Have you heard of a dish called Bai?
For the uninitiated, Bai is a kind of soup that hails from the exotic north-eastern state of Mizoram. The state boasts of a number of indigenous leafy greens, many of which are unheard of outside – and several of these greens go into the Bai. Whatever vegetables are in season also find their way into the Bai. Some Rajah chillies (aka Bhut Jholokia or Ghost Pepper) and fermented mustard – both commonly used ingredients in Mizo kitchens – also form a part of this soup. If it is being served to non-vegetarians, pork sauce is also added. Very simple to prepare and very nutritious, bai is something you will typically find cooked across Mizo households.
Today, I present to you the recipe for Cauliflower Stalk Bai – bai made with the stalks of cauliflower – yes, you read that right! This is a vegetarian Mizoram Bai Recipe, which I have made with ingredients commonly available where I live.
I made the Cauliflower Stalk Bai following the recipe outlined by Eat Your Kappa, with a few small variations of my own. What struck me the most about the recipe was just how simple it was, how basic. Well, that is how most food in all of the North East is – simply cooked but hearty, using a few seasonal and local ingredients. Another thing that stuck with me about this recipe is the use of cauliflower stalks, which would otherwise have gone into the trash – keeping wastage in the kitchen minimal, another trait that is quite common in all of the North East.
To be honest, the Bai was quite bland for all of us at home. I had to add in a few condiments – pepper, soya sauce and a bit of tomato ketchup – for it to become acceptable to our city-dweller palates. That’s not how it was intended to be consumed, I’m sure, but that’s how it went.
Well, here is the Mizoram Bai Recipe, the way I made it.
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
- 5-6 cups of water
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups of cauliflower stalks + leaves + florets (finely chopped)
- 5-6 beans, finely chopped
- 1 medium-sized potato, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 green chillies or to taste, slit length-wise
- 1/4 cup cooked rice
1. Take the water in a thick-bottomed pan. Place it on high heat and bring to a boil.
2. Add in salt to taste and the soda. Mix well.
3. Add in the chopped cauliflower stalks, florets and leaves, as well as the chopped beans and potato. Also, add in the slit green chillies. Mix well.
4. Cook covered on medium flame till the vegetables are tender, but not overly mushy. This should take 15-20 minutes. Keep checking on the pan periodically, adding more water if the mixture feels like it is too thick, stirring intermittently. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
5. Now, add the cooked rice to the pan. Mix well.
6. Cook uncovered on medium flame for a couple of minutes more. Your Cauliflower Stalk Bai is ready!
This recipe is for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly group that I am part of. Every month, a bunch of us food bloggers get paired together, with each pair exchanging two secret ingredients and cooking dishes from a particular part of the country. This month, we are all cooking from the North Eastern state of Mizoram.
For the challenge this month, I was paired with Mayuri of Mayuri’s Jikoni, who gave me the two secret ingredients of cauliflower and chillies. I decided to use these two ingredients to make this Mizoram Bai Recipe.