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Gongura leaves come from a dense shrub-like plant that typically reaches heights of two to three meters. It has reddish-purple stems with dark green foliage and trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers have five creamy yellow petals that fade to a deep maroon center. The leaves are deeply lobed with three to five serrated, finger-shaped leaflets. The smaller leaves offer a mild sour flavor, whereas more mature specimens are very robust and acrid. Their sour flavor is in no way bitter, but rather a refreshing acidic note, and an integral part of the Andhra cuisine in which they are so prevalent. Heat affects the taste of the leaf - the hotter it gets, the more sour the taste.
Gongura leaves are available in the summer months.
Gongura, or Red Sorrel, is an herbaceous perennial that is also commonly referred to as Ambada or Pulicha Keerai in parts of India where it is most commonly found. It is botanically classified as Hibiscus sabdariffa. You might hear it referred to as the roselle plant as well, since the succulent calyx that surrounds the plant’s blossoms is known as a roselle and is often used to make jellies, jams, juices and natural food coloring. There are two main varieties of Gongura: red stemmed and green stemmed. The green stemmed variety has a mild tartness whereas the red stemmed variety has a strong sour flavor that only intensifies with the heat of summer.
Gongura leaves are an excellent source of folate, riboflavin, iron, zinc, anti-oxidants and vitamins A, B6 and C.
Gongura leaves may be pickled, steamed, blanched or ground into a paste and combined with garlic, chilies and salt for making chutney. The sour leaves heighten the rich flavor of legumes and fatty meats, therefore making them a perfect complement to dishes with lentils, goat or mutton. Gongura is also commonly prepared with the flavor profiles of tamarind, red and green chilies, turmeric, cumin, onion, garlic, sesame and curries. It's said that the Gongura leaf gives the final dish a certain "zing". India is where you'll find find Gongura chutney and dal. There, it is also commonly cooked with mutton, shrimp and fish. Most travelers visiting Myanmar will inevitably taste Burmese Sour soup - made with the Gongura leaf cooked into the soup base. The broth is clean and light, and said to be helpful in curing coughs and ulcers. Another Myanmarese staple is chin baung kyaw, or fried roselle leaves with bamboo. The Myanmarese will even eat the leaf in salads. The national dish of the Senegalese features the Gongura leaf - thiéboudieune is a fish and rice dish with a sharp-ish tang to it.
Gongura is a multi-purposed plant around the world. The juice of its flowers has been shown to reduce the absorption of alcohol and has been a hangover remedy in Guatemala for years. A mixture known as "Sudan tea" is used to treat coughs and digestive ailments in Africa. The bitter roots and seeds are more commonly used in Brazil and India to calm upset stomachs. A popular drink known as Sorrel Shandy is part of many Caribbean Christmas celebrations. It was also cultivated for a fiber source during WWII for making burlap. The leaves feature in some curries made during certain religious festivals in India as well.
Gongura is native to India and Malaysia, and was soon cultivated in parts of Africa. The slave trade brought it across the Pacific to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, Brazil, Mexico and the West Indies. Gongura requires adequate rainfall or irrigation and is not frost tolerant. It grows in Florida, warmer regions of California and temperate climates around the world. The plant is also commonly used by the Myanmarese.
Recipes that include Gongura Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Spice up the Curry||Gongura Pappu | Andhra Style Sorrel Leaves Dal|
|Home Style Veg Food||Gongura chutney|
|The Chef and Her Kitchen||Gongura Pulihora | Gongura Rice | Red Sorrel Leaves Rice|