The husband was in Sikkim earlier this year on an official get-together, and he told me endless stories about the place on his return. He loved the Sikkimese momos especially, the many varieties that are available. I was intrigued by his descriptions of the yellow chutney served alongside momos by the streetside in Sikkim, Momo Achaar in local parlance. In Bangalore, we only get a spicy red chutney with momos, so this was new and interesting.
So, this yellow Momo Achaar was what I decided to make when Sikkimese cuisine was chosen as the theme for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge this month. The Sikkimese follow a mostly non-vegetarian diet, with simple food made using minimal ingredients. That said, the food is hearty and delicious, several locally grown spices, herbs, greens and vegetables featuring in the dishes.
Coming back to the Momo Achaar, I made it using this recipe from Healthy RecipeHome as the base, with a few little changes here and there. Peanuts are the major ingredient in this chutney, which tastes absolutely delightful. I kept it mildly spicy with a hint of sourness, and it went beautifully with not just the momos I prepared, but also with rotis, parathas, dosas and idlis. You have to try this out, if you haven’t already! The husband loved it to bits and said it tasted exactly like the chutney he had had in Sikkim, I’m happy to report.
Luckily, the two secret ingredients my partner Aruna gave me for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge – garlic and peanuts – were just right for me to make this chutney. On that note, you must check out Aruna’s blog, Vasu’s Veg Kitchen, a treasure trove of well-explained recipes from around the globe. Look at the beautiful dish that Aruna made using the two secret ingredients I assigned her!
1. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Peel off the skin of the onion and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies and tomato roughly, too. Keep aside.
2. Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds together, on medium flame, till they start turning brown and crunchy. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate. Keep aside.
3. In the same pan, add in the oil. Then, add the chopped ginger and onion, garlic cloves and the dry red chillies. Saute on medium flame till the onion starts to brown, 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies to the pan too. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy, 2-3 minutes. Switch off gas and allow all the cooked ingredients to cool down fully.
5. When all the cooked ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer to a mixer jar. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, roasted cumin powder, chopped coriander, lemon juice to taste and a little water. Grind everything together to a smooth paste.
6. Mix in honey to taste, if using.
7. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store refrigerated when not in use.
1. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes here, for the beautiful flavour and tartness they impart. If these are not available, you may use the ‘farm’ variety of tomatoes.
2. I have used dry Bydagi red chillies here, for the lovely colour they give to the dish, without adding too much spiciness.
3. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies and green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the chutney to be. The above quantities yield a medium-spicy chutney.
4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the chutney you prefer.
5. Using the honey is purely optional.
6. White vinegar can be used in place of the lemon juice in this momo chutney. I have used lemon juice here.
7. This chutney stays well for up to a week when refrigerated and used hygienically.
8. Make sure all the cooked ingredients have completely cooled down, before grinding them.
9. I didn’t remove the skins from the peanuts before grinding.
10. You may reduce the quantity of peanuts you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
11. Traditional Sikkimese recipes suggest the use of soyabeans, the local Timur peppers and green Dalle chillies in this Momo Chutney. Each of these ingredients adds a special flavour and fragrance to the chutney. I didn’t have any of these, so I have omitted the soyabeans and Timur completely and used ordinary green chillies in place of the Dalle.
Did you like this recipe? Please do tell me in your comments!
We are trying to make the most of the beautiful, beautiful weather in Bangalore lately. Of late, weekends see us on heading out on long drives, exploring places, seeing the city we live in with new eyes. One of my cousins has moved from the US of A, and we are – sort of – helping him get acquainted with Bangalore. Suits me just fine! So, that’s how we came to be checking out this place called Pearl Valley one gorgeous rainy weekend.
Located about 40 km from Bangalore, Pearl Valley needs just about an hour’s time to drive down. The roads are in great condition, and the ride is smooth. You pass through some narrow roads and little villages en route, all of it made extra charming by the pretty weather. Google Maps is a great guide to take you to this little known picnic spot, just 5 km or so away from Anekal district.
