Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jumaelay Halo! Kutchi Bhatia Cuisine Excerpts from an article I wrote in 2005.

A journey into the history of an unknown community and their food-ways …

Food is essential for human life. However, humans view food as much more than basic sustenance. With sustenance we also apply great significance to the foodways we grew up with. India plays home to myriad religions, cultures and communities, each of them with their own foodways, One such unknown community is the Kutchi Bhatia Community. Descended from a warrior race, Kutchi Bhatias are today largely engaged in trade and commerce, a field in which they have done immensely well. The food they eat is unique in its simplicity and fresh flavor. It is often also hidden under the classification of Gujarati food.

The Kutchi Bhatia Community has a very interesting history. While legend tells of their having descended from Lord Krishna himself, closer in history tangible evidence pinpoints a period some time in the 6th century, when a Raja Bhoopat ruled Lahore. Famous for his valour, courage and administrative shrewdness, the dynasty he founded came to be known as the Bhatti or Bhati dynasty from which the word Bhatia is derived. The Bhatias successively founded Tannot, Deraval and Jaisalmer in A.D. 1156 and ruled successfully until the reign of Raja Mulraj (1316) when the Bhatia race was threatened with extinction.

The Jaisalmer fort had been under siege for a year and with his resources dwindling, Raja Mulraj was forced to take a decision that changed the future course of the Bhatia community. The aged and the young were secreted out of the fort while the king and his army launched a bloody do-or-die offensive! They lost, however, their women choosing death over the dishonor of capture. The remnants of the Bhatias that had escaped the fort, eventually made their way to Punjab. They changed their occupations from that of Kshatriyas or soldiers to Vaisyas and took to trade or agriculture.

Over time they spread out into areas of Rajasthan, MP, Halar and Kutch. Time and Geographical distance factored in and the community fragmented. The root culture was the same but marked albeit subtle differences in the lifestyle, language and larger changes in food habits - due to diet being adapted to locally available ingredients - made themselves apparent. Eventually it was the Bhatias that settled in Kutch that earned the name “Kutchi Bhatia”.

While Kutchi Bhatia food is classified under Gujarati food, there is a marked difference in the cuisines. It does not manifest itself in the names of the dishes; in fact there are a lot of dishes common to both Gujerati and Kutchi Bhatia food. The difference is noticeable in the style of preparation of dishes. Where Gujarati food tends to be oily and leans towards sweet heavily spiced fried foods, Kutchi Bhatia food happens to be one of the healthiest Indian communal cuisines today.

Food is cooked with fresh seasonal ingredients and comes to the table, steaming hot, and straight of the flame. The use of oil is minimal and flavorings lean toward the Surti style with a predominance of leelo masallo (or fresh green masalla), usually a combination of Ginger and Green chilies. The use of garam masalla is minimal and spicing is used to compliment the dish being cooked, at no point overwhelming the natural flavor of the food. Unlike Gujarati food, the sweetness quotient of gur or sugar is selectively used. Gur or Sugar are only added in dishes where a balance of flavors needs to be achieved like in the yoghurt based Kadhi or Khatta Mug (whole mung cooked in yoghurt) or tomato based dishes where there is a need to alleviate the acidity of the tomatoes.

The other difference lies in the inherent ability to innovate of the Kutchi housewife. She will try and vary the menu at each meal, ensuring that along with a new vegetable the Daal is also alternated, either with different Daals or with other preparations like Gol Kokum ji kadhi or Osaman. Rotis might also be alternated with Jowar or Bajra rotis, in which the dough for each roti is mixed individually and flattened by hand.

Some of the most traditional meals of the Kutchi Bhatias aside from the classic Jowar and bajra rotis served with lehsun Chutney are Chutti Khichdi and Osaman – Unlike normal khichdi, Chutti Khichdi made by cooking the daal and rice separately. The daal is cooked in extra water till it splits, the water is then drained and reserved, and meanwhile rice is added to the daal and cooked to a khichdi consistency. The reserved water is then spiced, and made into a Rassam-like Osaman, light, delicate, fragrant with Coriander and Curry leaves and tender coconut. Osaaman may also be made of Dal alone, in which case it is served alongside Lachko Dal in which the  solid dal left after straining out the cooking liquid is temopered with ghee and asafeotida.  

