Kovakka Mezhukkupuratty (spicy Ivy gourd Fry) – Delivered by a Dabbawala!!


Today’s menu in dabba (tiffin carrier) is kovakka mezhukkupuratty/  spiced ivy gourd fry, dhal, cinnamon scented rice, salad, chutneys, pappadoms and butter milk.

The word “Dabba”  means “lunch box”; “walla” means carrier or deliver man. But them together and you get “Lunch box carrier”. In this case it refers to a stackable tin box used for hot meals called the tiffin. The dabbawala was set up in 1890 to carry lunches from home to office for British administrators who would not carry their own lunches in public. Today it serves a similar function form the commuters of Mumbai – home to 17 million people.


Every day, the dabbawalas collect freshly cooked meals from their customers’ homes all over Mumbai. Travelling by train, bus and bicycle, they then sort and deliver each of them to offices and workplaces throughout the city by lunchtime – and even return the used tiffins back to the customer’s home for reuse. The dabbawala deliver an astonishing 200,000 meals across the city, every day…with incredible efficiency, and almost perfect accuracy in order fulfilment.

Western companies like Amazon and FedEx strive to achieve that kind of accuracy through advanced technology. Not so in the case of the dabbawala.

To satisfy their customers, they use a complex system of collection teams, sorting points and delivery zones, and a completely manual system for routing the right meal to the right destination. This labelling system must rely purely on numbers and colors, painted on the tiffin.

Despite challenges like this, the organization has been recognized and celebrated for their amazing order accuracy…estimated at roughly 1 error in every 16 million transactions. (Yes, you read that right.). They have been granted ISO9000 status and they have been recognized by Forbes as being a Six Sigma organization.

Which is why Harvard Business School made the dabbawala the subject of a case study in 2010, why business leaders from around the world have visited them, and why their leader was invited to address a TEDx conference in 2011.


Kovakka Mezhukkupuratty (spicy Ivy gourd Fry)

I remember my Mom, back home used to have Kovakka directly pluck from the back garden. I used to love eating the tender ones. Most of the households in kerala have a backyard vegetable garden, where Kovakka/ ivy gourd is an evergreen item.

Serves -3

Preparation time – 10 minutes

Cooking time -15 minutes


Kovakka/ Ivy gourd – 250 gms
Onion chopped – 1
Chopped garlic – 2 cloves
Chili powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Curry Leaves
Mustard seeds- ½ table spoon
Salt to taste

Method :-

  • Clean and Slice Kovakka lengthwise.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds .When they pop up add chopped onion and curry leaves and saute till they are soft 4-5 minutes.
  • Add chopped garlic and fry it again for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add chili powder and turmeric powder and combine it well.
  • Slide in the kovakka pieces and toss it well so that it get mixed with the masala.
  • Sprinkle 3-4 tspns of water and cook it covered till they are soft .
  • Uncover it, and let it stand on a medium flame till it get cooked; take care not to burn it by stirring occasionally. Serve it hot!!

Riding a blog is not easy as I thought. Wow, now I feel like I ride that dabba bike all the way from Virar  to Church gate. Enjoy your Kovakka Mezhukkupuratty.


60 thoughts on “Kovakka Mezhukkupuratty (spicy Ivy gourd Fry) – Delivered by a Dabbawala!!

  1. Another spectactular piece of food art Sumith. I’m fascinated by the information on the lunchbox – what an amazing system and with that failure rate it’s no wonder others are wondering how they achieve it! Fabulous post.. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Both my mother’s older sisters lived in India in the 1940s (during the last days of the Raj) and I used to adore their stories. Wallah was a word that became part of the family vernacular as a result along with several other Indian words. This looks so delicious … I wonder what I would substitue for the gourd? When I am in New England squash are plentiful (in fact I live in the home of the butternut squash when there), here in France pumpkin are prized but I think this looks more solid than either, am I right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Osyth, happy to know you have an ancestral back ground from India. Yes it’s delicious. Usually this goes as a side dish with rice or any Indian bread.😊 If you are interested in Indian recipes on butternut squash I will post some:))

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think they were pretty decent British but as with my Irish ancestry, we are sensitive to the fact that there was a lot of not so good in the mix! I am loving your blog just as it is … yes certainly Squash dishes would be most welcome but in reality I am an omnivore who is eager to hoover up everything a good food blog throws at me 🙂 You are most kind!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, lovely recipe and great pictures 😊 I think if dabbawala’s go on strike, half of cooperation population in Mumbai would go without fresh homemade food, they have really great Organization skill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi cornelia, good to know you are a vegetarian. Will post more vegetarian recipes. This is easy to cook aswell. Yes seen Lunch box. That movie is the inspiration behind this blog. But there, the concept is totally different. In Lunch box the story is behind a missing dabba, which happens very rarely!!


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