Tag Archives: BENGALI

Mum’s Raw Mango Salad

I had not known Bengalis to use mangoes in salad. To the east Indian residents, mangoes are usually used for sweetmeats and / or desserts. Salads are what cucumbers are bred for! And that notion was thwarted when my mom made together this wonderful raw mango salad.

Mum's Raw Mango Salad
Mum’s Raw Mango Salad

Mango salads are quite popular, ‘cross cultures. It is a refreshing fruit; can be used in unripe and ripe stages and goes well with most other things. Most coastal countries have been using mangoes in their salads; from Haiti to Thai. The good thing about using raw mangoes is the added crunch from the fibres. The sourness can ride tandem with other flavours that can be introduced. Now for this easy-peazy mango salad recipe.

Mum's Raw Mango Salad
Mum’s Raw Mango Salad

Chop up a raw mango into fine julienne. Now, in a mortar and pestle, crush up some dry mustard seeds. To that add, finely chopped green chillies and a handsome heave of coriander, chopped. The secret here is to add a dash of salt and double that of sugar.

In a bowl, mix the mango and the rest. Pour over a glug of mustard oil. Mix well and cool. Serve. Set. And Match.

Mum's Raw Mango Salad
Mum’s Raw Mango Salad

The mustard oil and seeds add the sharp bite, the sugar balances the sourness of the mangoes and uplifts the heat of the green chillies. This is the most refreshing mango salad I have had in India.

Chāt It Up!

Chat. Or Chāt. This simple, 4 letter word, finds a huge resonance in the lives of most South Asians. The first usage would be in English and the second would be in Hindi (or Urdu). Truth is, no Indian or Pakistani, can ever survive without either.

The CHAAT of good times
The CHAAT of good times

This is no occasion to discuss the English meaning, so we steer over to the vernacular connotations of ‘chāt’. Chāt is a culture. It is about the times when people are out, no matter what the barometer reads, to stuff their faces with their favourite chāt. A good chāt goes a long way in cementing relationships, finding new love, downing after-office hunger pangs and getting over boredom. A chāt centre is also a study of brand building – be it in the way the cart owner greets new customers or by giving a little something extra to repeat customers. Remember, your local chāt-waley bhaiyya? You might not remember his name, but you still remember him as chāt-waley bhaiyya! That is branding and recall!

A good chāt can define a person, shop, locality, and city even. If you don’t believe me, as any Indori about their chāt locality called ‘Chhappan’ and brace up to not talk for the next 20 minutes because you are salivating like Garfield in front of canned tuna.

The humble chāt is a tasty mix of flavours and spices, hot and cold textures, sweet and savoury and has many, shall we say, variations to it. A chāt menu can be very exhaustive and more challenging than an agency copy test. For those that know, salivate thinking of aloo tikka chat, papdi chaat, dahi bhalla, gol gappey, sev puri, bhel puri, jhaal moori! It’s just scratching the top, really. In fact nobody has considered it seriously but there is a chāt critic in all South Asians. We are the same commentators who feel that Sachin Tendulkar should have hit the ball a little to the off-side; and the tamarind chutney in the chāt is not tangy enough.

The experience of eating chāt starts long before a loaded plate is handed over. It begins with the customer peering over to see all the ingredients laid out, in invitation. Sorry Subway, move over; we’ve been at it since Adam’s. Then it is the magic of the person who loads up goodies on the plate and sprinkles different masalas with more aplomb than Emiril. Bam! Swirl on some spicy, tangy chutney, throw on some ginger juliennes and there you have it – the perfect plate of chāt.

That modest chāt assumes different hues of taste and flavour as one travels across the length and breadth of India. Newer items get added to the family of chat. Sometimes, popular chāt items get known in 3 or 4 different names. Of course there are epicurean critics who can theorise the difference in anatomy of a Bengali ‘phuchka’ to that of a Punjabi ‘gol-gappe’ over its Western poor cousin ‘pani puri’. So you see, getting together a plate of chāt right, is perhaps, tougher than pleasing Gordon Ramsey. Should you find anybody who can make the perfect chāt, marry the person!