Another classic meal is Khara and Mitha Chavda. Khara Chavda are spicy besan panckaes and Mitha chavda are fermented wheat pancakes that are are sweetened with gur. The spic and sweet pancakes are usually served together.

A proper Kutchi Bhatia meal will consist of a Daal, one or two vegetables, thin ghee dabbed rotlis or Phulkas and some form of salad, all washed down with copious amounts of Chilled Kutchi “beer” or Chaas. There might be a dessert and a farsan preparation to augment the meal if there are guests. It is also the endeavor of the Kutchi Bhatia cook to achieve a balance in flavors. Salty, sweet, spicy and sour, all make their presence felt on your palette at every meal, either through a combination of ingredients or through a combination of dishes i.e. if a dish is characteristically sour it will always be accompanied with a sweet one. A classic example of this is the delicious combination of Kadhi with Puran Polis. (The Kuchi Bhatia Puran Poli is different from its Maharashtrian counterpart in that it is made with tur daal instead of Channa Daal.)

Vegetables served are seasonal, cooked by themselves or in combination with other vegetables or ingredients to best reveal the characteristic flavor of the vegetable. There will be some amount of water added to the vegetable, and it will be cooked to a tender but firm to the touch consistency. Vegetables served are always moist and in light gravy either of the juices released by the vegetable itself or made with onions and tomatoes. Some classic combinations include, Fansi (French beans) cooked with fresh grated coconut, Sambhariyu – assorted vegetables stuffed with spices besan and coconut and cooked in its own juices, Guvar, turiya and Kola – a combination of Guvar, Ridge Gourd and Pumpkin, Doodhi Tameta jo rasavalo shak – white Pumpkin and tomato and Kela Methi jo shak Plantain and Methi subzi. Vegetables are always garnished, some like with fresh green coriander.

Vegetables will also be on the plate in the form of a Salad like the Khaman Kakdi - a refreshing blend of cucumber, crushed peanuts and tender coconut, Kanda Tameta jo Salad – wilted onions and tomato salad, Gajar tameta jo salad – wilted Carrot and tomato salad. There will usually be Chutney and a variety of pickles to pick from as well. The Chutney is usually a fresh one made of Coriander or more seasonal ones like the Raw mango Chutney in which raw mango is ground with cumin and Jaggery.
The pickles made by this community deserve a special mention, in that they are very unusual and delicious. They are also simply made. Some classic pickles are the Methambo – more of a cross between a chutney and a pickle, made of Mango, the Methambo is a combination of sweet jaggery and sour green mangoes that are just beginning to ripen, Davara – a green berry that is made simply by marinating in salt and turmeric and the delicious green pepper pickle in which green pepper is preserved in salt and lemon juice.

The sweet preparations of the Kutchi Bhattias are varied, and a lot of them are common across Gujarati and Rajasthani food but they do have some typical favorites, like the Dudh pak a spiced milk preparation with rice, like a thin Kheer. They also make Srikhand, Mevavati and a host of other sweet dishes. One of the most unusual sweetdishes, that is rare even among the Kutchi Bhatias themselves, is the Tapkhir jo halvo or Arrowroot Halwa. Rarely made today this unique dish is quite delicious and very pretty with the golden translucency of Arrowroot and Saffron.

Today the enterprising Kutchi Bhatia community continues to be an adventurous and enterprising community that comes to the forefront in all their endeavors. Traces of their royal genes are still evident in their tall statures, fair skin and aristocratic appearance. Today the community has spread all over the world and they continue to do well in whatever field the pick and with each step they take, their cuisine travels with them, a link to their illustrious past.

