Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

Potoler Dolma | Potol er Dorma | Stuffed PointedGourd

Potol er Dolma | Potoler Dorma | Stuffed Pointed Gourd

The word Dolma, from the Turkish verb Dolmak, means to be filled and refers to all kinds of stuffed food in the Ottoman cuisine, the most popular being stuffed grape leaves. The Persians call it Dolmeh. The Bengalis call it Dolma or even Dorma. Potoler Dolma or Dorma is a very popular Bengali dish made with the summer vegetable potol or pointed gourd. It is believed that dolma came to Bengali households holding the hands of Armenian families who were originally from Persia and had followed the trade route to finally settle in Chinsurah, near Kolkata. While the original Dolma was stuffed with minced meat and rice as mentioned earlier, the fusion potol’r dolma in Bengali households was stuffed with minced meat, fish and even a vegetarian stuffing of paneer and coconut.

Potoler Dolma is the kind of dish that always, always reminds you of your grandmother and her kitchen. A slightly hunched figure, sitting on the kitchen floor, on a raised wooden plank called pinri, her gnarly fingers expertly stuffing hollowed out potols (pointed gourd) , which would then be lightly fried and simmered in a gravy. I don't know how my Dida felt about making Potol er Dorma or where she learned it from. It was not really an easy task and since it was always made when there was a house full of people, there were lots of Potols to scrape and stuff. She cooked happily, tired but satisfied, and we thought it was given that she would make Potol er Dolma for us.

My Mother prepping Potol

More than the potol or pointed gourd, I loved the stuffing that went in it. My Dida's standard stuffing for Potoler Dorma would be made with fish. Fish filet was not easily available in North Kolkta in those days and my Dida steamed pieces of Rohu, deboned them patiently and then made a delicious stuffing with the fish. Usually when she was making a large batch of Potoler Dorma for the whole family, my mom or one of the aunts was delegated to make the stuffing. But rest of the Dolma was always hers and hers alone.

Ma stuffing the Potol. This stuffing was made of Ricotta as I was too lazy to make Chhana

Unlike my grandmother, I never ever make Potol er Dorma when there is a house full of people. I want to hold on to my lyaad-quuen crown and cooking difficult stuff for a crowd doesn't get you one!
So it is always made in small quantity for the family and then depending on the availability of the right size Potol(Pointed Gourd) in our Patel. I think I made it multiple times a few years back in 2019, while writing "Those Delicious Letters" as there was a chapter around this dish. This summer I made it once more. My mother was surprised and couldn't believe her eyes that I was doing such a thing !!

Now what I have realized is with a dish like this if you can break it down into smaller tasks, it is much easier to do. 
1. Day 1/Task 1 -- Make the stuffing. Depending on your choice you can make a niramish stuffing with chhana/paneer or  amish stuffing with fish or keema. Refrigerate and make sure no one eats it.
2. Day 2/Task 2 --  Make the base for the gravy/curry. Scrape the potol, Peel in alternate strips, hollow it out, wrap it in a damp cloth and refrigerate.
3. Day 3/Task 3 --  Fry and stuff the potol. Finish the gravy. Simmer the potol in the gravy. 

There are two things I do to make stuffing the potol more easy

1. I first sauté the potol, cool and stuff. In the original recipe, the raw potol is stuffed and then fried. There is a chance that the stuffing might come out if you do this so I do the sauteing first.
2. I try to make my stuffing with a very smooth texture, so that it kind of sits nicely inside the potol and doesn't  spill out. My Dida would securely tie the potol but I don't do that and so far it has been fine.

Hope you make this dish at least once to see what a star Mr. Potol Babu can be too. I have shared the recipe for both the vegetarian Paneer stuffing OR the Fish stuffing, you can use either.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Ilish Maacher Tauk -- heady memories

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok/Ambol | Hilsa Fish Chutney

Chutney, Ambol and Tok are the three different varieties of sour dishes in Bengal, the difference being in the sourness and thickness of the gravy in the dish. While Chutneys are the sweetest with a thick, sticky base, the ambol and tauk/tok are more sour and have a thinner gravy. Of all this, the Tauk(or Tok) is supposed to be the most sour. Since fish is abundant in Bengal, fish often features in a Tok or Ambol. Usually it's the tiny Mourala  which goes in a Tok or the fish head and tail of Hilsa (Ilish Macher Tok).  This tangy stew kinda dish is had as a last course, mixed with rice and supposed to have cooling effects in the hot summer.

