to the end of cooking. I omitted it and added some paneer with green peas. We both love the combination of paneer with green peas and it worked beautifully with the crunchy cabbage.
You can always use potatoes as well as onions in this dish. I just wanted to keep it simple and pure vegetarian.
In case you don’t have panch phoron or don’t have all the spices involved in making panch phoron, then you can use cumin seeds, some fennel seeds and some mustard seeds.