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Decoding some popular monsoon staples

From momos to bhajas to the good old Maggi

Vidisha Bathwal   |   Published 29.07.21, 02:45 AM

Growing up, the first whiff of petrichor sent a tizzy of activity amongst us siblings. The arrival of the monsoons was a much sought after time of the year — a time when our mother would warn us against the ill effects of getting drenched in the torrid downpours that were a daily feature, and we would rush to defy her orders, with such vigour that the rains would practically dance with us.

What followed were bouts of coughs and colds — which brought on an onslaught of delicious soups and broths to alleviate the ailments.

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Calcutta rains have a romance about them. The skies turn a deep blue teetering on grey as the rain clouds gather in. A clap of thunder later, the water falls as though from an open tap with a gasket gone rogue. The pitter-patter of raindrops always bring about cups of tea and freshly prepared samosas. A crisp shell with the softest potatoes, spicy bits of ginger, and peanuts contrasting with the bland canvas the aloo provided. A piping hot mouthful inside cheeks cold with the cool rainy air. Samosas aren’t ideal math-mates, because you can never count how many you can eat at a go. They just keep disappearing from the plate, waiting for a new batch to emerge, fragrant from the kitchen.

Mummy wouldn’t allow us to jump in muddy puddles either —and the only time we could not be stopped is when we were off to school. Shoes and socks in hand, the splash of a hawai chappal sploshing in a fresh pool of water is the sound childhoods are made of — and of course, the sound of the jhal muri thonga being crushed after its contents was hurriedly consumed. It’s always been a mystery to me how the vendor managed to keep his muri so crisp, in weather so humid it made my hair give competition to curly fries.

Oh now I’m just tempting myself too much! Curly fries, spicy fries, wedges, and their French sibling — all are perfect mates to a hot cuppa tea.

MONSOONS ON THE STREET

The thing I miss the most these days is street food. Standing on the corner of a pavement, a ghughni wallah dishing out steaming hot split pea soup, tempered with the most divine spices and that tangy tamarind chutney, just as an Ambassador splashes my feet with murky water — are memories that take me back to simpler times.

There is something about street food that eating indoors just doesn’t compare to. The excitement of the unplanned mid-meal snack is a joy unparalleled.

Walking along the book-lined stretch near Golpark, one may catch the whiff of the ever so familiar aloo’r chop. Garlic and crushed red chillies do the tango inside a besan-battered fritter, completed only by the crunch of the ubiquitous muri. This and cha are a match made in foodie heaven. Cha just happens to be one of those things that pop up everywhere on a rainy day.

Beguni, (eggplant fritters), peyaji (onion fritters), and pakoras (vegetable fritters) make up the trio of deep-fried delicacies that start as humble vegetables and are elevated to godly status in a few swift moves — of course, accompanied by cha.

Another hot favorite on the curbside is char-grilled bhutta —India’s answer to “corn on the cob”, crusted with lemon and a spicy salt.

MONSOON STAPLES

You cannot spell monsoon without Maggi. The steam rising from a bowl of this two-minute delicacy has invited many a fork to its irresistible charm. Whether you like it soupy or dry, there’s no denying the siren call of this bowl of noodles at this time of the year.

Momos are yet another steamy hot delight that always hit the spot with their silky thin covers stuffed with a delicious filling, served with tear-inducing chilli sauce — an excellent antidote to colds!

If you’re not hungry yet, perhaps a plate of kachori-sabji might do the trick. My sister and I would wolf down a few plates of this treat as kids... belmi kachoris and steaming hot potato curry can make any rainy-day blues go away!

MUMMY’S ARSENAL

The streets may provide me with memories that tantalise the taste buds, but let that not fool you — my mum provided me with many more. Not a single day goes by when mum doesn’t whip up a bowl of heart-warming soup during these rainy months. From creamy tomato to cream of corn, minestrone to mulligatawny and Tom Kha to the very Hakka hot ’n’ sour, soups make their way to our table every day, keeping the sneezes at bay.

