Tag: traditional bong cooking

My newly found love for Earthenware by Titas Mazumdar

 Earthen Pots- The true organic pot for cooking Indian food.  My new passion in cooking section is terracotta Pots. I have heard so much about ancient healthy and hygienic cooking in them that I finally got attracted to it and started trying my hands on it.

Assorted eartherware from my collection

Thinking of these pots, take me back to those childhood days in Krishnanagar at my Grany’s place, where once in a while, we used to lit a fire outside the house and cook in those earthen handis. It used to be fun-filled cooking noontime, full of excitement with my Dadu and Dida. But that too was a rarity in my growing days.

My Dad has fond memories of his childhood days cooking in those earthen pots. I have heard these stories several times and every single time he narrates them with a sparkle in his eyes. In his growing days chicken was not a popular Hindu meat so was not allowed in the regular kitchen. Cooking Chicken in the household used to be a big deal and rarely it was allowed to be cooked at homes. My Dad describes how he along with the other siblings would gather together and the elder one would take the lead to cook chicken in the courtyard during a bright sunny winter morning. The custom was to destroy the pot every single time after cooking chicken as chicken was considered as untouchable meat and the pots used to cook them went back to the soil where it came from.

In 2018 we went for a vacation to Hartola in Uttarakhand and there we stayed in a home stay assisted by a local cook. First time I saw how easily Rajma can be boiled in those beautiful earthen pots and from there my inner desire kicked in for these earthen beauties. I started collecting few from local Banjara market and few from Surajkund Mela.

There are lot of benefits of cooking in earthen pots, primarily the taste. As these pots are porous they retain heat and moisture and  ensure an even distribution of heat throughout the entire cooking process. The food cooked in these earthen pots are no doubt more aromatic, tasty and it retains the nutrition of the food and on top of that adds required minerals that include calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Isn’t it magic cooking?

Champaran Mutton

This pandemic time gave me a lot of opportunities to explore new things, and one among them is cooking in these earthen pots.  My best one is cooking Champaran Mutton (a speciality from Bihar) in terracotta handis.  You can feel the spices in the tender meat which melts into your mouth. I also make Kerala fish curry in these pots. The spices enter in fish uniformly making it soft and tasty even more. Daal is a must-try in these pots, it will the best Daal which you have ever tasted. Stir-frying vegetables in a terracotta pan is also a tried and tested option.

In Olden days, Bengal’s Sara pithe a popular sweet dish of the Harvest festival (Poush Shankranti) used to be prepared in earthen pots. The misti doi & rosogolla in Bengal comes in clay pots and outside every offices and corner of the road, you can still see bharer cha (earthen cups) for tea. The simple rule is to drink it and crush it, no use of paper or plastic cups till date.

Having said all these, one thing for sure, these earthen beauties need lot of care and pampering. We cannot wash it in a similar way with other utensils. Washing tips I got from the Banjaras from whom I purchased the pots. Never use soap in these posts, porous body will absorb the soap water and might be injurious to health. I can’t put them in dishwasher too along with other dishes. After using the pots I just wash with hot water to remove the food particle, after that I boil water in the pot for 5 to 10 mins so that the oil and smell goes away and the pots become sterile. This has helped to keep them clean and odour free. These darlings are no wonder high maintenance babies which needs care during washing and also from mishandling.  I call them the delicate darlings of my Kitchen and the most pampered ones, but trust me they are worth the pamper considering the tasty food they help me to serve.

No wonder that earthen pots have magic but honestly I don’t use it daily, though I am trying to introduce terracotta wares in my daily cooking and not just the fancy one

A quick recipe of my style of Kerala fish curry- A simple one.

  1. Wash king fish (Surmai) pieces, put salt and turmeric
  2. Original recipe don’t tell you to deep fry it but I do to get rid of its fishy smell. But one caution don’t over fry it, otherwise, it will become tough. A quick shallow fry will also do.
  3. Take an earthen pot , heat it with little oil- fry ginger pieces, whole garlic cloves, Onion cubes, red chillies, tomatoes, black pepper, curry leaves, whole jeera for 5 to 10 mins, switch off and let it cool down. Make a paste of it.
  4. Now in the same terracotta pot put oil, let it heat and then put curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds- once it splutters, put chopped onions and fry till its light brown.
  5. Add the paste made to it and keep frying in the same oil.
  6. Once cooked add coconut milk and pot the fish in the creamy gravy.
  7. Serve it with LOVE, along with Dosa or rice .