There’s not much to do at Pearl Valley, whose original name is Muthyala Maduvu. It is, however, a nice spot for a relaxed half-day picnic in natural surroundings, I would say. This is a green valley situated in the midst of mountains, and a trek through the valley will bring you to the star attraction – a waterfall. I’ll hasten to tell you that the waterfall isn’t much to look at (definitely not in the league of Jog Falls or Shivanasamudra), and the trek doesn’t really involve very rugged terrain or an extremely tough trail. That said, it’s still a scenic place to visit, especially in the monsoons, a quiet sojourn away from the chaos of city life. My 4-1/2-year-old did a fairly decent job of the trek, as did the other two little ones in our family. I’d say this is a nice place for beginner trekkers or for children to get a feel of trekking or walking amidst wilderness.
A hotel run by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) – Mayura Nisarga – is the only sort of commercialisation you will find at Pearl Valley. Mayura Nisarga is, actually, a bar-cum-hotel serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The hotel premises are where you park your vehicle and take a loo break, before heading down to the waterfall in the valley. Beware – monkeys run amok at this spot and are known for snatching food and drinks from the hands of unsuspecting tourists!
The trekking trail here is still under construction. You’ll find proper steps along part of the way, while the rest is just finding your foothold amidst worn rocks and bushes and mud. There are no signboards or restrooms once you begin the trek, descending into the valley. No monkeys inside the valley, thankfully!
The views en route are pretty, albeit nothing extraordinary. I especially loved the rustic temple we passed en route. If you need to take a break, rocks and grassy land are all you have to sit on.
The waterfall you reach after the trek is, really, just a little trickle. Don’t go for the waterfall – go with family and friends to make memories along the way.
Notes for travellers:
1. The villagers of Muthyala Maduvu chargean entry fee ofINR 30 per vehicle. Apart from this, there’s a small parking fee to be paid for using the premises of Mayura Nisarga.
2. The food and beverages at Mayura Nisarga are pretty sad – speaking from personal experience. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a lunch hamper from home. It would be best to leave the hamper in your vehicle – thanks to the monkeys – and wait till you reach a safe spot somewhere nearby, to eat.
3. The trek can be a bit much for the aged and infirm. Children above 4 can head in, I’d say, provided they are able to walk independently. It’s about a 45-minute walk in all.
4. Like I was saying earlier, there’s not much of development or vigilance inside the valley. We spotted bunches of people ducking under bushes with bottles of alcohol, and a few couples trying to get close. That said, there were quite a few families trekking the day we visited too. There’s really no one to keep an eye on the place, a sad fact.
5. Carry a backpack with water bottles, umbrellas and/or rain coats, and a few snacks while you trek. Comfortable attire for trekking is highly recommended.
6. The valley is not the cleanest of places. Be prepared to see several plastic bags and bottles, juice cartons, snack covers, alcohol bottles and the likes strewn all over.
7. There’s nothing much to do or explore in the immediate surroundings. Plan your visit accordingly.
8. Mayura Nisarga offers some good views of the valley, which you might want to check out.
9. The valley was quite green and pretty when we visited, probably because we visited in the peak of monsoon. We had good weather too, as we trekked. I doubt either of this would be the case, if you visit in the non-rainy months.
10. We didn’t come across any flora or fauna of interest, in the course of our trek.
11. Pearl Valley is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.
While holidaying in Calcutta a few years ago, experiencing Kali Pujo, the husband and I would often come across streams of people gulping down glasses of some sort of watery drink, at the carts of street-side vendors. The drink surely looked interesting, a pale brown in colour, with finely chopped onions, green chillies and coriander in it. Back then, we didn’t know what it was, but it surely looked like a thirst quencher – the heat was killing, and the drink seemed to be offering people some respite. We didn’t try it out. It was much later that I learnt what that drink was – Sattu Ka Ghol, or a savoury sherbet made using roasted black chickpea flour aka sattu or chane ka sattu.
I recently saw the recipe for Sattu Ka Gholon Sasmita’s blog, First Timer Cook, and absolutely had to try it out. I made it with black pepper powder instead of green chillies, and kept it quite watery. It turned out simply beautiful – delicious, very refreshing, just the thing you need on a hot summer’s day. It took me not more than 5 minutes to put the Sattu Ka Ghol together!
