Category Archives: Bengali food

Cooking up for a ‘Curry Queen’. Lunch with Maunika Gowardhan

Not that you needed  a reason but when a culinary achiever, and a very pretty lady to boot, looks at you intensely and says ‘you are the world’s best cook’, then you ignore the hyperbole, the generousness and the politeness for a while, and feel that it was all worth it.
Maunika Gowardhan who tweets as @cookinacurry and I finally met up when she dropped by at our place last Sunday. A trip which followed a promise to treat her to Bengali food cooked by me the next time she was at India. Well the trip to India did happen and the plans to meet were refreshed.  A glitch in between in the form of a bad back and I activated Plan B by trying  to ‘outsource’ lunch.
But it didn’t feel right. Especially after Maunika and I spoke for the first time and she said that she was really looking forward to eat my cooking. I cancelled the order I placed. The caterer, luckily a friend and a good egg, was most sporting about it. I roped in Bunkin Banu, my sous chef. Got her to cancel her plans to bunk on Sunday. Told her how M was asking about her. Which was true. Ordered the mutton the previous day. Marinated it. Booked a hilsa with Poonam on phone, for me to go and pick up the next day. Called a couple of friends over, @qtfan and @sassyfork , and it sounded like we had  a plan.
Poonam called me next morning and woke me up to tell me that the fish had arrived. I went to pick it up. Waiting impatiently for the Bong uncle with huge man boobs to stop haggling with Poonam. I was on a clock. But the truth is we Bengali men need our time in the fish market to unwind. I understood where this gentleman was coming from but I needed to scoot. Banu, bless her soul, did turn up as promised. Chopped and cleaned while I shopped.
I got back hit the pots and pans, instructed Banu on the prep work. Tweeted as I cooked. Clicked photos. On the camera. On the Blackberry for twitter. Trimmed the flowers that I bought for the vases. Answered Banu’s questions on what sheets to put out. Four dishes to cook between us. Rice and parathas too. One and a half hours to do it all.
Thankfully @sassyfork and @qtfan arrived just as I finished cooking. Blogger and twitter friends who are like family now. I put the house in their hands as I shaved, showered and transformed into a Bengali bhadrolok (gentleman) for the parar rockbaaj (local ruffian) that I looked like earlier in the morning.
Maunika arrived and in a way the earlier chaos was something that she would empathise with. For Maunika Gawardhan, referred to as Curry Queen in this blog post that Sassy googled, is a private Chef based at the UK where she has lived for 14 years now after she left India to do her MBA. Spurred by a desire to show England that there is more to ‘Indian’ that chicken teeeeka masala, this self taught cook, gave up her corporate job to start a catering business. She sold her company a couple of years back and now does private orders. Trying to introduce the UK to the cuisines of Maharashtra, Bengal, Goa, the South of India and Punjab of course. Finger foods such as mini bata vadas, Malvani fish curries, mishti doi with fruit compote… this enterprising lady with a very busy diary cooks up her wonders for her clients. And between all of this she looks after her two year old son, writes her blog, Cook In a Curry, hosts radio shows, cookery classes, works on cook book ideas. A lady who has followed her dream and is supported by a very proud husband.
K joined us  and the five of us chatted away through that Sunday afternoon.
For lunch I made kosha mangsho. The special occasion Bengali mutton dish at whose heart lies slow cooked caramelised onions. The theme of my initial dinners when I used to call folks over. It is meant to be a slow cooked dish but I use the pressure cooker. Something Maunika approved off.
Mutton marinated over a day
The caramelised onions at the heart of the kosha mangsho
Traditionalists would balk at the use of the pressure cooker
Kosha manghso
Parathas that Banu made to go with it
I wanted to make my doi posto ilish (Hilsa in yogurt and poppy mix) which I am rather proud of. Poonam didn’t let me down. The fish was of excellent quality. I had told her I had a guest from England. Interestingly everyone praised the ‘mustard’ fish while in my head it was a posto (poppy seed) fish. The measure that I used was 4:1. Goes to show what a powerful personality that mustard has.
Fish is normally fried in Bengali fish dishes unlike in fish recipes of the South or West of India
With the marinade. Maunika said that frying the fish helps the fish absorb the marinade better
Doi posto ilish…
I picked up goat’s brains from Khar Market to make my version of bheja masala (brain masala). A Mumbai icon and far removed from the world of Bengali cooking. And as Bourdain said, the Muslim cooking of Mumbai does better justice to organs than what the French cuisines does. Maunika told me that her grandmom used to make it for her. I stepped in that afternoon.
Sorry Dr Lecter but these are goats brains
Bheja masala
No invite to our place is complete without Banu’s shammi kebabs. And today the her fans from the world of twitter came in and met her and praised her as she giggled bashfully. I don’t do desserts so they desserts were out sourced. Sassy got khir kodom from Sweet Bengal. And I ordered parsi laganu custard from my friend Kurush of Dalal Enterprises.
Banu’s shammi kebabs begin to take shape
Kheer Kodom from Sweet Bengal
Laganu Custard from Dalal Enterprises
Banu and her many fans
The afternoon eventually had to end as do all good things in life. With some very kind words as dessert for me.
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Filed under Bengali food, Food musings, People, The world of blogging

