Jimikand (sooran) subzi and a Diwali tradition

Indian festivals have a close relationship with food. There’s always a vegetable, grain, meat dish that’s traditionally eaten on a specific festival whether it’s til gud or khichdi on Makar Sankranti, rewdi-moongfali on Lohri or sewai on Eid.

In our house, there hasn’t been a Diwali when my mother has not cooked jimikand, also known as sooran or elephant foot yam. In eastern UP it’s a tradition to eat jimikand around Diwali. There’s an interesting reason behind it and Sangeeta Khanna has nicely described it on her blog banaraskakhanha.com. Yam grows from corms (bulbo-tubor) and after harvesting it grows again from the leftover corms in the ground. This property of the vegetable falls in line with the ideology of storing and increasing wealth during Diwali and hence considered auspicious.
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Ashtami prasad and dahi ki pakodi recipe

Navratri is here and my whole week is spent in the anticipation of the Ashtami Prasad. Chaitra Navratri, which falls in March-April, is when Hindus worship goddess Durga and her nine forms. People usually fast and pray and on Ashtami the fast is broken with a prasad. In North this prasad is more like a grand meal with puri, subzi, halwa, kheer and more.
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At my home it was always kale chane – see my recipe of kale chane ki ghughniyan here – puri, dahi ki pakodi and suji (semolina) halwa. For some reason, the meal would never taste the same if cooked on any other day of the year. It’s a lot like the karah prasad at Gurudwaras; offering it as bhog somehow adds to the taste. Continue reading

Garhwali cuisine and a celebration of dals at APB Cook Studio

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Garhwali Meal at APB Cook Studio

When I was a kid eating a dish specific to my region, city or state seemed so casual that I never imagined that there would be people who might not be familiar with these dishes. And so, when they looked at a piece of Bal Mithai with curious wonder, I proudly introduced them to this simple sweet from Uttarakhand. Bal mithai is essentially chocolate like fudge made with browned khoya (milk solids) and coated with sugar pearls. The sweet is originally from Almora in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. As a kid, I ate kilos of Bal Mithai every year when we visited my Nanaji’s village in Kashipur, a small town in Udham Singh Nagar district. The village falls in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand while the Garhwal region covers Mussoorie, Dehradun, Haridwar and other areas. Continue reading

The nostalgia of winter foods

Yesterday, while editing a winter foods story for Delhi, I had this sudden craving for sitting wrapped in a blanket and munching on moongfali (peanuts); crisp moongfali encased in warm kernel which is broken with the thumb. Salt and spicy coriander chutney would be standard accompaniments to the peanuts. We would always rummage through the kernels to look for a few stray peanuts, even after finishing quarter kilo of it.

Kali gajar ki kanjiThis and many other food memories that are so typical to winter, zoomed past as I read through the paragraphs about roasted shakarkand, dilli ki aloo chaat and bedmi-aloo; the ones that I am willing to recreate in Mumbai even at the slightest hint of cold. But, it’s never the same; sarson ka saag is never as fresh, the taste of radish is never as sharp and the kanji never gets the same pungency as when kept in the winter sun. Worst of all, there is no kali gajar here to make the kanji.

I remember as a kid there were vegetables that we’d only get in winter and my parents made sure that we ate them all. Mom would get singhada (water chestnut) to make kachri. She would boil the singhadas, peel and crush them and then cook it in desi ghee. This crunchy, buttery kachri would then be garnished with ginger, green chillies, coriander and lime juice. Sadly, the dish is not so common on the streets in north India. However, if you go towards Ramnagar in Uttarakhand you might still find some street vendors making it. Continue reading

What do north Indians eat?

This is a rant that was building up in my head for a while now. A few months ago I had read an article which – if I had to put it in a sentence – un-generalized Gujarati food for north Indians who think that Gujaratis add sugar to every dish. That’s partly true but it’s not just north Indians who think this way. I have met a number of Maharashtrians and south Indians who share the same thought. In fact, Indians generalize almost every cuisine and culture. Generalizing is our favourite sport.

Anyhow, getting back to this article. While the writer ’saved’ Gujarati food from this brutal generalization, he went ahead and generalized north Indian food. Actually, bashing it to an extent. There are a number of things that irked me. First, what do you categorize as north Indian food? From Uttar Pradesh to Punjab and even Kashmir, all the states are considered north India. The food of one state is vastly different from another. Second, we’re not all butter chicken eating and naan chomping people who don’t know about any dal beyond the kali dal or don’t cook rice that’s anything less than basmati.

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