Every house hold has its own “kitchen” secrets. Every cook is a proud owner of tricks that defines whether the food tasted like heaven or hell. Every culture has its own defining characteristic traits and every individual has at least one bit of culinary expertise that had been passed on down through the generations almost like family heirlooms. We come from a country where we value the real drooling that happens at the mere thought of our humble kitchen producing authentic Indian food instead of the over orchestrated one that happens at a burger joint. We know from experience that the sounds of grinding, mashing, pounding make for the catchiest beats, catchier than the pop rock belted out at the food cafes; and most importantly, we realise that the most addictive stuff to sniff is not drugs but the aroma that wafts out as the cooking preparations proceed.
When it comes to food, Vizag too, like the rest of the country, has its own identity in its steaming soft idlis, the tantalising punugulus and the well celebrated curd rice. However with the vast influx of people from all over the country, our flexible town has been quick on the uptake not just when it comes to culture but also when it comes to food. Where at one time, a “pani puri” vendor was an isolated occurrence, today it is practically available at every nook and corner. With the city restaurants actively absorbing the multi cuisine culture, why should the homes of Vizagites remain any different?
As any cook would vouch for, the most exotic of the dishes can be demystified when in the right hands. So for all the big fans of the varied cuisines of India we barged into some kitchens that definitely have the “right hands“ at work. These are experts who make quick work of delicatessen. The women in this story may not be internationally renowned, but in their own homes and amongst their friends, they sure are well celebrated. So kick back and enjoy as we bring for you four different cuisines, with four different recipes; four different cooks with four different approaches and four different cultures with four aces up their sleeves. We bring you a bit of history, mystery and recipe all combined into one.
Odisha, the name itself reverberates with the feel of an olden land seeped with traditions and warmth. From its famous temples to its graceful dance form to even its staple Dalma and Badi saag, the state forms an image specked with simplicity, charming grace and rusticity. Seema Mohanty is no different. A proud Odiya, she makes cooking sound as much of an art form as Odissi. A purely home bred cook, she has been dabbling with cooking right from a young age and has even managed to pass on this love for cooking to her kids. A typical meal in her house is no short of an episode on “Master Chef”, all with detailed discussions on techniques, ingredients and flavours. No surprises there, as she herself is a Hindu Cookery contest winner.
Odiya cuisine, according to Seema, is predictably influenced by its long coastline and vast water bodies. But being a vast fertile land, Odisha also has varied vegetables like bitter guard, pumpkin and cucumber infused into its staples. The dominating flavour of this cuisine is derived from its cooking medium: mustard oil. Poppy seeds crushed and combined with cumin seeds and other spices and coconut are the most common spicing. No Odiya meal can be considered complete without a generous serving of some form of flattened, puffed or powdered rice.
Seema shares the recipe of “Dahi Macha” – a typical fish delicacy usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations. It is fresh water fish cooked in thick tangy gravy dominated by mustard. Being a tangy dish, it is best served with hot steamed rice. Typical accompaniments to “Dahi Macha” are a few fried dishes of various vegetables, some crushed “Bade” (deep fried and crushed urad dal nuggets), tomato chutney, dahi raita and papad. And given the Odiya propensity towards desserts, such a meal should ideally end with some healthy cottage cheese dessert.
Image Credit: My Taste
DAHI SARSO MACHA
- 6 pieces of nice fleshy Rohu fish fillets
- ½ cup thick hung curd
- ½ cup thick mustard paste
- Paste of 4 green chillies
- 6 pods garlic
- 4 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 big onion, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- ½ tsp shahi jeera
- ¼ tsp mustard seed
- ¼ tsp jeera
- ¼ tsp methi seeds
- Salt / turmeric / red chilli to taste
- 2 whole dried red chillies
- Coriander leaves for garnishing
- Rub salt and a little turmeric powder on the Rohu fish fillets and fry them lightly in 2 tablespoons mustard oil.
- In a non stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon mustard oil and add the mustard, jeera, methi seeds and the whole red dried chillies till they splutter.
- Add the fish fillets to the pan.
- In another bowl add combine the mustard paste, hung curd and the chilli paste.
- Slowly add in this paste to the fish fillets in the non stick pan. Keep the gas on low flame all the while.
