My mom’s sweet-and-sour squash is one of her oldest and most requested dishes. But just like you can’t expect Beyonce to sing “Single Ladies” at every single concert, my mom can’t be held down to just one preparation of squash. That’s where this many-textured and -colored recipe comes in, in which squash gets the Southern Indian flavor treatment, with earthy fried curry leaves, black mustard seeds, and coriander. The crunchy, astringent spices go great with the mellow sweetness of the squash.
In a large skillet over high heat, warm the oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the black mustard seeds and as soon as they begin to pop and dance around in the oil, which should be within seconds, remove the pan from the heat. Add the curry leaves, making sure they get fully coated in the oil (there may be more popping and splattering, and that’s okay!). The leaves should immediately crisp up in the residual heat. Return the pan to medium heat, add the turmeric and asafetida (if using), and stir to incorporate without breaking up the curry leaves. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butternut squash, green chiles, and coriander and stir gently just to combine (be careful not to overmix, or you’ll end up with mush). Spread the vegetables in an even layer in the pan, cover, and cook until the butternut squash is tender and soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the salt, lime juice, and red chile powder and stir gently. Taste and adjust the lime juice, red chile powder, and salt, if needed, before serving.
The recipe can also be made with 1/2 small butternut squash, 1 medium zucchini, and 1 medium yellow squash, each diced into 1/2-inch pieces.