Update: This post was originally done in2012. I am updating with new photos and more precise recipe in 2021.
midst the umpteen other things that my Dida(maternal grandmother) cooked, there was an Ilish Macchher Tauk. Heads of ambrosial Ilish suspended in a thick, brown, sweet and syrupy liquid that was sweetened with jaggery and soured by ripe tamarind. To call it a "Hilsa Head Chutney" would be plain blasphemy.

It was a backstage kinda dish. I mean while the choicest pieces of Ilish were fried and served as is in a bhaja, the beautiful steak pieces steamed as a bhapa in clinging mustard sauce with fluffed white rice, the fish roe were fried and served with the tel and fresh green chili, the head and the tail led a sad life in waiting.

"Too many bones. Can't eat it", said the young girls in the family with a toss of freshly washed step-cut hair.

"Not enough meat in these pieces", said the grown up men who thought it beneath themselves to be served a lyaja -- a fish tail.

"Rohu heads are better. This has a strong smell", said the younger men, their faces till gentle, their opinion yet not chauvinistic.

And so the matha and the lyaja -- the fish head and the fish tail -- waited in my Dida's kitchen till she was done with the bhaja, the jhaal, the jhol. By then the sun was high up, the crows sitting on the Neem tree outside the kitchen were tired of all the cawing, the neighborhood cat had a princely meal of Ilish fish scales and was patiently waiting by the kaltala for the remains from the men's lunch plates who could never chew on the fish bones. The kaajer mashi--the house help-- Minoti'r Ma was hovering around the back door waiting to see which piece she would be taking home.

Ilish Tauk | Ilish Machher Tok | Hilsa Fish Tok

Ilish Mach er Tok/Ambol

It was then that my Dida opened up a green lidded plastic jar where lay a block of tamarind, brown, ripe and sticky wrapped in a piece of
The matha and the lyaja heaved relief. They loved the tauk. They loved being in that tangy, sweet liquid where they were the stars of the dish.

Minoti'r Ma stopped fretting and came to sit by the stove. I kept telling Ma that I would have lunch later with Dida and the older women. Dida put the kadahi back on the unoon and poured some more Mustard Oil in it. Minoti'r Ma rubbed the tamarind in a bowl full of water to take out the seeds and make the "kaath". The water slowly turned a deep burnt sienna and the kadhai hissed with scarlet red chili and mustard seeds. The matha and lyaja nudged each other and smiled. Their moment had come. As they bubbled in the tamarind gravy of the tauk sweetened by jaggery I waited patiently for the last course of my meal. The Ilish maacher Matha'r tauk.


My Mother made this tauk way back in March when she was visiting. I merely hovered around in anticipation. She and I are the only ones in the family who will eat this dish nowadays. So I wait for her--to visit us---and amidst many other things to cook me a Ilish Maacher tauk.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Salsa Egg Curry -- Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha

This Salsa Egg Curry saga goes way back to pre-Independence India, when my grandmother was a young girl who tended wild hens in her backyard while making fresh salsa that a Mexican traveler had taught her! Those wild country hens laid some delicious brown eggs and the Mexican traveler had brought her some of his country's fresh hot jalapenos. Actually that was his way of proposing marriage but she gave him bhai-phota and ruined his plans! Inspite of this heart breaking incident, this dish was much loved in our home and went by the name of Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha.

How many of you think that is the truth? How many of you think staying true to your roots means cooking a dish from your country or culture exactly how it has always been done?

Truth is this Salsa egg Curry saga goes back to the summer of 2019  when vacationing in Iceland and missing Dim Kosha, we had promptly made this egg curry, the night after we saw the magical Northern Lights. This is the story that I will tell my grandkids. This might just become their story for their version of Dim Kosha,

How at 9:30 PM at night, the aurora tracking app on my phone started buzzing and we jumped into the car, driving towards the location where sighting was supposed to be best. A merely short 10mins drive out of town and we could see the activity increasing. We pulled up on the side of the road somewhere in pitch darkness and the magnetic storm put up a great show for us. The dark sky above us came alive with curtain of lights, swaying and waving, and  taking on colored hues. It was at the same time beautiful and creepy, kept reminding me of horcruxes from HP.
The night after we had Salsa Dim Kosha!
If a Bengali dish with Mexican ingredients comes into existence in Iceland,  does it mean going back to your roots or adapting your roots and giving it space to breathe and grow?