- Add the chopped onion and tomato to the pan and let it simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
- Add salt, red chilli powder and turmeric as per taste. Let it again simmer on low flame for 5 minutes. Do not use a spoon or ladle for stirring. Instead keep tossing the pan holding the handle slowly to mix in the ingredients.
- In another small pan add the remaining 1 tablespoon mustard oil and add the shahi jeera till it splutters.
- Pour it over the cooked fish fillets.
- Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Note: It is important to keep the gas on low flame during the entire cooking process.
You can’t get very far into anything Sindhi without the discussion of the ubiquitous papad, pickle and saibhaji. The largesse of this culture’s heart can only be matched by the variety of food that dominates a typical Sindhi household. Sindhi cuisine owes its origins to the famed Indus valley civilization and stands apart due its flavourful amalgamation of Punjabi and Muslim tastes. And with a history reaching as far back as the very first known civilisation, it is no surprise that this cuisine has practically limitless options for all things right from snacks to main courses to preservatives.
We bring to you Umita Mirpuri, a full blooded Sindhi who has continued her culture’s trait of absorbing and fusing whatever opportunities food throws her way. Her family has literally traversed the length and breadth of the country right from Sindh in Pakistan to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Vishakhapatnam; all the while absorbing and refining the local tastes to go along with Sindhi food. It goes without saying that the foodie in her has found her own special take on how food needs to be. Her variation of cooking involves an extensive use of tomatoes and unending experimentation with vegetables of all kinds.
She gives us the recipe of Besan Ji Aani. It is a simple hearty dish for those days when you are running low on vegetables. It is a mildly flavoured gravy best served with steaming hot rotis or parathas. To give it a healthy twist, you can also steam the aanis instead of frying them. The taste will still pack in a punch while ensuring you are not stressing out over the calorie factor.
Image Credit: Ribbons to Pasta
BESAN JI AANI
- 6 medium onions, finely chopped
- 12 medium tomatoes finely chopped
- ½ tsp ginger paste
- ½ tsp garlic paste
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 10 curry leaves, finely chopped
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp jeera powder
- 2 tbsp oil
- Coriander leaves for garnish
- Salt to taste
- 6 tbsp besan (gram flour)
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- Pinch red chilli powder
- ½ tsp poppy seeds
- ½ tsp anardana powder
- ½ tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp of above prepared gravy
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- Oil to fry
- Salt to taste
- In a pan, heat oil. Add garlic ginger paste and sauté.
- Add the chopped onions and chopped green chillies. Cook till translucent.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, coriander powder, jeera powder and turmeric.
- Cook till all the water evaporates and forms thick gravy.
- In a bowl, take besan and all other ingredients (for aani). Add a few drops of water and mix to form smooth dough.
- Form into 12 oval discs and keep aside.
- Heat oil in thick bottom pan, deep fry the prepared aani’s. Drain and keep aside.
- Heat the gravy, add ¼ cup of water and mix well. Bring to boil. Adjust salt if necessary.
- Add the aanis. Do not stir or aanis will break. Cover and cook on low flame for 3 minutes.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
If you have ever visited a Gujarati home, then you have most definitely been introduced to the delicious dhoklas, theplas or phaphadas or some variation of it. The energy and speed with which Gujaratis whip out delicacies is in itself a wonder. But that is the least of all things intriguing. What keeps you guessing is the amazing, mouth watering balance of sweet, sour and salty that the cuisine manages to impart to all its dishes.
Any authentic Gujarati kitchen will unfailing have abundant supply of ghee, gram flour, methi and chat masala. Vagaries of an extremely dry hot weather meant that Gujaratis relied heavily on sugar, salt, lemon and tomatoes to ward of dehydration. And the predilection towards sweetening the food, either with jaggery or sugar came from the need to neutralise the salty taste inherent in the water of that region. Irrespective of how nature shaped their food, what is undeniable is a Gujarati’s love for food. This is evident when Dharini states that seeing her kids eat the food she learnt from her mother gives her utmost satisfaction.
Dharini learnt cooking from her mother at a very young age. Her personal favourite is Khandvi and Patra served with Puranpoli. Everything takes a back seat as she recalls childhood memories of returning exhausted from school and being served hot phulkas straight from the “sigri” with a glass of cold buttermilk. For her that was an experience which would any day triumph over an impersonal dinner at the finest of the gourmet restaurants. This month Dharini shares with us the recipe of Khandvi.
