Saturday, November 22, 2014

Phuchka na Fuchka -- street food in the house

The House usually lies empty at ten in the morning.
Except for the sounds that the house makes.


Creak of the wood frames.
Squeaks in the attic.
Hiss of the heating pipes that run unseen.
Rattle of the shingles.
Murmur of the wind across the glass window panes.

Ten is a time for the house to be by itself, to do as it pleases. Probably it soaks itself in the winter sun, stretches its limbs, relaxes and drinks a cup of tea in leisure.Maybe it turns on the TV and watches "Real Housewives of LA" in the glare of the sun.I don't know if it throws pakori and chai parties on days when the sky is grey and there is rain drumming on the windows but I have a hunch that on particularly cold days, when the sun is toasty and warm, it probably takes a nap.

As the sun shifts, throwing shadows from this room to that, circling the house, peeking in through one bedroom window and then another, the house dances, plays music and patiently waits.

And then the shadows get longer. The house shifts, wraps up the sun soaked throws, plumps up the cushions and gets ready. The creaks and the murmurs quieten. They know the house will no longer be by itself. With the yellow bus rolling to a stop at the curb, footsteps will run through the garage and voices will fill the house.

Today I was there with the house. It behaved very well, polite and well-mannered. No raucous parties. No tantrums. I soaked up the sun, took a nap, and  kept thinking how lucky the house was.


And then I made myself some Phuchka.

A very different ambiance to have Phuchka, I must say. I don't know how the "phuchka" felt in this ultra sterile and quiet environment. It probably missed the giggling young girls with their long and short plaits, their hearts yet to see disappointments, standing in a circle around the "phuckawallah", asking for more tamarind water, begging for a "fau". Sitting there, the phuchka probably gloated with pride and self-importance, its chest pumped high with all the attention.

Today I am sure it was bored, serving a middle aged woman , in a squeaky clean home with no sweat or dirt in site. It probably complained to the house. I couldn't hear them talk but I did hear them whisper.

It didn't bother me.I stood by the kitchen island, shoving my phuchka with the potato stuffing and then dunking it in tamarind water. Popping each ball in my mouth it crossed my mind that I will probably never stand in a circle around the phuchkawallah, with a posse of girls, begging for a fau again. Those days lie far behind. The burst of the sour "tentul jwol" in my mouth is something I will always enjoy though.

A few days ago I had made phuchka for Big Sis and few of her friends who had come over for a movie and pizza evening. They watched "The Fault in our Stars" and I hesitantly served them phuchka  to start off.  The girls were super excited at the mere mention of "golgappa". They weren't cynical enough to distinguish between phuchka, panipuri and Golgappa, so all was good. I had toned down the spices that day and some of them vouched that they can handle more "hot spice" than this.

Today for only myself, I upped the green chillies though. I have no measurements and I tasted and adjusted the spices. It is very simple so I am sure you can do the same. I used ready made puris but if you want to make your own KichuKhon has the recipe.

Tentul Jol or Tamarind Water

To make the tamarind water, soak a ball of seedless tamarind in about 2 cups of warm water for 15 minutes. After the tamarind softens, rub with your fingers to extract the tamarind pulp and mix it with the water.

Now strain this mixture into another bowl to get the tamarind water without any pulp

To the strained water add
Rock Salt/Kala Namak or Pink Salt
Bhaja Masla (Toast cumin seeds and red chilli and then grind to powder)
paste of 2 green chillies
little sugar
little lime juice
Chat masala
few coriander leaves finely chopped

Taste and adjust the above

Mix well and add about 1 cup more water.

For the Potatoes

Boil and mash Potatoes

Separately boil some yellow peas

To the potatoes add
Rock Salt/Kala Namak or Pink Salt
Bhaja Masla (Toast cumin seeds and red chilli and then grind to powder)
Chopped green chilli

Red chilli powder
few tsp of the tamarind water

Taste and adjust the spices in the mashed potatoes

Now add the yellow peas to the potatoes and mix well.

For the final Phuchka

Buy a packet of ready made panipuri

Toast them a little in the oven for you don't know how long they have been sitting at the grocers

Tap the puri at the center. Fill with potatoes. Dunk in tamarind water. Pop into your mouth

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fish Batter Fry or Fish Orly -- Bengali Style

I think I have said a million times on my blog, that I have spent a big chunk of my growing up years outside Kolkata. And by outside, I do not mean merely the suburbs, the once quiet localities where now the city has encroached with malls et al. But I talk about  places still further, where if you boarded the express train at night after dinner, you would wake up just outside Kolkata with the morning sounds of "Cha-Gorom Cha-Cha Gorom" from the chaiwallahs. This is just to make clear that even though I have lived later in Calcutta later, I am not as familiar with the so-called institutions of Kolkata as many of you are.

For a large part of my childhood, Kolkata, remained the city of winter vacations,wrapped in embroidered Kashmiri shawls and smelling of rich brown fruit cakes. December was the only time of the year when we would be spending one whole month at my Dida's home, eating, lazing and generally having the kind of time which memories are made of. Somewhere nestled among the sun soaked winter afternoons in Alipore zoo, escalator rides at RBI and the Birla museum, there were also "biyebaris",  weddings of several removed cousins of my Mother's and the wedding feast catered during the occasion.

