Saturday, October 13, 2018

Kashundi Narkol Mocha -- Banana Blossoms with Kashundi and Coconut

Last week my Mother, who was visiting us over summer, left for India. Just before she left, I brought home a mocha as I wanted to practically see how it is prepped. Yes, I had never chopped a Mocha before this. Blasphemy!

Mocha in Hawaii

Mocha, banana blossoms is a favorite vegetable in Bengal. In fact in Bengal, a banana plant is much revered. During DurgaPujo, she is the designated wife of Ganesha and lovingly addressed as "KolaBou". The raw banana is another favorite in Bengali cuisine and kaachakolar kofta is high up in culinary ladders jostling with the likes of kosha mangsho. The tender core of the banana stems, the apparent trunk, is another nutritious vegetable favorite in Bengali cuisine. It is is called "Thor", not the Nordic God, but as impressive.The flowers of the Banana tree, Mocha, often served as Mochar Ghonto or Mochar Chop represent the very pinnacle of niramish Bengali ranna.

I had always shied away from cooking Mocha as I thought the chopping would be a difficult task. You see, chopping Mocha (banana blossom) in the seclusion of your own home, in isolation does not make sense. It needs a community to efficiently peel, remove stamen, and chop Mocha with efficiency and speed.

After this effort, I have realized that chopping 1 or 2 mocha is not that big of a hurdle and that amount of blossoms is enough to serve a family of 4. So take heart and go ahead.

I initially wanted to make Mochar Ghonto but I love some of those "kaala chana" in my mocha and I didn't have those. So I decided to make shorshe narkol mocha but was too lazy to grind the shorshe aka mustard paste. So use the bottle of Kashundi instead.


It is time for my Mother to leave for India and now I realize that I haven't done any of the things I had planned to do with her.
I did not jot down recipes or make videos of her cooking.
Instead I just ate the variety of food she cooked without thinking of a recipe, cooked for her, sat down with her every evening drinking copious amounts of tea, joined her in her hangout with her friends(my neighbors) ,watched movies and saregamapa on Zee Bangla with her, took a vacation together, argued, disagreed and restrained myself from interfering when she spoiled my daughters๐Ÿ˜œ
And then I panicked!! Hey where are those videos I wanted to shoot? Where are the step by step photos of recipes?
My mom balked at me "Oi shob ami parbo na"( I am not doing any of those things).
Really Ma? You can cook kochuri for your granddaughters and not tell me how much turmeric you put in your Maacher Jhol? You know how important it is to measure a piece of ginger before you chop!!
My mom rolled her eyes ๐Ÿ™„ and walked away.
The only thing I achieved is getting her to demo -- HOW TO PREP A MOCHA ( Banana Blossoms )
This I needed for myself. Or Lord help me, if I ever buy a pretty looking #bananablossom and know nothing to do with it except put it in a vase or shove it up somewhere!!!
So here's the one and only video of my Mom instructing on #howtoprepmocha.
Statuatory Warning: Wear one of those plastic gloves unlike her and make sure you have lots of time to spare. ๐Ÿ˜…

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Easy Garlicky Chingri -- for Dugga Pujo

Durga Pujo is not a time to cook your own food. I mean ideally Ma Durga does not cook on these five days. Neither does Lokkhi, Saraswati, Ganesh or that Karthik? Maybe Baba Shib does, but then again I am not sure.So why should you , tell me?

And then if you do cook, who is going to eat it? I mean after eating bhoger khichuri at the pujo pandal, tons of phuchka just outside the pandal, egg roll on the left of the pandal, mutton biriyani only a few steps away from the pandal, fish kobiraji ordered by phone from the pandal, how will you eat the food cooked at home?
Thus it has been logically proven that there is ABSOLUTELY NO-NEED to cook during the Pujo days. QED!

But for us mere mortals, living away from such overdose of pandals, life is difficult.

Durga too understands our problem and mostly visits us only during weekends. During the week she is "chakki pishing and cooking dinner". Our relatives back home smirk at our plight and thank their stars that they did not go and get a visa stamped. They rustle their heavy silks, bite on their kashundi smeared fish kobiraji, pat their heavily powdered nose and lament, "Aha, ki koshto, Ashtami teo ranna korte hochche re?"

We look away from their kashundi-fied selfie, take deep breaths, think how claustrophobic the crowd in the pandals would make us feel and how all that phuchka can end in nothing good but gelusil and choan dhekur. "Jak baba, eikahnei bhalo achi", we reassure ourselves and contemplate on ways to make a mid-week Saptami dinner more interesting.

And then when the fall air carries with it a fragrance of wood smoke, we carelessly let our minds wander away to the pujo pandals of our childhood where amidst the heavy fragrant smoke of Dhuno, Ma Durga's face came alive with gorjon oil and after hours of fasting for anjali, steaming hot Khichuri in shaal pata doled out at the back of the mandap tasted no less than amrito.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What a Bittergourd Kismur -- on Independence Day

Tomorrow is India's Independence Day and all I can think of is I am in 3rd grade dressed in bottle green or khaki or some patriotic color safari suit kind of uniform, apparently like Subhas Bose, and standing on a stage with few more freedom fighters and not been given a single word to speak as per the script. I look almost like Jeetendra in a safari suit except that I also had to wear circular steel rimmed glasses like Bose and my hair was tucked under a cap.

And then came the calamity. Nope, nothing to do with Netjaji's politics. It was all to do with our Dhobiji actually.

That shirt had 5 medals pinned on it by my teacher, decorations like the INA military uniform. I thought they were gold. The Dhobiji cared neither for Netaji nor for his uniform.

Don't think his lot had improved in any significant way after independence. This was the early eighties.

Everyone in our neighborhood considered him as several caste lower and though they wore the clothes washed and pressed by him, they were acutely conscious of not indulging in any other touchy-feely relation with him. So much so, that my very staunch grandmother would instruct him to air drop the stack of freshly washed, ironed and folded clothes on the sofa, in fear that he did not touch any animate or in-animate object in our home.
Sigh!If I had someone delivering washed and folded clothes to my doorstep I would hug, kiss and even marry him right away.

So anyway, when that Jetetendra, oops sorry Subhas Bose uniform was sent to him to be washed and pressed so that I could return it in its pristine condition to the teacher, he did not pay as much attention to the medals and such. He was clever enough to know they weren't gold. The result of his nonchalance was that of those five medals one went missing. And my heart stopped in tracks right there. My heart was gripped with a cold, dismal fear just thinking what my very Catholic teacher in my very catholic convent school would have to say on this. The British were long gone but I was terribly afraid of my crisp English speaking teachers, with names like Mary and Bridgette, and who I was sure came from some foreign country.

I don't remember what exactly happened thereafter except that my father had to go and meet the teacher and blame the Dhobiji, who thankfully knew no English and so wasn't summoned to school. For the next few months my position as the teacher's favorite was upended by my other classmates and I moped and lived in fear and never looked forward to Independence day celebrations ever. I rather stayed in and watched the flag hoisting on TV.

And then many years later, I went and got married on Independence day as it was the last wedding day with the last wedding muhurta for the season as per the Hindu wedding calendar!!!

I am sure that no-caste Dhobiji had something to do with this. Or my Anglican teacher. ๐Ÿ˜œ

The only word to describe this whole situation is KISMUR. Yep, "what a Kismur", sums it all up.