- 1 cup besan (gram flour)
- 2 ½ cup buttermilk
- A pinch of cooking soda
- A pinch of turmeric and asafoetida
- Salt to taste.
For the tempering
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 or 3 green chillies
- Grated coconut and coriander for garnishing
- Pour the buttermilk in a vessel , add besan (gram flour) and mix well to make sure there are no lumps in it.
- Cook it over the gas for a few minutes , stirring continuously.
- Once the batter stops sticking to the vessel, check the consistency by pouring and spreading a little of it on a flat surface.
- Grease a thali , and spread the batter quickly over it.
- Let it cool for 15 minutes , and then carve out thin rolls.
- Prepare the tempering by heating all those ingredients in a saucepan till the seeds start spluttering.
- Serve the dish by garnishing it with grated coconut and coriander.
It is really not your fault if you think Marwari food is all about ghee, well, because it is. Now that is not to say that is all there is, but in case you are looking to make some authentic Marwari food with the more healthier olive oil, you might as well quit right now and walk away. This was a cuisine of royalty and royal indeed it is. From the delicately spiced kadis to its generously garnished halwas or even its very humble khichadi, marwaris have mastered the knack of making the mundane – magnificent.
The cuisine owes its evolution to the extremely dry and arid deserts of Rajasthan. Fresh vegetables were a scarcity and people had to make do with dried pulses and spices. Except that “make do”, in the Marwari vocabulary meant creating a spread so decadent that it would leave the most food averse person begging for more. So where on one hand we have the hing (asafoetida ) adding its subtle savoury flavour, we also have the puckering full bodied tinge of amchur (dried mango powder).
So how would you go around whipping up a scrumptious dal bati in this city so far removed from Rajasthan? Well you simply have to go spend time with Madhuri. She is a daughter who learnt at her mother’s feet and a daughter in law who is eager to lap up all the long accumulated tips her mother in law has to offer. A big fan of Marwari food herself, you can practically see her gush about all things food. As she explains the process of preparing Dal Baati, she fills us in with a bit of trivia. This is a dish that is a staple of religious ceremonies in Rajasthan. It is prized for its long shelf life and a high nutritional content and most importantly for the minimal amount of water required in its preparation.
Image Credit: Archana’s Kitchen
DAL BATI CHURMA
- 1/3 cup chana dal
- 1/3 cup toovar dal
- 1/3 cup moong dal
- 1 tbsp urad dal
- 3 tsp chilly powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2-3 cloves
- 2 bayleafs
- 2-3 green chillies
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 2 tsp dried mango powder
- 3 tbsp ghee
- salt to taste
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 8 tbsp milk
- 4 tbsp ghee
- Salt to taste
- Stuffing of any kind, if required for taste
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 6 almonds
- 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 4 tbsp ghee
- Clean and wash the dals and add 4 cups of water to it. Pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles or till the dals are cooked.
- In a bowl, combine the chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala with 3 tablespoons of water and mix well. Keep aside.
- Heat the ghee in a pan and add the cloves, bay leaves, green chillies and asafoetida. Add the prepared masala paste and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked dals, dried mango powder and salt and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes till it has flowing consistency.
- Mix all the ingredients and knead into a firm dough.
- Knead well for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape each portion into an even sized round. Flatten the rounds lightly using your thumb to make an indentation in the centre of the baati.
- Heat a gas tandoor and put the baatis on the grill of the tandoor. Cook them on a medium flame for 20 to 25 minutes. The baatis can even be prepared by deep frying it in hot ghee.
- Combine the wheat flour and 4 tablespoons of melted ghee in a bowl and mix well.
- Add approximately ¼ cup of water and knead well to make a stiff dough.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Shape each dough portion in the shape of your fist and press with your fingers in the centre of each portion to make an indentation.
- Heat the ghee in a kadhai and deep-fry the dough portions on a very slow flame until they are golden brown in colour. These will take a long time to fry as the insides need to be cooked also. Drain on absorbent paper and allow them to cool.
- Grind the fried dough pieces in a blender into a fine powder. Add the almonds, cardamom powder and powdered sugar and mix well. Garnish with almond slivers.
Serving suggestion: Dip the baati’s in ghee, and serve them by pouring hot daal and choorma on the side.