The menu at these biyebaris scored high above those in our mofussil towns and the one thing I liked most about them was the "fish fry" served with slivers of purple onion and mustard at the start of the meal. Fillet of fish, usually Bhetki, was rolled in a coating of eggs and breadcrumb and then deep fried, to make the brown, crunchy fish fry. This technique, I later learned, is called "breading". One bite in the the crunchy outer layer, revealed the sweet fish inside, taking you straight to food heaven.

"Fish Fry" was a rage in the late 70's and early eighties in Kolkata and a wedding feast was not complete without them. Other than the weddings, fish fry was also sold at some restaurants and my uncles would often bring them home, packed in a paper bag with tell tale signs of oil spots and an aura of fried food around them. This delicacy was not available in the town we lived and so after a year's wait, the breaded fish fry in Calcutta seemed as magical as a snowflake to the child in the tropics.

When I asked my readers on Facebook, to nominate a Bengali dish to represent "F" in "A-Z of Bengali cuisine", a huge number said Fish Fry. Totally after my heart. This delightful and delicious example of the Anglo-Indian influence on Bengali cooking definitely deserves to be featured in "F".

The Anglo-Bangla Fish Fry

However I noticed that a substantial number of votes in the same thread went for "Fish Orly" Some were more specific and said "Bijoli Grill's Fish Orly". Now Fish Orly, is a batter fried fish preparation which I had never been particularly fond of. I am not a Kolkata veteran and the few times I have tried the "Bijoli Grill Fish Orly" at Nandan, I have not been blown off my feet. Maybe it is just me but I found "fish orly" greasy and not a match to the crunchy breaded "fish fry".I am sure, I ate fish orly at the wrong places all the time, and that is the reason never really appreciated this masterpiece.

At that time I had no idea what an "orly" was supposed to be, but cooking makes you learn a lot of things and only last week I learned that -- "À l'Orly is a French cooking term used to describe a preparation method usually used with fish fillets. The fish is usually a white fish such as sole, perch or cod.The fillets are skinned, battered and deep fried."

By the early 90's "fish orly" and "fish butter fry" (probably a mispronounced "fish batter fry") had shoved "fish fry" off the Bengali wedding menus. Bijoli Grill caterers were primarily responsible for introducing Fish Orly to the Bengali palate and most people loved it . They raved about it. The only thing I liked was the rolling of the french sounding name on my tongue. It made me feel oddly Parisian without an ounce of idea that "orly" was a French cooking term. I was clearly the square peg.

After the Facebook comments however, I decided to look up the hoo-haa over "Fish Orly". The technique sounded pretty simple. I had some swai filet in the freezer waiting to go in the oven. All else looked good, so instead of the oven, the fish's fate were decided in the orly. "If the Universe conspires and so forth..." .

I marinated the fish almost same as in a Fish Fry, a tad simpler actually. Then for the batter, I used an amalgamation of recipes on the internet for "batter fried fish". Some suggested corn flour but I skipped it. Flour, eggs, water, baking soda was it. Maybe a little more of the baking soda would have made the coating more airy but I decided to stick to a pinch. On a cold winter evening, the hot fried fish tasted pretty good. The girls loved it to the hilt. I still found it oily and realized that it tastes best when had right off the fryer.

Maybe that is why I never liked it in all those years ?

Fish Batter Fry or Fish Orly

I had fillets of Swai cut in 10 pieces. Each piece was about a 3"x 2" piece or smaller. You can use fillet of fish like Bhetki if in India or Cod, Tilapia when Bhetki is not available.

Make a paste of
2-3 fat cloves of garlic,
1 tbsp of peeled & chopped ginger,
2 green chili
with little vinegar. This is the paste that will be used to marinate the fish.

Alternately marinate with
1 tbsp of ginger paste(homemade)
1 tbsp garlic paste

Put the fish pieces in one single layer in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on them.

Marinade the fish pieces with
the paste from step 2,
1 tbsp of vinegar, 
squeeze of a quarter of lime
Make sure that all of the fish pieces are nicely coated with the marinade

Cover & refrigerate overnight. If in a hurry, half an hour to an hour is fine.

For the batter

In a bowl sift
1 Cup of All-Purpose Flour/Maida
a pinch of baking soda(approx. 1/4 tsp)
salt to taste
pepper powder to taste

To it add
1 egg beaten
1 Cup of  Water
1 tsp of vegetable oil

Whisk to make a smooth batter like you would for pancakes. Keep the batter aside for 10 minutes

Now heat enough oil for deep frying

Dip each piece of fish in the batter to coat and then deep fry in hot oil. Keep the heat to medium-high during frying. Fry each side for about 3 minutes each until the fish gets a golden coat.

Eat 'em hot.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Quick and Healthy Butter Chicken -- faux but easy

I have been planning to write about Fall, about Fall in New Hampshire, about Halloween but it seems I am seriously lagging. I will write about all of that when I get a little time but today let me do this post, only because this very easy and quick butter chicken is an absolute favorite with my daughters. Well, they actually like this Butter Paneer more but since this one has a similar gravy, they nod their head in unison and agree to put it on their favorite list.

