Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Tauri Pithoo (Sliced Zucchini Chips)


One of the most often cooked vegetables in the US is the zucchini squash, which we call tauri in North India, where the vegetable is also very common, but not available throughout the year. Here the most favorite way to cook zucchini is as a casserole, and sometimes steamed and seasoned as a side dish. Punjabis too cook it sautéed but just as with the casserole, it can come out overcooked, mushy and watery if you are not careful.

Zucchini is actually the immature fruit of the zucchini flower but it is cooked like a vegetable. It is easy to grow in temperate climates, has a delicate sweet taste and is low in calories and high in folate, potassium and vitamin A. Like all squash, zucchini originated in the Americas but was later cultivated in northern Italy in the late 19th century and then brought to the US in the 1920s. The vines can climb up very high as the flowers mature and turn to vegetables.

Since it is slightly sweet, zucchini is best when cooked with some onions or Punjabi wadiyan (spiced dumplings) – to add spiciness and tanginess. For a tasty dish, you have to be gentle in the way you stir the cut pieces in the kadai (wok) so that it does not become mushy.

Because it is so tender, zucchini cooks very easily and is easy to digest too. When it is being cooked, it lets out a lot of steam, which is why it can easily become overcooked and mushy. For crunchier, better tasting tauri, try cooking it as pithoo or chips. This dish is simple, easy and quick to make in 5 minutes. Even without added items like wadiyan or onions, the taste and texture is so good that even my grandson asks for more helpings!


3 medium tauri (zucchini)
1 tbsp tael (olive oil or vegetable oil)
Spices: 1 tsp namak (salt), 1 tsp mirch (red pepper), garam masala (optional)

1. Wash the zucchini thoroughly and let them drip and wipe dry. Cut off the top stalks. Do not peel the zucchini as the skin helps to hold the cut vegetable together, and cut them into 1/3 inch thick round slices.
2. In the kadai, heat the oil and throw in the tauri sprinkle with salt and stir till it is coated. Cover and let it cook in its own steam for 2 minutes over high heat.
3. Take the cover off and gently turn the chips over to cook the other side and sprinkle with red pepper or garam masala. When brown gently turn over each chip again.
4. After a minute, turn the heat off and leave the tauri uncovered to let the steam escape. Serve with hot roti.


Cooking well requires a fine touch and understanding of the way foods react to washing, and with heat. One of the most common mistakes many young and inexperienced cooks make is that they make the dish – in this case we are talking about vegetarian food – either too watery which washes out all the spices or too mushy, which is also a case of too much water.

Just remember that all vegetables will shed some water when they are cooked, so often it is important not to place them in the pan wet (like bhindi or okra) otherwise they get too sticky or be careful not to add water when they are cooking (like phul gobi or cauliflower and tauri or zucchini) because they shed their own water and can cook in the steam. Just as important is to uncover vegetables after they are cooked so that the steam does not condense onto them.

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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 (since renamed Faisalabad), 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.