When I lived in India, I knew only one type of drumstick, which is a vegetable. Then I moved out of the country, and discovered a few other drumsticks – a stick you use for beating a drum, chicken drumsticks which are the thigh of a chicken, and ice cream drumsticks. That’s why I’ve added the other name in the title, Moringa, so there is no confusion of the type of dish I am talking about.

The drumstick in this recipe is the vegetarian kind that is very good for your health. When you look online for health benefits of drumsticks, you will discover that not only the vegetable is healthy for you, even the leaves of the plant do wonders for your health. This vegetable also grows very easily in large quantities in southern states of India. There are lots of tasty dishes made with drumsticks. Among the most popular are drumstick sambar, and this recipe.

The curry part of drumstick curry is a slowly caramelized onion base that is seasoned with ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili powder. Tomato adds a mild tang to the dish and compliments the sweetness of the caramelized onions quite nicely. Once you have the base made, you add the drumstick pieces, some extra water, cover and cook until the drumsticks are tender, and most water has evaporated from the base. You want the sauce to be clinging to the drumsticks and not be sliding off the drumsticks.

Drumstick curry is traditionally eaten with steamed white rice. If you are conscious about consuming rice or grains, you can eat it with quinoa as well. A dripping of fresh ghee will elevate this dish to another level. Eating a drumstick is quite fun. Look at this recipe for drumstick sambar to see how its done.

In a vegetable market in India, there is no question you will find the freshest and best quality of drumsticks. But in my locale, fresh drumsticks are a rare find. I usually pick a bag or two from the freezer section of my Indian grocer when I want to make a dish with drumsticks. So I was thrilled to find these fresh drumsticks when I went to shop at the Indian grocery store yesterday. I got four of these lovelies. Drumsticks are usually about 12-18 inches long. When you select them, make sure they are a tender and uniform green color and feel pliable. Avoid getting drumsticks that are too fat or too skinny. Its the difference between eating a sugar snap pea that is tender vs one that got a little too much time on the plant.

To prepare drumsticks, wash them well and using a sharp knife, cut off the ends of each drumstick. Then cut it into pieces that are 3-4 inches in length. You will notice the vegetable is fibrous. If you feel like it, you can try peeling off some of the green outer layer.

The base for this dish takes a bit of time but is worth the effort. You start with chopped onions, cook them slowly so they caramelize before adding the ginger and garlic paste,  spices and tomatoes.

When the tomatoes have cooked down and released their juices, the drumstick pieces finally go in with some extra water to aid the cooking process. When the sauce thickens and the drumsticks are tender, you are done with the dish.

Cooking time: 60 mins
Serves: 4

4 drumsticks, each about 12-18" long, prepared as described above
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 large onions, chopped fine
1-2 green thai pepper or serrano pepper, slit lengthwise
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 - 1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
few fresh curry leaves
1 tomato, diced
salt for seasoning

Heat oil on medium flame in a wide non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan which is at least 6 inches deep. Add mustard seeds and once they start popping, toss in the chopped onions and green thai or serrano pepper. Season with some salt, add about 1/2 cup water and reduce heat to low. Cook covered, until the onions are translucent and most of the water has evaporated. Take the cover off, increase the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the onions are caramelized to a light brown and reduced to about a fourth of what you started with. Its important not to burn the onions. Add a tablespoon or so more oil if you feel the need. 

When the onions have caramelized, add the ginger and garlic paste, the dry spices and fresh curry leaves. Toss for a minute to combine. Then add the tomatoes. Cook again until the tomatoes have release their moisture. Introduce the drumstick pieces into the pan, mix. Add about 3/4 cup water and cover the dish. Cook on low heat for about 15 more minutes until the drumstick is tender and most of the water had evaporated. 

Serve hot with steamed white rice or quinoa.