Butter Chicken, quick and healthy

Now, I have said many times about Big Sis's aversion to eat chicken. Lately I have realized that her aversion is not because she is concerned about animal welfare neither because of any high moral grounds(don't ask me). She will eat chicken if I am using small pieces of chicken breast which have been made into a Chicken 65 or Chilli Chicken. Actually she will be more than glad to eat these dishes, at home or outside. She will also eat the chicken kababs I make for the egg roll. Yes, amazing. The bottomline is she will eat bite size pieces of chicken breast or tenderloin when cooked with enough spices.Honestly, who wouldn't?

After the dry chicken dishes, this butter paneer is another favorite of hers. With due respect to chefs of "Moti Mahal" who are held responsible for this calamity, that is loved so much across the globe that the face of Indian Cuisine in the West is the Butter Chicken, I post my recipe today. I usually balk when people take traditional recipes and turn it up side down or leave out important ingredients but I also practice the fact that  "In my kitchen, I will cook what works for me and what my daughters will like".

So here is my disclaimer.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kolkata Egg Chicken Roll -- Quick-easy version

IBM's Watson is being consulted by chefs to suggest new and exciting recipes. It can help in situations where you have people with dietary restrictions or in case of food shortage. Given a set of ingredients and the person's dietary restrictions Watson apparently creates and suggests recipe, by analyzing the key flavor compounds in the ingredients.

I am very very piqued to send off an e-mail to Watson with an ingredient list that reads
1.Frozen Parathas preferably Malaysian Parathas
4.Green Chillies

And the dietary instructions would read "For people whose senses have been assaulted with such a wide range of tastes and flavor that it is hard to surprise them".

What recipe do you think Watson would suggest given these requirements ?

But we don't need to send him(or is it a her) an e-mail as we all know what this will churn up.

Of course the quick and easy version of Kolkata Style Egg Roll or Kolkata Style Egg Chicken Roll.

Even a decade back, I wouldn't think of using any other name for it other than the simple "Egg Roll" or "Egg Chicken Roll". But I add the "Kolkata Style" just to make sure that you do not confuse it with the Spring Rolls which have gained popularity as Egg Rolls in American Chinese cuisine.

Honestly, I wouldn't even call them Kati Rolls as that was not a common nomenclature in the era I grew up."Roll Khaabi?" or "Roll Khabo" was the common lingo. Now I hear that the rolls at Nizam's were called Kati Rolls as the kabab was made in bamboo skewers also called "kathi" in Bengali.

Egg Rolls and Egg-Chicken Rolls are the most popular of all street foods in Kolkata. In fact "phuchka"(golgappa) and "egg roll" were the only street food that I was allowed to eat as an angst-y teenager. "Phuchka" was more of a girly kind of a thing and though some of my friends survived on a diet of "phuchka" and "tak water"(sour tamarind water), I wasn't one of them. When it came to egg roll it was another story. I can give anything for the authentic egg roll.

Even now when I go back home, the first thing I reach out for after the jet lag period is the egg roll at the street corner. That upsets my now mollycoddled tummy, I take entroquinols and after the dosage is done, again reach out for the egg roll.

All egg rolls or egg chicken rolls are not created equal and so do not spoil your senses by chomping on a egg roll at a tom-dick-harry place. If in Kolkata go out with a connoisseur to the right place. Hot Kati on the corner of Park Street was my personal favorite. Their rolls were oh so good. My Baba used to get egg roll from a place near home (some branch of Rahmania) which was also great. D's town has its own favorite egg roll stall and they swear by it.Every para(neighborhood) has their own famous egg roll counter and also their very own famous phuchkawala and you need to know the locals for that information.

I have been away from the country for a long time and I hear there are many famous "roll er dokan" across the state. All over India, this is now famous as "Kati Roll". Even NYC boasts of its own Kati Roll Company. If you have a "Roll er dokan" near your house, I would suggest you head straight for it to get your fix.

But, a sad but exciting "but",if you do not have anything like that, then resort to the husband-man's brilliant invention of Egg Roll with Malaysian Paratha. It is easy, quick and super delicious. For Watson's clients with calorie restrictions, I would suggest usage of whole wheat chapati or tortilla. However, in those cases, do not call it a "Kolkata Style Egg Roll". Please.

First we will prep the chicken

Cut 1 lb of chicken breast or chicken tenderloin in bite size pieces.

Marinate the chicken in
1/4th cup of hung yogurt( Put regular yogurt on a strainer and strain the excess whey to give a creamy yogurt)
2 tsp of Garlic paste
1 tsp of Ginger paste
2 tsp of tandoori masala(I use Rajah brand)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp of homemade Garam Masala
 for at least an hour.
I usually do it overnight so that when it is dinner time next evening, I already have something in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to make the egg rolls, take out the chicken. Add 2 tsp of melted butter or regular cooking oil and mix together.

Now pre-heat oven to 350F.

Put the chicken pieces on an oven rack with a drip tray below it. The drip tray ensures to catch the drippings and thus prevents any oven mess.

