Mamta's Kitchen

Silk Cotton ( Bombax ceiba) Flowers & Buds Bhaji/Sabji

Sembal Doda ki Sabji

Geeta Gupta

Note from Mamta: This is one of those dishes which is not many people know about it, especially city dwellers and young generations. This is partly because these buds are seldom available in a Vegetable shop or market,even in India.

Unopened buds are used to make delicious bhajies, cooked in many different ways. My mum used to make it when we lived in Bihar in India, where we had one such tree in our garden. I am writing it down for posterity, because it is almost impossible to find a recipe anywhere anymore. This simple recipe is from my younger sister in-law in India, who went especially to the vegetable market to buy them for me, when she found out that I was looking for a recipe. She then cooked the dish in front of me, so I could take pictures. After the initial preparation, you can cook them in any style you like, including in a Curry Sauce. Serve 4

Huge silk cotton Bombax ceiba, Semal or Shimul or Kapok trees, can be seen growing along many roads in India and other tropical countries. The flowers are of beautiful orange-red to deep red in colour. The seed pod contains silk like fibre when mature, often used to fill pillows. When the seed pod bursts, the silky cotton drifts all around it. My mum used to ha a few very soft pillows filled with it, but she never let us use them in summer months, the cotton is considered to be too hot for summer.


  • 250 gm. Sembal dodae (silk-cotton buds)

  • 2 tsp. oil Mustard oil is best, but you can use other oils

  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds

  • A pinch of asafoetida or hing

  • 1 full tsp. coriander powder

  • 1 level tsp. turmeric powder

  • Salty to taste

  • 1/4 tsp. Garam Masala. More if it is ready made one.

  • 1/2 tsp. amchoor (mango powder) or juice of 1/4 lemon.


  1. Wash buds under running water to remove any sap sticking to them.

  2. Remove top & tail. Cut each bud in half and then remove central petals, sepals and stamens from the buds, as shown in the picture. Give a quick wash again.

  3. Boil in pressure cooker for 5 minutes. Or boil for 20 minutes in a pan. You can microwave steam them for 6-8 minutes. Drain and keep aside. They should be soft...ish, but not mushy, to touch.

  4. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and hing.

  5. As soon as the cumin seeds crackle, add all spices and salt, stir quickly and then add boiled buds.

  6. Turn heat down and stir-fry them for 5-6 minutes, until buds looks shiny and spices are evenly coated.

  7. Add garam masala and amchoor/lemon juice. Stir it in.

  8. Serve hot with Plain Paratha or with any Indian meal.

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