Lachko or Kathan Daal

Time 30 minutes, Serves 4-6

1.5 cup Tur Dal
¼ tsp Turmeric powder
¼ tsp Asafeotida
1” piece Ginger, sliced
1 tbsp Ghee
Salt to taste

Combine the Tur Dal with 9 cups of water, in a cooking pot. 
Add the sliced ginger, and turmeric. Bring it to a boil. Lower flame and leave to simmer.  
When cool strain out the liquid for Osaman and keep aside. 
Heat ghee in a small pan, add asafeotida and let is splutter (30 seconds). Pour this over cooked split gram. Churn the cooked gram to smooth consistency. Return to heat, add salt and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When it is thickened to a porridge consistency, take it off the gas and serve hot with rice, Kadhi or Osaman.

Osaman (Spiced split gram Water)
½ cup Yellow split gram
1 tsp Ginger–chili paste
4-6 pieces Kokum
3-4 tbsp Jaggery
½ tsp Turmeric powder
For Tempering
1 tbsp Ghee
2” piece White radish, thinly sliced
1 Green chili, slit
¼ tsp Fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp Mustard seeds
¼ tsp Cumin seeds
¼ tsp Asafetida
A few curry leaves
To Garnish
Grated coconut and coriander leaves

Pressure-cook the split gram with 8-9 cups of water. When cool, churn well and add ginger-chili paste, kokum, and jaggery and turmeric powder. Boil this for 10-15 minutes. Heat ghee in a small pan; add fenugreek, mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add asafetida, curry leaves, chili and radish. Pour this tempering over Osaman. Simmer it for 10 minutes. Garnish with grated coconut and green coriander leaves. Serve hot with Kathan daal and rice.
Serves 6

Kobi ja Muthia (Cabbage Dumplings)

Time 1 hour 
Serves 4-6

1 cup Wheat flour
½ cup Gram flour
200 gms Shredded cabbage
1 tbsp Ginger and Green chilli paste
1 tbsp Oil
¼ tsp Soda
½ tsp Sugar
¼ cup Yogurt
Asafeotida, a pinch
Salt to taste

For Tempering2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
2 tsp Sesame seeds
3-4 pieces (Boria Marcha) Round red chilies
Curry Leaves 2-3 sprigs 
Asafeotida, a pinch

To Garnish
Finely chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut

Mix both the flours and add, oil, salt, sugar, soda and asafetida. Sprinkle a little salt over cabbage and set aside for 10 minutes. Then mix the cabbage and yogurt to the flour mixture. Take a little oil on your palm and bind the dough. Divide it into two. Shape each one in a cylindrical shape and place it on oiled sieve. Steam the Muthias for 15-20 minutes. Remove from sieve and let it cool. Now place them on chopping board and slice them into 2cm. Thick slices. Heat oil in a frying pan, add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add sesame seeds and asafetida. Finally add chilies and curry leaves. Add steamed Muthias to this tempering and mix very gently to coat the tempering to all the pieces properly. Fry them until slightly crisp. Garnish with coriander and coconut and serve with green chutney.

Green Coriander Chutney
Makes 1 cup
1 bunch Coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup Coconut, Freshly grated
1 tbsp Peanuts
1” piece Ginger, chopped
3-4 pieces Green chillies, chopped
1 tsp (each) sugar, salt and cumin seeds
Juice of 1 lemon

Chop coriander leaves coarsely. Put all the ingredients together in a grinder and make a thick paste. Use a little water if necessary. Serve with any savory dish.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Here is your legit excuse to eat Pakodas! Celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay with us on 30 July!

I am back! 

This time I am asking you to celebrate #ChaiPakodaDay on 30 July 2017. 

THIS TIME I am giving you a legit excuse to indulge in Chai Pakodas!

So far we have celebrated #AamAchaarDay, #PapadBadiDay, MasalaDay and #PulaoBiryaniDay. With each of these millions of people have cooked, eaten and shared recipes, stories, memories and celebrated these foods around the country and abroad. And with each day we have hade more and more people organising events around them. In fact for #PulaoBiryaniDay which just went by on Sunday, 25th June  we had Food lovers across India celebrating. In Chennai we had home Chef Sribala cooking a Jackfruit Biryani, organizing a Potluck and taking us on a tour of South Indian Biryanis. In Indore Chef Amit Pamnani organized a pot luck. In Mumbai Chef Ashish Bhasin and I came together to curate a ‘Biryani Trail through India’ for a group of food aficionados at Maya, the Indian restaurant at Trident, BKC.