Sattu is a powerhouse of nutrients, with several health benefits to it. No wonder blue-collar workers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal have been consuming it for ages! Of late, the many benefits of sattu are being recognised the world over, and it isbeing touted as a superfood. This Sattu Ka Ghol is a supremely easy (not to forget delish!) way of getting all those health benefits in! This is a vegan, completely plant-based drink, and a gluten-free one as well.
If you haven’t tried out Sattu Ka Ghol ever, you must definitely do so this summer. Here’s how I made it, following the recipe from Sasmita’s blog, with a few minor variations.
Ingredients (makes about 4 small glasses):
3 heaped tablespoons sattu
2 cups of chilled water or as required
Black salt to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper powder or as per taste
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder or as per taste
Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
2 tablespoons very finely chopped onion (optional)
1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh coriander
1. Take the sattu in a mixing bowl. Add in about 1/2 cup of the chilled water, and mix well till the sattu gets completely dissolved in the water.
2. Now, add in the rest of the chilled water, along with the black salt, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder and lemon juice. Mix well, ensuring that all the ingredients are well combined together.
3. Pour the drink into serving glasses. Add some finely chopped onion (if using) and coriander to each serving glass. Serve immediately.
I have used store-bought sattu here, but you can make your own at home if you so prefer.
Using the black salt is highly recommended, as it adds a lovely flavour and taste to the Sattu Ka Ghol. Do not substitute regular table salt for it, unless you absolutely cannot avoid doing so.
Adjust the quantitites of all the above ingredients depending upon personal taste preferences and how light/thick you would prefer the Sattu Ka Ghol to be.
Finely chopped green chillies can be used in place of the black pepper powder. I prefer using the black pepper powder, as I can avoid the danger of biting into a green chilly bit by doing so. 🙂
If you so prefer, you can use a mix of finely chopped green chillies and black pepper powder to spice up the Sattu Ka Ghol.
I have used home-made black pepper powder and roasted cumin powder here.
Finely chopped fresh mint leaves can be added to the drink too. I haven’t.
Adding the finely chopped onion to the Sattu Ka Ghol is optional, but I would highly recommend doing so. It adds a lovely bite and flavour to the drink.
Make sure you use chilled water to make the drink. I prefer using water naturally chilled in an earthen pot over refrigerated water.
Ensure that the sattu is well dissolved in the little water you initially add in, without any lumps, before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!
This post is for the Food Bloggers Recipe Swap group. Every month, the food bloggers who are part of this group pair up, with every pair cooking a recipe from each other’s blog. I was paired with Sasmita this month, and chose this Sattu Ka Ghol recipe from her blog.
A Bengali meal is incomplete without a chutney, especially so on festive occasions. Chutney (rather, ‘Chaatni‘ in the local language) is eaten at the end of a Bengali meal, as a dessert, rather than meaning it to be an accompaniment to the other dishes. It is literally licked off the plate – therefore the name ‘Chaatni‘. And why not? The Bengali Chaatni is, after all, a beautiful medley of flavours sweet and sour with just a hint of spice to keep it intriguing, raisins adding a lovely texture to it. Quite different from the South Indian chutneys we are so used to!
Bengali Chaatnis are also quite intriguing in the sense of what they are made up of. Often, a fruit – think tomato, dried dates, pineapple and mango leather – finds its way into a Chaatni. Then, there’s the one made using raw papaya, called Plastic Chaatni because it resembles shiny plastic in appearance. The recipe I share with you today is for AnarosherChaatni, pineapple chutney Bengali-style.
We stayed at a hotel in the New Market area of Calcutta, on a holiday there, a few years ago. It was there that we encountered Chaatni for the first-ever time, and whole-heartedly fell in love with. My interest in Bengali cuisine piqued, I would ask the hotel staff about this dish and that. They were kind enough to enlighten me, and even teach me how to make this Anarosher Chaatni and the gorgeous Bengali BhogerKhichuri.
I recently recreated this Anarosher Chaatni based on recollections of passionate foodie conversations with those hotel staff of a few years past. It was a huge hit, with everyone at home loving it to bits. It was licked clean within minutes – I kid you not! I served it alongside rotis and cabbage sabzi, and it made for a wonderful accompaniment. Spiced with panch phoron, this pineapple chutney, Bengali style, jazzed up our meal like no one’s business!