Cook the chicken in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking make the egg roll

Pictorial instructions

Buy Malayasian Paratha. Well, I mean you must have already bought it so take it out from freezer. This is really IMPORTANT. The quality of the Paratha plays an important part in egg roll. If making your own paratha, make the dough with Maida(All Purpose Flour) and enough shortening so that the paratha is very soft and pliable, You can use tortilla, whole wheat roti or the regular parathas, but it WILL NOT taste the same. The Malaysian parathas are very soft and make perfect rolls

Heat a tawa or a griddle on the stove. Put the paratha and cook both sides. Remove and keep aside

Beat one egg + 1 tbsp whole milk + little salt + little pepper

Smear the tawa/griddle/frying pan with little oil and pour the egg. Spread it out in a circle.

Once the egg is a little cooked on the edges, put the cooked paratha on top

When the edges of the egg starts browning flip the paratha + egg.Give it a couple of seconds.

Remove and assemble the filing. The filling goes only on the egg side.The standard filing for a Kolkata egg roll is thinly sliced red onions, thinly chopped green chili and thinly sliced cucumber. Squirt a little lime juice on them and put the filling on the center. Add tomato ketchup in a thin squiggly line along the center. The ketchup is debatable but I do like it on mine.
Note: I usually chop the onion and green chilli and let them sit in a tsp of lime juice while the paratha is getting done.

For Egg-Chicken Roll

Make the egg roll as above.

Now heat very little oil in a frying pan. Add thin slices of onion to it. Also add the chicken which by now is done in the oven. Saute till onion is soft. Make sure chicken is cooked through. Squeeze some lime juice on the chicken.

Assemble the filling. On the egg side of the paratha, add the chicken, fried onions, some raw onions and green chilli. Add a dash of Ketchup and Chilli sauce.

Place the whole thing on wax paper or newspaper or foil and start rolling from one end. When the roll has been wrapped, tuck in the bottom end of the paper.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Microwave Chocolate Kalakand -- simple pleasures

Durga Pujo is over for most of you unless you are in some town in the US where there has been a conflict of schedule regarding the pujo location and the high school was not available last weekend and so Durga Pujo will be done after Kali Pujo or at anytime the auditorium is available. But it will be done no doubt and with much glitter and gold. Ma Durga is on an extended vacation in the US and it works well for both her and her multitude of devotees.

We did have a nice few days of Pujo, clamoring to reach the mandap after work and homework every day. The girls look forward to the arati so much that homeworks got done in time and the 40 minute drive was endured with little fuss. The added bonus is the presence of their friends at the mandap which means weekdays out of the ordinary.

When I asked Little Sis to write about Durga Pujo this is what she wrote. Clearly, she is a Bangali who is more interested in minute details about the Proshaad than anything else.

The funniest thing she said though was after watching "Wild Kratts"(an animated nature series for kids on PBS) on Shoshthi.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Dugga Dugga

I had planned to post this short story on Mahalaya, but never got the time. So finally here it is. Shubho Bijoya.

"Ma, Ma, Maaaa", there was frantic rapping on the door, a heavy, ornate, teak affair , showing signs of age. The paint was peeling off around the middle but you knew that this was a door which had seen good times and kids.

"Uff, this girl, she won't me let me do even one thing in peace," Dugga muttered, frantically clicking on the mouse, while scanning the screen in front of her with utmost concentration.
"And that nonsense of a guy I married. Shiva. No idea of family planning, no stable job, no investments, nothing. Just went ahead and had four kids. Did he even once stop to think that five flight tickets to Kolkata every year would cost more than his five year's worth of pot?"

Her grumbling was interrupted by the phone which set off ringing in a jarring conch shell tone.

"Oshur, Mohisashur. Can you pick the phone ? This Oshur is an absolute lazy bummer. I must have been out of my mind to hire him as secretary. Should have killed him right there at the Pandal." Dugga grumbled.

Seeing no signs of Oshur, she extended her fourth hand on the right to pick up the phone. It is not as simple as it sounds though. Weaving through her three other hands and flowing tresses to get the phone to the ear was a task in itself.

"Hello? Ke bolchen?", Dugga said, her voice calm and polite like the lady at the T-Mobile Call Center.

A far off voice, anxious and tense, came over the airwaves -- "Ma, Ma. I am Mrs.Sen from Baguihati. You are our savior Ma. Only you can help me from my suffering.My son is in Singapore Ma and he says, I have to send a sari for his Malaysian girlfriend. What to buy Ma ? Too many choices these days. Chiffon, georgette, dhakai, silk is all I know. But now they say Satya Paul, Mora, Sabyasachi. How do I choose Ma? What if my son does not like what I send ?"

"Aa molo jaa, jotto shob. Baba Mortyobasi earthling, I have enough troubles of my own to sort first.I haven't been able to book my tickets yet and it is already Mahalaya. is giving me the cheapest fare via Sierra Leone. Do you know what that means ? What if my Karthik gets ebola and doesn't make it. Well, he will not be missed exactly. But what will happen if Oshur is infected ? Do you understand that kids will not even come to the pandal without him and Tanishq will not sponsor a single gold necklace? But no, you will not think of my troubles. All you are interested is in your son, family and saree. Haven't I told you umpteen times that all of this is just Maya."

"Maya? Ma, Maya Saree? Now that you have given me wisdom, that is the one I will buy Ma. Joi Ma Durga", said Mrs.Sen, from Baguihati

Dugga banged down the phone in frustration and looked back at the screen.

