When we think of the Nepali diaspora and the food, it is absolutely incomplete without the sour tangy fermented flavours of the Gundruk ko Jhol. In our households, before winters start, it is almost essential to stock up on the gundruk to last all winters.
This versatile, super nutritious, uber tasty and easy to make ingredient is the essence of Nepali cooking. So what is gundruk really? Gundruk is basically fermented greens. Isn’t this interesting? One would think why would we ferment greens instead of consuming it all fresh and green? The reason being, that greens when fermented exude probiotic qualities that really boosts stomach health and immunity.
What is gundruk made of? How to prepare gundruk at home?
The greens that make up gundruk are mustard leaves, radish leaves, spinach leaves, saag leaves and sometimes even cabbage leaves. Once radishes, cabbages, saag and spinach are harvested from the garden, they are washed in warm water thoroughly. This washing vigorously ensures any kind of soil particles or dust to wash right off of the leaves. This also ensures pungency in taste as well as aroma to develop after the washing of the leaves in warm water. The leaves are then roughly crushed with a stone and after this the leaves are stored in an air tight container or a black plastic bag and stored in a dark corner of the household for a good 1-2 weeks.
This storing of the leaves allows the fermentation to happen at a consistent rate as well as helps the leaves develop the probiotic compounds. Then after the fermentation, the leaves are taken out of the storage and spread out on a Nanglo which is a circular tray made by woven bamboo (an essential tool in a Nepali household). The leaves are then left out in the warm winter sun for it to lose all the moisture.
The gundruk must be hard and crisp almost and not soft and soggy. So the leaves are kept under the sun for many days until the leaves turn dark brown in color, almost black, frilly, hard and crisp. When the leaves acquire all these traits, we can be sure that the gundruk is now ready and super nutritious.
Storing this fermented goodness
Your gundruk is now ready to be stored for the winters. Gundruk can be stored for a long time without getting spoilt. The shelf life of fermented leaves is all year round provided it has been dried well and does not have any moisture left in it.
How to cook gundruk and the consumption
Now for the consumption part, preparing gundruk is the easiest thing to cook really. It hardly takes you -10 minute to prepare gundruk and yet the end result is a wholesome mouth feel and the most satisfying flavors you could find in a soup or a broth.
Gundruk ko Jhol is the most common way to consume the fermented leaves, but people also use gundruk to make vegetable side dishes and achaars; which are equally mesmerizing. The humility in this Nepali dish can be observed from the fact that it is made from the parts of the vegetables that one usually does not consume, the fermentation process that it goes through only develops the intensity in the flavor and the nutritional value, after fermentation the flavors become so beautifully balanced that this may well be the best soup one has ever tasted and last but not the least, one can prepare a hearty soup within 5 minutes. It is also best served with a steaming heap of plain rice.
For those of us who are new to the existence of this super food and would love to try the soup but have no idea how to prepare it, here’s a simple recipe to help you get closer to being addicted to this soup for the rest of your life.
- Two fist full of Gundruk leaves
- Thinly sliced one whole onion
- Thinly sliced one whole tomato
- 4 garlic cloves crushed roughly
- A very tiny ginger finger grated
- 2 -3 green chilies parted from the middle
- 2 Dalle chilies parted from the middle (optional according to spice intake).
- Roughly chopped coriander leaves.
- A pinch of cumin seeds
- Two bowls of boiling water
- Salt to taste
- Red chili powder to taste
- Lakadong turmeric to increase nutritional value.
- 3 table spoons of mustard or vegetable oil.
- In a frying pan heat the oil.
- Add a pinch of cumin seeds so that it turns brownish
- Now add the green chilies and the Dalle chilies (optional) so that the oil gets some heat from these and for added flavor as well as aroma.
- After the chilies have partially fried in the oil, add the thinly sliced onions and garlic and sauté them so that they sweat out and get softer.
- Now add the thinly sliced tomatoes and let it cook for 2 minutes on a medium flame.
- Now add two fists full of dried gundruk leaves to the pan and let it sauté with the other ingredients.
- Add 3 pinches of the Lakadong turmeric, a teaspoon of salt, red chili powder to the gundruk and let the vegetables be well coated with these spices.
- Let that cook for another two minutes but on a low flame this time.
- Prepare two bowls of boiling water to add to the pan.
- Now add the boiling water to the pan and on a medium flame, let the gundruk boil. Close the pan with a lid and then let the gundruk ooze out all the flavor, nutrition and tanginess into the water.
- After 5 minutes of soft boiling, your gundruk should be all soft and ready.
- Pour the soup in a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves and Voila! Your Gundruk ko Jhol is Ready to be served.
When we were children, we were told time and again that there is nothing better than Gundruk ko Jhol to provide the much needed nutrition in the winters and to boost the immune system in the cold months. My grandmother compelled me to finish my Gundruk ko Jhol and it is only now that I think about it I understand how amazing this broth is and how it has helped me keep up my metabolism all these years. Even now when I think of back home, I think of Gundruk Ko Jhol; which takes me right back to my Grandmother’s wooden kitchen. I quickly order some gundruk online from neorigins.com and after its delivery, hardly 10 minutes after, I feel right back at home, while being in the heart of the country!
If you are new to this super healthy, probiotic food from the hills, we insist that you try it and that you order one for yourself right at this moment. We are sure you will appreciate the flavors of this humble dish of the Nepali Diaspora.