Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Ghiye ke Kofte (Bottle Gourd Or Squash Dumpling Curry)


The word “kofta”, meaning a dumpling ball, is actually derived from the Persian word “kuftan” which means “to beat or grind”. And as Northern India was conquered several times by the Mongols and Persians, the word for their dish of meatballs or kofte became commonly used over time. Now, the word “kofte” is not used only for meat dishes but also the vegetable balls made with besan (chickpea flour) that are then simmered in a curry.

Though there are several types of vegetarian kofte, the ones that are the most tasty are the ones made with ghiya or bottle gourd squash. Ghiya is also known as lauki or dudhi and the vegetable is plentiful and quite affordable. The trick is to buy the right one: the skin should not be too white in color and also should not have a soft middle part. Choose one that is firm and the thumbnail should easily penetrate the skin. It should not be too heavy (the same applies to eggplant) as this means it has lots of seeds.

Ghiya is a member of the calabash family of gourds, has a light green skin and white flesh and can be huge and round or slim and long or bottle shaped. Though it has a bland taste, if cooked with the right spices and with some ginger and chopped onions, it can be delicious with roti. Ghiye ki sabzi or sauted bottle gourd is not a dish usually found in restaurants overseas; so many young people are not exposed to it and cannot appreciate it.

But ghiya is one of the fastest vegetables to cook, and the ghiya kofta – also hard to find in many restaurants – combines the taste of fried pakoras with the moistness of a flavorful curry. It is a nice diversion from dals and other curried vegetable dishes. The one problem is that others always sneak by and eat the kofte as they come out of the pan, so be sure to make extras!


1 medium giya (bottle gourd or squash)

1 cup besan (chickpea flour)

1 medium pyaaz (onion)

Spices to taste: namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), dhania (coriander) powder, garam masala, freshly cut dhania (coriander leaves) to sprinkle at end

Ingredients for curry masala:   

1. large pyaaz (onion) peeled and chopped

4 cloves of lasan (garlic) peeled and chopped

1 medium adrak (ginger)  peeled and chopped

1 medium tamater (tomato) chopped or 1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 cups pani (water)


1.  Peel the squash and then grate into medium pieces. Collect the gratings and also the water that is shed.

2.   Mix the besan into the grated ghiya and water. Add ½ tsp of salt, pepper and dhania and set aside.

3.  In a kadai or wok add some vegetable oil and heat on high. Make one inch balls out of the batter and drop into the hot oil and deep fry till they are golden brown. Let the pakoras sit on paper towels to drain the oil.

4.   Heat 2 tbsp of oil – olive or sunflower is best – in a karai or wok and add the curry masala ingredients and the rest of the salt, pepper and coriander and water except the tomato and stir till it becomes a little brown. When roasted and the smell of the pieces starts to come through, add the chopped tomato and brown a little more till it becomes a paste. Be careful not to overcook, then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

5.  Add the ghia pakoras, stir then turn the heat off and let them soak into the curry for 10 minutes till they start to swell up. Sprinkle the dish with garam masala and freshly chopped coriander leaves. These are best when served with hot wheat rotis.  


Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.