"Maaaa, open the door," the whiny voice outside the door got louder."Have to ask you something?"

"What is it now Lokkhi ? Can you not be on your own for even a minute? Told you I am working."

Lokkhi managed to open the door somehow and entered the study in spite of her Mother's ire. A pair of low cut jeans hugged her bottom and molded her shapely legs.

"Maa, do you think I look fat ?" she asked. Her hands at her waist, one leg in front of the other, her face tilted slightly upwards, she tried to pose like Alia Bhatt.

"Nope", said Mother without taking her eye off the screen.

Lokkhi pouted and swiveled this way and that.

A melodious, tinkling laughter came from behind the huge couch. There was Saraswati, snuggled in a corner,the latest best seller "Fault in our Stars" in hand.

"You know that you cannot pack that for our trip, right?" Saro said.

"Maaa, I can't take my new pair of jeans??? Really ??? Aren't we going to stop over at the France?" Lokkhi looked visible worried.

"No France baby. Too expensive. Looks like Air India is our only option. Go pack some nice sari" said Dugga.

"But Kol people wear jeans Ma. And even dresses. Minis too. Why can't I? I look fat in sari, " wailed Lokkhi

"Whatever," Saraswati said, "Kol people might like your jeans Di but not the Kol Police".

"Haah, easy for you to say. You are so fair. Those folks will not even see what you are wearing just because you are so white," Lokkhi grumbled.

"You are so clueless Di.Have you even heard of the Dark is Beautiful campaign? No one wants to be fair anymore Soon they will market a cream called Dark n Lovely. "

"That is just what the antel people are doing. When I go to Liluah and Baanshdroni, they put up the Fair & Lovely ad right in front of my face. And then they say my complexion is wheatish."

"Uff come on Lokkhi. You are supposed to be Goddess of wealth.Have some confi, mortyovasis will always like you. They love money even more than the tube of Fair & Lovely."

"Wealth? You make me laugh Saraswati. I don't even have a job. What wealth do I have?"

"Arre you don't have to like really "have" it. Just post a pic on Facebook with the latest BMW na and they will all like it and think you are rich. It is all in the mind, you see. And besides that, it is high time you got a job."

"Girls, can you just stop your jabbering. Did you see the news ? At Sreebhumi pandal they will make me wear diamonds and we will each get our own bodyguard. And in Ekdalia, it is all that gold again by Tanishq", Dugga exclaimed.

"Really Ma ? Really? Can I wear some too? Hope I get Salman Khan for my bodyguard", Lokkhi squealed. Her sorrow over sari forgotten.

Saro rolled her eyes and went back to her book. Kartik strolled in, hoping to make his case, amidst his sister's conversation.

"But hey Mom, what about me? Why do I have to be still bare chested and all? You know all that waxing really hurts.And then they make fun of me, compares my tummy with SRK's six packs.I am going to wear my T-shirt this time. And remember none of those naru, sondesh for me. I am on a diet. I will make do with egg Roll and biriyani."

'Baba Kartik, do whatever you want. Honestly no one cares. I would have left you with your Dad and saved on a ticket but the organizers want some kind of symmetry on both my sides so have to take you."

"Hrmmmph, you always always ignore me.You never loved me in the first place. Always you and Dad are partial to Ganesh", Kartik stomped his feet and looked like he would burst into tears.

"And you love Lokkhi more than me too. I am the one who has to do all the studying and play the veena and practice my singing, while all Lokkhi does is paints nails and watches MTV. Not fair Ma", Saraswati joined in.

"Seriously can we have some peace here ? I have just come back from nine days of brain numbing Yo Yo Honey Singh and I have to go back there again. Do you even understand what I am going through ?" wise Ganesha strolled in, his belly fatter than what it was two months back.

"Yes, yes, we all know, nine days of modaks and laddoos are showing their signs Dada. You better sign up for the gym fast."

"Hey Kartik, don't act smart with me ok ? I don't complain because I know that Ma has to run this family and the moolah comes from our annual tours. But seriously these earthlings are getting on my nerves. They invite us and then expect us to kow tow to all their wishes. We cannot just continue to do things we don't like because the society says so"

"Baba Ganesh, what exactly do you want to say? Your mouse is giving me enough trouble and at this age all this online booking is driving me crazy. Given a choice I would have gone to Mars on vacation than the Earth."

"Well Ma, I mean if Lokkhi wants to wear her jeans, let her, it is okay. #hokkolorob. And Karthik doesn't always need to be bare chested, it is high time you realize that he is no match to Sallu. Even Tollywood has Parombroto these days. Saro, if you don't want to play the veena and do rap, go ahead but think wisely before you give up on it. And finally Ma, I think it is high time you decide what you want to do with Baba. A irresponsible , crazy guy like that doesn't deserve you. I think you should just move out."

"And also Ma, can you just stop hankering for diamonds and gold.Have you forgotten the fragrance of  garlands made of the orange stalked shiuli?"

Dugga, Lokkhi, Kartik and Saro stared, their mouth agape and their eyes wide.

