As the month of Shrawan begins, you’ll see the cycle-wallah and other vegetable vendors selling a round object along with other regular vegetables. I’ve come across many people asking about this strange vegetable while buying the elephant foot yam, known as oal in the southern plains of Nepal. Oalis a very popular tuber in the Terai, especially among vegetarians, because if cooked well, it tastes better than fish and meat delicacies. Also, its curry is a must-eat delicacy during the Jitiya festival celebrated widely in the terai.
What’s so special about this ugly-looking tuber? It can’t be eaten raw, and needs either lemon juice or curd paste, even when cooked, due to the oxalates present in it. However, it is a natural medicine for piles and many other illnesses like dysentery, vomiting, stomach ache, and asthma. It grows well in fallow land, as well, and doesn't need much water to grow.
So, how do you cook oal? It’s simple, but you’ll need to take care while cleaning and chopping it into pieces. You can either wear plastic gloves or apply a layer of oil to your palms to avoid the itching that can come while cleaning the tuber. Wash the tuber properly and scrape the outer layer with a knife. Then, either cut it into small cubes or slices as per your choice.
If you want to go for cubes, fry the chopped onions in ghee till they are brown, and then add the cubes and fry them together. Then, as you cook, add salt, turmeric powder, cumin, coriander, and chili powder and garlic paste. Add a bit of curd and water and cook on low heat. Once it is cooked, garnish it with coriander leaves.
However, if you want to go for slices, boil them and then drain the water from the slices. Then, fry the slices on both sides in ghee. As in the earlier case, fry chopped onions, and once they brown, add salt, turmeric powder, cumin, coriander, and chili powder and garlic paste to it. Now, add a bit of curd and water and make a thin gravy. As it starts boiling, dip the fried slices in it and let them soak the gravy. Once it gets cooked, garnish it with coriander leaves.
The oal curry can be served with rice or chapatis, but it tastes best when served with puffed rice. And if you want to avoid adding curd, add lemon juice to the oal curry at the end, before garnishing with coriander leaves.
So, next time you see a vegetable vendor selling this strange tuber, buy it and try cooking it for yourself. I’m sure you’ll love it!