>The Kolkata Diaries… Ultadanga, Sanjha Chulha, South City’s phuchkas & Kookie Jar, Mom’s cooking

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Caveat: A very long post. Indulge me. It is about a very long day

I am not a big fan of the show “Man Versus Food”. I see myself more as a ‘grunge eater’ than a ‘binge eater’. Excess grosses me out. Except when I am back at Kolkata, my home town.

Emigrants would know how trips back home are always packed beyond twenty four hours. Relatives to be met. Places to be visited. Or as in my case, and in the case of most Bengalis, food to be eaten. 
The first day of my recent short visit to Kolkata was  as packed as it gets. It had a touch of politics, whiff of a rural idyllic world,  the hopes and aspirations of folks including those of a reality show obsessed mother looking for a socio-economic escape route from for her very talented little daughter, mishti (sweet) shops photo shoots, rides down a highway, a visit to a dhaba, street food and warm conversations with absolute strangers, a modern mall and an excellent lemon tart, shopping for spice mixes, home cooked food… Kolkata has many faces after all.
Re-discovering Kolkata: Ultadanga
 My work took me to a place intriguingly named Ultadanga or the ‘opposite end’. As a South Kolkata boy my Kolkata had ended at College Street. This was new territory for me. Ultadanga was a schizophrenic locality with big city malls and high rises, tiny lanes with little houses and the odd pond thrown in in between the hustle and bustle of large buses and bright yellow taxis.
In the middle of all of this I bumped into a building called Gandhi Bhavan. I did not know that this even existed in Kolkata. Turned out to be the house where Mohandas Gandhi had camped during the post partition riots to calm the city. I was lucky enough to meet the trustees who were doing a splendid job to maintain a part of our history with the support of the government. And this is where I have a problem. Hardly anyone knows of the existence of Gandhi Bhavan locally and yet Obama talks of how Gandhi inspired him continents away. 
Now, I hold no truck for politics but what takes my goat is the lack of effort in our country to pitch ourselves from a tourism point of view. It pains me when I go to, say a KL, and visit their museum where the ‘history’ starts in the 1970s or a Singapore which sells Little India! Why isn’t Kolkata’s Chinatown, Tangra, flogged to tourists, for example? The answer possibly lies in the local airport with its long-winding queues and stinking loos. I think that we have missed the tourism bus as a country. And one can only live in hope.
The visit to Ultadanga was interesting. Politics runs in the veins of Kolkata and as in every part of Kolkata, it came alive here too. In terms of Gandhi Bhavan, a memorial which probably captured the state of the Indian National Congress Party here. Bengali freedom icon Subhas Chandra Bose whose name  was everywhere in the form of statues, airports, theatres, stadiums and yet had figuratively become ‘just another brick in the wall’. The political graffiti on the walls, no ugly politician’s mugs here unlike at Mumbai. The CPI(M) and their exhortations of ‘Brigade Cholo’ or lets assemble at the Brigade Grounds. And the symbol of the challenger, the Trinamul Congress … the sapling. They say that green is the new red at Bengal these days.

