Fish and Seafood

Gandal patar bora ar macher patla jhol

8:16 PM

Fritters made of skunk vine (Paederia Foetida Linn) and light fish curry with the leaf paste

Uff dida ki baje gandho ei patatar, dur karo dur karo. (Oh Grandma what are these leaves? smell so bad. throw them away.),  I curled my nose and looked away in disdain.

Dida who was sitting on the floor and chopping a small bunch of the smelly leaves looked up and smiled. Tomar jonyoi ranna hochhe Didibhai. Khelei dekhbe atodiner jwor pet kharap kamon thik hoe jay. (It is being cooked for you dear, a great herb for your stomach ailments).

That made my heart skip a bit. After weeklong suffering of diarrhea and surviving on a meager diet of Barley water and thin arrowroot biscuit I was finally allowed to have a proper lunch today. I was waiting for the meal since morning and was dreaming of some fish curry with steaming hot rice or at least a meal of dal, alubhate, and machbhaja (Rice, mashed potato, and fried fish).

But not this. I shook my head in denial, tears welled up in my eyes and I ran away from that kitchen. 

Desserts and Sweets

Shahi Zarda (Biyebarir Zarda)

10:18 PM


Shakespeare once said 'What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose  by any other name would smell as sweet.'

While it comes to food I can relate to the second half of this famous saying but name of dishes often tells a lot about it's origin and evolution.

Zarda, also known as Meethe chawal (Sweetened rice) or Gur ke chawal (Jaggery rice) is a popular dessert in the Indian Subcontinent. The name Zarda comes from the Persian word 'Zard' or yellow colour.  It's the traditional yellow tint of this dessert that gave this name. While Zarda on a Muslim dastarkhwan is rich with pure ghee and heavy-handed use of dry fruits and nuts, the North Indian meetha chawal is comparatively lighter on the palate. and the Gur ke chawal in my experience was quite a peasant dish where aromatic rice is simmered in fresh ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) or jaggery water.

Tracing back to its roots would make one believe that the dish in India was introduced and popularised by the Mughals. A detailed recipe of Zard Birinj (Yellow rice) is found in Ain-i- Akbari, the record of Akbar's administration written by his court historian Abu'l Fazl in 16th century. It uses around 5 seers of sugar candy, 3.5 seers of ghee, and 1.5 seers of dry fruits and nuts for 10 seers of rice. An opulent dish fit for the royals. 

Bengali

Kharkol pata bata

10:00 PM

Isn’t it confusing that in monsoon when the plants start to sprout almost everywhere making the Earth look lush and green, is also the time when we are told to refrain from eating any sort of leafy greens? India's Monsoon eating philosophy is ingrained in the age-old practice of Ayurveda and backed up by many practices, folklores, and rituals. Which probably were developed to collectively fight deadly disease outbreaks that once were very common during the rainy seasons.

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