Finally Dugga said, "Baba Ganesh, no doubt they call you Siddhidata.Tell those organizers at Ekdalia, I am boycotting pandals with diamond and gold. Karthik, go find where they have made garlands of shiuli  picked before the first sun's ray touches them. I will stand there where the kaash phool sways in the autumn breeze under the azure blue Sharat akash. If I am going to Earth on my vacation, it better be in my terms.And when we are back next week, get me a lawyer Ganesh will ya?"

"I think I will keep playing the Veena," murmured Saraswati.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

D is for Dim Kosha and Dhokar Dalna

The A-Z series that I had started is still very much in its fledgling state. With each letter I am even more confused with the wide array of dishes that deserve a place. Thinking of D, I made Dim er Devil, Doi Maachh, thought of making Dhokar Dalna but skipped as it was too much work and then finally decided to give Dim Kosha the place that it so rightly deserves. Well, at least I think so. I love eggs, simply love, love them and when it is the letter "D", Dim or Eggs are in the forefront in my dictionary.

This time the Dim Kosha was made with "Haansher Dim" or Duck eggs. The husband-man has this uncanny fondness for Duck Eggs. It might be something about the town he is from, for anyone who is from there reserves a certain reverence for "Haansher Dim". Now my family was not keen on Duck eggs and it is Murgi ke ande in round wire baskets sold by Maulbi ji  which were staple in our home, so this longing for Duck eggs took me long to understand.

The first time I had Duck Eggs was when I visited my in-law's house in this laid back town which is few hours away from Kolkata and has an abundance of lush greenery.I could sense that the whole family was very excited about Haansher Dim and the kosha that would follow. The husband-man was brimming at the possibility of finally treating me to this delicacy.The way they went on about it, you would think it was some expensive caviar from France, but then really who likes French caviar? There was some uncertainty about the "dimwala" running out of duck eggs and finally when the guy rang his cycle bell around 11 in the morning, everyone ran to the gate expecting a miracle.

When I saw the eggs, they seemed pretty ordinary to me albeit larger. There was nothing ordinary about the Kosha that followed though. It was out of this world and the yolks of those eggs were more creamier than I could imagine.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Back to School and School Lunches

School started last Thursday after a long summer break. Yeah really long. I think I have talked about "long summer breaks" enough in my last 3 posts which spanned over 2 months, to ascertain that they are indeed long. You have probably also realized that of the 2 adults and 2 kids in my house, the one who was most depressed about "back to school" was me. But I couldn't complain much because after all I am the Mother and it is my joi de vivre towards new school year that is going to influence innocent young minds. So I took a couple of Prozac, three deep breaths and told them how exciting the year is going to be.

Not that the Prozac convinced me to really think that way. After all you need something much stronger to think, that a dreary stretch of 180 days where the morning alarm goes off at 5:30, is indeed exciting. Maybe Faith, resilience and a "positive attitude" will work. I have heard those are wonderful miracle workers and I need to find them ASAP.

So far, we have survived 56 7 school days. Bus for the new middle school-er comes at 7:15 in the morning. I have managed to not hit the snooze button more than 3 times and wake up latest by 5:45. Okay today actually it was 6:15 but everything still worked fine and no one missed the bus. I even carried my cup of tea to the bus stop which is right across our house and sipped my cha, enjoying the crisp morning air. This is actually the right moment when I should start worrying about  the bitter cold mornings of January, but I won't because the Prozac is probably working. Or maybe the deep breath.

And then bus for the new first grader comes right after 8. At this point I should have let out a loud wail as I shall never have both the sisters attending the same school and going by the same bus at the same time. NEVER.You understand how heartbreaking that is. But I will not wail as the deep breath is weaving magic.

Thankfully because of  all the early morning cacophony LS is all ready and raring to go by 8. The first day of her first grade I worried a lot. This would be the first full day school for her. Kindergarten was only half a day and though she did got to a full-day day care , it was only a couple of days a week. I was sure she would fall asleep in the bus or in class. For some inexplicable reason I also worried that she would not be able to find the restroom. Well, this does have roots in my own childhood but that story later. And then like all Bengali Mothers I worried that she would not eat lunch and go hungry.

The Goofy First Grader
Nothing like that happened. I am a chronic worrier. Not "warrior". But "worrier". I worry a lot and I am really amazed that the girls did not inherit this tiny code in my DNA. They do worry about things like whether the garage door has been shut and the front door locked at night, stuff I forget to worry about, but on other aspects they are much more fearless.No wonder they jump on all those amusement park rides that go high up in the air while I close my eyes tightly, clench my heart and recite "Hanuman Chalisa"

Mostly it was LittleSis's calmness that amazed me. Probably being the second born, my expectations from her are more flexible. She was a tad anxious the day before school started but I told her a funny story where everyone from the Principal to the lunch lady is anxious about school and that relaxed her.The next day she dressed and got ready all by herself and walked to the bus with a big smile. Her being able to navigate first grade with perfect ease and without a single melt down surprised me. Keeping my fingers crossed.**No Jinx**.

BigSis too seemed to take to middle school with elan except of course for the lockers.

"How was your homeroom teacher BigSis? Do you have homework?"

"She was great. But I got the top locker and I am not tall enough so I swapped for a bottom locker".

"Okay, how was the science lab?"

"Good but the lower locker got jammed and has a different combination.I need to have more practice with lockers. Don't you have one at home which I could open? Do you think I can skip lunch tomorrow and practice opening my locker instead?"