The real Indian Icons: Mohandas Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose
 Gandhi camped here during the post partition riots. These are his belongings
The very well preserved Gandhi Bhavan
The trustees who worked hard to preserve our heritage including the venerable Mrs Uma Banerjee
The Communists who ruled Bengal for ever
Trinamul Congress…the challengers. Green is the new red apparentlt
A pond in the middle of the city…a more common sight earlier, a welcome quasi rural relief
A leader once, now another brick in the wall
Ironically I went without food till almost 5 pm that day, after breakfast at home, as I was out on work. But this didn’t stop me from brandishing my new Sony Nex 3 and try its ‘defocus ‘ function at a mishti or sweet shop at Ultadanga.
Jolbhora gurer shondesh
Norom paak gurer shondesh
Sanjha Chulha on EM Bypass
I took the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass once my work was through as I headed Southwards. An intra city highway with far more green and variety than the barren concrete wastelands of the Western and Eastern Express Highways of Mumbai.
I stopped at Sanjha Chulha. A ‘Dhaba’ or highway pit stop which was practically within the city. But then that’s us. Bengalis, as a race, are the armchair specialists of the world. Though I must admit that when it comes to travelling you are likely to find Bengalis at every corner of the world.
My brother had treated us once at Sanjha Chulha. So I phoned him up at Gurgaon since the waiters here didn’t have a point of view on what was ‘special’. ‘ Tangdi kebab in dry and kalimiri chicken in gravy’ was junior’s recommendations and I went with it. Happy that I was being served lunch at 5 pm. My only company a gaggle of young girls discussing their Facebook profiles. The decor was Spartan… tables, chairs, air conditioning, functional restrooms, a view of the highway… a dhaba brought alive within city limits.
The garlic naans that I ordered were hot, well made, buttery and piquantly flavoured. Ideal for wiping away the grime of a long day. The chicken kali miri (black pepper chicken) was better than any chicken gravy dish that I have eaten at North Indian restaurants at Mumbai. The chicken was very tender. The gravy had a resounding heat of crushed pepper.  Ideal to liven up weary travellers. With enough oil in it to help us hold out if Libya goes completely bonkers. In fact, there was so much oil in the dish that the little kadhai or pan in which the dish was served slid across the table. 
Makes you cringe? Well you have greater chances of finding oil free steamed vegetable in the highways of India than fidelity in a house of vice.
garlic naans
chicken kali miri
Striking oil
The EM Bypass from Sanjha Chulha
Football, once the sole passion of the city, till there was Sourav Ganguly. Well, back to square one now?
The Phuchkawallahs of South City
I stopped at the  South City Mall on the way home. I had planned a coffee break here.
I suddenly thought of stepping out of the mall to go to the phuchka vendors stationed outside. Phuchkas have spoilt Kolkatans for the paani puris and the gol gappas of the world. Once you have had phuchkas you can never really give your heart to the street food of any other city.
 