Why? What will you get?
This is not an agenda driven celebration. Its simply a celebration of monsoons and our collective belief that “Baarish mien Chai pakode to bante hai”, so you do not need anyone’s permission to participate or any agenda. You just need to love chai+pakodas and Indian monsoons…. 

The chai can be any chai, or even coffee (With Kerala style Banana Fritters... YUM) if that is your tipple, and pakoda can be any fried morsel of goodness to match your favourtie tipple. 

What? Oh you are watching your weight? Well consider this, you don’t want to get too light, you might float away on a rainy day! Ok seriously one cheat day, is ok…. And if that is not convincing enough then air-fryer zindabad! 

So come on, and join a whole lot of us in celebrating #ChaiPakodaDay on 30th July. You can do this in a variety of ways. 
No time or don’t cook? 
Order your favourite chai and pakoda pairing, and share on               social medie, using the hashtag #ChaiPakodaDay. Also feel free to share memories,       recipes your family makes, stories about chai and pakoda moments, links to recipes. Just use the hashtag.

Fry up!
If you have time (it’s a Sunday) fry up a chai pakoda combo that is personal/ family favourite or popular in your cuisine. Tweet about it using #ChaiPakodaDay.

Chai Pakoda Meetup 
Get together with family and friends for Chai and pakodas, at home, your favourite tapri, monsoon adda or corner restaurant.

For Food Businesses 
Chef's, food outlet owner and restaurateur, do consider a Chai Pakoda Festival. A special menu or a small offer maybe eg. (Soda Bottle Opener wala did a great promotion for #PulaoBiryaniDay by giving away free drinks for every Berry Pulao ordered and selfie tweeted on #PulaoBiryaniDay.) And Food people / businesses, if you are doing any sort of public meetup, please share it with me so I can make a list and pass it on! 

Use the Hashtag!
Or you are an aloo! Ok seriously just remember to share whatever you do using the hashtag #ChaiPakodaDay. (And even if you don’t want to, just have the Chai Pakodas in solidarity!) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lingde, Khutde, Dhekia xaak, Neuro or Fiddlehead ferns, whatever you call them, they are delicious!

An Assamese dish of fiddle head ferns cooked with Kala chana that Gitika Saikia made at the Haan Miholi pop up she did recently reminded me of this post I had been meaning to do.

I love Fiddlehead ferns known variously as Lingde or Khutde and it would be remiss of me not to give them their due devotion here. If you've tasted them, you will understand why. And just how excited I was to get my hands on Fiddlehead Ferns this season (thanks to Gitika again). Wondering what all the fuss is about? That is pretty hard to communicate without making you taste them. But the season is ongoing and there is a good chance you will find them if you go looking in hilly / mountain regions of India. So here is everything you need to know on Fiddleheads, just in case! (Thank me later!)

I learned about Fiddlehead ferns in the first year of being married. I was in Dehra Dun for a holiday. Nanu Chachaji, Shekhar's uncle, had decided to teach me to drive. Truth be told, I never did learn to drive but I DID fall in love with Lingure aka Fiddlehead Ferns! Chahachaji loves them, and every second day he'd make me drive around to a handful of subziwallas he had identified that sold them in season. It had been years since I'd been to Doon in season, so I hadn't eaten them in forever. Until Gitika got me some from a recent visit home to Assam (Along with a few other goodies like teasel gourds and pumkin from her garden!) But I'll stick to the Ferns for now. 

Fiddlehead ferns are the young shoots of edible ferns. Literally nano ferns before they become ferns. Tightly rolled up teeny baby ferns that spring up out of stubs of older plants by riversides and swampy areas, a few weeks after the first monsoon rains. Their compressed spirals (resembling the spiral end of a fiddle, hence the name) emerge, uncurling, stretching for the sun and grabbing for fresh air with all their tiny leafy frondy and tendrilly might. (Almost as though they want to make the most of the moment!) Left on the plant, each Fiddlehead would unfurl into a new frond. 