"Did you make any new friend?"

"You know there is this one girl who got a tiny chandelier and a pink furry rug for her locker"!!! And this is real. The girl even got a pink wallpaper for her locker

You would think middle school is all about lockers and lockers alone. After a few days of  locker swapping, jamming and what not it seems she is a pro on lockers.

The first few exciting days will slowly give way to more homework, tests and a routine. Things will start falling into place, five more minutes of sleep will be squeezed in and I will pack sloppier lunches.

Lunch Menu

The first week I tried to be very organized with a menu printed on the board. There were slight deviations from there but more or less we followed the norm. After school snacks included Mini Wontons from Costco, Milk, Maggi and eggs.

Day 1 -- Snack for LS -- Goldfish and mini oreo. Lunch -- Pasta with basil pesto + Honest kids Juice + Belvita cookies for BS

Day 2 -- Snack for LS -- Goldfish and mini oreo. Lunch -- Grilled Cheese sandwich + Honest kids Juice + slice of Date cake

Day 3 -- Snack for LS -- Grapes. Lunch -- Indian Style noodles with vegetables for both + slice of Date cake

Day 4 -- Snack for LS -- Pocky Sticks. Lunch -- Bagel with butter and Bagel with jalapeno cream cheese + plum + chicken nuggets

Day 5 -- Snack for LS -- Goldfish and mini oreo. Lunch -- Macaroni  + chocolate milk for LS and Date cake for BS

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Shob Phaler Achaar -- Mixed Fresh Fruit Chutney

Phaler Achaar -- Mixed Fresh Fruit Chutney
Shob Phaler Achaar -- Mixed Fresh Fruit Chutney
I have been away from the blog for a long while and believe me I missed it so much. I wanted to sit down and type something out every day and I had this kind of lurch in the pit of my stomach because I was procrastinating.And then again there was so much going on that it seemed sheer crazy to sit at the computer while life passed me by.

It has been a "happening August" here in the BongMom household with the girls' paternal grandparents visiting from India and then their aunt(pishi) and cousin joining in for a couple of weeks. The best part was that darling aunt had scheduled her holiday to coincide with LS's birthday which meant that birthday fun just doubled and tripled.

LittleSis turned 6 this year and I had not really planned for a birthday party beyond a small family affair. For one, she wanted to invite her school friends and I am a lazy Mom who thought it was too much work to track down and invite school classmates during summer vacation. I mean it was doable but too much work.So a small homely birthday was the call of this year.

Now over the summer both the girls have acquired young friends in the neighborhood. And that has turned summer afternoons into those similar to my childhood in India. Where there are kids playing on the driveway and sidewalk, spilling from one home to the other, late until dusk sets in and the street lights flicker to a warm orange glow. In this scenario it was only natural that the neighborhood friends were invited to a "birthday party" by LS, a birthday party which I, the ignorant Mother, had imagined to be a small family affair.

Eventually the birthday which was on a weekday turned into a fat, colorful party on the day itself. Those who could come, came. In throes of panic I got a bounce house which the kids enjoyed a lot. BigSis took over as the games organizer and made the group of kids, who were in a varying age range, play games. Her games were quite interesting and included a game called sardines(take on the age old hide n seek), treasure hunt and balloon popping.Food was outsourced and there was shingara, vegetable chop, chana chaat, pasta and Chettinad biriyani. Kids cried, laughed, fought and enough chaos happened. And like every year, I sweared swore to not throw any more birthday party until LS turns 12.

A quick recuperation from the birthday was followed with visits to the beach and park with cousin who is the same age as LS and therefore great pals. During the weekday I managed to sneak out with sis-in-law for sushi, a movie (The Hundred Foot Journey), dinner at a Portuguese place and of course Thai. And then a two day trip to a kids' amusement park was thrown into the medley.

I am very glad that BS and LS get time to spend with both sides of the family almost every year.  These childhood days are precious and the memories they make with family will go a long way.

School starts tomorrow and summer is over. A year worth of new stuff is waiting for both the girls. I should be excited but honestly, I am not.

To start off the blog after this long break, I will share a chutney, something we call a pickle in Bengali, a achaar. It is not really a pickle, but a Bengali ascribes a chaatni as something that cannot be preserved and needs to be served to finish off a meal, while pickle or achaar is something that has a long life. This particular chutney or achaar has vinegar which means it stays well for a month or two. It is made up of a mix of different kinds of fruits, sweet and sour and is a delicious accompaniment to crackers, paratha or roti.

This recipe was something my mother-in-law learned from mys sis-in-law's neighbor!!! It is sweet, spicy, sour and has a definite kick. If I think of it, it is like a family.

Shob Pholer Achaar -- Mixed Fresh Fruit Chutney

What you need for this Fresh Fruit Chutney is lots of different kind of fruits and vegetables to begin with. Fruits with a balance of sweet and tart.

I had 1 green mango, 2 plum, 1 apricot, 1 apple, 1 carrot, and about  6 sweet peppers. Chop all of these fruits in small pieces.

Now slice about 6-7 pods of garlic in thin slices. If you want it hot slit 4-5 green chillies.