One of my fondest memories was folding up dozens of paper boats as the water flooded our compound. We would set the boats afloat in the water, and watch them go about on their wayward trails. Sometimes, we would weigh them down with a little stone and see them plummet to the bottom of the pool of water, all of these as mum whipped up dal vadas and kachoris to snack on, and hot chocolate to wash it down with.

AYURVEDA IN MONSOONS

The Panchabhoota philosophy of Ayurveda recommends different diets based on ritu — the season. Varsha ritu (monsoons) is a time for light diets. Soups, khichri, and other light fare are ideal for maintaining optimal digestion at this time of the year.

One must avoid leafy vegetables, oily, and fermented foods. There is an added emphasis on having steamed and lightly cooked foods. Following these simple guidelines can help with the metabolism and reduce inflammation in the body.

The joy of catching falling rain in the palm of my hand is never lost on me. Today, I may forgo the puddle jumping for a cup of coffee with my close friends, rain tapping on the window, and laughter in the air. No matter the age, the monsoons always have and will hold a special place in my heart.

Recipes to try at home

DABELI

Ingredients

For aloo mixture:

l2tbsp tamarind chutney

l¼ cup water

l2tbsp oil

l3 boiled and mashed potato

l½ tsp salt

l1 tbsp grated coconut

l1tbsp chopped coriander

l2tbsp sev

l2tbsp pomegranate

l2tbsp spiced peanut

For serving:

• 5 pav

• 5tsp green chutney

• 5tsp tamarind chutney

• 5tsp onion (finely chopped)

Method

Aloo mixture preparation:

1. In a large pot, heat 2tbsp oil.

2. Now take 3tsp store-bought dabeli masala into a small cup, along with 2tbsp tamarind chutney and ¼ cup water.

3. Mix well, making sure there are no lumps. Pour in the masala mixture into the hot oil.

4. Cook for 2 minutes or until it turns aromatic.

5. Further, add 3 potatoes, ½ tsp salt, and mix well.

6. Mash and mix, making sure everything is well combined.

7. Transfer the mixture to a plate.

8. Top with 1tbsp coconut, 1tbsp coriander, 2tbsp sev, 2tbsp pomegranate, and 2tbsp spiced peanut.

Assembling dabeli:

1. Slit the pav in the centre and spread 1tsp green chutney on one side of the pav and 1tsp of tamarind chutney on another side.

2. Stuff in prepared aloo dabeli mixture into the pav.

3. Also stuff in 1tsp of onion pomegranate seeds and aloo dabeli mixture.

4. Now toast the pav in butter, making sure both sides turn slightly golden brown.

5. Finally, roll the dabeli into sev and serve immediately.

TOM YUM THAI MAGGI

Ingredients

• 3tsp oil

• 2 chilli (finely chopped)

• 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

• ½ onion (finely chopped)

• ½ capsicum (finely chopped)

• ½ carrot (finely chopped)

• 1½ cup water

• 2 slice cheese

• 1 Maggi tastemaker

• 1 Maggi noodles

• 2tbsp coriander (finely chopped)

• 1tsp Tom Yum paste

• Crispy garlic for garnish

• Crushed peanuts for garnish

Method

1. In a large pot, heat 3tsp oil and saute 2 chillies and 3 cloves of garlic. Also, add ½ onion and saute until it softens slightly.

2. Now add ½ tomato, ½ capsicum, ½ carrot. Add 1½ cup water; add Tom Yum paste, cut 2 slices of cheese, and 1 Maggi tastemaker. Mix well until the cheese melts completely.

3. Add in 1 Maggi noodle, dipping it completely in water.

4. Cover and boil for a minute. Mix in between and continue to cook until the noodles are cooked well.

5. Add in 2tbsp coriander and mix well.

6. Finally, grate the cheddar cheese, top the Maggi with crispy garlic and crushed peanuts.

Vidisha Bathwal is the founder of Paprika Gourmet, an exotic artisan catering service brand in Calcutta. She’s also a passionate foodie and a fitness enthusiast



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