But they don't thanks to us Fiddlehead crazy foodies! Because boy, are they are popular! Known variously as Lingra, lingri, ningro, Lingure, Khutde, Fiddlehead Ferns are found all over the Indian Himalayas, Nepal, Bhutan and many other parts of the world. Availalble from Kashmir in the North to Assam in the North East. In Kashmir, they are called Kasrod and are popular in Dogra cuisine, pickled into a much loved Kasrod ka achaar. They are also eaten as a leafy vegetable with rotis or parathas. Himachali cuisine calls them Lingri and makes a lingri achaar. In Sikkim, they are called Niyuro and sometimes sauteed with chhurpi, the local cheese and also pickled. In the Kangra Valley they are called Lungdu. In Assam, they are called  
Dhekia xaak and cooked simply as a vegetable side dish or cooked with Pork and as I recently found out with Kala Chana.

And Fiddleheads are popular all over the world! Further out in Nepal, they are called Neuro (meaning 'bent,' 'curled' - neehureko, jhukeko). They have been eaten in Northern France since the start of the Middle Ages, are also savoured across Asia, among Native Americans, in the Hawain Islands and in the Russian Far East. Typically, Fiddleheads are steamed, sauteed, boiled and served with butter and or lemon, in egg dishes, with Hollandaise, or in combination with morel mushrooms. They are also pickled.

As green as they look, they are not like other greens, so I would not advise you eat Fiddleheads raw! Their habitat, makes them prone to carrying food-borne illnesses. So when you get them, wash them really well, rinsing of any grit stuck inside the heads. Be careful. And use as soon as you can once harvested. They are delicate, with a short shelf life and lose flavour and texture within days. I would not bother storing, freezing etc, it compromises the flavour. Though I have to admit I have never had enough to try pickling them so I cannot comment on that method of  storing them, currently.

Historically, Garhwali cuisine, has had a strong relaince on foraged foods and wild plants play a large part in fortifying the simple Garhwali diet. Fiddleheads, typically foraged from riversides would often supplement meals. Rich in omega-3, omega-6 essential fatty acids as well as iron, potassium and other minerals and vitamins its understandable why they came to be valued as food, but their earthy flavours is what makes them loved by those who have discovered them! During the Monsoon, women often harvest the tightly coiled fronds, for personal consumption, or to sell. Usually  harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height, the ferns are cut fairly close to the ground and the entire stem and head is eaten. Fiddleheads have an addictive green, earthy flavour, with a nutty mushroom-y undertone and a tang of iron and pair beautifully with potatoes, into a subzi, which is how we eat them.

In Garhwali cuisine we stir-fry Ligure in Mustard oil, tempered with Jakhiya garlic and dry red chillies. Potatoes are often added and taste amazing cooked with the Lingure. (Come to think of it, potatoes, pork, mushrooms, eggs, fiddleheads marry with the best foods!) Here is the recipe and here is a link to a video of the Lingure ki Subzi recipe.

Lingure ki Sabzi 
2 tbsp Mustard Oil 
1 tsp jakhiya
4-5 dry red chillies
8-10 cloves garlic, sliced 
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced 
500 gms Lingure /Fiddlehead fern, cleaned and chopped

Heat the oil in an iron kadhai. 
When hot, add the jakhiya and let it splutter. 
Add the chillies and garlic and saute until garlic is golden. 
Add the potatoes and stirfry till 9o% cooked. (When pressed they should break easily) 
Add the Lingure and stirfry, first the vegetable will let of its water. Then the water will simmer away and the vegetable will be reduced and get a oily sheen. 
Transfer to a Serving bowl. 
Eat warm with rotis or Arhar Dal, and rice 

Interesting links! 
The Fiddlehead Gitika gets from Assam are different from the ones I have eaten in Dehra Dun. The Assamese ones look more like these ( The ones we eat in Dehra Dun look more like these 

Here is a lovely post by Rekha Kakkar on Dogri Kasrod Achaar.