This chutney is such a simple affair, but an absolute treat to the senses! I have made it with minimal jaggery (rather than sugar) and oil. It is entirely plant-based, vegan and gluten-free by its very nature. Come to think of it, this low-oil Anarosher Chaatni would make for a relatively healthy vegan dessert treat as well!
Let us now check out the recipe for this Pineapple Chutney, Bengali Style, shall we?
Ingredients (makes 1 cup):
1 heaped cup of chopped ripe pineapple, thorns removed
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon panch phoron or Bengali five-spice mix
2 small bay leaves
2 dried red chillies
1 tablespoon raisins
A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
A dash of red chilli powder or to taste
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1. Take the chopped pineapple in a large, wide vessel. Add in a little water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles on high flame. Switch off gas and allow the pressure to come down naturally.
2. Allow the cooked pineapple to cool down fully. Then, grind it coarsely in a mixer, along with the water it was cooked in.
3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the panch phoron, dried red chillies and bay leaves. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.
4. To the pan, add the coarse pineapple puree. Add salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, raisins and jaggery powder. Mix well.
5. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook the mixture on medium flame till the chutney thickens slightly, 3-4 minutes. Switch off gas when it is still quite runny, for it thickens further on cooling. Now, mix in the roasted cumin powder.
6. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight box. Store refrigerated.
1. Panch phoron is a Bengali-style mix of five spices – cumin, mustard, fennel, fenugreek and nigella seeds. You can make your own panch phoron or buy a ready-to-use packet – it is commonly available in most departmental stores. I use a store-bought version that I am quite happy with.
2. A lot of Bengali families use sugar in their chaatni. I have used jaggery here, instead, to make the dish healthier.
3. Adjust the quantity of sugar/jaggery depending upon how sweet the pineapple is.
4. Adjust the quantity of red chilli powder, salt and other spices as per personal taste preferences.
5. For best results, use a ripe, juicy, sweet pineapple that is not overly sour. Make sure all thorns are removed before using the pineapple in the Anarosher Chaatni.
6. I have coarsely pulsed the cooked pineapple here, so I got a mix of puree and pieces of the fruit. This lent a very interesting texture to the chaatni. You could keep the pineapple pieces whole or make a fine puree, as you please.
7. Make sure the pineapple is cooked fully, before using it in making the chaatni.
8. Switch off the gas when the Anarosher Chaatni is still quite runny. It is supposed to be runny, and thickens a bit on cooling as well.
9. I have used refined oil to make the Anarosher Chaatni, as opposed to the pungent mustard oil that is typically used in most Bengali cooking.
This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a Facebook group that I am part of. Every Monday, a bunch of us food bloggers present dishes based on a pre-determined theme.
The theme this week is #BengaliFoodFest, wherein we are cooking dishes from the vast Bengali cuisine. The theme was suggested by Sujata Roy, who writes at Batter Up With Sujata.
Any destination we head to, the husband and I definitely make it a point to visit the local bazaars. A stop (or two, or three!) at the local markets is a great way of getting exposed to the culture and traditions of the place, at the very root level. And, of course, it teaches you a whole lot about the food of that region – the ingredients that the locals use, the ways in which they cook, their indigenous foods, et al. Thailand was no exception. That was how, one bright and sunny day during our recent holiday in Thailand, the two of us headed to Pattaya Floating Market, with the bub in tow. And, hey, this is a floating market – a market actually on water – and how do we not check out that?!
Internet-shaped impressions of the Pattaya Floating Market
The little reading I did on the Internet before we headed out to Thailand told me that if I was charmed by the idea of floating markets, the ones in Bangkok are what I should be visiting. All of Thailand used to commute via waterways in the olden times, trading in markets included. While transport in Thailand is presently largely by road, the waterways still exist, as do the floating markets. Bangkok has several of these floating markets, many of them as major tourist attractions, while a couple still operate as hard-core trading centres. Most Internetizens suggested visiting the Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa floating markets in Bangkok, and against going to the one in Pattaya. According to them, the Pattaya floating market is pure tourist trap, messy and filthy, a hotbed for scams of various types.
