Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

If it is Chinese it's Calcutta Chinese



My love for Chinese food began from the streets of Calcutta. The just sprouted roadside stalls tucked in every other corner of the city would sell stir fried, extra bouncy Chowmein,  a.k.a Chowmin as pronounced by the local Bengalis. It was served with squirts of orange red tomato ketchup and onion-cucumber julienne. 

I was the child of eighties. That was the time when home made Chinese food was not in vogue. We were used to the 3-5 courses of traditional Bengali gastronomy.  Once in a while we did go to the restaurants that sold Chinese food. But then that was a rare indulgence. One such restaurant, I remember, had a fancy name, “China Palace”. This quaint little place with red dragons and golden chimes on the walls, was the most sought after eatery in the neighbourhood. Having to eat there was an affair to remember. We would plan for hours many days in advance and once the day arrived our excitement knew no bounds. The restaurant was nearby and the aroma of irresistible Chinese broth would draw us to the restaurant sooner. We would sit on the same corner where the regular happy waiters would pry on us. The course invariably would start with my father’s personal favourite, clear chicken soup. It was a broth prepared with miserly amount of chicken and lot of spring onions. My sisters and I used to skip it in order to binge on the main course. The main course would almost always include mixed fried rice, boneless chili chicken, mixed noodles and sometimes we would eat ice creams as dessert. That was the standard platter and we didn’t get to experiment beyond since that was all the quaint eatery had to offer.

Later, as I was growing up I realized that the Chinese food that we were eating was actually a over simplified version of Indo-Chinese flavour. The Calcutta Chinese food was generated from the Chinese diaspora living in Calcutta since the eighteenth century. A cluster of people came from China in times of turbulence and worked as labourers. More people flocked in due course and they formed a sizeable community with unique appearance, culture, belief and cuisine. They started to live as a separate community in Tiretta Bazaar and the adjacent areas of Bow Bazar. Soon they started dispersing in Tangra area which came to be known as the city’s Chinatown later.

This was that chunk of China that came to Calcutta when still young or the second gen of the diaspora who was born in Calcutta. To start with they contained in themselves but soon they started selling their unique stuffs in order to sustain. They sold home made stuffs like sauces, condiments, steamed and fried food which they later incorporated in small eateries and liquor shops. Some opted for leather and carpentry business. The Chinese diaspora in Calcutta started experimenting with their food which went through exciting changes over the years to oblige the Bengali taste buds. The typical red gravy, heavy on sauces along with ginger, garlic, hot chilies and a consistency reminding of Indian curry soon became a delectable Indo-Chinese concoction that the world drooled over.

Calcutta had a few reputed Chinese restaurants as well. But not everyone could eat there and the pocket friendly roadside eateries had hygiene issues. Some small local restaurants had to close down to other lucrative businesses and we were left with the option of over simplified Chinese food made at home. It was cheap, "healthy", tasty and soon the children started to swear by it. Meanwhile, the raw spaghetti like noodles was abundantly available in the market and soon the Bengali families were indulging in the most sought after food at home.

In my teens, while play dating once, I remember eating noodles cooked with soya bean chunks and potato fritters along with onions, tomato ketchup, black pepper etc. in a friend's place. We persuaded our mother and soon she too gave in and one day, to our dismay, our lovely cook prepared the most delicious noodles at home. And that was the beginning.

Chowmein became extremely popular because it made both the children and their mothers happy. The forever anxious mothers had learned the trick of sneaking in lot of seasonal vegetables in their noodles and finally their kids were eating veggies. My sisters and I used to love it as well. Once in a while good restaurant happened and we were satiated. 

Several years past, as I look back now, I see it as an unhealthy eating trend. Today, I wouldn’t want any kid to eat noodles as much as we did as children. The in depth demonization of health standards is not only deeply rooted in our system but is hard to eradicate. However, we can certainly educate our children towards better understanding of healthy food fads. But then that's another story altogether.


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The Big Fat Surprise - The myth of high carb, low fat diet explained by Nina Teicholz



Image courtesy: Youtube

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why puffed rice aka muri is the ultimate survival food

There has been a major shift in health paradigm, from high carb to high fat and vice versa and we have seen it all over the past couple of years. What we thought was right for our health is actually a deterrent, what we believed we should be eating was manipulated by the big pharmas and the US government and people were duped into eating mashed potato, corn flakes, eggs without yellow, fruit juice etc. That's lot of carbs and very little fat. Now that the big fat lie is out, we have come to realize that fat is good and real and has extraordinary power to shape our health and that culprit sugar and is the new tobacco!