A great post on foraging for Fiddleheads with some instructive infographics.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Come on Food lovers! Let us celebrate International #PulaoBiryaniDay from everywhere on 25th June 2017

There are many debates about the difference between Pulao and Biryani, and so many stories on the origins of Biryani. But there is little doubt about one thing...  We are all united in our love for Pulao and Biryani! This legendary dish enjoys a cult status among food lovers across the subcontinent and beyond.

Every community of India has its own special pulaos and biryanis. Celebrate them through #PulaoBiryaniDay on Sunday, 25th June 2017 in any of the following ways:

1. Cook and eat your family’s signature recipe for pulao or biryani or order in from your favourite biryani outlet and tweet about it using #PulaoBiryaniDay.
2. If you are a chef, food outlet owner or a restaurateur, you can feature a special pulao or biryani dish and encourage your customers to try it by talking about it on social media.
3. Get together with family and friends over a #PulaoBiryaniDay potluck.
4. Use the hashtag #PulaoBiryaniDay on Sunday, 25th June 2017 and share what you are cooking, your memories, recipes your family makes and stories about pulaos and biryanis.

Indian Food Observance Days are an attempt to promote & support traditional Indian ingredients, dishes, food-ways and recipes with the goal of these days gaining international recognition in the years to come in the culinary world. The idea is to celebrate them online as well as encourage off-line, ground events for people to come together and celebrate.

#PulaoBiryaniDay celebrations in India
Food lover across India are gearing up to celebrate #PulaoBiryaniDay Food Blogger Monika Manchanda​ is organizing a #PulaoBiryaniDay potluck in Bangalore. Home Chef Shri Bala​ is doing a bunch of things in Chennai and Chef Amit Pamnani​ is organizing something in Indore.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Celebrating International #Masaladay on 20th May

What makes something taste Thai, Italian, Mexican Or Indian? What makes something North Indian, South Indian Kashmiri, Kerela style, Gujarati, Bengali or Assamese? 

The Masalas or Spices!

So #Aamachaarday was a great success and it looks like #PapadBadiDay is going to be too. And I am aware that I am going to get a bit annoying soon (although I hope not, because I am just beginning to have fun!) But my Indian Food Observance days follow the Food Calendar on India, so I have no choice but to celebrate #MasalaDay or #SpiceDay on 20th May. 

Because the height of summer in May is when a lot of food production takes place. Ingredients are sun dried and most importantly quintessential Masalas are made and stored to flavour our meals throughout the year. Let us mark this time with a specific day to stock up on our masalas, celebrate our food traditions, and celebrate the unity in our diversity by making our masalas and cooking with them! 

Protein, carbohydrates, fibre, beans, meats, rice, noodles, cooking fat, breads all form the bulk of a cuisine but the definitive factor, the 'tastemakers' that characterise a cuisine are the spices or Masalas it uses. And every cuisine in India has specific spice combinations and spice mixes that characterize them. From the Ver of Kashmir to the Sambhar Masala of the South, from the Methiyu no Masalo of Gujarat to the Panch Phoron of Bengal. And thousands of Masalas in between as cuisines branch into various dialects. The hot summer month of May is when communities all over the country dry and grind the spices and spice mixes that give their cuisines characteristic identity. Let’s celebrate our Masalas on May 20, International #MasalaDay or #SpiceDay to mark the ethos of Indian food. Because our cuisine could not be without its Masalas!

On May 20 #MasalaDay celebrate by:
-          Making your own Masalas for the year.
-          Chefs, Restaurants and food outlets can add a special based on a specific Masala, tell the story, to their customers and share it on social media. Give away packets of the masala to patrons that dine with you that day. 
-          Use the hashtag #MasalaDay #SpiceDay on 20th May and share what you are cooking, the memories of the masalas your family makes, recipes and stories of making Masalas, dishes that are made with those masalas and how they flavour your food and your memories.
-          Get together with family and friends at potlucks to cook traditional dishes made with the masalas in your cuisines.
-          Have a food exchange. Get together with friends to exchange masalas with one another so everyone gets to try each other’s Masalas.