One of the first things I was looking for when I landed in Dubai was a good chāt. My search took long with many trials, re-trials and tribulations. I am listing down the top 5 places where you can get a good chāt.

My recommendations are:

  1. Elco Chat Center in Karama for Pani Puri. Bengali’s might want to drive till the border of Sharjah for some ‘Phuchka’ at Calcutta Fast Food.
  2. Chatori Galli for some North Indian style treats like Papdi Chaat, Raj Kachodi and Jalebi Chaat.
  3. Urban Tadka (Karama / Discovery Gardens) for Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice and Pani Puri with Ragda.
  4. Puranmal for Vada Pao, Aloo Bonda.
  5. Bombay Chowpatty for Samosa Chaat, Dahi Bade, Papdi Chaat.

Now, if the desi in you is doing a jig because you are yearning that sunshine back home with street feasts and unending hours of fun while hot cups of ‘chai’ keep arriving along with piping hot samosas and vada paos, then, this is news for you.

The first-ever Masala Food Fair is here. 2 days of desi picnics, street-eats, and restaurant favourites, celebrity-sighting (Raveena Tandon promises to show up – wipe that gravy) and live cooking demo by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor! Save the dates – 20th and 21st of February at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Log on to masala.com/foodfair for more or look up #MasalaFoodFair on Twitter.

You will probably spot me there with a spoon in hand. See you there!

PS: my auto correct has resigned. It couldn’t agree with all the desi street eats thrown in here!

Also featured on Masala Magazine Online: http://www.masala.com/masala-food-fair-special-5-places-in-dubai-that-serve-best-chats-188871.html

 

Bengali Warewolf in Dubai

I am a bit of an honorary Bengali. Don’t feel much Bengali, save 5 days out of 365; and that is during Durga Puja! And I am just about feeling the first winds of change in me. Like a handsome man turns into a werewolf – the ears elongate, the sinews stand out, canines turn to fangs, hair grows all around – I was feeling a similar change reside in me.

I have been excited about the sweets my wife got me from Delhi! I am listening to the audio CD of Sukumar Ray‘s ‘Abol Tabol‘ – Bengali limericks he wrote for ‘Sondesh’. Remember a few, still! Yes, I don’t believe myself, right now!!

Despite the disguise, I secretly feel very proud when people say that Bengalis can hold on to a tune and that they know their music. I was proudly nodding my head as one of my non-Bong students was appreciating Bengali hospitality and also reminiscing the lusciousness of her first ‘rosho-golla’. It was happening to me for sure.

And tonight we went to a brand new Bengali (not Bangladeshi) restaurant in Sharjah. Wifey found about Calcutta Fast Food near Al Tawuun Mall. Not the best creative name one would expect from a Bong, but then the real test is only in the taste. I called the restaurant and was greeted by the most warm and elderly voice of a typical Bengali ‘Bhadralok‘ who gave me directions like my garrulous uncle would have. I was grinning as I indulged him!

courtesy Calcutta Fast Food
courtesy Calcutta Fast Food

When there, that slice of a restaurant appealed to me. I really must be ill! What riveted my attention was a wall of classy black and white photographs. Uttam-Suchitra from ‘Shoptopodi’ bang in the centre! There – can you hear Hemanta Mukherjee faintly? “Ayi poth jodi na shesh hoye, tobey kemon hoto, tumi bolo toi?” Tumiyi bolo!

Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar SetuVictoria Memorial, dhoti-clad babu hanging from a tram like an orang-utan in a zoo and oh! They have egg role! You can’t beat the taste of that one. I ordered one and it didn’t disappoint me a bit. Mmmm! Perfect!

What followed next was a tastefully made Chicken Chaap in a thick, consistent gravy with a distinct aroma of saffron. A healthy piece of chicken breast was well wrapped in the saffron gravy. Gastro-erotica!!! Crispy porotha on the side. Meshomoshai (the Bong Uncle I spoke to) suggested we try that! It was fab! My wife was in raptures, going back to her ‘Bedouin days’ in Calcutta!