The Big Fat Surprise: The myth of High Carb Low Fat diet explained


Being an Indian and living in India we have just begun to realize the harm that has been caused to an entire generation over the decades. The ripple effect has come to shock everyone here and everywhere. The power of this kneaded falsehood is so deeply ingrained that it's no rocket science to understand the humongous task of back pedaling the credence of the populace. So, it is our minds that we are fighting everyday more than anything else and trust me, it is hard.

When my cardiologist boss asked patients to eat whole eggs or meat or butter or not to eat biscuits and bread they were in complete disbelief. They still are and this skepticism is something that's not going to go overnight. That said, we have been spending days figuring out the right and real food that is healthy, nutritious and delicious. Quite a bit of research work later, we found out that even with all the snags puffed rice is the best possible snacks we can fall for especially if you are an Indian or if you plan to live in India.

So what is puffed rice? (This of course is for my friends from abroad). Trust me it is the ultimate survival food! Muri is indigenous of South Asia and is prepared from rice kernels in a similar manner as popcorn is made from corns. Traditionally it is made by heating rice over sand filled earthen oven. It serves as an excellent cereal food and can be eaten just as we eat corn flakes or oats with milk and seasonal fruits. Muri is healthy and has immense likelihood of turning into a super food when tossed with assortments of veggies like cucumber, parsley, green chillis, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, onion, sprouts- you just name it! Bengalis love it with pure raw mustard oil (mustard oil is one of the best oils we can eat nowadays, so you can eat it guilt free) and hot green chillis and occasionally with "aloor chop" (potato fritters) and often with friends and family.

Another snacking food is flattened rice or rice flakes (chura/ chire) which is also a powerful comfort food. Nowadays we get lovely roasted chire which is not only tasty but also nutritious. If you are an Indian and have survived numerous homesick moments it's needless to introduce you to poha. You know how you can add lovely fresh veggies, sprouts, peanuts, raisins and more to cater to your taste buds making it hugely popular among desi and not-so-desi friends.

The benefits also are immense. If you are a weight watcher you can never go wrong with this super food. It's high on iron, carbohydrate and have low gluten content. Besides, it is a fantastic mood lifter and reminds me of camaraderie. Although the brown variety is hard to get these days but both muri (puffed rice) and chire (flattened rice) are better picks than suji (semolina) which is totally a white stuff. Having said that, be a smart buyer and a smart eater. Try not to look for stuffs that are glossy, inviting and too good to be true. The crude variety is less appealing, less puffed and are less cosmetic. And I know you are a smart eater and never go on binges.

Now, a takeaway. We went to the US last year and sitting there miles away we relived our Calcutta days merely by eating muri, chanachur (spicy snacks mix) and chai over bangla cinema on youtube (courtesy my lovely sister who rolled in a whole lot of bengali essentials in no time). So, no brownie point for guessing that I am insanely in love with muri. Although my family will disagree I can tell you that they too resort to this super snacks, aka muri, in times of nostalgic Calcutta moments.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trust your doctor


Coming to the point straight - charged with expansive info (half truth, all dark), we are in a state of compulsive confusion today. This calls for serious rethinking. What we see, what we hear are not always true. We need to question our rationale; we need to take a bird's eye view of the situation.

Being a proud part of hospital industry, I have been privileged to know several medics and medicos who work with all their goodness, 24 hours on call, day in and day out, without any timeout. They have saved thousands of lives over the years. They have also treated many without charging their fees. Yes they have. That said it would be unfair to equate them with God. They can't reverse mortality but what they can do is something super. They do their best to save us. And of course they deserve love, respect, empathy and more if not for this but for the simple fact that they are humans who have vouched for our wellness. 

So, when you abuse doctors, nurses, healthcare staffs you disrespect one of you. When you abuse doctors for one death remember that they have also saved thousands. Pls use your sense of judgement. Trust your doctor.

