Monday, April 27, 2015

Somnath's Raasta'r Ghugni -- Ghugni from the street

Bengali Ghugni

Ghugni or Ghoognee is a very very popular snack in Bengal and in parts of Bihar and Orissa. It is made with dried white peas and cooked with myriad spices including Bhaja Masla.While the Northern India has its Chhole, Bengal has its Ghugni.

But as a child growing up in a Bengali home, I never liked Ghugni much. Our neighbor Jain Auntie's deep brown Chhole is what I salivated over. Though Ghugni was not made very often in our home it was a staple item in our neighborhood, served without fail by the para'r kakimas on Bijoya, at the culmination of Durga Pujo. My heart would go into a nosedive the moment I saw the steel bowl of ghugni accompanying two brown narus and one spongy roshogolla on a plate after the customary Bijoya'r pronaam. There was not a single homemade Ghugni that could woo me in its spicy deliciousness. Of course there were the myriad ghugniwala's outside school gates and at the street corner selling lip-smacking ghoogni in dubious steel plates which I never got to taste because of the mater.

As I grew older I realized I could not ignore the fact that Ghugni is an integral part of being a Bengali. If I was going to be a Bangali, not that I had a choice, I better know how to make Ghugni.

Before I write anything further let me make a honest confession. I suck at boiling the Ghugni motor. I know it is kind of silly but either I over boil it until the paper thin like skin floats around or under boil it. If I under boil it, then to cook it to softness, I again over boil it. Cooking Ghugni Motor to perfection is a chore I dread. So I mostly made my Ghugni with chickpeas!

However an authentic Ghugni is made only with Motor or White Peas(sold as White or Yellow Vatana in Indian grocery stores). So this time around I ditched the Pressure Cooker and cooked it in a open pot and watched with hawk eyes. After all I was making Somanth Roychoudhury's Father's Ghugni. I couldn't falter. I am not the kind of person who easily makes friends on social media but I must say that I have met loads of people whom I admire via facebook. Somnath, is one of them. His zest for food enthralls me and his ability to dig out local food stalls and sample street food has me in the throes of jealousy. You can follow him on his Facebook page The Street Gobbler. Or on Instagram

Ghugni at the roadside -- pic courtesy Somnath

When I was looking for a soul-punching "Rasta'r Ghugni" recipe, the spicy kind served at the street corner, I knew I had to ask Somnath. He not only shared his Father's recipe but also answered my questions and shared his pics of street-side Ghugniu wala. This is what I call a Food Connoisseur.

1. You are a street food connoisseur. List Kolkata street food in order of 1 to 5

I am not a connoisseur at all. Street food is a vastly spread out subject. I am just learning about them every day. It is really tough to make a list of best street food of kolkata. Everyone has different choice and their own favorites.

I always categorize street food in several groups of which the two major ones are Snacks and Meals, depending the time of the day when it is mostly consumed.

Afternoon Snack

1) Fuchka or Phuchka
2) Alur chop/ Beguni/ Fuluri
3) Egg Roll /Chicken Roll /Mutton rolls
4) Kochuri with assorted sabjees -- kochuris with different fillings among which the most popular is motordaal-sattu combination , Hing-chholardaal , Koraishuti (mostly in winter) and some more which are served with daal/alu torkari/alukumro torkari.
5)Jhaalmuri / Moshla Muri / Alukabli / Ghughnee

Meals or Street Foods available all day

1)Ruti Shobji - Ruti/Roti with a side dish of curried vegetables. Yes this combo is slowly winning over our maach bhaat / shobjee bhaat / pore bhaat which at one time used to be popular in the small bhaater hotel or paise hotels. It is sad to see Bengalis eating ruti for lunch but I guess it makes more practical sense in today's faster lifestyle.
Kolkata makes over a 100 thousand rutis every day and those are consumed by pedestrians throughout the day.You will always find garam ruti with various options of shobji be it day or night.
2) Poori Shobji/Luchi torkari/ with mini bhatura
3) Dosa / Idli / Vadas
4) Deem Toast / Butter Toast / Jelly toast
5) Chow-chili chicken
6) Litti -- chokha

2. In your search of street food, I see you sample many kinds at different locales. Any interesting experience?

There are so many of interesting experiences in my trail on Kolkata roads for street food... most of them are amazing. Telling about you one in recent days. Few weeks back myself and Soma Chowdhury (from blog Spices and Pisces) were craving for this very elementary beef haleem at Esplanade (in front of Nizaam).As there were some official program around there, police wasn't allowing the thela owner to put up his shop on time.We were getting restless.So both of us literally pushed the cart to its right place and helped the person in setting it up. He got irritated at us at first but then he smiled, seeing us crazy for Haleem, and served the food with a smile. It was awesome in taste and the experience is also memorable.

