Its a very hot summer here at Chicago, quite like the one in Kolkata. That is a good excuse for me to start experimenting with vegetarian food. And here I would want to register my protest against what many non-Bengalees who claim that for Bengalees, phish is vegetarian
. That is like the Bollywood typificication of the "Madrasi accent" - which you will definitely not hear in Madras, or anywhere South of the Vindhyas. Just to remind, for Bengalees, vegetarian is what the widows were (I am turning my eyes away from the sad truth, I do not want to use the present tense) allowed in the patriarchal system : no meat, no fish, no onions, no garlic, at times not even Musur daal. We all have seen thakuma's
suffering that fate, and have marvelled at the taste of simple purity in whatever they made. It is impossible for me to recreate that magic, but I keep trying.
Here are a few recipes in that genre. Vegetarian, no onion, no garlic. I have already written about some: Moong Musallam
, Begun Bahar
, Green Aloo Dum
for example. But they are heavy, kind of party delicacies. The ones that I am experimenting with now are in the Thakuma genre, excellent for hot summer noons.Urad daal
First, a disclaimer. I am not a culinary academician, so I cannot vouch for the fact that these two are exactly the same thing, but they are pretty close. All you need for this is the daal, green and red chillies, jeera, a little lemon juice and some coriander leaves.
First soak the daal for about 15 minutes. Then boil it in a pressure cooker. After that, mix the boiled daal into a thin pasty consistency using a daaler kanta
or a hand grinder. Now add the jeera in a little oil. When it sputters, you may add some hing to it if you want to. Now add the daal. The daal should have sufficient water to come to a boil. Once the daal boils, add red chillies (2/3, broken in halves), green chillies (cut along the length), salt, sugar and tuemeric to tase. Add a finely chopped tomato. If you feel like it, you may want to add some ginger paste (only a little though) at this stage. Stir it well.
After turning off the oven, add some lemon juice (to balance the chillies) and chopped cilantro. Done. Gives you something similar to the Biuli'r
Very basic. But very tasty, if done properly. Cut two or three potatoes into even, half-inch cubes. Fry them with Kalo jeera,
salt and a little sugar. Once the potatoes start turning soft and yellowish, add half a cup of hot water. Stir. The water will wear off the potatoes, and you will soon have a thick gravy. It is this gravy that gives the dish its taste. Add peas, green chilies (cut along the length) and, if you want, chopped cilantro. Add ghee generously.Alo'r khosa bhaja: (Potato peel fry)
You have made the Aloo'r torkari, so you must be left with the peels. Don't throw them. Sprinkle them with salt and turmeric and fry in oil (preferably mustard oil, unless you are a health freak). Add some posto dana (poppy seeds) while frying. Keep frying till they become crisp. If you are the type that prefers culinary adventures, you might try adding some chat masala to it.
Try these three together, I hope, as they say in Hindi, naani yaad aa jayegi -
in the literary sense though.