Monday, May 14, 2018

Moumita'r Kochu Paata Chingri -- Colocasia Leaves with Shrimp

Moumita making her Kochupata Chingri
Today I will bring you a dish that  I had never had it growing up and my Mother never made it. Nor did my grandmother. 
But it is a Bengali delicacy and I have heard a lot about it mostly heard of  this dish as a speciality in a restaurant called Kasturi in Kolkata! Next time I am viisting india, I have to make sure I land up at Kasturi.

If you are still clueless as tow hat I am blabbering about , it is the famous #KochupaataBaataChingri or #KochupaatabhaapeChingri . We were on a scientific mission to nail down this dish which none of our Mothers had ever made and a couple of us had tasted it only once or maybe twice in their life. This project was very different from re-creating a dish from nostalgia. There was no recipe to follow either. Here we were re-creating something only from heresay. At least the cuisine was same and we had certain benchmarks to guide us like "shorshe baata" (mustard paste) or "narkol baata" (grated coconut). It would have been way harder if the ingredients had unknown tastes of "Yuzu" or "Katsuobushi"!

Our first imediment was our very little knowledge as to how to get Kochu Paata  I mean back home was I ever interested in Kocu? Err never ! The husband-man who is usually a "know-all" in these circumstances, said "kochu'r loti" is okay but no one ever uses "Kochu Paata" in  a Bengali dish!! We didn't pay much heed to him and the Kochu Paata problem was solved by Gujarati folks in town who use Colocassia leaves aka Kochu Paata to make Paatra. They guided us to the aisle in Patel Brothers which carries those leaves. 
Next it was my chef-de-extraordinaire friend Moumita who led the experiment. Now, she is the one who was making complex kheer kodomboss when I was barely getting my rice and egg curry right, so I knew the experiment was in able hands. "Chokh bondo kore bhorsha kora jaay" type. As in English, -- "Have full faith"
A few days back, one Thursday evening she called me to say that she had finally made "Kochu Pata Chingri" and  the result looked like a success, so she would drop off some for me to taste. Now by Thursday I have hardly anything interesting to eat at home and was planning to go out for dinner after Child 2's science fair. But Moumita's message was music to my ears and I shelved all plans, cooked a pot of rice and waited for dinner time. .
Her Kochupaata Chingri was delicious to say the least. Since I do not have the Kosturi benchmark to test against, I do not know how theirs taste but this one was awesome.

Next day, I sent the husband-man to scour aisles of Patel brothers and get "Kochu Paata". Then on a fine Saturday, I made the dish, following Moumita's recipe and tweaking on what she had created. She did the entire thing on stove top but after the initial few steps,  I put it in the oven bwhere I cooked it the same way I make "Chingri Bhaape".  The end result tasted very good though honestly we were yet to distinguish the taste of Kochu paata in it. But I am so glad that we did it and I don't have to wait a whole year to taste what Kochupata Chingri tatses like.

A big thanks of course goes to Moumita. And I hope we can get some time to bring a video of her famous Biriyani for you too.

And since I love to drool over kitchens and such, here is Moumita's gourmet kitchen. isn't it lovely?

And Ta-Da, here is the pretty Master Chef herself...

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Robibar er Murgi r Jhol -- Sunday Chicken Curry

A few months back I got an email.

This is exactly what it said


Apnake Jodi Bengali Sunday dupurer chicken curry ranna Korte hoy , family r jonno . Apni ki bhabe ranna korben ?

What is the best recipe apnar kache ? Kindly ektu information dile khub Khushi hobo .
(Didi, If you have to cook the Bengali Chicken Curry for Sunday lunch, how would you do it?)

At first I was a bit irked by this email. Not by the reader as I guessed he was a much younger guy and yet had not called me "Didi" and not Mashima !!. But you know how this "Robibar er Mangsho" has been done to death and restaurants now have it on the menu and folks who have no idea what "Robibar er Mangsho" means order it on a Wednesday night and eat it with naan and a bottle of chilled beer while watching "Didi No.1" on the telly.

It totally sucks the joy out of the whole thing. Honestly it doesn't really make much sense if you are cooking it on a non-Sunday or eating it at a restaurant or using your "food delivery" app like Swiggy to order "ek plate Robibar er Murgi dena".

Tell me, what is a Robibar er Mangsho if not followed by hours of bhaat ghoom (siesta), bangla natok on Kolkata "Ka", and lingering turmeric colored aroma of a jhol on the tip of your fingers until Monday morning ? And most importantly, what is a Robibar er Manghso if not Goat meat!!!!

So this is what I replied

Eita trick question kina bujhlam na !!! Sunday to Sunday to exactly same hobe na. Eikhane ekta mutton er dilam. Chicken diye mostly ei rokom i kori, konodin moshla beshi, konodin jhaal beshi, konodin duto gajor instead of aloo, je rokom Sunday sei rokom jhol :-D
(I don't know if you are asking me a trick question. Whichever way you cook your chicken on a Sunday that will be your Sunday Chicken Curry!)

But then I cooled down. I realized the world has changed a whole lot since the times when we used to have meat only on Sundays. In the late 70's,  in most middle class Bengali families like ours, everyday lunch and dinner would be dominated by fish. And when I say fish, I don't mean Malaikari or Kaalia for dinner everyday. Simple fish curries with mustard paste or vegetables in season were the usual norm.