The #MasalaDay #MasalaExchange 
Remember the popular Book Exchange? This time, I am taking the celebrations for #MasalaDay online. To celebrate #MasalaDay on 20 May I am starting a #MasalaExchange #SpiceExchange so we can all learn more about one another's food. 

What participants have to do:
1. Make a packet of your family's or cuisine's signature Masala/Spice mix. Add a note about its use and a favourite recipe.
2. Send it to a stranger (I’ll send you a name and address).
3. Share when you receive the Masalas you are sent and what you do with them on your blogs or facebook.

You will only be sending one masala to two people. (the stranger and me).
Depending on how many sign up here, you will receive a few masalas in return.
Leave a comment with your email if you want to participate and I’ll inbox you the details.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lets celebrate International #PapadBadiDay on 13th May 2017

After the wonderful reception #AamAchaarDay recieved, let us get together to celebrate #PapadBadiDay this May. According to the Indian food calendar, the height of summer in May is when a lot of food production takes place. Quintessential ingredients like papads, and badis/badiyaan/wadis are made and stored to supplement our meals throughout the year. 

Papad or poppodums which need no introduction and wadis or badis (sun dried lentil and/or vegetable dumplings) have been an important supplementary food in Indian cuisine and the food calender of India. Historically dried in May when the summer heat is at its peak, papads and badis are and stored for use in Monsoons and winters when vegetables might be scarce. And most Indian regional communities follow this tradition and dry their own varieties of papads and badis based on the ingredients they have to hand. Lets all get together to celebrate this food tradition unique to India and the variety of papads and badis we have in India with International #PapadBadiDay and mark the tradition on Saturday, 13th May 2017.

You do not need to be a food bloggger, writer or chef. You just have to love food! Here are some things you can do! 

1. Make and talk about your family or community’s papad or badi dish and share it on social media. Or try a papad or badi you may never have tasted before.
2. If you are a chef, own food outlet or a restaurant you can have a special dish on that day featuring papads and badis and encourage your customers to try it by talking about it on social media.
3.  Get together with friends to make them a variety of papads and badis.
4. Have a potluck and cook up dishes with papads and badis from different communities so everyone can taste different things. 
5. Use the hashtag #PapadBadiDay on Saturday, 13th May 2017 and share what you are cooking, your memories, recipes your family makes and stories or dishes around papads and badis.
6.  Have a food exchange. Get together with friends to exchange papads and badis.

International #PapadBadiDay PotluckAPB Cook Studio
To support #PapadBadiDay, APB Cook Studio is hosting a potluck at the studio at which regional cuisine evangelists from the city will gather at the studio with papad and badi based dishes from their communities. On the menu so far are specialties from Punjab, Uttaranchal, Gujarat, West Bengal among others. We have a few seats left (limited) so if you would like to join in, do get in touch. 
Date: Saturday, 13th May 2017 Time: 12pm-2pm Venue: APB Cook Studio
For more details, please call us on 022-42152799 or email us at

Friday, May 05, 2017

What #AamAchaarDay meant to me...

As planned, #AamAchaarDay was celebrated on 22 April. We had people all over the country join us online and offline with making achaar, sharing memories, stories, recipes, learning and more. We got lakhs of views and reached millions. On ground, at the studio, we had a pickle exchange.  All of that happened and happened more amazingly than i had planned! But it was this moment, captured in this picture that summed it all up for me.

My daughter Natasha, is 9. She has been showing an interest in all things cooking since she participated in my kids in the kitchen course last year. But I was unexpectedly surprised when she came up to me and asked if she could also take part in ‘the pickle thing’ I was doing.‘The pickle thing’ was the pickle exchange I had organised at APB for #Aamachaarday

I have very fond memories of days when pickling sessions when I was a child. The women of my family would gather on the terrace to make the year's pickles. As the family grew and branched out, the pickle sessions stopped happening. But I have always remembered the camaraderie, the learning and amidst all of that the passing on of food knowledge. It is a tradition I always wanted to recreate but the coordination and planning always made it difficult. This year I was determined to make it happen. I got regional cuisine experts from the extended APB food family together. And I was so gratified that each of them supported my plan wholeheartedly!