3. Where do you get best Ghugni on Kolkata streets?

The toughest question in this row. There are many kind of ghughnees available all over, on railway platform, on running train, on tea stalls and yes of course the stand alone ghughnee sellers. I prefer the stand alone ghughnee sellers the most. Two places I must mention.

Ghugni at the station -- pic courtesy Somnath

1. The sealdah south section platform no 12. there are few vendors who comes with a handi with cooked ghughni in it. They serve with chopped onions green chilli and few drops of tamarind pulp water aka Tetul jol.

2. One (not so)old man in behala, near behala tram depot.. I am having ghughnee from him for last 2 and half decades. The best part is the unchanged taste...serve with just sliced cucumber and tetul jol.

This recipe of ghugni is from Somnath's father. Somnath says his Father picked up cooking from his grandmother and though he cooks only a few items, he does them well. I took the recipe Somnath gave and matched it with what my Mother does(she cooks Ghugni on rare occasions) and voila the result was fantastic. The husband-man who has always turned up his nose at my Ghugnis said "Ekdom rasta'r taste esheche"(tastes just like the Ghugni from street side). Hope he meant well.

And oh yeah, inspired by one of Somnath's pictures, I added boiled eggs to my Ghugni. I am not going back.

Bengali Ghugni

Soaking the Peas

Soak 1 Cup of Motor/White Peas/White Vatana in water. Use a big pot or bowl as the motor is going to expand on soaking. Overnight is good enough but I soak for almost a day as that suits me.

Next day, drain the water and rinse couple of times in fresh water. By now the motor should have doubled to 2 Cups.

Making Bhaja Moshla

Dry roast 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp coriander, 2-4 Dry Red chillies until you get a nice aroma of spices. Cool and grind to a fine powder. This is the Bhaja Masla you will use in the Ghugni. You can also use my Mother's Bhaja Moshla instead.

Boiling the Peas

We will now boil the motor. Here is where I go wrong 99% of the time. So this time I ditched the pressure cooker and decided to boil it on open flame. They had softened a bit with all that soaking anyway.

So in a bog pot add
the motor(now swelled to 2 cups),
double the water(4 Cups),
1/4th tsp of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch
1/2 tsp of Cumin-Coriader-Dry Red chilli powder(Bhaja Moshla)
1" ginger grated
5-6 green chillies finely chopped
little salt
and put it to boil on your stove.

Add 1 potato diced in cubes to the motor. You want the motor-potato to be about 75% done in this stage

Watch closely.Yeah I know, it is kind of boring but after a couple of attempts you will know the nature of your motor and then you can watch "Modern family" while motor boils to perfection. I found it took me almost 25-30 minutes to boil it about 75-80% done. At this point the peas will not squish between your fingers and you will need to bite into it.

Now take it off the heat and get ready to make Ghugni. If you are too tired with all this boiling, just like me, take a break. You can store the motor at this stage in the refrigerator and finish off next day. Don't forget about it for a month though. I mean probably you can, but I have never done that.

Do not throw away the liquid in which the peas were boiled. You will need it in the next steps.

Make Ghugni

Chop 1 medium onion in small pieces, 1 medium sized tomato in small pieces(or 2 tomatoes depending on the size).

Heat about 2 tbsp Mustard oil in a saucier/kadhai

When the oil is hot temper with 1 tsp of Whole cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter add the chopped onion.

Fry the onion in high heat until it is soft and brown. Now add about 1 tsp of garlic paste and follow with the tomatoes

about 1/4th tsp of red Chilli Powder or Cayenne
1 heaped tsp of Bhaja Moshla
and fry the tomatoes + masala.
I have the tendency to add a tsp of Maggi hot and sweet ketchup at this point

Give it some time and you will see the tomatoes have cooked down and oil seeping out from the spices. This takes about 10-15 minutes starting with onion

Now add the boiled motor and potatoes along with a sprinkle of the motor liquid(water in which the peas were boiled). Reserve rest of the liquid.