Phuchkas are hollow balls of flour, stuffed with mashed potatoes and chillies and masala, dipped in tamarind water and popped into the mouth. A description which does as little justice to phuchkas as eating them in a sanitised environments does. For phuchkas are the stars of the streets of Kalkata. And unlike paani puri you don’t need vodka with phuchkas.
I had a ‘plate’ of phuchkas. A term which evoked howls of protests from Bengalis on twitter. ‘Phuchkas are not sold by plate’. Well pardon the Mumbaikar in me which made me interpret ‘ 6 for Rs 10’ as a ‘plate’. Quibbles apart, the phuchkas were so good, that I ate one more ‘plate’ despite being stuffed to my nostrils at Sanjha Chulha earlier.
The phuchka wallah saw me taking photographs and began suggesting camera angles to me. His name was Ravi. He was from Allahabad at Uttar Pradesh, Amitabh Bachchan’s birth place. Well the vendors of the street food at Kolkata, like their peers at Mumbai, belong to Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.
 Ravi and I discussed the merits of phuchkas versus pani puris of Mumbais and gol gappas of Delhi and something called Batashe at Bangalore, a term he introduced me to. He took great pride in the way phuchkas were displayed at Kolkata which, as he pointed out was unique. He also said that the charm of Kolkata’s phuchkas come from the fact that they are made with flour versus the more crusty semolina of the Mumbai’s paani puris. And, as I pointed out, they don’t overload phuchkas  here unlike their cousins in other cities.

A scene from ‘My Big Fat Greek Fat Wedding’ followed as Ravi introduced me to the other street food vendors outside South City. They were all from his home town, now settled in my home town while I had moved out… all of us in search of a better life. They were all his cousins. His brothers. His family in a foriegn land.
He pointed out Ram Kumar and Raj Kumar, two brothers who according to Ravi made better phuchkas than him. He made them make one for me. Ravi’s were good, these were even zestier. I made a phuchka for Raj Kumar. He took a bite and from his smile it was clear that I had a long way to go and he was just indulging me.
So I continued clicking. Momos, the Tibetan favourite, now cooked by UPites from the plains for Bengalis. Bhel Puri stalls. A Mumbai intrusion in the city of jhaal moori. Earthen bhaars or glasses in which sikanji or soda based drinks would be prepared. All laid out for me to photograph for you.
The street food hawkers of South City opened their wares for me even though I was too full to eat another morsel. Happy to share their simple treasures with the world. They came to the city with their dreams. Some like Ravi had been here for more than a decade. Running his own stall for four years as he proudly told me. Ravi was hungry for more. Wanted to know the feasibility of opening a phuchka stall at Mumbai. I told him about the hoards of us who would be happy if his dream came true but had to temper my tales with the reality of real estate prices.
But Ravi is hungry. Something tells me that the footpath in front of South City is not big enough for him.

Phuchka
Ravi
Momos
Bhel Puris of Mumbai.
Chopped coconut a Kolkata touch
The world outside South City Mall
On ‘plate’ number 2
Ram Kumar and Raj Kumar. brothers who make even better phuchkas than himself according to young Ravi
My attempts to be phuchka wallah
Another day in India…special parking available for very important people
A lil Kookie Jar Lemon Tart by my side
Well, I wasn’t hungry but I couldn’t go without saying hello to the lemon tart at Kookie Jar. I went up to the Kookie Jar store beside the food court at South City. Picked up my lemon tart. Was happy the see the thin gentleman at the counter with curly hair and glasses smile at me in recognition. 
I picked up a very robust cappuccino from CCD and sat down at a table. I played around with the macro function of the camera as my coffee cooled. The tart, for once, disappointed. The lemon butter curd was slightly clingy and sticky and didn’t have its usual bouncy freshness.
But then there are good days and there are bad days when you are in love. And my heart lies firmly with Kookie Jar’s lemon tart.

Man Versus Food: Mommie chapter
I reached home stuffed and then there was my mom ready with her prawn curry that both K and I love. A dish I tried to replicate at Mumbai.

The fragrant smell of Basmati, the short grained Bengali special occasion rice, shrouded the house. Reminding me how she must have planned and cooked for the few meals I would eat at home. Miraculously the day’s food snuggled in my tummy making space for the dinner my mom had cooked. A few more meals of daal with fish head, fish curry, fish fry, fired potatoes, chicken… eating even when my body wanted to give in… and it was time to go.

As my Mom, said sometimes these short visits were more painful than just being away. I guess this is the ‘hoozoon’ or sense of melancholy that Orhan Pamuk spoke of when he spoke of his Istanbul.