We congregated for a wonderful afternoon of pickle making to teach each signature pickles from our community cuisines along with a other pickle enthusiasts. On the menu were a Garhwali Hing Achaar by me, Sindhi ‘Bhendi’ pickle by Usha Auny, my sister in laws Mom, Maharashtrian pickle by my friend, Gujarati chundo by my Mom,  Vadu Mango by Geetha and a Bengali Mango chutney by my friend Rhea.  It was a beautiful day, we cut mangoes, mixed pickles, gossiped, ate ravenously and all took home with a share of 6 different pickles! We also learned new pickle recipes, which was the true exchange. 

I was only half serious when I said yes to Natasha, I didn’t think she would see it through (you know how kids can be, so easily distracted!). But she surprised me, willingly sticking by me every second of the day. And as we cut mangoes, mixed masalas, made pickles, talked and gossiped, she was right there, with me, little hands learning, struggling at some points to do adult things, but there, not giving up, even throwing in a few 9 year old jokes that had us all in splits! But, importantly she did it all. And every second of her being with me is magnified in my memories, larger than all the other memories of that wonderful day. Sweeter, more beautiful, most precious amidst all the other lovely moments. Lingering, as we made our way home that evening, carrying our bounty of pickles we had made.  But the truly defining moment was yet to come. 

Serendipitously, the Mango tree in my office complex was being harvested of its fruit at the time and Natasha wanted to watch so we stopped. And came away with a couple of the green mangoes from there as well. When we got home, I put everything away and did not give it further thought as I got on with dinner prep. 

Until the next day, when I came home to the moment in that picture. Natasha used the mangoes she got from the tree on our way home and made her very own batch of Hing ka achaar, grinding the hing, remembering the proportions and mixing everything just like I taught her. It was not perfect, but at that moment that didn't matter, she has a lifetime to perfect her recipe. What is importantis that she had made a family recipe. A recipe I had learned from her Dadi that she had inherited. And a tradition had been kept alive.

In the FB Live food chat on #AamAchaarDay, Saee pointed out that Indian pickles are as Artisanal as food can get. She is right. The term “Artisan” describes non industrial food, made in small batches by hand, by methods usually handed down through generations and often in danger of being lost. My paternal grandmother, Moti Mummy, made more than 90 pickles round the year, but I only inherited a handful of her recipes. My maternal great-grandmother is is said was an expert pickle maker too, her repertoire had some truly unusual pickles that I only have descriptions of. 

I don't mean to sound preachy, but if we are lucky enough to inherit family food traditions, they exist for a reason. And we owe it to ourselves and our kids to keep them alive. We must make our own pickles, even if its just a bottle or two. Having hands on made 10+ kgs of pickle this #AamAchaarDay we all realised it’s not so hard! Perhaps living away from family or alone in a city might make it difficult. But like me you can get together with friends and make a party of it! Or preparations might feel too hard. At one time, they might have been because everything would need to be done at home but not anymore! Our bhaji wallas and kirana stores have also evolved with us. Today one can get mangoes, whatever kind, prepped as we require, community stores stock ready masala mixes. It’s easy to put a batch of pickle together. Or if you must buy your pickles, buy from home chefs bottling pickles (store-bought pickles are RUBBISH compared to home made!). It is the only way to keep culinary legacy alive. And losing this legacy would be tragic.

And we must expose our children to our food culture. We owe it to our kids to pass food traditions on. The Mango pickles that flavor life’s memories for us in India are at home, made by our Grandmothers and Mothers. AND US now! And our children in the future! 

We all need to remember, that If our grandfathers planted mango trees for us to enjoy, our grandmothers pickled the fruit for us to savour. 

Gyaan and links 

Here are links to pickles from different community kitchens:
And my Ma in law's Heeng / Hing ka Achaar on my blog as well. 

If you have blogged recipes for mango pickles on your blogs, can you paste links in comments? Ill compile a comprehensive list of them. TIA!

An old painting of pickling mangoes I once made.