Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Kuterre Huye Shalgam (Shredded Sauted Turnips)


Turnips are one of the least loved vegetables, along with some other root plants, but if made in a few typically Punjabi ways, they lose their pungency and slight radish like taste. Cooked in a variety of ways in the Punjab, turnips are a winter vegetable and are perhaps best known for their use in the popular Punjabi gajjar, gobi te shalgam da achaar (carrot, cauliflower and turnip pickle), a sweet and sour achaar, which adds a nice flavor to the turnips soft texture.

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In Punjab, turnips can be cooked shredded, sometimes with peas and wadian (dry dumplings), cubed with masala in the kadai (wok) or as a curry and sometimes also with cubed, marinated meats. Turnips cook very easily and quickly and the leaves are also cooked for their slight mustard greens flavor. Turnips are high in vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and calcium.

Some people make shredded turnips in a short cut: they cut them into little pieces, cook them in a pan, then they mash them and call the dish a shalgam saag (pureed turnips). You can make this dish either that way, or shredded as described below, the taste is about the same, but the consistency and texture is quite different. I think the shredded turnips cook faster, are more pleasing to look at, are more chewable and can easily be combined with other vegetables. Either way, this is a fast dish to prepare and it is great for the digestive system.


•  5 medium shalgam (turnips)

•  2 medium pyaaz (onion) – peeled and finely chopped

•  1 tablespoon adrak (ginger) –  peeled and finely chopped

•  6 tablespoons of vegetable or  olive oil

•  Spices (to taste): namak (salt),  mirch (red pepper), haldi (turmeric)

•  1 teaspoon gur (crystallized molasses) or sugar


1. Wash and dry the turnips, then peel them and rinse them again. Using a coarse setting, shred the turnips: you can also do this with a hand shredder.

2.  Heat 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a kadai (wok) or skillet, then add the onions and ginger which are very important ingredients for this dish to be really tasty.  Stir well to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the mixture is slightly brown, add the spices and stir well.

3.  Now add the shredded turnips, stir thoroughly and cover. After a few minutes when the turnips begin to shed water, check to see if they are tender, then turn the heat to high and dry all the water, stirring constantly to make sure they do not stick to the pan.

4.  Add the gur or sugar to cut the bitterness in the turnips. You never add any tomatoes or sour condiment to this dish.

5.  Let the turnips cook uncovered for 10 or 15 minutes. You can make this same dish with chopped turnips: if so, then at this point mash the turnips in the kadai. 

Mama's receipe inside2Shakuntla 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.