Mom’s prawn curry
Prawn curry with Gobindobhog rice
Potato fried in batter
Crisp rohu fry
Last meal before I left
Fish curry
And now she gets down to write her England diaries for you.

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>The second easiest daal recipe in the world…pressure cooked moong daal

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I had earlier written about the microwave masoori daal which K makes inspired by mom and has now taught Banu and me. This is the easiest daal to make in the world.

Well, I discovered the second easiest daal to make today. This was inspired by something K cooked in the early years of our marriage when she shocked me by not roasting the moong daal before cooking it. I remember getting quite agitated then.

Today’s daal was so easy that I managed it with a bad back and when I was blind with hunger. I didn’t want to have the rotis and Bengali cabbage shobji which Banu made yesterday and which were in the fridge by themselves. It seemed to dry. I needed something to go with it.

So here’s what I did:

  • I soaked half a cup of moong daal in 3 times the water in a pressure cooker. I added half a teaspoon each of turmeric and sugar and some salt to this
  •  I broke two basic rules. I didn’t roast daal unlike in the Bong bhaaja (fried) moonger daal. Nor did I soak it for a while as other daals should be. I was hungry. I switched on the gas. Waited for 3 whistles of the cooker and another 2,3 minutes then on low flame. In an ideal world should have given it more time. Lifted the whistle of the cooker with a spoon to let out the steam and opened the cooker. I was in a hurry and ideally shouldn’t have been in the kitchen
  • I placed a pan on the gas and melted a teaspoon of ghee, added some shada jeere or cumin seeds
  • When it crackled I added a dry red chili and a split green chili, brought the daal to boil, added a pinch of red chilly powder and jeera or cumin powder to it
  • I let the daal in the pan to bubble on a high fame for 3,4 minutes and switched it off as the daal thickened
The result was fantastic and I am not even a big daal lover. It was warm, the ghee added just the right touch of indulgence and coquetishness with the latent heat of the chillies adding to the mystique. The touch of sugar added balance. The under spiced daal did bring alive a rather simple lunch of roti and cabbages. Credit goes to the ghee or clarified butter to a large extent if you ask me.

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Filed under Bengali food, Lazy cooking, Lonely Hearts cooking, Recipes, vegetarian stuff

>Adhunik bhaapa ilish or ‘modern microwaved steamed Hilsa’ recipe

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I met Scarlett after ages for lunch. That’s when Bunkin Banu called me for instructions on what to cook. She seems programmed to call me when I sit to eat.
Scarlett couldn’t stop giggling as I instructed  Banu to make baigan ka bharta, which we recently learnt she knows how to make, cabbage, daal and roti. Scarlett was surprised to find out that we eat simple vegetarian food too. Plus she said that she thought that I cooked every day. I tried to tell her that it wasn’t so. She refused to believe me. And guess what, I did end up ‘cooking’ today. If you can call pressing two switches that.
I had some time to kill this evening as I returned early from work. So I decided to make a microwave steamed Hilsa inspired by a post Pree wrote recently.  I wasn’t too sure of putting curd in the beginning. Pree explained that this would be ok. Apparently curd curdles if you add it mid way. You should add it in the beginning of cooking or at the end when the dish cools down. She was, as I knew she would be, right.
It hardly required any work and I managed to fit in a low intensity gym session in between the marinating and cooking. It was a no oil dish. Turned out to be a tad dry. A bit of oil drizzled in the beginning might have helped. Pree’s recipe involved mustard oil Some more curd might have helped too.
So here’s the recipe for the adhunik bhaapa ilish or modern steamed hilsa.
Recipe
Marinate
  • Put a teaspoon of mustard seeds in a grinder and grind (Bengali tradition calls for more mustard but K can’t handle the pungency)
  •  Add 1.5 teaspoons of poppy/ posto/ khus khus seeds to this and grind
  •  Add 3 geen chillies, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon turmeric to this and grind
  • Add 4 tablespoons of curd to this and whip

 

Cook:
           
