I am a sucker for Posto. Even as a kid, I loved Posto more than anyone at home.
Posto or the tiny beige seeds of Indian Poppy(Khus Khus), ground and seasoned with mustard oil, green chili and little coarse salt, the Kancha Posto bata was a favorite. The fresh smell of the wet ground posto, ground with little water on the shil-nora the black pock marked stone, was like the smell of the wet earth after the first rain. When this ground paste was mixed with a liberal sprinkle of golden yellow pungent mustard oil and slit fiery green chilis the simple paste became filled with a sharp new taste. With white rice it was heaven.
The bare wet ground posto formed the base of several other dishes in Posto loving Bengal. The mornings my Ma doled out those fine beige poppy seeds to be soaked in water and later to be made into a paste by the daily house help, I would be ecstatic. I knew there would be alu posto, posto'r bara(poppy seed paste mixed with rice flour etc. and made into fritters) and always a little posto bata waiting for me at dinner.
My Probashi and Ghoti family teased me for my love of Posto. They said, that I should be married off to a Bangal and then I could have as much Posto as I liked.Being away from Bengal for long, they didn't know that Posto or Poppy seeds was not a staple for the Bangal, in fact for people from East Bengal(now Bangladesh) Posto is not even deemed as important as it is to People from West Bengal.
Posto was actually the food of the people of Rarh, the "land of red soil" on the westernmost corner of West Bengal. More so for the people of Bankura and Birbhum district in this area. This region has a very dry and hot climate and they believe posto has the effect of a coolant and protects them against the heat. In the days when there was no restriction in cultivating Indian poppy and farmers in this area grew poppy in abundance, the posto seeds became an integral part of their diet. A mid morning meal of posto and bhaat protected the farmers from the searing, dry heat as they worked in the open fields.
As the price of the posto or Indian Poppy seeds has been rising, the poor in Bengal can hardly afford an ingredient which once formed a key part of their meal.
Now to the Kundru Posto or Tindora in Poppy Seeds Paste. Kundru or Tindora was not vegetable common in Bengal. I can barely recall any Kundru-is dish from my childhood. In fact Tindora is or was as far removed from the Bengali Food Culture as is Posto Bata from the Punjabis. I started cooking Tindora or Kundru only after coming to the US, sometimes you need to travel miles to recognize something that was once close to you.But even then I made it not too often.
When I saw Sharmila's Kundru Sabzi, I loved the idea of tossing the vegetable with so many spices and then cooking it. And then I also loved how a friend made fried Tindora with some whole poppy seeds sprinkled on top. So why not make a Kundru Posto I thought and as a fusion why not toss the Kundru with some spices before cooking ? And that is how we made Kundru Posto or Tindora in Poppy seeds paste, an inter-region marriage of a vegetable and a condiment from two different regions of India.
A bowlful of this vegetable followed with a bowl of dal is a satisfying meal by itself. But to get the full flavor and taste you need to eat it with white rice
Sadly I have no measurements and will update this recipe when I remember to take measures next time
Chop Kundru or Tindora vertically in 4 longitudinal slices.
In a bowl toss the chopped kundru/tindora with little oil, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder , dry mango powder(aam choor), little turmeric and salt.
Heat White Oil in a Kadhai. Temper the oil with Nigella Seeds/Kalonji and Dry Red Chili
When the spices pop, add the kundru/tindora now coated with all the spices. Saute for a couple of minutes and then cover with a lid.Cover and saute intermittently till kundru softens.
Add dry ground poppy seed powder or a wet paste of poppy seeds, and mix well. Add a little water and cook till the tindora is cooked and the water has dried up. Adjust for salt and seasonings
Other similar Posto dishes:
Jhinge Chingri Posto
Trivia:In 1757 the last nawab of Bengal was dethroned by the British East India Company, who concentrated on maximizing the cultivation of opium in Bengal. The drug promised to generate huge profits, not only in the local market, but also in a far bigger one—China. The company’s greed was so great that at one point they forced farmers in much of Bengal to devote all their arable land to its cultivation. So it’s not surprising that the posto seeds produced in this enormous poppy-growing zone became such an important element in the local diet. (From this lovely article by Chitrita Banerjee)