Saute for 5-6 minutes or so at high heat. Now add rest of the water and let it cook open at medium high heat. The gravy will simmer and come to a boil. The motor and the potatoes need to be cooked fully and yet hold their shape. This will take 10-15 minutes or so depending on what stage your motor was to begin with. If you don't have enough liquid for boiling, add some more.
But remember by the time the motor is cooked, the water should have reduced to half of what you started with.

Now adjust for spices with more bhaja moshla, red chilli powder and salt to taste.I added a pinch of amchoor at this point and it was a brilliant idea. You can also add thinned tamarind water like Somnath does.

Now you will see the Ghugni at roadside stalls has a thick consistency. Somnath tells me they add rice starch or bhaater marh to get that thickness Instead he suggests that I add maida mixed with wtaer.
In 3tbsp of water, add 1 tsp of maida and add this thickening agent to the simmering ghugni.

Add small pieces of fresh coconut at this point(I didn't have any but it is very typical of Bengali Ghugnis). When you have a thick consistency finish off and take the Ghugni off heat.

Garnishing a Ghugni is a pretty important step

The standard garnishing are Chopped onion,Chopped green chilli, Tetul Jol or a squeeze of Lime, Bhaja Moshla

When I saw Somnath's pic where Ghugni is served with Boiled Eggs, I couldn't resist. It is a brilliant idea and that is how I will serve mine from now on.

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  1. This is a wonderful piece. Kudos to Somnath and you Sandeepa.

  2. this is the stuff that food orgasms are made off....a super delicious share !

  3. Lovely read and ohhh, those memories…..

  4. Somnath da is a gem of a person. I had so much fun walking around the streets with him. I wish my stomach cooperated a little bit more and had more time to explore with him. I wish I could add the haleem picture here.

  5. Bhubaneswar e ek rokomer ghugni shondhe bela rasta'r dhare bikri hoye ... dekhte jemon mojar khete o temni oshadharon. Ekta odbhut naam o ache. Onek din dhore bhabchi ekta post korbo ... tomar eyi post theke inspired hoye ebaar korei felbo. :-)
    Sheddho dim er addition ta kintu darun!

  6. Sandeepa, thanks for pointing me to your ghugni recipe. I have the same fear of (over-) cooking dried peas. I have had someone tell me that my absolutely delicious ragda was overcooked. But I learned it from a Gujarati cook who always cooks these peas to a mush. That's my excuse!

    Your recipe is way more aromatic than the recipe I followed. I will try your recipe next time as I have dried peas in my pantry. They never seem to get over!

    Thanks for this lovely post!

  7. Even I mess up the peas while boiling.....

  8. wow they look sooper. We call them matar here in India.But they style of cooking remains the same.

  9. Hey i made this tonight for dinner n it tastes awesome! Some great flavours put together !! Really enjoyed reading your post , making it and also having this !!

  10. Thank you for giving the small much needed tips, lovely post. I am refining my ghoogni today.

  11. Thanks for your post. But I am curious to know that in bengali ghugni do they add garlic? Not very sure.

  12. Thanks for your post. But I am curious to know that in bengali ghugni do they add garlic? Not very sure.

  13. Whenever I make Ghugni following this recipe, I get wah-wah-ees :)... thanks for sharing this recipe Bong Mom

  14. Street ghugni with boiled egg is a hot combination many people don't know. In Northern Part of Bengali you find it very popular.

  15. One suggestion or rather technique of boiling the Motor. You do it in 5 minutes. Use futura pressure cooker, add minimum amount of water with low heat. Water should be as little as possible, cooking will be done with steam only. Motor will not peel out with this technique.

  16. Trying to make ghugni for the first time. Following your recipe. Let's see how it turns out. 🤞🏼

  17. Your blog has been a source of most of my culinary experiment for long, well around 12+ years to be precise, ever since we moved to a new city after marriage. However, somehow I never made a comment before.
    I tried making this roadside ghugni for a get together and it was a superhit among the bong group. Thank you for the wonderful recipe like all other recipe you share.


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