  • Pour marinate over 4 pieces of Hilsa
  •  Marinate for at least an hour. I went and did a mild leg routine at the gym and returned in  1.5 hours
  • Put the dish into the micro and cover with a micro dish, cling film. This helps the fish retain the moisture. I didn’t. Which explains the dryness. Though, as K came and told me right now, the taste was very good
  • Switch on the micro for five minutes
  • Switch off the micro and take out the dish. Gently turn the fish. Add a bit more curd to blend in the masala in case it seems a bit dry
  • Put it in and switch on the micro for 3 more minutes. Total of 8 minutes
  • The dish is ready. Best had with steamed rice
I was a bit lazy today too and took the pictures with the Blackberry. The idea of taking out the camera and clicking would have against the grain of quick and easy cooking after all.

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>Matters of the heart …. Machher tel bhaaja (fried fish flab)

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No, this is not a Valentine’s Day post.

It is to do with something very close to the hearts of most red blooded, card carrying Bengalis. And, as the doctors would say, something that would clog the arteries too.

But try this. Get hold of a biggish, 3 kg +, caatla or rohu (river trout). Ask your fish seller if the fish is of good quality. If it is, then ask your fish seller to give you the machher tel (fish oil or flab).

Get the ‘tel’ home. Wash it. Gently coat it with a bit of salt and cumin powder. Some would put a dash of flour to coat and chopped chillies and onions too. I prefer to keep it as uncomplicated and pure as possible.

Place the ‘tel’ on a pan and on a flame. You won’t need oil. Remember this is oil. Let it lightly fry. You will see an ocean of oil come out.

Take the solid parts out. There would be bits of cuddly white flab. Touches of dark sensuous meat. Could be bitter if this fish is not too good. Else the stuff which would set your heart a-flutter.

Have this with rice and daal. Ideally machher mudo diye bhaaja mooger daal   (fried moong dool with fish head). And a green chilli on the side.

As decadent, if not more, than pork fat. Possibly as lethal. But hey, you will be in paradise for a few minutes.

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>Bengali alu chhok recipe inspired by a Tweet

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We had reached an impasse for lunch yesterday. I wanted alu bhaaja (fried potatoes) to go with daal, rice and ilish bhaaja. K wanted alu posto (potatoes in poppy seeds) which I am bit tired off.

Then I saw a tweet from @madhumita whom I first met at the Koli Fish Festival recently. The tweet said “making aloo chokha. mashed potato with caramelised onions. perfect with muger daal bhat”.

I got my answer. Improvised a bit. Briefed Bunkin Banu who wasn’t bunkin for a change. And here you have, a very easy and tasty dish. As someone told me yesterday, potato is rich in vitamin C. And as I always say, God ran out of ideas in vegetables after he created potatoes. One of his best works.

So here’s my recipe for alu chhok:

Prep:

  • Boil 4 potatoes in a pressure cooker. Peel. Half and keep

 Cook:

  • Heat oil in a pan. 1 tablespoon will do
  • Add some Nigella Seeds or kaalo jeere
  • One the seeds crackle and the oil splutters, add a tablespoon of finely chopped onions
  • One this turns translucent add two split green chillies and one dry red chillies
  • Then add the potatoes and half a teaspoon of salt
  • Use a ladle and smash and mash the potatoes
  • See that the Nigella seeds and chillies spread into the potatoes
  • Switch of the flame once bits of the potato browns and becomes a tad crisp
  • Top with a bit of fresh chopped coriander leaves

That’s it. Made for a great Saturday afternoon lunch. Kainaz and I both loved it.

Nigella seeds and coriander make it Bengali. If you don’t have these then you can use whole mustard seeds and curry leaves to to give it a South or West Indian feel. Add the curry leaves to the oil in the beginning then

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>Bengali for Baba Ganoush….Begun Pora

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“So what are you making for dinner tonight?”

“Begun pora”

“You mean baigan bharta.”