The problem today is more socio-political, more infrastructural than anything else. How to resolve this? Corporate greed is one thing and doctor's ethics is another. Going by that perspective, we just need to sustain faith. Hospitals can't thrive without doctors, can they? So trust the doctors, respect them for all their goodness. We need to endure this ghastliness with hope, integrity and strength. Yes, this too shall pass. 

A personal note to the doctors:

Dear doctors,
you have saved me and my on several occasions. I respect you for all the respect you have shown. I love you for all the love you have bestowed on me. I stand by you since you have stood by me when I was sick. I salute you for your righteousness and kindness.

Thank you doctors.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Of Janmashtami, Malpuas, family tradition and more

Janmashtami (Janmashtomi) is one festival that we look forward to ever since the childhood days. It was the time we would have our house wrapped in some undefined joy of festivity. Janmashtami is celebrated all over India in the month of August/September and on the eighth day of the Hindu calendar. The birthday of lord Krishna is a very special occasion for the Hindus. They consider Him as their savior, philosopher, friend, lover and everything that is human, everything that is Godly.

The festival has transcended beautifully over the years and today I see it with much love since that is the time we are fondly reminded of our Dida (grandmother). She was a lady of strong integrity and was revered by one and all. She never forced the ritualistic regime. That probably is the reason that we have learned to imbibe the true fervor of the festivals in their entirety. It was never forced, it was never too much of something that we would have detested later in lives. We never detested it nor did we regret later. It was probably because of the values that were instilled upon us very subtly.  

We have grown up seeing the grandeur of family tradition while celebrating Janmashtami. At the wake of dawn, my grandma would immerse the idols of lord Krishna and Radha (his muse) a lavish milk and ghee bath, deck them with new clothes and ornaments and start the puja (religious rituals). The food offerings included assortments of seasonal fruits, our own home made sweets made for this occasion alone, Bhog – a special rice and pulses mixed food, rice polao, luchis (puris), kheer (condensed milk with rice), 8 different types of fries made from 8 different vegetables, other special vegetables side dishes, sweet and sour chutnis/ pickles and whole savory of sweets. Having said that, Janmashtami is never complete without Taler Bora and Malpua for these are supposedly lord Krishna's favorite sweets.

Our role was not more than just hopping around eating all the goodies. I particularly liked the occasion since I was not told to study that day, something that happened very very seldom. Things have changed since. We have grown up, my sisters have relocated to different countries, and my grandma is no more. But some things never change, I still live in the same old house and we still have the more than a century old Krishna and Radha idols along with the legacy that my grandma has left behind. Today i see my mother doing everything that she has grown up seeing her mother do, and I on my part still enjoy the Bhog, Malpua, Sweets etc. 


Coming to the special Janmashtami Bengali sweet savory, Malpua needs special mention. It is one savory that every other household celebrating the festival will prepare and needless to say every household has its own Malpua recipe. My mother has hers and I have mine. I have streamlined on the ingredients and made the recipe much easier and faster to cater to my taste and time.


What is Malpua

Malpua is an Indian delectable dessert much similar to sweet round pancake dipped in sugar syrup. It’s a gourmet’s delight. To prepare them you will need easily available kitchen ingredients. The ingredients will be available in almost every store round the corner.

Ingredients

Milk (8 cups)
Condensed milk (2 cups)
Water (2 cups)
Sugar (3 cups)
Fennel seeds (1 tablespoon)
Refined flour (3 cups)
Rose essence (1 teaspoon) - my addition
Clarified butter/ Ghee/ white oil (1 cups)
½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (optional)
Few strands of saffron strands (optional)
Silvered almonds and pistachios to garnish (optional)


Preparing the sugar syrup

Prepare a sugar syrup of single thread consistency. Add 1 tsp of rose essence and a few strand of saffron. Set aside to cool.


Preparing the batter for the Malpua

Bring the milk to boil and keep boiling till it reduces to half. Set aside and wait till it cools down.
Sieve the refined flour and add it slowly to the reduced milk. Keep stirring to avoid the lump formation. Stir well and stir continuously.

Add sweetened condensed milk. Stir to attain a smooth consistency of pancake.
Add fennel seeds and cardamom powder to the batter.


Process

Heat the ghee (clarified butter) on thick bottomed frying pan and pour the batter in a blob in the center to form small pancakes. Wait till the sides turn golden brown. Turn over and wait for the side to cook till it gets golden brown.