I loved watching the father-son duo running the joint. Son took the delivery orders. Dad handled the restaurant floor orders. They opened the restaurant end August. He is the only son. Was in banking earlier. Dad keeps visiting them from Kolkata. Gathering so much information was just not my style. What was wrong with me?

I was surrounding myself with everything Bengali. Oh! And the crispy, crumbly fish fry was ‘darun’. I suggest that the Bengali expression ‘darun’ be included into the English lexicon. And I could arrange a ‘michhil’ to prove my point as well!

I was worried with my new self. I looked at my wife, for she has answers when I don’t. I asked her as to what was wrong with me?

She took a bite of her fish fry and nonchalantly said,”With Pujo ’round the corner, you are just PMS-ing.”

Bengali Warewolf in Dubai

I am a bit of an honorary Bengali. Don’t feel much Bengali, save 5 days out of 365; and that is during Durga Puja! And I am just about feeling the first winds of change in me. Like a handsome man turns into a werewolf – the ears elongate, the sinews stand out, incisors turn to fangs, hair grows all around – I was feeling a similar change reside in me.

I have been excited about the sweets my wife got me from Delhi! I am listening to the audio CD of Sukumar Ray‘s ‘Abol Tabol‘ – Bengali limericks he wrote for ‘Sondesh’. Remember a few, still! Yes, I don’t believe myself, right now!!

Despite the disguise, I secretly feel very proud when people say that Bengalis can hold on to a tune and that they know their music. I was proudly nodding my head as one of my non-Bong students was appreciating Bengali hospitality and also reminiscing the lusciousness of her first ‘rosho-golla’. It was happening to me for sure.

And tonight we went to a brand new Bengali (not Bangladeshi) restaurant in Sharjah. Wifey found about Calcutta Fast Food near Al Tawuun Mall. Not the best creative name one would expect from a Bong, but then the real test is only in the taste. I called the restaurant and was greeted by the most warm and elderly voice of a typical Bengali ‘Bhadralok‘ who gave me directions like my garrulous uncle would have. I was grinning as I indulged him!

courtesy Calcutta Fast Food

When there, that slice of a restaurant appealed to me. I really must be ill! What riveted my attention was a wall of classy black and white photographs. Uttam-Suchitra from ‘Shoptopodi’ bang in the centre! There – can you hear Hemanta Mukherjee faintly? “Ayi poth jodi na shesh hoye, tobey kemon hoto, tumi bolo toi?”
Tumiyi bolo!

Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar SetuVictoria Memorial, dhoti-clad babu hanging from a tram like an orang-utan in a zoo and oh! They have egg role! You can’t beat the taste of that one. I ordered one and it didn’t disappoint me a bit. Mmmm! Perfect!

What followed next was a tastefully made Chicken Chaap in a thick, consistent gravy with a distinct aroma of saffron. A healthy piece of chicken breast was well wrapped in the saffron gravy. Gastro-erotica!!! Crispy porotha on the side. Meshomoshai (the Bong Uncle I spoke to) suggested we try that! It was fab! My wife was in raptures, going back to her ‘Bedouin days’ in Calcutta!

I loved watching the father-son duo running the joint. Son took the delivery orders. Dad handled the restaurant floor orders. They opened the restaurant end August. He is the only son. Was in banking earlier. Dad keeps visiting them from Kolkata. Gathering so much information was just not my style. What was wrong with me?

I was surrounding myself with everything Bengali. Oh! And the crispy, crumbly fish fry was ‘darun’. I suggest that the Bengali expression ‘darun’ be included into the English lexicon. And I could arrange a ‘michhil’ to prove my point as well!

I was worried with my new self. I looked at my wife, for she has answers when I don’t. I asked her what was wrong with me?

She took a bite of her fish fry and nonchalantly said,”With Pujo ’round the corner, you are just PMS-ing.”

On the Burp-o-meter: 3 burps!