Monday, November 28, 2011

Undhiyu - Everything you ever wanted to know about it with a little help from my Mother Heena Munshaw

Somehow the Moroccon Couscous plate made the ideal platter to serve the undhiyu!

I love going to my Mom’s house on weekends when she is in town. It’s the one place I can leave responsibility at the door and let her take over for the few hours I am there. And this past Sunday’s visit was particularly looked forward to because I had not had my fix of my Mom’s attention since Diwali. She left on a work trip to Morrocco and Spain just the day after and the weeks she was gone had been fairly intense on the work and personal front. So I arrived at her place exhausted and prepared to eat and take a nap. But that’s not how things turned out. Mom had other plans. 

Whenever I am interviewed for stories one question that is always asked is “How does your family react to your work”. And I answer that there used to be a time when my family did not really understand what I did, but accepted it with a befuddled expression. But today, they are my biggest champions! And this lunch at Moms will show you just how much! Not only had Mom made Undhiyu for us - from scratch, which is a laborious task - albeit with delicious results, but she actually SHOT IT STEP - BY - STEP like I would for one of my blogposts! She has acquired a new Camera that she’s been playing with stunning results as you will see. 

And then even as I was recovering from that news she handed me a large cloth wrapped bundle. Intrigued I untied it to find a beautifully embellished Couscous platter she had carried back for me by hand! It was a fabulous meal, the undhiyu was one of the best we had ever eaten and after the meal, Mom proceeded to unpack all the foodie stuff she had picked up for me from Spain; Safforn  Iberico Ham and Chorizo and Morroco; Ras el Hanout, Argan oil, and so many new things to play with! I will share all that in a later post, right now let me share the Undhiyu with you! 

Amongst the vegetarian Gujarati community I belong to, we look forward to Undhiyu and congregate over Undhiyu parties like people in other parts of the world come together for barbecues or clambakes, ordering it by the kilo if we can’t cook it at home! Growing up, I remember knowing winter had arrived when Undhiyu made its appearance at the table. Undhiyu is a Gujarati dish whose name derives from “Undhu” which means upside down in Gujarati.  In the rural areas of the coastal region of Surat in Gujarat in Western India, where Undhiyu originates, farmers have for eons, filled earthen pots with fresh winter produce and buried them underground, lighting a fire on top so the dish cooks under a fire instead of atop it, hence the name!
The dish that we eat in Mumbai is a slightly more evolved version. While both versions burst with vegetables each of which contributes its own flavour, the sophisticated version is cooked in layers, with the flame under the dish. Vegetables are prepped by cleaning, cutting into chunks and stuffing with a paste of ground coconut, green garlic, chillies and green coriander. Oil is poured into the dish and tempered with spices and the foundation is laid with fresh Surti papdi, (a flat jewel bright green, delicate field bean that is only found in Surat in the winter and is essential to Undhiyu). This is followed by vegetables in progression of cooking time; Ariya kakdi  (a tough-skinned zucchini-like seedless cucumber), old potatoes, small aubergines, kand (round purple yam), sakhariya (sweet potatoes), and unpeeled, slightly unripe yellow Rajagiri bananas. The topmost layer is muthiya, spicy fried dumpling of gramflour and fenugreek leaves. All of which is smothered in more of the aromatic green paste.
The vegetables slowly simmered in their own juices, untouched until they are cooked to about 80 per cent, at which point fresh coconut is added. When cooked the entire assembly is inverted (making it true to its name in another way) topped with coarsely chopped tender garlic shoots and portioned out. And however one chooses to eat Undhiyu; with Poories (airy paper thin deep fried puffs of flat bread, steamed rice or just by itself like I do, it is ESSENTIAL to get one piece of each vegetable, even if it means you miss your next meal because every bite should taste different, depending on the vegetable it contains. In fact the sign of a good Undhiyu is being unable to eat the next meal!