Dip the Malpuas in the rose sugar syrup and let it sip the juice.

Serving

Remove the Malpuas before serving and drain on a wire rack to drip the excess syrup. Dish them out delicately on a flat platter, garnish with chopped dry fruits.

And that's Malpua for you!

Note to yourself

With all those goodies, Malpua is, no doubt, a guilt food. Nonetheless you can indulge in it once in a while since it's irresistible. 

Image copyright: Mimpi

Monday, September 14, 2015

Natoker Moto (Like A Play) - More than a biopic a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s

Natoker Moto (Like a play) is a film that certainly will make you think. The film is essentially the journey of Kheya - the maverick, beyond the time, theatre artist, whose untimely death raises questions on the various issues of the 1960s. The socio-cultural scenario, the emancipation of the womanhood, the hypocrisy of the male dominance, the changing face of bengali theatre and of course the indomitable passion for group theatre that had driven the likes of Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Rudraprasad Sendupta, Keya Chakraborty, Shambhu Mitra to compromise the world against their unfaltering adherence to the cause of drama - a cause they believed in, they lived for.

The movie starts with the Calcutta Port investigation officer investigating the death of a famous theatre personality Kheya who died untimely while shooting for a bengali cinema. She was apparently sank. Suicide or murder - that was the talk of the town and the officer while going through the pages of her diary and while interrogating discovers the changing equation of the various relationships in the life of the actress. As the truth unfolds the officer confronts the changing roles of various people whose lives are tangled with that of Kheya's. The mentor and the group leader finds himself a minority while the chauvinistic husband captures the leadership with a majority. The changing roles bring about a change that may be considered as a game changer of bengali theatre. The changing face of idealism makes the mentor walks off and the husband takes over the group theatre. He takes immense pride in acquiring a falsehood while the idealist mentor finds emancipation in walking out.

The other pivotal characters whose lives were tied with Kheya's appear as the officer unfolds some beautiful relationships with that of the professor, writer-poet, childhood friend. But the most important of all was certainly with that of her mother. A mother with all cliques fights, yields and stands with Kheya in all her  nonconformist decisions, right from her decision to marry the college beau to joining the group theatre, to leaving her job as a professor to walking out of the marriage to deciding to giving off her gold jewellery or to act in movies in an endeavor to raise fund to the dying theatre group.

Debesh Chattopadhyay, the director, takes us through the interludes of reality and stage stretching over two decades (1950 - 1970). Subtle yet precise the delineation of the character of Kheya from a next door household girl to a strong free spirit whose indomitable courage to fight for her cause was beautifully portrayed. Paoli Dam as Kheya is a delight to watch. It's mind boggling to watch the Hate Story girl transform into Kheya with so much conviction. 

Paoli Dam immortalizes Kheya. She leaves a mark in all the scenes. In the stage scenes, while enacting Antigone, Noti Binodini, Proposal, she was brilliant. She even gives her voice o the song Ami jokhon meye thaki, a fresh composition by Debajyoti Mishra, very naturally. It would be unfair not to mention the rest of the actors who effortlessly did their role playing with equal finesse. Having said that the ensemble cast with the likes of Rajatava Dutta as the Calcutta Port investigator, Sujan Mukhopadhyay as the professor, Ushashi Banerjee as the poet, Rupa Ganguly as the mother, Saswata Chatterjee as the husband and Bratya Basu as the mentor, can never go wrong. 

The last scene is epic. The camera pans on Kheya's face which after much pain and sorrow is now poised on the river. This is followed by a long shot of Kheya's mortal remains wrapped in a 'Murshidabadi silk' floating downstream as Mousumi Bhowmik's Ami shunechhi sedin tumi plays in the backdrop. Amid this the pertinent questions like, "Dol-er jonyo theatre na, theatre-er jonyo dol" or every suicide is a murder put us to serious thinking.

Natoker Moto even though not really a biopic has strange resemblances with the artistic journey of the theatre artist Keya Chakraborty who had met a similar untimely death shrouded in mystery in March 1977 at the age of 34. She was shooting for Swadesh Sarkar's Jeevan Jey Rokom.