“No begun pora”

“It’s the same thing, baigan ka bharta”


“No, this is not like baigan ka bharta. it is not a liquidy over spice goop. This is delicately spiced, smoked and you will be able to taste the baigan (egg plant). It’s like a baba ganoush. Served warm though”


At the end of dinner:


“You are right. This is not baigan ka bharta. It tastes out of the world”

It had been ages since I made begun pora (literally ‘burnt brinjal’), the Bengali smoked brinjal dish. In fact I doubt if I had made it ever since we moved into our current apartment. I suddenly remembered it the other night when I was editing the note which my mom has written on our years at Iran in the end seventies. There she had mentioned a ‘baigan ka bharta’ like dish while describing the food at Iran. I suspect that she was talking of baba ganoush. The Mediterranean Arabian dish of similar lineage.

Baigan ka bharta is a more Punjabi or North Indian form of the dish. The only place whose baigan ka bharta I have eaten is that from Khaane Khaas at Bandra. Kaianaz likes that quite a bit. I don’t. I find the consistency too liquidy with the seeds of the egg plant sticking out like the scales of a Martian. Plus I find it too spicy. The over powering taste of garam masala kills the dish for me. Aubergines or brinjals, in my world, should be treated delicately. Now, the only problem is that I don’t know whether this is how baigan ka bharta is meant to be. Or whether this is Khaane Khaas’s take on the dish.

Begun pora was a fairly regular dish at our dinner table while I was growing up. You would smoke it on an open flame and then mildly saute it with some spices. We used to eat it with rotis. The authentic Bengali Begun Pora would be seasoned with mustard oil. We didn’t use mustard oil in our house. I don’t like it. Never did. I never took the recipe from my mom. But the begun poras that I havee made do bring back the taste of the begun poras that I grew up on.

Purists might argue that my mustard oil sans begun pora is as ‘authentic’ as an olive oil biriyani but still, here’s the recipe:

Prep:

  • Take a largish aubergine (egg plant, brinjal)
  • Slice it in a criss cross manner right up to the stem. This will ensure that the brinjal smokes properly all through. 
  • Drizzle some oil on the cut surface of the brinjal. I used olive oil. My ancestors would use mustard oil. The point is to ensure that the brinjal doesn’t get all sticky inside 

Cook: Stage 1: Smoking up

  • Switch on the burner and place the brinjal on the open flame. Kept turning after every 10,20 seconds so that it gets heated evenly. Soon you will hear a hissing sound as the juices of the brinjal hit its hot burning skin and sometimes hit the flame too. A heady smoky aroma will fill the kitchen. Keep turning the brinjal till it cooks evenly and softens inside. The firm white flesh of the vegetable should became near translucent in colour
  • Peel the skin. It would have begun to crackle and come off. The surface would be hot. Use a fork or a knife to scrape off the skin. Unless the brinjal cooled down while you  took a million photographs the way I did. In which case you can use your fingers to peel of the crackling skin

Cook: Stage 2: Spicing it up

  • Heat some oil in a sauce pan and saute about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onions
  • As the onions become transparent, add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped tomatoes
  • Once the tomatoes softens add the peeled and smoked brinjal
  • Add some mild spices to this – 1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powders, half a teaspoon each of salt and red chilly powder. You don’t want the spices to hide the taste of smoked brinjal. 
  • Add some finely chopped green chillies and then mash the mixture with a ladle.
  • The dish should ready in about 4,5 minutes from here
  • Top it with coriander and eat it with roti and daal

Try it and let me know if you think that begun pora is baigan ka bharta.

In my opinion begun pora is to baigan ka bharta what the Bengali ‘Mahanayak’ (film hero) Uttam Kumar was to Pubjab Da Puttar and rather macho film hero, Dharmendra.

Uttam Kumar. Pic credit: http://calcuttaglobalchat.net/calcuttablog/ami-cheye-cheye-dekhi-deya-neya/

Dharmendra. Pic credit: http://box4.chakpak.com/photo/dharmendra/2207411?gdata=9566&gtype=pp&index=24

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