Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vegetable Tikkis or Croquettes -- Kids Summer Snacks

One month of summer holidays is already over, and though I wonder how time flew so quickly, in reality quite a few things were done.

The most important was Big Sis getting her Black Belt in Taekwondo. They had tested just before the vacation and the rank ceremony was around end of June. While Big Sis is now a certified Black belt, Little Sis who was very reluctant in the beginning classes is now a proud Brown Belt. Big Sis is not and never was an aggressive child and I feel this taekwondo class has improved her strength and confidence a lot. She had started out at the age of about five and the five plus years of training has made her a stronger girl.

Then for the Fourth of July we went away to a dear friends' place for a lazy relaxed few days which involved lots of ice cream eating and lolling around under the tress in their backyard.

In between, the girls and their neighborhood friends did a lemonade stand. They also started on their swimming and Little Sis enrolled for a Bharatnatyam workshop where her friend goes too. She likes gymnastics better she says and the "mudras" are confusing her, so we will have to see how it goes in the future.

We also made regular trips to the library and Little Sis graduated to chapter books. She took a fancy for Nancy Clancy and read the two books that she got in the library.

Though a much awaited trip to the Water Park had to be canceled due to family reasons, we managed a short trip to a quaint shore town with lighthouse, beach and a lovely town square.

And then of course there was the World Cup taking over regular life.

There is almost one and half month of vacation still to go and I hope it only gets better.

While summer means whole two months of lazy, no-school, minimal routine days for the kids, it also means a time when every 30 minutes a question pops up --"I am hungry. What can I have?" This is a hard question to battle and a lot of the times I get by suggesting fruits, yogurt, cookies. If things get really bad, I keep a box of snacks, otherwise labeled as junk in the garage, which is then offered to quell hungry minds.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dim er devil -- deviled eggs Bengali style

Dim er Devil | Deemer Devil

One good thing that has come out of my attempt to do A-Z of Bengali Cuisine is to cook Bengali dishes which I might have forgotten about or which I might not have cooked otherwise. So, thinking of the next letter "D", it struck me that I have never posted a Dim er devil (Deemer Devil) recipe. Actually I have not even made a Dimer devil in the last 8 years. And before that maybe once. Bad track record, but then I have said many times, I do not deep fry much.

The strangest thing is 4 years ago, I had made a Maacher Chop with Argentina playing Netherlands. 4 years later, I made Dim er Devil with Argentina playing Germany. Football stresses me to deep fry I guess.

Dim er devil is not deviled eggs, though it owes its name to a similar root. It is a very popular snack for most Bengalis and my Mother used to make it very often. When she made it, I had no clue that there existed a deviled egg. I also had no clue how a strapless dress holds itself up. Well, we are deviating but I did have that doubt. And still am not sure. Honest.

Now according to western recipe sources, deviled eggs are hard boiled eggs, shelled and cut in half, and then filled with the cooked egg yolk which had been taken out and mixed with mayo, seasonings etc. They are served cold and as you can understand pretty simple to make.Roots of this deviled eggs can be traced back to ancient Rome.
What I did not know was, the first known printed mention of ‘devil’ as a culinary term appeared in Great Britain in 1786, in reference to dishes including hot ingredients or those that were highly seasoned and broiled or fried. By 1800, deviling became a verb to describe the process of making food spicy. According to the dictionary, the cooking term devil means 'to chop food finely and mix with hot seasoning or sauce, usually after cooking'.

This gives us an idea of how the current day Bengali Dim er Devil got its name. It was based on the original recipe of the devilled egg introduced by the British rulers of  Kolkata in the era of the Raj. The Raj kitchens were manned by Khansamas, who were  from central and eastern India, Goa, Madras, Nepal and the Mog community of Bangladesh. Before working for the Raj, they worked in the kitchens of the princely states of India where they started off as kitchen boys helping the chief cook. With their culinary instinct and innovation they grew into such exceptional chefs that their talent is now legendary.

With the end of the princely states, life became hard in the royal kitchens and the khansamas found jobs in clubs, army mess and British Raj households. The British memsahibs taught them European cuisines and introduced them to western techniques and ingredients. The khansama made puddings in tandoors, souffl√™s in steamers and roast duck in dekchisThey are responsible for much of the amalgamation of British cuisine with Indian methods and thus introducing chicken jal frezi, caramel pudding and chicken cutlets to the  Indian society. You can now well imagine that when it came to deviled eggs, they were not merely satisfied by stuffing the egg with a spicy filling but went a step ahead to coat and fry it like a chop or croquette and thus giving birth to "Deem er Devil".