I came to know about this much later when everyone was talking about the biopic thing. The film was believable even without any preconceived notion. That for me was the success of the debutante director. The last scene, the portrayal of the theatre personalities along with the uncanny similarity in their names leave us wondering if Kheya and keya are actually the same person. Having said this, more than a biopic, Natoker Moto is a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s by a passionate theatre artist of the current era, Debesh Chattopadhyay.

Natoker Moto is a must watch and you would want to watch it second time round. The last scene is a poignant rendition by Mousumi Bhomick's of Ami shunechhi sedin tumi. This for me was an insatiable climax that sipped into my being leaving me choked. I came out of the hall with a promise to relive the multi dimensional journey of the free willed artist who continues to live on embracing the living art form yet another time.


Photo credit and source: Natoker Moto, Timesofindia, Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Easiest ever Bengali machher jhol (fish curry) recipe - fantastically simple and delicious

Another day of blogging and I was tempted just about to write something relating to health again when I was reminded of my critic friend who has just begun to feel that My Numberless Dreams is but a health blog. Even with all the critiques that this blog has acquired over the years, I would just not accept this. So, categorically and deliberately, I digressed and so this food blog happened. Besides, this is the easiest thing to do when you have time constraints, an early next day work to catch and more.   

Today's recipe is yet another of fantastic Bengali fish curry recipes that you will be able to prepare very easily with ordinary kitchen ingredients. Bengali fish curry is all about lot of red and fresh green chilies, garam masala, onion-ginger-garlic paste, oriental spices and of course lots of love.

What you will need

Fish thoroughly cleaned, cut and marinated in turmeric power and salt
For the spicy curry - red chili paste/ powder, turmeric powder, garam masala dust, ginger-garlic-onion paste
For seasoning - oil preferable mustard oil, whole garam masala, whole jeera (cumin), green chili whole

That is just about everything you will require. Remember to clean the fish nicely and cut it into moderately sized pieces and put it aside after marination with salt and turmeric powder (haldi). In a skillet heat mustard oil till smoke comes off and then very carefully release the fish cubes. Turn sides when it gets golden on one side and strain them from the skillet. Now, for the gravy, in the left over oil sprinkle whole garam masala, cumin seeds (optional), sprigs of bay leaves, red chili whole and add the ginger-garlic-onion paste. Add little turmeric, red chili paste and salt and little bit of sugar to caramelize. Keep stirring in slow heat till the skillet starts to leave oil. Pour a cup full of water, add the fish and cook in slow fire. Turn off the oven till a thick consistency is formed and the gravy turns fantastically liquid orange.

Serve with steamed rice, green chili and freshly cut lemon (pati lebu or gondhhoraj lebu).

As much as this sounds simple, for the first timers the recipe can get messed up by inappropriate mix of spices or by overcooking. Bengali fish curry preparation is impeccably simple yet has an undefined check and balance that can be learned only through practice. That probably is the reason why the grand-mom's are the best cooks ever and the moms become one when they turn grand-moms.    


Photo credit ~ 3.bpblogspot

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To vote or not to vote

So, I went voting. It was the Municipal Corporation Election in our city. For those who do not understand what it is, very simply put Municipal Corporation is urban local government that takes care of the basic necessities like the city's healthcare, transport, housing, education and other community services. It is headed by a mayor and represented area wise.

Although we have  majorly three electoral parties viz. CPI(M), Indian National Congress, Trinamool Congress Party and Bhartiya Janta Party, the EVM had a long list of other party representatives which I could neither recognize nor tried to. However, having said that, voting has been made easier recently. NOTA (None of the above) option has been an welcoming move by the Election Commission and this has made more people voting pro.

Politics today is  accentuated with frenzied vehemence that we as children had never witnessed. The pre poll forcefulness was all over the places and we were anticipating a not-so-happy election day. Well, all was not so bleak. Our election day was marked by galore of green, saffron and red. The party people were rendering help all day long. The day was hot, windy and by the time the voting was over, the sun turned liquid.

Later in the day as we got to know about acts of merciless savagery from different parts of the city, I realized that we just have been a fortunate lot. I was lucky - my election day was peaceful and a dignified one too.


Photo (C): MouD

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why no selfies for me

'One word is too often profaned' and it is untaming, obsessive and addictive. It is the inane act of taking 'selfie'. Selfie is the buzz word that has taken over all other internet jargon in no time making it the most used and the most abused smartphone app.

