Baadakopir torkari (cabbage Bengali style)


Cabbage, Bengali style, is interesting in this collection partly because it's one of the commonest dishes in a Bengali winter meal, partly because it illustrates an interesting concept for non-Bengali readers: vegetables can be cooked without garlic. (In fact, I do not remember any Bengali vegetable dish which uses garlic -- something which friends from most parts of India would find hard to believe.)

In Bengal, cabbage is/was usually not available the year round, therefore the recipe is clearly a winter dish -- it uses other winter vegetables like tomatoes, green peas, etc. Of course, markets in urban Bengal now supply all vegetables most months of the year, with the same whitewashed taste that you see wherever urban, organised vegetable supply has hit the superstores.

This dish used to be one of my favourite vegetarian dishes since childhood. It goes well with chapati, rice and daal, and also (this is my radical innovation) as sandwich filling between two slices of toasted, buttered bread. Try it before you puke -- you may be pleasantly surprised. Such a sandwich, bitten into between dips of tomato ketchup or other dips, is a great mid-meal snack in a Calcutta winter. (If you're not in Calcutta, replace with place of your choice, but winter does make a difference.)

One of the key things for the beginner to remember when cooking cabbage is the huge difference in volume between the start and end of the cooking. You start with a large karahi (wok) full of raw cabbage, and end up with a mid-sized bowl of cooked stuff.



  • Cabbage: one kilo fresh raw cabbage, cut into 4-6 large pieces and then each piece cut into thin strips
  • Potatoes: 5-6 medium sized ones, skinned and cut into eight pieces each
  • Tomatoes: 2-3 medium sized ones, chopped
  • Green peas: about a cup, measured after shelling


  • Garam masala whole: very lightly crushed:
    • Small elaichi (cardamom): about six to eight
    • Cloves: about 10-12
    • Daruchini (cinnamon): a piece about 1.5 inches long, half inch wide
  • Tej patta (bay leaves): 3-4
  • Jeera (cumin) seeds: one teaspoon


  • Dhania (coriander seeds) powder: two teaspoons
  • Jeera (cumin seeds) powder: two teaspoons
  • Ginger paste: two teaspoons
  • Haldi powder (turmeric): one teaspoon
  • Mirchi powder (red chilly): half teaspoon
  • Tomato ketchup: two tablespoons

Cooking medium

  • Cooking oil: 3-4 tablespoons

Final items

  • Salt: half teaspoon, then to taste
  • Sugar: one tablespoon, then to taste
  • Garam masala powder or wet-ground paste: half teaspoon (could be a bit more if store-bought dry powder, less if home-made fresh wet-ground paste)
  • Ghee: good aromatic cow's-milk ghee: 1-2 teaspoons


  1. Mix five of the masala ingredients (ginger, jeera powder, dhania powder, mirchi powder, haldi powder) in a small bowl with a bit of warm water, stir into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat oil in a large karahi or wok, large enough to hold all the cabbage.
  3. Dump all the phodni ingredients into wok when oil is hot, turn down the flame to medium, stir for 30 seconds.
  4. Dump the masala paste into the wok, stir for 30 more seconds.
  5. Dump the potatoes into the wok, stir to ensure all pieces are coated with the masala, fry for 30 seconds.
  6. Dump the tomato ketchup (from the masala list) and the chopped tomatoes into the wok. Fry for 3-5 minutes till the tomato pieces blend into a smooth paste where you see just potato pieces sticking out of a dark red-brown mass.
  7. Dump the cabbage and peas into the wok. Add the salt and sugar. Stir thoroughly for 30 seconds to mix everything.
  8. Turn the heat to low. Cover with a lid and allow to cook. Check periodically.
  9. After a few minutes, you will observe water emitted from the cabbage, mixing with the juices emitted by the tomatoes, all simmering at the bottom of the wok. The entire dish cooks in this liquid. No additional water needed if the cabbage is fresh and of good quality. Stir at intervals to ensure that nothing sticks and all parts are properly wetted; keep the vessel covered as much as possible. Fine-tune the flame to just ensure that the liquid simmers healthily but not more; a longish cooking time is preferred.
  10. When the cabbage is soft and edible, taste and add salt and sugar to taste.
  11. When the taste is fine (it will be a tad sweetish, like a lot of Bengali vegetable dishes), add the ghee and final garam masala powder/paste. Stir once. Remove from flame.

Practitioner's notes

  • If the cabbage is not fresh, or if you happen to stay in cursed parts of the world like Bombay which sell half-dead vegetables the year round, then it will not emit enough water for it to get cooked. In those cases, you may need to add a quarter-cup of water when you see the wok's contents drying up and the cabbage is still half-raw. More than one round of water may need to be added.
  • A common mistake the beginner makes in cooking this dish is to to stop at too little salt and sugar in the fine-tuning of the taste. Do not start with more than half teaspoon of salt, but at the end, if the taste is too bland, then it is almost always a case of too little salt and/or sugar. This fine-tuning can only be learned by a few rounds of trials. As my mom used to say, "Cabbage is finally just like grass -- very little taste of its own. You need to straighten it out using sufficient salt and sugar."
  • For some reason, green chillies are not added to this dish, as per the ladies I've spoken with. I am sure some of you will prefer a few green chillies -- feel free. Slice lengthwise, add them when you're adding the salt and sugar. But remember that this dish is sweetish, never spicy.
  • Professional cooks and lazy amateurs grate the cabbage, they don't slice it with a blade. This almost always makes for a pulpy mash at the end, without the desirable texture. The taste can still be lovely.
  • I am sure in the days of yore when tomatoes were tomatoes, they would have enough bite in their taste to make the tomato ketchup unnecessary. I remember childhood experiences of plucking tomatoes from our house's kitchen garden and biting into them -- their sour taste would curl the tongue. Today's tomatoes look sexy and taste like plastic, a lot like modern Hindi film stars.
  • It is important that potatoes be fried a bit by themselves before the cabbage is added. Once the cabbage is added, the potatoes will only boil, not fry. This first-stage frying always enhances the taste of potatotes. Ditto (in other dishes) for cauliflower, onions, etc.
Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.