Sunday, 12 June 2011


Chong or perhaps chonga is used as a vegetable where we are in Pakistan, although it is not well known in other places it would appear. It is a strange-looking thing when you first see it sitting in a greengrocers, or at leas, we thought so. Neither of us had any idea what it was, so the vegetable seller kindly informed us that this was chong (in Urdu). Apparently it is called danda thor in Punjabi. I wanted to taste it, whatever it was, so my husband spoke with the greengrocer, who called his wife to ask her how to cook it. Her recipe is given below.
  We have been trying to find out what it is called in English for about a year, and finally discovered that it is a succulent cactus, having found photographs online. We know what it is used for here in this part of Pakistan, but were surprised when we discovered that it is used for weight loss in the West. A friend told us that when he was younger he would pick this plant and eat it raw as he was walking as it stopped his hunger and quenched his thirst too. I later found that tribal people have used it for centuries to quell hunger on a day’s hunt.
  Our greengrocer says that it is good to purify the blood when it is eaten as a green vegetable (although it is bitter like karella or bitter melon, so the juice needs to be removed prior to cooking) and it is also good for skin problems and diabetes. It can be made into a pickle or chutney, but we have only eaten it cooked, as the juice is very bitter.
  It is a member of the Asclepiadaceae family, so is a relative of Indian sarsaparilla, and has star-shaped flowers which are unpleasantly pungent, but which are very attractive as they can be purple, black, yellow, tan maroon, red or black. Here they grow on the mountains although in India they grow more freely it would seem, on any patch of waste land. We didn’t see them in other parts of the Punjab, but that may be because the people of Lahore think they are too sophisticated to eat what other websites say is “famine” food. Here it is sold at the greengrocer’s when it is in season and it is expensive as, like kachnar buds and falsa it is picked by hand and those that pick it might have to spend a long time looking for spots in which it grows.
  Studies have been done which seem to prove that little chong is a great aid to weight loss diets, as it contains HCA10 (hydroxyaltrate) which has been proved to contribute to weight loss without stimulating the central nervous system as some weight loss drugs do.
It contains pregnane glycosides which appear to block the activity of citratelyase which is an enzyme that builds fat in the body and also it may block the activity of Melonyl Coenzyme A which means that fat formulation and build up is also blocked, so the body is compelled to burn off the fat reserves it has accumulated so speeding up the body’s fat loss. Furthermore these glycosides may inhibit the hunger sensory mechanism which is found in the hypothalamus, a “primitive” part of the brain.
  Chong also combats fatigue, so you can use it without feeling a loss of energy and you get lean muscle mass by eating it regularly. Trials reported weight loss after 1 month of taking capsules containing Caralluma fimbriata. Hopefully, when this is proved, people will start growing their own chong as I wouldn’t want to be deprived of this vegetable because it is a weight loss product for obese Westerners.

½ kilo chong
1 tbsp salt
½ kilo minced beef
2 onions, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely shredded
6 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ajwain or thyme
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
salt to taste
1 cup oil

To prepare the chong: -
Wash the chong very well and separate the pieces, discarding the root. Pound it a little but not too much, then put one tablespoon of salt over it and rub it into the pieces of chong with you hands, so that it is well mixed into it. Leave this for half an hour to remove the bitter juices.
After half an hour, squeeze the chong to remove the excess juices. Then wash it in cold water two or three times so that all the bitter juices are removed. Put it in a strainer or sieve and leave to drip.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger, black peppercorns and cumin seeds, and fry them for 30 seconds then stir in the onion and fry this for 1 minute. Add the minced beef and green chillies, stir and fry for 5 minutes.
Pour in 1 cup of water the turmeric, ajwain or thyme, chilli powder, coriander seeds and salt to taste. (Remember that some salt will have remained on the chong, however well you washed it.)
Cook this until the water is gone, then add the chong and tomatoes, stirring well to mix. Cook this still stirring for 5 – 7 minutes.
Add 2 glasses of water the lemon juice and the garam masala, stirring to mix.
Cover the pan and let it cook for ½ hour over a low heat or until all the water has gone and the oil floats to the top.
Remove from the heat, and then add the fresh coriander, cover for a few minutes so that the flavours mingle and settle and serve with naan or chapattis.
To get the best out of this dish, serve with natural yoghurt.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


  1. Replies
    1. thank you i was not sure if the star shaped flowers were consumable so I tossed them--was that a waste- can the flowers be eaten as well?

    2. You did the right thing. They aren't used in cooking, only by hakims in medicinal preparations.

    3. Fate mouh tare teh.its very tasty vegetable if someone know how to cook.My mother knows how to cook very well.My favorite dish CHONG.

      i am from Mandi Bahauddin,Phalia,Punjab Pakistan

    4. very informative,thank you.
      everything you have said is perfectly right.this plant is rare,people often harvest it in a wrong way they pull out the whole plant which is not right.the best way is just to cut it's part which is above the surface and yes to leave one leaf or stem above the surface of earth so as the plant can prepare it's food for itself.thank you

  2. Where can you buy Chong in the U.S.?

    1. Well, It is found in Pakistan, Khyber Pukhton Khwa Province. Best vegetable for health, called choong in English, Urdu and in pashto Pamankay. Tomorrow we will cook with above formula. Insha Allah.