I find this selfie thing very annoying. I hate people taking selfies all over the places, whenever, wherever and out of no where. They don't stop at it and go on to post it in social media for reasons best known to them. The falsehood that envelops the 'likes' from ghost friends in social media is something that gives us virtual pleasure. We are mystified by the unknownness of the internet little realizing that we are drifted far from what is real, what is beautiful and what is ours. I hate it when five to six and more people take a groupie ( a group selfie) when they can conveniently have a nice photograph done without much ado and very neatly too. People are so much obsessed with themselves being appreciated. (So what it is from some virtual user names - some even with funny alpha numeric prototypes). Every second the internet is congested with few thousands of selfies making it viral with unwanted fragmented data. It scares me to think about it all. Once we post a photo we just have had it! No way we can undo its footprints from the face of internet. As a result, ten years hence we just might have to bite our tongue for some duck face act years back. Who knows we may have to struggle to get weird excuses to convince our kids!

Having said that the usefulness of the art of selfie taking cannot and should not be ignored. Selfies are saviors in times of need. It can reach you to someone you badly need to instantly. Like to your doctor who just wants to see your not so nice face spots or your friend hair stylist who may come up with a brilliant suggestion on a bad hair day or your family geographically far apart. To add to it if you can master the art of taking selfies you can really have some confident photos to archive.


Selfies with celebrities have replaced the good ol' time sake's autographs. I wonder, how do the celebrities go through the ordeal of posing with the fans upclose and personal. I find this bizarre. Selfies, today, are all over the places and people post too many of them too often. Also, the celebrity selfies in the endeavour to reach out to the people are all over the social media making the art very shallow and abysmally misused.

Personally, I do take selfies at times when there is no one to take mine and when I may just need to send one to my family abroad. I think that makes sense since I am not posting them on social media just for the sake of it and waiting every moment to check the number of likes that I derive from it. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook are three top 'most selfie abused' places in the world wide web. The downside of this? Something that we are going to pay the penalty for in near future. The penalty for misusing the most beautiful and useful invention of the century - the internet. And the legacy that we are going to leave for our children would certainly not be a pleasant one. Something to ponder upon.


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3 negative experiences on Facebook and the effects
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bengali Phuchka, Delhi Golgappa, Mumbai Panipuri - what's in a name!!

Just a mouthful of crispy puri, filled with amazing potato filling, dipped in inexpressibly tangy tamarind soup - one quick big bite and you are done for! That's phuchka for you - eat it guilt free.

Earlier today, I thought of sharing the amazing recipe of bengali Phuchka, also known as, Panipuri, Golgappa etc. But a few tea cups and several moments later, I decided I rather not. Phuchka can never be technically discussed. It is but to be devoured without wasting time over anything else on the earth and relishing the secret flavours very softly till you put another into your mouth. Phuchka is the most chatpata, savoury snack that the Bengalis can die for.

Phuchka very simply put is inflated puri (round) balls stuffed with a special filling of mashed potatoes served with a special dip of tamarind water mixed with variety of magic masala, a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander leaves and lot of chopped green chilies. The filling consists of mashed boiled potatoes mixed with black salt, red chili power, roasted cumin powder, boiled bengal gram.

For the savory dip tamarind pulp should be nicely blended. We need to add black salt, red chili powder, squeezed fresh lime juice (gondhhoraj lebu), fresh coriander leaves etc.

I should not go into more details since phuchka can never be technically discussed. Phuchkas to be just devoured relishing the secret flavours gently till you put another into your mouth. Just a mouthful of crispy phuchka, filled with amazing potato filling dipped in inexpressibly tangy tamarind soup - one big bite and then it slowly melts inside your mouth.

That's phuchka for you - eat it with your friends. Eat it guilt free.



Photo (C) - bp.blogspot

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your own Bengali recipe - Potoler dolma, potoler dorma

Today I am going to share an easy recipe. Potoler Dolma/ Dorma is a delicacy in Bengal. Notwithstanding the fact that it is not usually available in the UK or the US, I am going write this blog since this dish can also be prepared using other vegetables as well and of course I love it (no points for guessing).
Potol or Parwal is a green vegetable indigenous to India. It is also called green potato, perennial vine or pointed gourd. While researching, I also found that it contains major nutrients like magnesium, potassium, copper, sulphur, several vitamins, calcium and plays essential roles in human metabolism.