My Bong Cooking: from Compulsion to Passion by Titas Mazumdar

As a girl in Dhanbad and later during my college days in Kolkata I rarely got entry to my Mom’s Kitchen. Mom is very possessive about her kitchen and few are the occasions when I got chance to try my hands in her kitchen. Hence my self-cooking actually started with my first job when I moved to Mumbai and started staying with roommates. We used to take turns cooking dinner and that is the time when I started cooking out of necessity and compulsion.

Traditional Bong meal on banana leaf

My cooking from compulsion slowly turned into passion over the years when I move to US and then got married to a food lover. Indian food in general and Bong food in particular is not widely available – as per our taste in western countries. My husband also enjoys cooking and rarely criticizes what I make which is a blessing and inspires me to experiment with variety of cuisines.

I was picky eater during my childhood days until I started cooking and appreciating various flavors which comes from different spices used in Bengali cooking. The flavour that comes from fried whole red chilies in pure ghee used for Daal is unique, the aroma of Panch Phoran (seeds of Mustard, Fennel, Nigella, Fenugreek, Radhuni) does wonders in most Bong dishes. Another unique spice is mustard paste and poppy seed paste used in typical Bengali dishes. Fishes cooked in Mustard oil and mustard paste and eaten with white rice tickles your taste buds with a pungent aromatic flavour. Vegetables cooked in white poppy seed paste puts you to a lazy, late afternoon nap. And not to forget the mouthwatering flavour of mustard and poppy seeds together used for Shrimp and Hilsa fish curries which will linger with you for several days.

We all love talking about our own regional dishes and most of the times get carried away by it. I think mostly it’s about the acquired taste over time. Food brings back lot of childhood memories too. Food which I hated during my growing years are the ones which I crave for now. I smile when I see my 8 year old pushing away the mouthwatering dishes as she is still in the process of acquiring the taste to appreciate them, so it’s very important to keep on pushing kids to try out tradition food cooked daily at home even though they dislike it. It’s just matter of time you will see how appreciative they become of these traditional meals.

Today I love the aroma of fried Neem leaves mixed with mashed potatoes and yes traditional bong lunch starts with something bitter, be it Neem or Bitter gourd fried/boiled or if it’s any special occasion then Bitter Gourd Sukto– the bitter and sweet white creamy mixed vegetable dish. My passion for Bong food started with those weekend potlucks when I was staying in Philadelphia. We had few Bengali families who used to meet without fail every Saturday for elaborate Bong Adda and potluck dinner. The main attraction of those potlucks were that no dish was repeated. Every single one of us came up with variety bong dishes and that’s how I got to try my hands in various Bong recipes. Sujata’s Kitchen was my favorite website in those days for trying out Bong food as You-tube was not that popular or was not flooded with so many cooking videos. Today trying out various traditional recipes has become simple. I try out different East and West Bengal recipes from You tube channels. It’s not only thrilling and exciting but also takes me back to my roots!

Bengalis are always known for their Fishes and Rosogollas but just to let everyone know we have a variety of vegetarian dishes too which surpass Indian veg dishes from other states in count. Our range of vegetable is very similar to those in Chinese and other South East Asian countries. During my stay in US Bengali vegetables which were never available in “Patel Brothers (the most popular Indian grocery chain there)” were found in those smelly Chinese market –  variety of vegetables like stem of banana tree and flower of banana, different leafy vegetables (Saag) and roots of plants (Yam). I am sure most Indians don’t know that we make excellent dishes with banana stem (Thor in Bengali) and banana flowers (Mocha). Do you know we eat peels (Khosa Bhaja) of most of the vegetables like bottle guard (Lauki), potatoes, pointed gourd (Parwal) and raw banana peel. I can see you raising your eye brows. Just get hold of a Bong friend and bribe her for these delicacies which you will rarely get in any Bong restaurants. These are only ‘made in home’ grandmother dishes.

Entire India eats unripen jackfruit curry, we too love jackfruit curry and also the ripe jackfruit and the big white seeds inside ripe jackfruit which is again a specialty in Bengal. We take the seeds from the jackfruit juicy pulp, sun dry it, remove the external skin and cut into pieces and use it as fries, put it in Daal and mixed vegetable curry. Needless to say it enhances the flavor.

