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. 

That kitchen was my favorite place to linger on all day. I would sit there by Dida's side on a small piri (Wooden low stool) while she tempered the dal, fried the fish, or scolded Kotu'r maa for placing things out of her reach. I thought she loved me for being there, talking nonstop about my friends in Santiniketan, asking questions, and sometimes singing my favourite songs for her.

Then how could she do this to me! More tears rolled down my cheeks and I even fought with maa when she came to take me to the pond to give me a bath. 

And then lunch was served. A green-looking jhol with fish and plantain and two crisp fried green fritters glistening with dots of even crispier sesame seeds. 

Maa gave me a morsel of the meal and it was tasted divine with a squirt of lime. devouring hungrily I wondered what was her sorcery that turned such malodorous greens into a delicate herby broth. Without saying a word I savoured the meal in silence and decided to spend more time with her in the kitchen to learn some of her magic spells.

Gandal or Gadhabhadali is a vine that grows wild in India and Bangladesh. Monsoon is the time when it flourishes and finally flowers and fruits in Autumn. Also known as gandhabhadali, skunk vine, Gandhaprasarani or prasarani (Paederia Foetida Linn). Because of the stench in it's leaves not many comes near it but it possesses several medicinal properties. Numerous reference of this plant is found even in Charaka and Sushruta Samhita. In Ayurveda this is used to treat all sorts of stomach-related problems, paralysis, rheumatic affections, piles and urinary discomforts. 

In Bengal the rhyme that reminds people of the efficacy of this medicine goes like-

ভ্যাদাল বনে গাঁদাল বসে, হেঁকে বলে খাওনা কসে,

ভাইবোনেতে বেড়া দেব অতিসারের ঘরে-

মোদের সঙ্গে বেলকে নেব, আম-অতিসার ঝেঁটিয়ে দেব

কিসের তোমার ডর

Which loosely means a combination of mutha (cypres rotundus) and skunk vine can cure any stomach diseas where as adding bael fruit (aegle mermelos) to it will even cure dysentery and stomach worms. In Bengal this is often used in cooking. A crisp fried bora or fritter is normal and people like my dida still cooks a light fish broth with plantain and fresh fish to keep stomach bugs at bay. 

Below are the recipes.

Gandal patar jhol

(serves 2)



Ingredients:

Skunk vine leaves: 12-14

Fresh Fish: I used deshi mourola or mola carplet; 100 gms

Plantain: 1

Potato: 1 small

Green chilies: 2-3

Salt

Turmeric

Mustard oil: 3 tbsp

Cumin or nigella seeds for tempering 1/3 tsp

Method

Wash the fish and marinate with salt and turmeric. Keep aside for 15 minutes. 

In the meantime peel the plantain and potato and cut in thick batons.

Wash the leaves and make a paste with one green chili. If you do not like spicy food then omit the green chili here.

Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry the fish lightly. 3-4 minutes on each side. If needed add a little more oil. Take out and keep aside.

In the same pan add the rest of the oil and temper with the whole cumin or nigella and 2 slit green chilies. Once they start to splutter add the veggies. Add salt and saute on low. Cover and cook till they are slightly cooked. Add the leaf paste and mix. 

Add one and half cup of warm water. Once it starts to boil add the fish, mix and adjust the seasoning if needed. 

Cover and cook on medium till you are happy with the consistency.

A Homemekers's notes:

Generally in a jhol like this very little turmeric is added.

You can also add other vegetables like pointed gourd (patol), raw papaya etc.

Vegetarians can add more veggies and omit the fish altogether. You can make small dal boras out of any lentil paste and salt and add to it. It tastes delicious

Gandal Patar Bora or fritter

Ingredients:

Skunk vine leaves: as much as you like. I use 25-30 leaves for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids

Red lentil/ musur dal: 1/4 cup

Green chillies: 2, chopped very fine 

Nigella seeds: 1/2 tsp

Sesame seeds: 1 tbsp

bi-carb of soda: 1/4 tsp 

Mustard or any oil of your choice for shallow frying

Salt

Turmeric

Method:

Soak the Lentil for at least an hour. Then make a coarse paste of it without adding any water.

Wash the leaves very well. Bunch them up by placing one on top of another and roll them tightly. Slice finely to get ribbon-like leaves.

Mix everything together except the soda and oil.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan for shallow frying. Once hot turn the heat down.

Add the soda to the batter and mix.

Now take a spoonful and place it in the oil. Fry it for a minute or two and then carefully flip them. Using the spatula press them gently to make it crisp.

Fry till golden on both sides.

Take out and drain the excess oil. 

A Homemaker's Notes:

Instead of lentil paste, you can also add besan or chickpea flour.

Some also add onion to it.

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