Ash Gourd Polov|Kuvalo Bafat

By Published On: 2 Oct '22Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

Ash Gourd Polov|Kuvalo Bafat is a delicious vegan Mangalorean curry, made with a roasted masala blend of coconut and bafat powder and served at wedding banquets. Oh it's so yumm!!

WELCOME TO SPRING 2022 (September – November) and a season when the Asian green grocery stores are stacked with ash gourd|Kuvalo or winter melons. Some like it stewed, some like it stir-fried, some like it in the raw. I like to cook chunks of this vegetable into an authentic Mangalorean style vegan curry, with a coconut and spice based sauce. This curry is called Ash Gourd Polov|KuvaloBafat, which is served at many Catholic celebrations particularly pre-wedding anointing ceremonies called “Roce” or “Ros”.

I like to make it for a weekend treat, as it is easy to make with ‘Bafat Powder’ and a good dash of coconut milk.

There are two traditional versions to this curry:

  • Non-Vegetarain version – Ash Gourd Polov|Bafat where chunks of mutton (goat meat) are added and simmered to a coconut and spice based curry.
  • Vegetarian|Vegan version – Ash Gourd Polov|Bafat – which is a curry stew, where chunks of ash gourd are cooked in a coconut and spice based curry without adding any meat.

Winter Melon goes by many names: Kuvalo|Ash Gourd|Wax Gourd|Ash Pumpkin in Mangalore, Togan in Japanese, Tung Gwa in Chinese and many more!

Ash Gourd|Ash Pumpkin|Winter Melon is unique to India, parts of South East Asia and China. It grows on a vine and a mature gourd is pale gray in colour, coated in distinctive white ash. The flesh of the melon is thick, firm and white with many small seeds. It is interesting to note that although it is called a melon, the flesh is not sweet.

Melons come in two groups: Dessert (sweet) and cooking melons (not sweet). Cooking melons need to be cooked before eating. One popular variety of cooking melon is the Winter Melon.

The name Winter Melon or Ash Gourd or Ash Pumpkin comes from the winter powder or dust on the surface of the dark green melons|gourds at harvest time, which looks like frost or grey ash.

Did you know that Ash Gourd has a very long shelf life – as much as a year!! When I was growing up, my mum used to store the matured melon for up to 12 months, to be used during the monsoon months (June to September). It was secured tightly with a rope and hung from an exposed beam either in the kitchen or the store room. Sweet memories that never seem to go away!!

In Australia, winter melon seeds are sown from mid spring to early summer (October to January) and the mature fruit is harvested only after 14 to 16 weeks of sowing seeds, as the plant takes a long time to grow and produce fruit.

Winter melon can be bought in Chinese stores where it is sold in large slices but it can be easily grown in a backyard garden. I buy this vegetable at my local green grocer throughout Winter and Spring in Sydney.

I love Ash Gourd, however, I only have limited recipes to choose from. If you should have some, I would appreciate getting them!!!

Ash gourd is a very mild vegetable and has virtually no taste and flavour of its own. It tends to absorb the taste of the curries or sauces it is cooked in. Because it has no flavour, it is very easy to incorporate into curries which we do so in South India.

In North India, it is also used for making a sweet called Petha, juices and salads.

This vegetable is first cooked with a blended mixture of coconut and spice based paste (bafat powder). What adds a lot of flavour to the final dish is the addition of the coconut milk and seasoning|tempering after the curry is cooked.

This is a vegan curry, but meat eaters can add cooked lamb or mutton (goat meat) and simmer with the melon as in Lamb|Mutton Polov.

Step-by-step instructions

You will find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. This is the summary of the process to go along with the process photos.

Ingredients:

1kg ash gourd (peeled and cut)

Cloves, cinnamon stick

Green chillies, ginger, brown onion, garlic cloves

Bay leaves, salt, tamarind

Water, white vinegar

Turmeric powder

Thick coconut milk

Sugar

Ingredients for the Masala

Oil

Black Mustard seeds (optional)

Garlic cloves

Shredded coconut

Bafat powder

Ingredients for the seasoning

Oil

1 medium brown onion sliced

Peel the ash gourd

Discard seeds and pith

Slice into bite size pieces

Before you prep other ingredients, soak tamarind in a little hot water for 15 minutes

Squeeze pulp out. Use only the liquid/pulp in Step 3

Place ash gourd in a deep large saucepan with a lid

Add the next 10 ingredients (refer recipe card below). Stir to combine

Close lid and place on medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes or until the vegetable is parboiled and looks translucent

Remove from heat, add vinegar and turmeric powder

Stir to combine. Set aside uncovered

For the Masala

Heat heavy based frying pan with oil on medium

Add mustard seeds (if you are using) and splutter

If you are not using mustard seeds, just add sliced garlic to the oil and brown slightly

Add shredded coconut

Stir to combine

Reduce heat to low. Roast coconut till light brown (2 minutes)

Do not burn coconut

Add Bafat Powder

Stir to combine

Roast for 2 minutes stirring regularly

Remove from heat into a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool off

Add the roasted ingredients to a blender or similar appliance

Add 200mL water and blend to a smooth paste or as smooth as you can

Add the ground paste to the parboiled vegetables

Add ½ – ¾ cup water

Stir well to combine

Season with salt and vinegar, if required

Close lid and cook for 4-5 minutes

Do not add any more water as the ash gourd releases water during cooking!!

Open lid and add coconut milk and sugar

Stir well to combine

Simmer for 3 minutes uncovered

Remove from heat

For the seasoning:

Heat oil in a medium size heavy based frying pan on medium

Add sliced onions

Fry for 5-6 minutes or until onions are golden brown (as shown in image)

Add half the seasoning to the saucepan with the curry

Stir well to combine to incorporate all the flavours into the curry

The colour of the curry is more yellow in this image due to the angle of the camera and the natural light setting

Pour the curry into a serving dish

Garnish with remaining seasoning

Enjoy this yummy vegan curry with steamed rice or panpolay!!

Best served with steamed matta rice, papads and sandige. Sandige is a popular fried accompaniment to vegetarian curries in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Equally delicious with steamed jasmine rice and a South Indian pickle, if you are not a fan of matta rice!!!

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Ash Gourd Polov|Kuvalo Bafat

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
Ash Gourd Polov, also known as Kuvalo Bafat is a popular traditional Mangalorean ash gourd curry.  A roasted masala blend made from a mixture of coconut and bafat powder adds fantastic flavour to the dish, as well as giving the sauce its inviting colour.  This curry is traditionally served on a bed of hot boiled rice at Mangalorean Catholic celebrations, particularly weddings, as a part of a banquet. I prepare this wonderfully comforting dish even on the weekends!!