    2. Can you purchase the actual plant in the U.S.? If so, where?

  3. Chonga is a very favt vegetable of most of the people of pakistan especially KPK, i m Agricultural Research Officer and doing my research on chonga, i have more than 60 germ plasms from different areas of pakistan.

    1. yes really,i need some information about its cultivation ststus

    2. My father was the person who pioneered to develop Thal desert area as a farmland. He was contemporary to the THAL Development Authority. He discovered in 1948 that this Choong was being used by the local population as vegetable. Since he was an Agricultural Scientist and was fond of Bitter Gourd and found it as a good substitute. Later when I and my mother joined him in his project I tasted it first time and did not like it very much. I was only 11 years and did not appreciate its benefits.I would like to get information from you to enable me to cultivate it at home in Karachi. My Contact is

    3. Sir can u plz share more health benefits of chonga?

    4. I need some informations about this plant. Can you please reply me on my email adnan1628 at gmail dot com.
      Dr. Adnan Khan Niazi
      Perpignan, France

    5. I need some informations about this plant. Can you please reply me on my email adnan1628 at gmail dot com.
      Dr. Adnan Khan Niazi
      Perpignan, France

    6. can you give me your email adress please

  4. Really very good vegetable for diabetes.I am also working on chonga and need some information about its cultivation status.

  5. yes this is very help full for health

  6. we used to scour the hills in Pune. Then planted them at home and they used to multiply into small bushes .now we have left the house and i want just one shrub for the house to multiply them .Help1{my father was from Ckakri Pakistan}

  7. i have been looking for urdu and English name of chonga for days...finally i got it here.... thanx for the info

  8. Be well, Will It grow in the US and where ? Yes westerners r fat I say fat because that's just a fact Lazy & common Soda pop and chips yep I agree, I don't eat that way one it costs to much to eat junk food , again will it grow here annd in what region Thank You

  9. OMG THANKYOU SO MUCH!!! I've been looking for what chongay are called in english for months now ever since my aunt from pakistan told me to use them for hair loss! Thankyou so much!

    Love from Canada :)

  10. Dr. Mohammad Afzal Khan30 July 2015 at 04:34

    This is a very useful vegetable especially for diabetics and the atste is exotic.

  11. awesome article on choong can you plz let me know can i grow it by myself and where can i get the seed

  12. Ammas recipe.
    Simple 250 grams chong
    Half kg onion chopped
    Ten handful garlic
    One teaspoon ginger chopped
    Ten green chillies chopped
    Salt as per taste

    Step 1
    Remove the root and yellow parts.
    Step 2
    Remove the spikes of the chong with knife
    Step 3
    Wash and cut it into small pieces
    Step 4
    Four tablespoon oil, heat it and fry the Chong. Separate it from the pan
    Step 5
    Add onions to the same oil and make them light brown. Add the rest of the ingredients into the pan. Add Chong in the end and cook it for 5 mins. Avoid overcooking. Add green dhaniya on top.
    Good for joint pains. Control of diabetes.

  13. Great info im English teacher and ppl used to ask me whats it called in English. U solved my prob. In fact the Patthans use it alot in their daily diet and they know how to cook it deliciously but its name was not known to me. Its also good for removing tap worms and hook worms from bowls.

  14. please send me it on

  15. Was happy that someone other than me know about this delicious vegetable, grew up eating this vegetable in Peshawar, wish I could find it in USA.

  16. Me lahore me rehta hun, trible aerea se merra taluq hai.
    Pechley denu me darra adam khel k paharoun se kuch chonga jerh our seed sameth le aya hun, me inko kasht kerna chatha hun. Rehnumayee ki zarorat hai.
    Rasool khan afridi
    0322 4329218

  17. it is called Pamanke or پمنگے in pushto. Quite famous in Charsadda Mardan and swabi districts of KPK.

  18. they are part of our daily meals in balochistan.. these gow a lot naturaly in the semi humid mountain areas.. yes we cook these and are off course very delicious

  19. What we called chonga in English

  20. What we called chonga in English

  21. Watch my recipe here

    Please Subscribe my channel for more recipes

  22. Chongaan are the best for elderly people for detoxing their bodies. Even great for women at any age. Please wash and cook , do not peel or dewater. The full plant is full of healthy chemicals even its bitter . Potohar plateau is great soil to grow and develop this veggie But so far no one has come up with any effort.

  23. I am going to drink the juice of chong in the morning tommorow...

  24. Yes we call it parmankay because this is grown in mountains and that is where we would get to cook...very nice if do e nicely. Can someone send with roots or if anyone knows someone who sell it in UK would love to hear from them

  25. Ye kahan ogti hai gahar main ogsakti hai

  26. Excellent recipe

  27. This information was v useful jazakallah khairan

  28. 30 sal pahle Meri Dadi khilati thi lekin Aaj Ham Delhi mein hain kahan per Milegi kitne ki milegi Kaise Milegi Maloom Nahin

  29. I have just bought some and it’s called Charangli. I love it, and yet it’s not that great of a taste but the benefits are greats. My friend’s grand Pa used to pick it up in the mountains of Peshawar, and eat it for health benefits.


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