Potoler Dorma/ Dolma is simply put fried and served-with-gravy stuffed potol. The stuffing can be varied according to your taste and imagination, ranging from coconut-mustard crumbs to fish to meat stuffing. This recipe is about Potoler dolma with chingri (shrimp) stuffing.

What you will need:

Fresh, rounded potol/ parwal
Shrimps
Onions - chopped and paste
Ginger - paste and julienne
Garam masala - whole and powder
Coriander, cumin, red chili, turmeric dust
Green chili, freshly chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste, pinch of sugar
White oil, ghee/ clarified butter

Preparation:

Graze the skin and wash the vegetable (potol) under running water. Cut the ends and scoop the seeds out from the potol till a nice pocket is formed inside the vegetable.

The stuffing:

Clean and wash the shrimps. In a wok add white oil and ghee and saute the chopped onions, ginger julienne, shrimps, turmeric and red chili powder, garam masala powder, freshly chopped coriander leaves and green chilies. Keep stirring till the ingredients get nicely blended.

Fill the hollow vegetable nicely with the shrimp and spice blend. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. In a wok add oil and ghee and fry the rested potol till it changes color.

For the gravy, add oil in the wok and sprinkle small amount of whole garam masala, cumin seeds, 1-2 small bay leaves.
Add onion and ginger paste and one by one add the dust of red chili, coriander, cumin and turmeric and little water. Sprinkle sugar and salt and stir continuously till a nice rich gravy is formed. Add the stuffed potols, add warm water and turn down the flame. Simmer for a while and allow to rest.

I like eating potoler dolma with steamed rice. You can try it with parantha, roti, bread - trust me, you are going to love it nonetheless.

 
You may also read:

Aloo Gobi with Garam Masala (Indian style)
Sweet bengali pulao (polao) with cashews, raisins, nutmeg, garam masala 
Less spicy, light mutton curry not just for sick times 
Luchi and kosha mangsho: every bengali's favorite guilt food
Surprise the guests with delicious Fish Koftas (balls)


Photo (C): tastytreat  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Khichudi - the ultimate rain food for the Bengalis


It's 12 o' clock in the night here and I am witnessing the first rains of the season. The sky from my window is blanketed with blinding sheets of silver rains and as they kiss the austere road, I can see the water gushing in wild stream cleansing the city. I decide to shut the window as it gets translucent on my freshly splattered face.

This is the ideal weather to eat Khichudi/ khichuri/ khichdi - a very special Bengali comfort food with rice, lentils (dal), spices, clarified butter, seasonal vegetables and a whole lot of experimental culinary stuffs. Khichudi is be best relished with aachar (pickle), fried fish, fried papad (papar bhaja) and fish-aubergine-potato fritters (beguni, aloo bhaja).

Khichudi is simply rice and pulse porridge cooked in mustard oil (the ultimate Bengali seasoning base) together with turmeric powder and a generous amount of exquisite Bengali spices (cumin seeds, bay leaf, panch phoron, whole red chili etc.) and clarified butter (ghee).

Although there has been a gastronomical frenzy of complimenting Hilsa fish fry (ilish mach bhaja) with khichudi, I love it with egg omelets. My mother's special egg omelet (dim bhaja) is just lip smacking. Mom has her very special touch that goes into the preparation of omelet. She adds lots of chopped onion julienne and fresh green chilies and let me tell you, it can never go wrong! Padadam or papad ( papar bhaja) deep fried in oil is another fritter that goes well with khichudi. Even though I hardly take papad these days, today is one such days when I do not mind letting go of the regime.
Khichudi, for most Bengalis, goes best with ilish machh bhaja (Hilsa fish fry) and beguni (aubergine fritters). This is probably the simplest of recipes and a delectable combo meal that the Bengalis can die for on any rainy day.

Machh bhaja (fish fry) is fish blocks fried in mustard oil and beguni is aubergine dipped in a batter of besan (pulse flour) and fried deep in mustard oil.

I have always loved khichudi. It has been a hit with my family as well. Coming to my family, my brother-in-law has his way with khichudi and he is brilliant every time. He adds cauliflower, green peas, potatoes, carrots and many other seasonal vegetables that add to delectable variety to the khichudi clan.