Heat about 5 Mustard Oil in a wide Kadhai or saucepan, which will give you enough surface to cook.

Temper the oil with 3/4th tbsp of PaanchPhoron and 3-4 dried red chilli.

When the spices sizzle and sputter, add the garlic slices. Saute for a few seconds, do not let the garlic brown.Now add the fruits and green chilli. Stir the fruits around and let them soften a bit. With the kind of fruits I mentioned here, it did not take long for them to soften.

Now add about 1/2-3/4th  Cup Vinegar and 1/3rd cup of sugar. Add sugar according to your taste and the sweetness of the fruits. If you think that the fruits are sweet enough add little sugar. If they are tart, add more. Add salt to taste.

Now the fruits will release water. Let them simmer and thicken. Taste and adjust for the thickness of the chutney. Take a spoonful out and put on a plate to check that the consistency is thick and not runny. In this case, it was done in about 20 minutes or so.

Once the chutney cools, put in a jar and refrigerate. It stays well for a month or two.

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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, soufflês 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."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Quick Corn Chaat-- and Legos are for all

Corn Chaat Quick and Easy

This post is going to be about a quick and easy Corn Chaat for you to serve as a side with all the  barbecuing you might be doing, but more importantly about Legos and my rant. So, bear with me.

A few weeks back I was at LS's school(kindergarten) for some show that they had put up. As expected there were other Moms there, most of whom I had never met, and pleasantries were exchanged.

In lieu of these conversations a mother of a little boy asked me, "Does LS play with Legos?". Her voice bordered just that little bit on curiosity and disbelief.

I was a little taken aback by the question. A big box of Lego is very much a part of our play room. It has been so for years now, since Big Sis was born. Many years ago, my previous workplace was donating boxes of basic Lego bricks after a lego competition and I had lugged a huge box home anticipating a future where I would not have to buy any other toys, because of course there were Legos. These were the basic Lego bricks, in red, blue, green, yellow and white, all the exact same size.

When BigSis was around two, I bought her another Lego box, this one too just had the bricks but they were at least in various sizes. And since this huge pile of Lego takes a prime spot in the playroom, it was only natural that LS got introduced to it.

So, I wasn't really sure what this lady wanted to know and I said, "Yes, LS does play with Legos. But she plays all kinds of things with them".

Which is in fact true. LS uses Legos to make food for her kitchen, she uses them to make cake, to make cell phones and even wrapped cereal bars !!! She even devises complex games, like shown above where one player has to throw legos down a chute and the other has to guess the color, to play with them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chhanar Dalna | Chanar Dalna -- Bengali Cottage cheese cubes in gravy

Chanar dalna | Bengali paneer | Chhanar dalna
Chhanar Dalna | Chanar Dalna -- Bengali Cottage cheese cubes in gravy

Chanar Dalna a Bengali delicacy | Chhanar Dalna

Chanar Dalna or Bengali Paneer Curry is usually made with homemade chhana/paneer in a light sweetish curry with potatoes and spiced lightly with garam masala.

Summer vacation starts today in my part of the world. More than two months of long, languorous, warm days stretch ahead. Last week Big Sis's school had a small ceremony marking their moving up to sixth grade which is middle school. She and her friends were pretty upset to bid good bye to their teacher and there were much tears and hugging. Come September we will be adjusting to a whole different school routine, attitude and hormones. Little Sis also moves to first grade and there will be another school and routine for her too. Hopefully no hormones there. But we will think of all that later. For now, we will only think of long lazy days.

I love summer vacations, even when they are not mine and my daughters'.

Now, as I have said many times, BigSis loves Paneer. This is probably the one thing in food, toward which her loyalty has not wavered over the years. Paneer in Chanar/Chhanar Dalna , Butter Paneer or Palak Paneer. She loves them all.

Chhanar Dalna, Chanar Dalna, Paneer Dalna
Bengali Chhanar Dalna

In most other case, her food choices have changed, taking its own shape, gently molding the menu I try to set. While as a child she used to love her "Chicken Jholu Bhatu" these days she does her best to avoid all kinds of meat. She is no longer fond of fish and eats egg just to get by. I have no idea where she gets here vegetarian traits from but her love for aloo posto, tauk er dal and kadhi sure comes from me. And yes, her love for Paneer is an almost exact replica of my love for Chhanar Dalna.

Chhanar Dalna and Posto would be a staple in our home on Fridays. It would also pop up twice or sometimes thrice in the course of the week but if it was Friday then it was almost sure that Chhanar Dalna was on the menu. There was a reason behind this. On Fridays, my Mother kept a fast and therefore did not cook any meat or fish on that day. For some reason unknown to me, she felt that one day of not having any protein would render us weak and feeble. Trust me, there was not a sign in my health to make her believe such. But she steadfastly did. And according to Bengalis that protein can never ever come from a "dal" or lentils.

So, my Mother made Chhana. Dilligently. Week after week. She boiled whole milk and squeezed lime juice in it until the milk had a rent and tore apart to form blobs of white cotton like milk solids suspended in a greenish whey. She then drained the whey out on a piece of starched white cloth, usually cut from one of one of her old saris and washed and dried to act as a cheesecloth. That paneer or chhana then rested under the weight of our black stone nora until all the water was squeezed out.