As luck would have it, we never got a chance to visit any of Bangkok’s famed floating markets on our holiday. It just never happened! This left us hugely disappointed and, tourist trap or not, we decided to head to the Pattaya floating market, to get a feel of the place if nothing else. And you know what? We weren’t disappointed one bit. Agreed, the market is chaotic, there are some tacky things around, and that there are better ways to learn about Thai culture and heritage – but, we loved the Pattaya Floating Market!
Pattaya Floating Market left us with a vast range of emotions – happy, awe-struck, sad, angry, overwhelmed, all at the same time. Overall, though, it left us feeling enriched for having visited. We are glad we chose to visit the market, in spite of there being conflicting information about the place on the Internet. We are glad for the opportunity it gave us to get a wee bit closer to Thai culture and heritage, food and traditions.
Postcards from the Pattaya Floating Market
Let me tell you about the experiences that stood out most prominently for us, at the Pattaya Floating Market.
Food, food and more food
One of the things that strike you as you walk around the Pattaya Floating Market is the humongous amount of food that is on offer. Food being cooked and sold on boats, food stalls lining the water, fresh fruit, roasted chestnuts and sweet treats – there’s food, literally, everywhere!
Fried octopus, various kinds of grilled fish, whole frozen mangoes, various traditional Thai desserts, palm fruit juice, snake fruit and durian, noodle hotpots, the most beautifully presented milkshakes and ice creams are some examples of the food we came across here. Some of the eatables here didn’t look very hygienically prepared, while some others were just fine – take your pick carefully if you decide to eat here. There wasn’t much on offer for vegetarians, though, apart from the milkshakes, ice creams and desserts.
Dirty waters, but charming nonetheless
Charming as the Pattaya Floating Market is, one can’t help noticing that the waters on which it stands are far from clean. The waters are filthy and murky and, as we walked around, we kept wishing this part had been better maintained.
We chose to focus instead on the prettier sights the market had to offer, instead – the rows and rows of shops, some with rather interesting merchandise on sale, the big bus-like boats that ran on the water ferrying people around, the Thai Cultural Village tucked away within the market that offered us a glimpse into the real Thailand, a huge Thai water buffalo making the rounds of the market and posing for photographs, the ongoing dance and music shows, and artists at work busy making glow-in-the-dark paintings that you find all over Thailand.
The tall, tall, tall drag queens
Drag queens are everywhere in Thailand, and the Pattaya Floating Market is no exception. Standing on tall, tall, tall stilts, they welcome you at the entrance. They are dressed so gorgeously you can’t take your eyes off them! They are all smiles, posing candidly for cameras from across the globe.
My heart hurt for them, these drag queens. Were they being forced to dress up and pose for pictures, thanks to poverty? Was the smile plastered on their faces just for the sake of tourists? Just how happy were they on the inside? Well, at least, they were living in a country that doesn’t make a big deal of it, that accepts people as they come.
Some interesting souvenirs
Most of the stuff up for sale at the Pattaya Floating Market is shiny and pretty, sure to catch your eyes. Crazy shoes and glamorous earrings, funky purses and dresses, Thai elephant statues and paper umbrellas, cute dolls and keychains are some of the stuff that is on offer – the same things you would come across anywhere else in Thailand too.
We didn’t really shop here, thanks to the astronomical prices for stuff we were being quoted at every stall. All we bought were some little cute souvenirs to get back home with us, which we felt were reasonably priced.
Great photo ops
Touristy, commercial and a bit filthy as the Pattaya Floating Market was, we found it fascinating nonetheless. We were charmed by this and that, and ended up walking around the market for hours on end. We took countless pictures – I think we actually went a bit crazy here taking photographs. Who can resist, considering the innumerable gorgeous photo ops available here?
Every single lane you turn into is pretty, in a quaint sort of way. You would inevitably want to capture all of that in frames! If you love photography, the floating market is definitely not something that you should miss, I say.