The Undhiyu Man at Grant Rd. Vegetable market!
Traditional Indian Dietetics believes that the digestion is sluggish in certain seasons such as the summer and the monsoon. And according to this seasonal eating pattern winter means a celebration of the heavier spectrum of dishes of the Indian culinary repertoire. Consequently dishes like whole beans and pulses, red meats and meat curries for example are all considered hard to digest and avoided at other times of the year in different parts of India become ok to eat in the winter. Undhiyu is suited to the winter diet because all the vegetables in it are considered heat-producing. At Grant Rd. Vegetable market you know Undhiyu season is on when one vendor sets up a stall where you can buy all your Undhiyu requirements.
Undhiyu at Soam.
For those of you who cannot make Undhiyu at home, many place in Mumbai serve it including my fafourite - Soam restaurant at Babulnath which is as much my baby as it is owner Pinky’s. Pinky and I go back a long way and I  have been part of the research of many dishes the restaurant serves. And for me, Soam’s Undhiyu is second only to the one made in my mother’s house! Good enough that it is actually bought by the kilo by its patrons. Named after Soam ras, nectar of the gods and Saomvaar, special day of the ancient Babulnath temple opposite, everything about Soam, exudes a positive aura. It’s one of the few restaurants in Mumbai that offers a regional cuisine, home style Gujarati and Marwari fare. In fact it is a living showcase of that cuisine because in addition to its regular menu, it offers a rotation of seasonal menus round the year that display heirloom recipes fast disappearing from home kitchens of these communities. 

The culinary calendar at Soam follows the seasons and their winter festival featuring this superlative slow cooked medley of winter vegetables, that is Undhiyu, is already on! Soam goes to great lengths to keep the aroma of Undhiyu alive. Because purists consider Undhiyu authentic ONLY if the vegetables used in it are grown in Surat, Soam, sources all its ingredients from Surat daily in Undhiyu season (November to March). And because purists also believe that the proof of a good Undhiyu is the oil used to cook it (a single kilo of Undhiyu can contain more than 250ml of oil!) For the diet conscious Soam also serves two variations of it, a “steamed undhiyu”, sans oil and coconut, and the traditional regular version.
Thank you so much Ma, for supporting me in every way!  

Inspired by my friends and fellow food bloggers Moms; Kalyans AKA Finely Chopped whose mothers posts are such rich renderings of her life and travels (find them under the label “Mamma Knife” on his blog) and Jyotika AKA Followmyrecipe whose mother Chaya Purwars blogs about her school here, I have been telling my Mother for a while now to at least blog on my blog if not on a dedicated blog of her own, So we get a windo to look into her wonderful world of food and travel! There is a lot that our generation needs to learn from our mothers, including how to stay in step with progress and all of these Moms (mine included) are inspirations. I hope that I am equally inspiring to my children and grand children in the future! So do leave comments and encourage all three of them to continue to share vignettes of their lives and kitchen capers here on these spaces.  10th December is Terra Madre day when people all over the world will celebrate local regional and traditional foods in different ways. Watch for an Undhiyu tweetup at the time. Follow me on Facebook or on twitter as @rushinamg and also @Netra on twitter for news on that.

Undhiyu - (This recipe is a mix of my Moms and Pinkys recipes)
Serves - 8-12: Time 4 hours
250ml oil
250g Surti Papdi
250g Green tuver
200g Green Peas
200g kand
200g suran
200g sweet potato
200g brinjal
4 semi-ripe bananas
50g surti kakdi

For Green Masala:
3 cup green coriander chopped fine

1 cup green spring garlic chopped fine
1 grated coconut
salt to taste
1 ½ tspn ajwain
½ tspn hing (asafetida)
2 tbspn oil for tempering

For the Muthia
1 bunch methi greens, finely chopped

1 ½ tbspn besan
2 pods garlic (crushed then finely chopped)
1 tspn ajwain
2 tspn dhania-jeera powder
1 tspn red chili powder
1 tspn haldi powder
2 tspn sugar (optional)
salt to taste
water for binding
Oil for frying

To make methi muthia:
Clean and chop methi fine, add besan and other ingredients, shape into dumplings using water and oil as desired. Steam  till soft an lightly pan fry to make outsides crisp. Set aside.

Preperation of veges :
String and halve split Surti Papdi.

Shell green lentils & green peas.
Peel purple yam and Suran and cut into big square chunks.
Cut off brinjal crowns and slit cross-wise.
Cut banana into chunks leaving skin on.

For making Undhiyu:
Halve masala and mix half with the prepared vegetables. Heat oil and temper with ajwain and hing, add rest of green masala ingredients (keeping a little on the side for garnish later) and sauté for five mintues, veggies in order of cooking time with the banana chunks and steamed/deep-fried muthias going in last. Cook on low heat with sealed cover. Garnish with the left over green masala ingredients.

