While entering my house block I felt a new odour, that was emancipating in air. It was quite amazing; it had some smell of peanut oil. I have always been criticised by my wife for this ability, (of identify food items by smell)? Many times she gets irritated by this quality, when I comment “are you cooking bitter guard?” or “you have burnt the cumin seeds?” These very small things sometimes become the “masala” for a volcano later sometime in that day. Those who are married and are husband can better understand me and my situation?
My three storied house block has six houses(flats) and a similar block face our block. Daily, whenever I enter the block on ground floor my nose gets lot of smells. The best thing is that those engineers, who designed these houses placed kitchen in the staircase area. It means, when I enter the block first thing I see is a window of kitchen and there are two windows nearby on each floor.
Whenever I step on ground floor I get smell of “cooking” food of those two households. My house is on top floor. Similarly when I step out of my house I get lots of smell coming up from ground and first floor.
When I stand at ground floor I get very good smell of frying the masala & onion with green curry leaves, green chillies. One has to experience with their own nose, to understand as how frying green chillies in oil smell? There is also smell of tamarind? But I like the smell of Rasam the most. If I tell this to my wife she becomes angry. But my nose does not stop from enjoying the odour coming from those kitchens.
On ground floor Tamil Aunty always cook something fascinating. The breakfast, lunch and during evening time at around 5 or 6 I get many fascinating smells. These act like an appetizer every time I step in the staircase. She frowns the moment I make sound of smelling something.
The moment Tamil aunty puts in the cumin, coriander seeds, black peppers, red chilies and curry leaves whole of the aura becomes so magnetic that it becomes difficult to resist myself from inhaling as much i can???
when we went on LTC to the South India from Kanpur to Kanyakumari, we got to taste whole lot variety of food across the route.
Kanpur-Jabalpur-Reewa-Nagpur-Hyderabad-Tirupati-Chennai, Mahabalipuram,Ooty-Mysore- Madurai-Rameshwaram-Kanyakumari-Trivandram-Bangalore-Panjim(Goa)-Bombay-lonawala-Ellora-Surat-Gandinagar-Ahemdabad-AJMER-Delhi-Agra-Mathura-back to Kanpur in 1977.
Down South in most of the places we got to taste idli, dosa and variety of Sambhar and rasam. There was a drink made of butter milk which i bought in the Meenakshi temple complex. It was nice and spicy; we drank many glasses, whole bucket was empteied by children and families of our bus itself. it has some green leaves also in it. That time it sounded like “Varsha” something. later in chennai it was called “more”.
Later as cities grew, people from various states migrated & settled in mega cities as well as small cities for employment. With people food habits also traveled. That’s why i got to eat dosa & idli right at the gate of IIT Kanpur and in Kanpur city also. later while mixing with those families i learnt how to make sambhar.
Back to my colony now. Next door on ground floor is of a Muslim family. The smell of curry or gravy comes through their window. Often they cook Non-Vegetarian dishes. But the smell is like that we used to get at our Kanpur.
First floor houses a Bengali and another Punjabi mixed family. The smell of cooking “Paratha” in mustard oil comes very often together with bitter guard and Ani seeds. From their neighbour’s house lots of un-recognised smell comes up. But most horrifying smell is when they fry the dry fish of any fish. But my next door also lives a Bengali family. But amazing thing is that they do not eat the onion or Garlic. Sometimes I try to imagine as to how they are able to eat without onion & garlic. Many times “sanyasi” from RamKrishna Mission do visit their house. I heard from my wife that aunty cleans whole of kitchen first then prepare vegetarian food for swami ji. Often it is without onion or garlic. Amazing it looks to me that they eat fish & Chicken but not much of egg? So frying smell of green chillies along with “posta dana” khas khas comes from her kitchen.
A new family has arrived in our colony. I know they are a Maharastrian family. Many images immediately came to my mind-The chiwda, Poha, poli, Modak etc.
In my school we had tasted poha and chiwda at fete or picnic organised by my school “Campus school IIT Kanpur”.
Mrs Ghasias and Mrs Bapat were the most famous Marathi teachers.
The IIT Campus was a mini India where families from each corner of country lived together.
Marathas moved to various places in India either through military campaign or through migration. Many cities in Madhya Pradesh such as Indore, Gwalior, Raipur Rajnandgaon, Shivpur, Jhansi were all influenced by Marathas. Even in Uttar Pradesh many cities were there where Marathas lived. Famous was my Kanpur where Nana Saheb Peshwa was exiled and lived in Bithoor. Where one of my great grandfather settled and lived as a “sanyasi” the “dandi swami” on Maharaj Ghat.
I am eagerly waiting to get more smells from the block in front of our block if possible?
But now i am able to appreciate the richness of our Indian traditional foods. The vast variety is available in our country. But another problem is that when you enter any hotel and if they offer you any “thali” saying that it is a traditional thali. Then sometimes it becomes problem to recognize or identify the true dish among these thali. Can you identify any from the images below?
One dish that i experimented after listening the recipei is Saboo dana ki Khictdi? As shown here in this picture.
soak saboodana(Sago) in water for few seconds. or just try to wash them slowly with water. After few seconds they will soak little water. then put the plate slightly inclined so that water gets away on the slope. Meanwhile in the “wok” or pan on the stove heat oil of choice. roast some cumin seeds or mustard seeds as per your choice. Add green chilies cut into small pieces. crush some groundnuts and roast in this oil. if you wish you can add boiled potato cut into small pieces. I have used un-boiled potato also. But first these potato have to be fried so that it can be cooked. after few seconds- i mean when you think that potato are cooked then add the cumin seeds/mustard seeds, groundnuts green chilies cut into fine pieces saute for some time(seconds). Then add the saboodana, water squeezed out and fry sometime. add salt to taste.
Actually this dish i used to make on the days when we used to keep “FAST” vrat or Upvaas. that time we add desi cow ghee and sendha namak -rock salt
Few aunties of my colony used to play prank with me. they used to call me and ask in a very polite voice-Kamles please tell how you cook saboodana kichdi?
in those moments i think that time (during 1977 to 1980) i could have done better than Madhur Jafri ji or Curtis stone, Nigella lawson etc.
Now in this age I am able to cook sambhar also? Cut any vegetable you have properly. there is no hard and fast rule. The vegetables changes as per the convenience, place, tradition-family traditions also, often regional differences are also there. But in today’s India we can add as many vegetables as we can-Democarcy? isn’t it?
fry vegetables in a cooker with oil, mustard seeds, red chilies, curry leaves, fenugreek, coriander, cumin seeds, asafoetida and lots of green chilies. saute for sometime. Add salt, turmeric and/or the Sambhar Masala that is easily available in shops across India. After few seconds if you feel the vegatbles are little fried add the Arhar dal- that is called as Toor dal also soaked in water. pour enough water so that after cooking you get the required consistency of liquid. Close the lid of pressure cooker, wait for 2 or three whistles. remove the pressure cooker and let is rest for sometime.
By the smell of steam one can judge the quality and status of cooked dal. Later add the tarmarind water taken out from the soaked tamarind in little luke warm water by squeezing the pulp. take seeve and pour over it and let it added to the cooked dal. Put again on stove cook it for few seconds. Sambhar is ready?