The wonderful Thai Cultural Village
A little makeshift village in the midst of the Pattaya Floating Market, the Thai Cultural Village offers a peak into real life in the country. There are live stations where you learn about the various types of dried food stuff available in Thailand, silk cultivation in the country, music and dance forms and, of course, Thai massage. For a first-time visitor to Thailand, this place can offer invaluable learning about the country under a single roof. Yes, quite touristy, but quite informative too if you look at it the right way.
All visitors to the Thai Cultural Village are treated to a little free-of-charge session of Thai massage. A hot cloth pouch filled with ancient Thai medicinal herbs is used, quite a common form of massage in the country. We found the massage quite relaxing and rejuvenating after our long, tiring walk around the market.
The plight of the long-necked Karen
The Karenni (also called the Karen or the Red Karen) are an ethnic minority tribe from Myanmar (Burma). They have a distinct dressing style of their own, including the wearing of several thin brass rings around their necks to make them appear long. For this reason, they are also called the Long-Necked Karen. Several hundreds of these Long-Necked Karen fled to neighbouring Thailand over the years, thanks to political unrest in their own country. As most of these Karen were illegal immigrants in Thailand, they are not official Thai citizens and opportunities for them stay limited. The Thai government has bestowed a couple of villages to the Karen (maybe considering the huge potential of these villages to become tourist attractions?), to make their own, to reside in and earn their living. These habitats of the Karen draw tourists by the horde – many interested in photographing the long-necked women and/or buying the various handicrafts that they make.
The Karen villages are quite on the outskirts of Thailand and not very easy to access – at least not with the bub in tow – so we dropped the idea of visiting them. Personally, I’m quite conflicted about wanting to visit the Karen habitats and not wanting to. We were, however, happy to note that there were stalls by a couple of the Karen in Pattaya Floating Market’s Thai Cultural Village. We dropped by, and were thrilled to interact with them (a task that was not at all easy considering their extremely limited knowledge of English). It surely felt like we had stepped into a documentary by National Geographic! They happily posed for pictures for us, too.
Everything was going fine till we came across a little wooden enclosure, not unlike a pen in a zoo. A lone Karen child was walking around, 4 or 5 years of age, calling out to passing tourists and smiling at them. Many got out their cameras to take pictures. ‘Burmese refugee child!’, our guide cried out, excitedly. At that precise moment, my heart shattered into a million pieces and I lost all interest in the place or taking any more pictures.
Too much to take in
Like many indigenous markets around the world, the Pattaya Floating Market too is a bit too much to take in in a single visit. It gets overwhelming after a while – the crowds, the touristy-ness of it, the scale of the market. We kind of zoned out after some time, a plight brought about also by the fact that it was a supremely hot day and our little daughter was getting crankier by the minute. Thankfully, there are benches laid out here and there, and we took short breaks in the midst of checking out the market, which really helped refresh us. Please do bear this in mind when you decide to visit, too. I don’t think we managed to do justice to the market, in the few hours we were there. We probably need a few more visits, a more leisurely frame of mind, and more congenial weather to do so.
Thankfully, our drive to and from the floating market, our entry tickets and boat ride had all been arranged for beforehand by our hotel – I don’t know what we would have done if this hadn’t gone as smoothly as it did. I had read a number of stories on the Internet of tourists getting scammed here and being charged an exorbitant entrance fee, and was super scared! If you plan to visit the Pattaya Floating Market, I would suggest you do so via the tourism desk at your hotel too.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual journey through the Pattaya Floating Market, and that this post offered you helpful tips to plan your visit here too! Do let me know, in your comments!
The recipe that I present to you today, Ja Stem, hails from the beautiful land of Meghalaya. Ja Stem is a traditional recipe of the Khasis, one of the tribes majorly inhabiting the state of Meghalaya. It refers to a very simple rice dish, flavoured with turmeric – ‘Ja‘ means ‘rice’ in the Khasi language, while ‘Stem‘ means ‘turmeric’. Typically, this dish is prepared with the very fragrant, organically grown Lakadong turmeric, which is native to Meghalaya.