Edited to Add: After a few comments from readers on Facebook and here, I found that British Scotch Eggs are closer to our "Deem er Devil". Apparently the British department store Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented it in 1793. But again, they seem to have imitated the Moghul recipe of  "Nargisi Kofta", where hard boiled eggs are encased in a covering of spicy keema and fried after which they are put in a special gravy. These Koftas when served, were cut in half and the yellow center surrounded by the white resembled narcissus flowers blooming in spring(Source of name). That is apparently how they got their name. After all this research, it then looks like that "Deem er Devil" was the brainwave of a Bengali Khansama who was inspired by both these recipes.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

C is for Chingri Malaikari and Chhanar Dalna

After much thought and deliberation on the third letter of A-Z of Bengali Cuisine -- C is definitely for Chingri Malaikari aka Prawns in a Coconut milk gravy. Pheww, am I happy to make that decision or what.

And to honor the fact, I am re-publishing the Malaikari post. Since it is also in the book, I had taken it down from the blog. But now it is back again. This long weekend, celebrate 4th of July with a sumptuous Malaikari. Happy Independence day for US folks and for all others Happy Friday.

Chingri Maacher Malaikari | Prawn Malaikari

Chingri Maacher Malaikari -- Prawns in a spicy coconut milk gravy

Though Chingri Malaikari is the winner, Chhanar Dalna comes a close second, a very close second.

On its heels are the following:

Chitol Maacher Muithya -- Fish dumplings made from the fish Chitol and cooked in a gravy.This recipe is shared by a Bong Mom's Cookbook reader Rituparna Moitra.

Charchari -- A Bengali vegetable melange

Cholar dal -- The Bengali Chana Dal with coconut and whole garam masala

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Rituparna Moitra's Chitol Maach er Muithya

A few weeks back I was asking my readers for their favorite Bengali Recipe with the letter "C", as a part of the crowd-sourced "A-Z of Bengali Cuisine" that I am trying to do. Of the various ones that came up, one was Chitol Maacher Muithya.

Now growing in a Ghoti family, Chitol Muithya was not a dish I had heard of in the entire course of my childhood. Chitol Maach( also known as Clown Knife fish, Google tells me) was my Mother's favorite fish and she loved this beautiful oily fish in a mustard gravy made with  a certain cut of the fish called "peti". However she never ever cooked or even mentioned a Muithya.

I do not remember how or when or why I first heard of Muitha. But when my cousin sister got married to a "Bangal" family and her brand new mother-in-law cooked a chitol muitha for us, I was in love with this new dish. The steamed and fried balls of the minced chitol fish in a spicy gravy took my heart. It was very close to the fish koftas my Mother made but not quiet.

It is apparently more of a "Bangal" (Bengalis from East Bengal) specialty than Ghoti(Bengalis originally from West Bengal). The bony part of the chitol fish, the "gaada", which is not as coveted in gravy as the "peti" is used to make these steamed and fried fish dumplings. The name "Muithya" probably comes from "Mutho" or "Muthi", a Bengali word for fistful and refers to the fact the fish meat is to be taken in the palm of one's hands and shaped into a ball.

In spite of my severe longing for the muitha, my Mother never made this dish at home. She dismissed the whole process of cleaning the chitol of flesh and bones as "too much work".I had it a couple more times when my sister's Ma-in-law made it and always had a fondness for this dish.

Surprisingly, like my Mother, I never attempted to make this dish. Too difficult, I dismissed. So, when Chitol Maacher Muithya came up as one of the favorites in the category "C", I decided to ask my readers to share their recipe. It is a precious Bengali recipe, too precious to be lost, even if it is not my Mother's or my grandmother's.

When Rituparna Moitra, a reader of my blog, kindly sent me the detailed recipe with pictures, I had all intentions to cook it. But then, I realized I wouldn't be doing it anytime soon. So with her permission, I am sharing this treasured recipe from her and her family's kitchen, exactly as she narrates it. I could not have done this dish justice and so over to Rituporna for Chitol Maacher Muithya in her own words.

Thank you much dear Rituporna. All Pictures and Writing in this recipe are copyright of Rituporna Moitra. Please give her a warm welcome.

Chitol Maach er Muithya | Fish Dumplings
Rituparna Moitra's Chitol Maach er Muitha

Rituparna says...

 "I am currently residing in Arlington, VA. I completed my grad school in Boston & doing my post doc research at FDA for the past one year.

Cooking is my passion & as much as I try out new cuisines & recipes, I regularly cook our 'traditional' Bengali recipes. Most of these recipes are recreations based on memories of taste bud from the food my mom would make for us.

Chitol er muithya is one such recipe which I remember Ma making once in my teenage years to serve for some special house guests.

She would scrape the flesh off the chitol "gaada" ( I always confuse between peti & gaada) with a spoon by moving the spoon against to the direction of the flesh to minimize bones coming out. Then she would spend hours removing the fine bones to make chitol keema , the main ingredient for this recipe.
In this world of globalization, we in the US get a lot of things 'export quality' & catered to our needs. One such being packaged chitol keema in frozen section of Bangladeshi stores. A friend once got 'blackfish paste' from an Asian store in a similar wrapping for me to make muithya but the end result was not good.

Here is what I do with the chitol keema. I am bad with quantifying ingredients but will try to include details as much as possible."