Shapla'r Bhyala or a fritter of Water Lily stems in the shape of rafts.

11:09 AM

  1. 1.
    (of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions.
    "the birds forage for aquatic invertebrates, insects, and seeds"
  1. 1.
    food such as grass or hay for horses and cattle; fodder.

  2. 2.
    a wide search over an area in order to obtain something, especially food or provisions.
    "a nightly forage for food"
Foraging, the search for wild organic food is definitely an ancient method of arranging a meal. Earlier it was the way of life but now a days it's an activity undertook only by a handful of people.  Though for some it's a way to have some fun in the Sun but most of them are serious gatherers and the knowledge they posses is really really astonishing. I right now am kicking myself everyday for not looking up for local forage club while I was in USA, where it is practised quite extensively by the like minded people.

The world of foraging is very fascinating in itself. Going out to the woods in search for something edible is very exciting. At the same time it's an wonderful way to bring your kids back to nature and showing them where their foods come from. But like everything else in life you need to be responsible about it. Responsible in the sense of knowledge of whats edible and not and also responsible in the sense of respecting the nature, opting for sustainable gathering which will allow the plants to regrow and the wild animals to have their food. Knowledge of right identification of plants is very important if you undertake foraging. With time we have lost touch with nature and much of our ancient knowledge of identifying edible greens have faded away. So getting a few tips from the expert before you start is very very important for your well being. 

Now that I have missed the chance to actually go for a foraging trip all I do these days is read foraging blogs and articles on net. Most of them are from US and Europe. The inception of Autumn is the time when mushroom experts go out looking for wild mushrooms. No not only truffles, morels or portobello are the wild edible fungi. There is something called Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureu) which is supposed to be extremely tasty with a texture and taste like that of chicken. Same goes to Black trumpets, Hen of the woods, Chanterelle etc etc.

Did you know that the Hogla or Cat tail plants that we see growing wild in the swamps are actually edible and is a great source of protein almost like rice or maize. The young male fruit could be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob where as the rhizomes can be eaten as flour and the pollens from the matured flowers could be used in many ways.

Same goes to wild garlics, wild onions, Dandelions and various others greens and herbs that are easily available and identifiable even in the urban areas. All you need is to cultivate the interest and gather some knowledge before taking the leap. May be if you have a garden thats the best place to start your journey and look for edible foods.

As a homage to this ancient art, I will be posting few recipes prepared with foraged ingredients. Though I wish I could have gone and collected them myself but I bought them from my local market. To start with I will be sharing one Shapla or Water lily stem recipe today. 

Well Ma never cooked while I was growing up but Dida (grand mother) did. I faintly remember her cooking this Shapla'r Bhyala or batter fried stems of water lily in the shape of a raft (bhyala). I recreated the recipe from memory and loved the taste. A bunch of nutrient rich shapla is sold for Rs.5 in my local market and when prepared properly gives you a very satisfying meal.

The stems are very long and tender and Preparing them are very easy. Just slit a small part from the end and pull it down to remove the fibrous skin all along. Later cut in shape as mentioned in the recipe below. 

Shapla'r Bhyala 
(Makes 6)

Few water lily stems: 3-4
Mustard paste: 1tbsp
Green chilli paste: 1/2 tsp
Rice flour: 4 tbsp
All purpose flour: 2 tbsp
Bi carb of soda: 1/4 tsp
Nigella sedds: 1/3 tsp
Oil for deep frying.

Remove the thin skin from the stems as mentioned above. Cut them in 2.5" pieces. I cut one piece and then use that to cut more to get even sized pieces.

Arrange the cut stems in the shape of a raft and insert a toothpick through the center. Keep aside.

Make the batter by mixing rice flour, all purpose flour, salt and pinch of turmeric with 1/4 cup water. It should be a moderately thick coating batter. Rub the nigella seeds in your palm to release the oil and add to the batter. With a fork whip it for a minute. Dont add the soda unless you are ready to fry.

Mix salt, turmeric, chili paste and mustard paste together. Once you are ready to fry heat the oil and smear this mixture all over the prepared bhyala or rafts. Dip them in the batter and fry on medium heat. Fry on both sides till they are golden and crunchy.

Sprinkle some salt on top and You should serve them immediately as the stems contain a lot of water and will start releasing water if they are rested.

Will share another recipe with Shapla in my next post.

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  1. Ami ata prothom kheyechilam college e porte..ak bondhu tiffin e anechilo....bhat diye mekhe khete daruuun lage. ..chobigulo asamanyo


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