First Sighting as per FB: September 2019 -- in Iceland

In Bangla there is a saying "Dheki swarge giyeo dhaan bhaange".
Loosely translated it means "If possible, a Bong will cook & eat a spicy dim kosha(egg curry) even when she is amidst the beauty and luxury of a place like heaven"!
Well actually that's not the translation but I an 100 percent sure this is what it means🤣😜
After the ethereal beauty of the Aurora yesterday, this egg curry gave us  joy that only heaven can shower on you. So errm, due to lack of regular ingredients this was made with salsa from a jar, onions, sriracha sauce and a sprinkle of curry powder. All found in our Airbnb kitchen!
And it was so good that I am going to copyright this recipe. Salsa ar Sriracha diye Didima'r Dim kosha!! ❤

Also a huge thanks to all of you who inspired us to cook on vacation. Grocery stores will be put on my next vacation itinerary. Really enjoyed the experience.

Second Sighting as per FB post: August 2020 -- in Maine

Last year, around this time we were getting all ready and doing last minute booking for our Iceland trip🏞.
Food was big on my mind as everyone had said Iceland is an expensive country. However other than some packets of maggi and snacks, I did not carry any more food in my luggage. I love to eat local at the places we travel and if local restaurants were expensive or not good enough then I would rather buy local groceries🛒 😜
And that is what we did. I made it a point to visit the local grocery store Kronan and Bonus in the 4 different places that we stayed in our airbnb!!!  
However I don't like spending time cooking during vacation either. So there were shortcuts. Marinated salmon and fiskoo burgers were our regular buy.
And then this egg curry, made with a jar of salsa 💃 + hot sauce🌶. No chopping onions and garlic, no other spices needed. This was such a hit that on our recent road trip to Maine, we made this salsa egg curry again. 
It's the easiest egg curry that tastes closest to dim kosha and with zero effort. Perfect for a vacation or staycation.
I think I should post a recipe for this one soon. A #norecipe recipe 😍

In Maine, this Egg Curry was made with a tub of fresh pico de gallo at the neighborhood grocery store. Some green chilies, garlic powder, paprika went in.

Third Sighting: May and July 2021 -- in Vermont and Catskills

This time the salsa was a super hot, ghost pepper salsa. The spice rack at the AirBnB had some seasoning from TJ’s and also some paprika and curry powder. That’s all that went into the curry.

The Egg Curry was delicious. And so easy to make. I don’t know why I don’t make this at home. Maybe it’s the wanderlust that makes this egg curry more exciting, the adventure of what lies in an unfamiliar kitchen, who is to say!

Salsa Egg Curry - No Recipe Recipe

Buy Eggs from the local grocery store wherever you are.

Buy Salsa
  1. You can buy fresh Pico de Gallo
  2. You can buy a jar of any generic hot salsa
  3. You can buy the super hot Ghost pepper or Dessert Pepper Salsa.
I prefer the salsa to be bit chunky for this dish.

Now if you do not want to buy salsa, the essence of this dish is lost, but what can we do. Make your own fresh Pico De Gallo, You can follow this recipe for pico de gallo but I will say increase the jalapeno.
Make this Salsa too. Use one or both
Take 2 medium good quality tomatoes. If you don't have access to great tomatoes, open a can of crushed or diced tomatoes.

In a food processor add
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
3 chopped green chili or 1 jalapeno chopped
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Pulse to combine everything. Should NOT be a smooth paste.

Add salt and sugar to taste to the above. Combine. Your salsa is ready

Boil and peel the Eggs. Score the tips like a cross. Fry them with Turmeric powder and a sprinkle of paprika until the skin starts to crinkle and takes on brown spots. Remove and set aside.

Now in the same oil, add the Pico de Gallo and sauté. Follow with the Salsa. (Note: With store bought chunky salsa, just add the salsa to the oil, nothing more).

Add any spice powder that is available and takes your fancy. Some suggestions - garlic powder, total seasoning, onion powder, curry powder, paprika, red chili powder, a touch of garam masala.

Sauté until you see oil separating from masala. The ole Indian trick. Add salt and sugar as per your taste.

Add the eggs now and cook along with the masala. The gravy will be clinging to the eggs. Serve with rice.

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