Let me share a quick mouthwatering banana stem recipe with you all – Banana Stem Fried rice (Thor Pulao/ Chal Thor)

  1. Get hold of Banana stem (yes that’s a challenge based on your geographic location, I leave it up to you).
  2. Keep removing the external hard skin till you can’t remove anything. Once you have reached the soft white portion, slice it, remove the fibers with finger and then cut into small pieces. Soak it in salt turmeric water.
  3. Soak flavored rice for 30 mins, we prefer Govindo Bhog, you can use Basmati also preferable broken. Drain out rice water keep it aside to dry.
  4. Heat  pan/ kadai, put ghee( yes only ghee)- bay leaves, sahi Jira, and cinnamon stick and crushed Cardamom (Black), once the flavor comes put the drained rice and mixing it slowly.
  5. After 10 mins when the rice is completely dry and is coated with ghee, add the cut Thor pieces. Remember to hand press it and take away all the water.
  6. Keep frying for another 5 to 10 mins, when its dry add water in same proportion as rice quantity, cover it.
  7. Periodically keep a watch till the rice is cooked and add water if required, put soaked raisins (optional). Add salt and definitely sugar as Bengali Pulao has a Bengali sweetness in it too.
  8. Before removing from heat add chopped green chilies and Bong Garam Masala powder (it’s always homemade- powder of Cinnamon, Clove and Cardamom- NO Jira or pepper powder).
  9. Last but never the least- Serve it with LOVE.

I am sure you all will enjoy it……Unlimited Love is the best Spice to make your food tasty and flavorful.

Food trails and many tales: Dishing wonders with waste

Zero Waste Cooking, the term is now in vogue. World has suddenly woken up to the fact that we waste a huge amount of food everyday and need to minimize it by changing our cooking style and eating habits. Average Americans waste 1 pound of food per person per day at the household level, according to USDA. I am sure we anglicized Indians with our penchant for western style fine dining are no better. But now suddenly the West has woken up to food waste and we Indians must toe the line and follow the trend! Therefore, we are bombarded with zero waste recipes, cooking styles and eating habits.

But, as a culture, didn’t we Indians always practice zero waste? Haven’t we laughed at our grandmothers and mothers for trying to squeeze the last bit from a toothpaste tube or pour the last drop of oil or ketchup from an almost empty bottle? And, when it comes to cooking with what many would toss out of the kitchen, we Bengali’s are the masters. We make yummy aloo ka chilka fry (aloor khosha bhaja), Chehki made with tender lauki chilka is a delicacy. We chop and put the stems of gobi in daal (khopir datar daal) that is both nutritious and delicious. The delicacies we make with the seed of ripe jackfruit and pumpkin seed are unparalleled. Kanchakolar khosha bata is a chutney that we make out of the chilka of green banana. There are so many more recipes where we use the so-called food waste and turn them into culinary delight!

Aloor Khosha Bhaja

Aloo is available in every Indian kitchen. Most of our dishes are incomplete without aloo. Use the potato peel or chilka for this quick recipe.

Image courtesy YouTube

Ingredients

1 cup potato peels, 1/2 tsp – poppy seeds, 1 tsp – vegetable oil, pinch of kalonji (nigella seeds), salt to taste

Method

  1. Wash the peels, bunch them together and roughly chop them.
  2. Heat oil in a wok and temper with nigella seeds. Add the chopped peel. Stir fry for 2 -3 mins on medium heat. Add salt and poppy seeds. Cook for another 2 mins, constantly stirring.
  3. Take it off fire and serve with steaming hot rice or with hot cup of tea.

Since a tiny virus has pushed the mighty human’s indoors, since we are forced to live with less and of many these ingredients may already be available in your kitchen, this is a good time to try out these recipes. Tea with aloor khosha bhaja should be quite a treat in the evening!

 Kanchakolar Khosha Bata 

Image Courtesy YouTube

Ingredients

  • 2 Raw Banana
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons Mustard oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kalonji (Onion Nigella Seeds)
  • 1 Dry Red Chillies

Steps

  1. Pressure cook the 2 raw bananas until soft. Once cooked, peel the skin. For this recipe we will be using the cooked and peeled skin and not the banana pulp (you can make a sabzi of your choice with raw banana).
  2. Blend the banana peel and the remaining ingredients into a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl and keep aside.
  3. In a small pan add the mustard oil. Once the oil is heated; add in the kalonji and the dry red chillies. Sauté on medium flame until the red chilies are roasted and browned then add in the peel paste and sauté on low heat for 2 to three minutes until the raw smell goes away.
  4. Serve the spicy and delicious Kanchakolar Khosha Bata with hot steamed rice or chapati.