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.
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.