Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What a Bittergourd Kismur -- on Independence Day

Tomorrow is India's Independence Day and all I can think of is I am in 3rd grade dressed in bottle green or khaki or some patriotic color safari suit kind of uniform, apparently like Subhas Bose, and standing on a stage with few more freedom fighters and not been given a single word to speak as per the script. I look almost like Jeetendra in a safari suit except that I also had to wear circular steel rimmed glasses like Bose and my hair was tucked under a cap.

And then came the calamity. Nope, nothing to do with Netjaji's politics. It was all to do with our Dhobiji actually.

That shirt had 5 medals pinned on it by my teacher, decorations like the INA military uniform. I thought they were gold. The Dhobiji cared neither for Netaji nor for his uniform.

Don't think his lot had improved in any significant way after independence. This was the early eighties.

Everyone in our neighborhood considered him as several caste lower and though they wore the clothes washed and pressed by him, they were acutely conscious of not indulging in any other touchy-feely relation with him. So much so, that my very staunch grandmother would instruct him to air drop the stack of freshly washed, ironed and folded clothes on the sofa, in fear that he did not touch any animate or in-animate object in our home.
Sigh!If I had someone delivering washed and folded clothes to my doorstep I would hug, kiss and even marry him right away.

So anyway, when that Jetetendra, oops sorry Subhas Bose uniform was sent to him to be washed and pressed so that I could return it in its pristine condition to the teacher, he did not pay as much attention to the medals and such. He was clever enough to know they weren't gold. The result of his nonchalance was that of those five medals one went missing. And my heart stopped in tracks right there. My heart was gripped with a cold, dismal fear just thinking what my very Catholic teacher in my very catholic convent school would have to say on this. The British were long gone but I was terribly afraid of my crisp English speaking teachers, with names like Mary and Bridgette, and who I was sure came from some foreign country.

I don't remember what exactly happened thereafter except that my father had to go and meet the teacher and blame the Dhobiji, who thankfully knew no English and so wasn't summoned to school. For the next few months my position as the teacher's favorite was upended by my other classmates and I moped and lived in fear and never looked forward to Independence day celebrations ever. I rather stayed in and watched the flag hoisting on TV.

And then many years later, I went and got married on Independence day as it was the last wedding day with the last wedding muhurta for the season as per the Hindu wedding calendar!!!

I am sure that no-caste Dhobiji had something to do with this. Or my Anglican teacher. 😜

The only word to describe this whole situation is KISMUR. Yep, "what a Kismur", sums it all up.

This bittergourd kismur is something that I learned from @Indianfoodrocks. It is Manisha's Mother's recipe 💓. Kismur is a Konkani or Marathi side dish where roasted ingredients are mixed with onions, chili, and coconut. Dry prawn kismur is the more popular dish but her Mother made one with bittergourd.

Until I saw her recipe, I didn't even know what a kismur was though I liked the feel of the word rolling off my tongue. Try saying "K_I-S-M-U-R". Very romantic.

This dish is a very pleasant change from all our Bengali Uchche dishes and we loved it a lot. This is saying a lot given that we Bengalis love our Karela as much as roshogolla. But this dish takes our Uchche Bhaja to a new dimension. My girls love it too and I make this version more frequently than any other bittergourd dishes these days. It is easy, quick and very chatpata kind.

Bittergourd Kismur

Wash 2 medium sized ucche aka bitter gourd. Chop into thin slices or small pieces.

Next step is to roast the bitter gourd. You could do that on the stove top but I prefer microwave or oven.

Microwave: Take a microwave safe glass plate and add the chopped bitter gourd pieces. Sprinkle some salt and oil and microwave for 2 minutes. Take the plate out, add some more oil and toss it around. Microwave for another 2-3 minutes. After it is done, it should be evenly browned and not burnt. Microwave suggestion is from blog Red Chilies.

Oven: Preheat Oven to 350F. Toss the bittergourd with olive oil, red chili powder. Now put them in an oven safe tray in single layer and bake for 20-25 minutes until you see they are crisp. I use this version mostly.

Stovetop: Heat a heavy bottom pan, add oil and then the bitter gourd pieces. Keep stirring until it turns brown and crisp.

In a bowl add

1/2 of a red onion very finely chopped
2-3 green chili finely chopped
1/2 tsp of red Chili powder
Lime juice of half a lime
a little shredded coconut
salt to taste
Mix thoroughly

When ready to serve, add the roasted bitter gourd pieces to the above. Adjust lime juice and salt.

Serve immediately to retain the crispiness. For a Bong touch, serve it with some Kashundi!

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  1. Dear Sandipa
    Happy anniversary and many happy returns of the day.
    Lovely as usual.. thoroughly enjoyed. I am going to try your way . I often make a sailana Maharaja style.. 50 50 onion and uchhe crisp fried separately and mixed before serving .
    Bhalo thheko

  2. Dear Sandipa,
    Happy Anniversary! This is the first time that I am writing to you and I think it is very appropriate that it is with a comment about Uchche. I loved the recipe and am definitely trying it out this evening itself.
    Just wanted to tell you that I love your writings as much as I look forward to trying out your recipes. I am a Bengali by birth and married to a Maharashtrian. Both of us love food and everything to do with cooking. My kitchen is the center point of our home and I do sometimes despair that my Rannaghor is not one of those pristine and immaculate ones where all you see is an apple, a knife and lots of sparkling stainless steel. Keep writing please .... as we say in Bambaiyya Hindi.... Lage Raho!!

  3. HEllo mam,Thank you for a amazing article and good recipe as well, i as followed towords your blog that you are being an vary famous food blogger among one in Kolkata,but please change your blogger template or set up another new moderate template that will have to be more helpful to navigate as your blog post easily.


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