Saturday, June 21, 2014

The story of the less spoken and Understated.. The story of Satpura

                 Amritsar has been long established as the city of pilgrimage and trade. The area around the Golden temple is the oldest part of the city which makes it a great spot for photography and getting lost. This honeycomb of gullies ,houses many amazing gastronomic treats and interesting people that have upheld Amritsar’s” eating out” tradition for generations.  
                 Whether it’s the dhabas that were setup as Indian fast food solutions for the traveler or the small corner shops in the gullies of Amritsar that were a source of culinary novelty at the family dinner table , Amritsar has always celebrated its food and boasted of its punjabiyat.In this land of celebration, right behind the Golden temple is a small shop with no name ,yet the sea of colorful turbans swarming the old ten by ten structure and the 100 metre queue at the kadhai is a biilboard bigger than any other!!  
                    After waiting for sometime in the queue I got to a visible distance of the kadhai and saw a very old man “slapping” the kadhai incessantly; when he stopped, a sea of golden flaky dough envelopes floated on top and like somebody pushed the play button, everybody got animated and started yelling out a number, I guess the guy behind me was the winner.. “24 satpuras for me” he said. 
                  Satpura is a catchy name I must admit and on talking to Pammi ji, the owner of the shop, when he was a little free to talk of course, he mentioned that the recipe has been with his family for 4 generations now and the person at the kadhai “Bhagat ji” was frying them for 65 years .it just ends here for the satpura he says, my son is the” subway” kid who thinks deep frying food is a sin and Satpura doesn’t have a future. 

                   It doesn’t bother Pammi  though, who treasures this recipe that a Chittagong cook gave his great great grandfather and has given his family and his unnamed shop , reputation and wealth. "I will give free satpuras to all of Amritsar at my son’s wedding he says, and I'll fry them all", Bhagat ji, who’s 85 now jokingly adds. Pammi says the old recipe had seven poories layered and folded over seven times and that’s where the name comes from .Now the making, though still without machines is a lot more laborious with 12 feet dough sheets beaten and layered on wooden planks and cut and stuffed with a potato-pea filling.....a ritual that starts at 7 am and that Pammi has been supervising for 45 years, ever since he dropped out.  
The real kick in the dish is the sweet n sour potato curry that is served with the Satpura, and that works as a chutney as well. The next time you visit the Golden Temple, exit from the west gates and look for a sea of turbans and say hi to Bhagat ji and Pammi....Oh! and don’t forget to ask for extra subzi because it makes Pammi ji happy to know that there’s still a big multitude of people who love the Satpura.

 Next week we look at a 20 something “Chef's rockstar” who runs one of the biggest sweet shops in Kolkata...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Story of Monama …..the Inherent resourcefulness in Indian food

At Kweepees with Rakhi  Dasgupta

While eating at ‘Kewpie’, an iconic Bengali restaurant in Kolkata I came across a dish called ‘Monama’. A cauliflower “shorshe” preparation slow braised in local mustard and nothing else. Rakhi Dasgupta,  the owner and an authority on Bangla food demystified the unique name in our conversation later. To understand the importance of the name it is important to understand the contribution of the widows of Bengal to Bengali vegetarian cuisine. Living in out- houses and cooking with very limited ingredients, widows created a cuisine that is resourceful, highly nutritious and superbly creative. Most of their food was ‘shudho’ that is without any onion and garlic and used not more than 4 ingredients. The Dal badi that you cannot imagine the Shukto without is also a gift of the widows because lentils were the primary source of protein in their imposed vegetarian diet .Over many years , elements of this this creative food became mainstream and that is how the Bangla ranna (household kitchen) became vegetarian. Coming Back, ‘Monama’ was actually Rakhi’s great grand aunt, a widow.
What was surprising was that I got my next lesson in resourcefulness from another widow.  Shanti Devi from ‘Khejarli’, a Bishnoi village outside of Jodhpur. She Raised a family of four making rotis for the local ‘Anganwadi’. Shanti Devi’s kitchen and store had less than 10 ingredients between the millets, spices, dairy and sun dried guar, ker and sangri. I had two of the most resourceful and yet the tastiest dishes I’ve ever had. One was ‘Rabodi’ a simple sabji made out of sundried jowar papads and ‘Raab’ a buttermilk drink thickened with bajra flour. Between my understanding of her language and her understanding of Hindi I definitely managed to figure out that she could cook more that 50 dishes from these ingredients.
Actually being resourceful is being Indian and the same principle applies to our kitchens. All of us remember growing up in Families where our grand moms got upset at the slightest wastage and the sabzis of the oddest vegetable parts like the Cauliflower stems were a cherished delicacy .We have always celebrated resourcefulness and Monama Just bought it all back for me .
Rabodi Subzi
Broken Rabodi (dried corn and Jowar papads ) - 2cups
Curd - 1/2 cup
Sesame Oil - 2 table spoon
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1/2 tea spoon
Red chili powder - 3/4 tea spoon
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tea spoon
Coriander powder - 1 tea spoon
Salt - according to taste

(Add 4 cups Hot  water to the rabodi, cover it and keep aside)
1.     Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds.
2.     Add red chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt in curd and water.
3.     Now add this mixture to the cumin pan and cook until the oil comes up.

4.     Mix boiled rabodi and water in a pan and cook it for 5 minutes