We eat Khichudi with spoonfuls of ghee and fresh green chilies and fresh lemons and of course we eat it together sprinkled with lovely family chit chats. Khichudi is the ultimate comfort food and I do not need any occasion to eat it. It's healthy, sumptuous and a complete food that we Bengalis eat during festivals, on special occasions, during monsoons and on normal days. Besides, khichudi has special fervor for me since it brings back fond memories.





Image - youtube, fishncurry, journospeak and MouD

 

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sweet bengali pulao (polao) with cashews, raisins, nutmeg, garam masala

Bengali pulao (polao) is different from fried rice. It is not like biriyani or chinese fried rice, it is typically bengali with cardamom, cinnamon, clove (garam masala) flavor and a devotional fervour. This, I say, because polao is prepared mostly during festivals, pujas and special occasions.


Bengali pulao originally is brilliantly virgin colored. However, you can get tints of yellow orange by adding saffron in it. Preparation time is less and the method is one of the easiest. You will need, govinda bhog rice (small grained flavored Indian rice), ghee (clarified butter), garam masala (cardamon, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg etc), cashews, raisins, little milk (or kheer), sugar and saffron (optional).

Add few small green cardamons, cinnamon sticks and cloves to generous scoops of ghee in a non-stick container with a lid. Watch for golden brown color. Add cashews and fresh raisins to it. Add the washed and milk soaked rice grains and stir in light hands. Stirring continuously, add a little salt and sugar. Add warm water (double the quantity of the rice) and close the lid. Simmer in low fire till the water is gone and you get to smell a sweet cardamon flavor of the beautifully done pulao.

Bengali pulao is best enjoyed with aloo dam ( potato in Indian spices and gravy) or mutton kosha (spicy red meat gravy). The fact that it is sweetish and rich in calorie has reduced its popularity but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most delectable food among the Bengalis worldwide.


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Less spicy, light mutton curry not just for sick times

Some days are just too drab and monotonous and some days are full of spices when you have had a lot of empty calories as in junk foods. You come back home - tired and not quite hungry yet want to eat something and not skip the dinner altogether. On such days settle for something like mutton stew - less spicy, with lot of broth and refreshing. Allow the meat to cook in whole onion, chopped garlic, ginger julienne, fresh pepper, red chili powder, little turmeric-coriander-cumin powder and garam masala powder. Add farm fresh potatoes nicely diced and salt, close the lid, put it on pressure and you are done with!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tips to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday


BBB (Better Business Bureau) has laid down a detailed memorandum to shop during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As I was reading through the guide, I thought it is relevant for anytime shopping. Shopping would be a better experience if we could follow most of the guidelines.The BBB recommends the following tips for shopping online this holiday season to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:


Start planning now. Many retail stores are already promoting Black Friday deals in ads and on their websites. Take time to print out or clip ads for items you are interested in buying to help outline your shopping day in advance.

Read the fine print on gift cards. These can be found on the back of the card and will let you know the terms and conditions for using the card. There could be limitations to in-store purchases or exclusions on certain items.

Ask about return policies. While many stores offer a 30-day return policy, it is important to read the terms and conditions associated with each purchase. And remember that the refund policy usually applies to the day you purchase the item not when you give the item as a gift. Be sure to request gift receipts for all gifts.

Ask for gift receipts. When buying gifts, it’s important to obtain and keep receipts for all purchases in case the recipient needs to return an item. Many stores will provide gift receipts upon request, which allow returns but don’t show the recipient how much you paid for an item.


Protect your personal information. Check to see how your information may be used online. When shopping at stores, keep your card out of sight and make sure you get it back and safely in your wallet before you leave the store.

Check the site’s security settings and privacy policy. If the site is secure, its address should start with https://. You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

Know the company’s refund and return policies. Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?

Do not rely on pictures of a product. Read the description and check model numbers, if applicable.

Be cautious of free or low-price offers. Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.

Pay with a credit card.If you suspect fraud or don’t receive your order, you can challenge the charge in the event of a dispute.

Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped.

Print out the order. Make sure you have the documentation page for online orders and save it until the order arrives.

Be aware of phishing. Don’t respond to emails that ask for your credit card or bank account number or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming there is a problem with an order or account to lure you into revealing financial information.

(C): BBB