Now Sunday was a red-letter day as that was the only day that offices and schools were closed and so lunch would be a family affair. That was also the day when goat meat was cooked for lunch in most Bengali homes. Meat, in particular Goat meat, was not something we ate every day. It was both expensive and also considered a food rich for daily consumption. Chicken or Murgi was not cooked in most Bengali homes that had matriarch like my Grandmother's. She allowed goat meat but considered "murgi" foreign and so it was banned from her kitchen.

So mutton curry aka "pa(n)thar mangsho" on some Sundays(usually the Sundays earlier in the month soon after payday) was something we lived in anticipation for. By the sheer magic of being a rare and thus much awaited occasion, the Sunday Lunch of Meat Curry and rice took a special position in our heart.

Things changed a fair bit after "chicken" started being used widely in Bengali kitchens. Chicken was cheaper than goat meat, cooked faster, and so it could be cooked on any other day too instead of fish. Often on Sundays, goat meat was getting swapped with "murgi", making it a "Robibar er Murgi'r Jhol". It was not a recipe with unique ingredients, nor was it a heirloom one. It was just a chicken curry, cooked fresh with freshly ground spices, that was had with rice for lunch and led to long hours of siesta afterwards. Yes, the siesta part stayed the same.

As we became global and more connected, that humble chicken or mutton curry was pushed aside for what seemed more fancy names like "karahi gosht" or "chicken rezala" or "coq au voin". Meat wasn't special enough to be cooked only on Sundays any more. You could have it any time. If not at home then outside. And since we all know that familiarity breeds contempt, we didn't really bother about "Sunday Dupur er Mutton Curry" any more. Until that is we grew older and nostalgia struck big time. We didn't want to eat mutton curry whenever we could, we wanted to wait, to build up that excitement for we finally understood that
Happiness is not in getting something but in the waiting.

In my home here, we eat chicken a couple times a week. Strangely we eat mutton maybe once in a couple of months. On a Saturday or a Sunday, when I cook chicken or mutton I usually stick to that same age old recipe my Mother followed on her Sundays.Nothing extraordinary, no special ingredients. I also cook with a lot of jhol. My daughters call this "Weekend er mangsho'r jhol". For them, it is a curry that has potatoes and enough gravy to be mixed with rice.

Here's the recipe of Sunday Dupur er Chicken Curry for the next gen. After wading many waters and making onion paste, grating onion, blah, blah, I have realized the easiest and simplest recipe works best. After all, who wants to waste all of Sunday making Chicken Curry for lunch ?

I also use a Radhuni Meat masala, which my friend had got for me from a Bangladeshi store. It is really good. In its absence use any other Meat masala.

To read about the Sunday tradition and goat meat curry click here - Bengali Pa(n)thar Mangshor Jhol
Another simpler recipe from my Ma-in-law of a mutton curry -- Robibar er Mangsho'r Jhol

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bangla-fied Kashmiri Fish Curry -- that is how we roll

Bengalis eat a lot of fish. Growing up, I think we ate fish almost every day of the week. Not Fridays, because that is my Mother's Puja Day and not Sunday because that was the National Bengali Mutton Curry Day. But all other days there was fish for lunch and dinner. And not just one kind of fish. We could go a month without repeating the same fish actually -- mourala, magur, shingi, chara pona, tyangra, pabda, parshe, rui, katla, bhetki, ilish, chingri, the variety was endless. With each kind of fish the fish curry too varied. Crispy fried mourala, a dry dish of tyangra with eggplants, a soupy curry of shingi, pabda in a mustard sauce, fried fish with bhetki, malaikari with chingri --- ahh just the names make my mouth water.

In my home here, we eat a lot of fish too. Not always the fish that I would actually love to eat but mostly the fish that my girls love. I had never thought being a mother would involve so much of "Mother India" martyrdom but that is what has happened. I cook what the girls will eat rather than I want to eat, just because it is difficult to cook 3 different dishes. This means though we eat a lot of fish, it always hovers between -- salmon, bassa, tilapia or prawns. To add variety I try to cook these fish in different ways, grabbing recipes from far east, unknown west and anything in between.

When I saw a fish curry posted by Anita @ A Mad Tea Party on insta, a few months back, I knew I had to make it. Her photo was so alluring that I wanted that fish curry right then. I pinged her for the recipe and the true blue Kashmiri that she is, she shared her home recipe with details as to what to do when and what to substitute. The recipe was not on her blog yet and so there was no measurement.

When it comes to recipes, I trust a "home-cooked" recipe above everything else and so I took her recipe of Kashmiri Fish Curry as the guide and then "Bangala-fied" it. Which means, I added all those ingredients that a Kashmiri wouldn't but a Bengali would when she doesn't have Kashmiri suggested ingredients.

So instead of thinned tamarind water --I had lime juice, Ginger powder --was subbed with grated Ginger, and the Ver Masala -- was replaced with Garam Masala but Anita had suggested this. And then i added some fried boris or vadis as we do in a maacher jhol often.

The gravy had no onion, tomatoes and was a thin, runny gravy just like our Bengali jhol. But what made it taste different was the fennel. What a lovely flavor it added and the mild sour punch of the lemon juice was so very refreshing. We all loved this curry and I have been making it often.
I dare not call it Kashmiri as I respect an authentic recipe and I think I deviated quite a bit from the original. We will just call this Bangla-fied Kashmiri Fish Curry and rest our case.