Other Restaurants where you can get Undhiyu

Soam | Add : Satguru Sadan,Ground Floor, opposite Babulnath Temple, Chowpatty | Phone 6730-5369
Chetana Restaurant & Bar | Add : 34, Rampart Row, opp Jehangir Art Gallery, K Dubhash Marg, Kala Ghoda | Phone : 2284-4968/2282-4983 
Hiralal Kashidas Bhajiawala | Add: 2-4 Vithalbhai Patel Road, off Thakurdwar Main Road, CP Tank | Phone : 2242-3716/2242-8375  
Jain Biscuit Centre | Add : Shirin Mansion, opposite McDonald’s, Station Road, Andheri (W) | Phone : 2628-4125  
Regal Shop | Add : No 1, Lourdes Heaven, Pali Naka, opposite Punjab Sweet House, Bandra (W) | Phone : 2604-1204
Surti | Add : 1/3 Gurudev Caterers, Bhuleshwar Corner, Bhuleshwar Road, Kalbadevi | Phone 2240-0390/2241-2254 
Thackers | Add : 31 Thaker Bhojanalaya Building, opposite Kalbadevi Road, Dadyseth Agyari Marg, Kalbadevi | Phone : 2201-1232 
Thaker Bhojanalay | Add : Dadyseth Agiary Lane, off KalbadeviRoad | Phone : 2208-8035
Moms very organised Mise for Undhiyu!
The Root vegetables that go into undhiyu at the vegetable stall in the market. Sweet Potato, Purple yam and Suran.
The root vegetables prepared - peeled and sliced or slit down the middle.
Aubergines slit with a cross.
Potaoes peeled and slit with cross.
Bananas with a slit down their length.
Tendli or Ivy gourd with a slit down their length.
Papdi stung and split.
Green Tur Dal
Extra beans of the Surti Papdi (these can be bought like this) they pop with lots of flavour when cooked.

Fresh Fenugreek leaves cleaned and chopped
Fresh Coconut, grated.
Fresh Coriander and Coconut mixed together
Lemons and green chillies.
Green Garlic and Surti Kakdi (which we have not used today - it comes into season a little later.)
Chopped Green Garlic.
Garlic, coconut, coriander and fenugreek ground to a coarse paste.
Stuffing the Baby aubergines.
Stuffing the bananas.
All the vegetables stuffed.
The fried Dumplings called Muthiya
The deep vessel ready for layering.
The tender beans and legumes go in first.
topped by hartier root vegetables
and followed by softer vegetables
more greens go on top
finally the coriander and coconut
A large plate covers the vessel
and is weighed down - this is a three generation old Brass Mortar and pestle that is still used in our kitchen daily.
The cooked Undhiyu
Undhiyu on my platter.


Dilshad said...

The undhiyu looks absolutely delicious! You are right in saying that we need to gather as much traditional food wisdom as we can from the older generation. Thanks to your mom for blogging this!

Harini said...

Wow!! I make one too, but I use red chilli powder. I have to make a trip to Thane market where our undhiyu seller keeps everything ready. Must make this soon!! Thanks to you and your ma for this post.:)

shimpa said...

Very well written article...i always sample some at 'Rajdhani' in winters but will make a trip to 'Soam' this time...thanks for the tempting pictures...

Neha Agarwal Haria said...

come winter and we all wait for the undiyu vegetables to be available in the market... my aunt-in-law in grant road makes the most yummiest undhiyu (atleast from the ones i have tasted)... I love the receipe.. it looks yum... thanks for sharing not everyone can get the preparation right...

neha -

Neha Agarwal Haria said...

come winter and we all wait for the undiyu vegetables to be available in the market... my aunt-in-law in grant road makes the most yummiest undhiyu (atleast from the ones i have tasted)... I love the receipe.. it looks yum... thanks for sharing not everyone can get the preparation right...

neha -

Meena said...

yummy i love undhiyo saw ur post on twitter thought would check out.

Miri said...

I grew up in Mumbai eating this in my Jain friends' homes and miss it so much - its been years since I have eaten Undhiyu.....its amazing that your Mum is so enthusiastic and supportive of your work and took the effort to click all those pics!

Curry Spice said...

Looks so delicious. And thank you for the mention. I will show it to mom. She will be happy to see.

The knife said...

it just struck me that the dish must take hours to cook and minutes to gobble up...that's why you need moms and grandmoms...thanks for the mention and looking forward to aunty's blog posts

sangeeta said...

This is the most elaborate informative post i have seen about undhiyo. This will be my blueprint whenever i try this yummy looking thing. Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

aah orgasmic.. u inspired me with your blog and pics.. thank you

Amisha said...

Been following you and love your work. I cited this undhiyu recipe and history in our blog, Banyan Parents, at Given your expertise and location, I'd love to talk more about contributing!

Anonymous said...

Appetising, encouraging blog on undhiyu with
equally inspiring pictures. As it seems a laborious task to source the vegetables and time consuming to cook it,.would appreciate it if you could post details of places where one can order this dish by the kilo at and which is as appetising as depicted by you.