Like most other North-Eastern states, Meghalaya has been blessed abundantly by Mother Nature. Just like the other states in the North East, Meghalaya has a raw, non-commercialised aura to it, its cuisine simple and wholesome, based on local ingredients, herbs and spices. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Meghalaya first-hand, and to taste some of its local fare, Ja Stem included.
I had always wanted to try making Ja Stem at home, and this month’s Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge provided me just the perfect foil to do so. The members of the group are cooking dishes from the state of Meghalaya this month, and my heart was in the making of Ja Stem. Thankfully, the two secret ingredients my partner assigned me fit right in. So, one fine weekend this month, I undertook the task of preparing this, inspired by this recipe from Zizira.com, fuelled by memories of the beautiful time we had had in Meghalaya. I opted to make the Ja Stem in a pressure cooker – as opposed to cooking it in a pan, the way it is done traditionally – and it was a matter of minutes. The rice turned out fluffy and delicious, simple but hearty.
Ja Stem is quite a healthy dish, cooked using minimal oil. It is gluten-free and vegan, too. Considering it is rather bland on its own, I paired it with some Gutti Vankaya Koora, and an awesome meal was had by all.
Let us now check out my Meghalayan Ja Stem recipe, shall we?
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
1 cup rice
1 tablespoon oil
3 green chillies
A 1-inch piece of ginger
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
2 tablespoons shelled green peas
1 small carrot
2-1/2 cups water
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves
1. Peel the carrot and chop into small cubes. Keep aside.
2. Chop the onion finely. Keep aside.
3. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
4. Peel the ginger and garlic and chop them roughly. Grind to a coarse paste. Keep aside.
5. Wash the rice under running water a couple of times. Drain out all the water. Keep aside.
6. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add the slit green chillies chopped carrot, onion, green peas and the ginger-garlic paste. Saute on high heat for a minute.
7. Add the washed and drained rice to the pressure cooker. Saute for a minute.
8. Now, add the 2-1/2 cups of water, salt and turmeric powder. Mix well.
9. Close the pressure cooker and put the weight on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
10. When the pressure has entirely gone down, fluff up the rice gently. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander leaves. Serve the Ja Stem hot with a curry of your choice.
I have used Sona Masoori raw rice in this Meghalayan Ja Stem recipe. You can use any variety of rice you prefer, instead.
I use 3-1/2 cups of water per cup of rice, for ordinary steamed rice. I have cut down on the quantity of water used here, since I wanted the Ja Stem to be grainy – I have used 2-1/2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon how grainy you want the final dish to be.
In the absence of the fragrant Lakadong turmeric power from Meghalaya, I have used locally available, but equally fragrant turmeric powder.
I have used just 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, while the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons. Adjust the quantity as per personal taste preferences.
Ja Stem is, typically, just salted turmeric rice. Here, I have added green chillies, peas and carrot, to make it more flavourful. The Ja Stem that we tried out at a Khasi homestay in Meghalaya had carrots and peas in it too, and I decided to make a similar version.
3 whistles in my 5-litre pressure cooker were just right to yield the kind of fluffy, grainy but well-cooked Ja Stem that I was aiming for. Please adjust the number of whistles, depending upon the texture of rice you require, pressure cooker make and size.
Since the Ja Stem is quite bland on its own, it needs a slightly spicy curry to go with it.
I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker for this Meghalayan Ja Stem recipe.
This recipe is for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group that I am part of. Every month, the participants cook from a particular state of India. This month, we are cooking dishes from the state of Meghalaya.
I was paired with Sasmita of First Timer Cook for the month, who assigned me the two secret ingredients of ‘turmeric’ and ‘ginger’. This Meghalayan Ja Stem recipe was what I chose to prepare, using these two ingredients.
The husband often visits the Middle East and surrounding regions on work. Much as he loves his rasam, rice and potato roast, he has been brought out of his comfort zone on such work trips. 🙂 Over time, life (and I!) has taught him to explore the local cuisine of wherever he is travelling. He has now gotten acquainted with falafel and kebobs, dolma and pita sandwiches, hummus and baba ganouj, various dips and hand-made Israeli cheeses. He reports it has been a happy change, considering the Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegetarians, and full of flavour at that. It was his ruminations about the food of the Middle East (still quite exotic, quite unexplored to me!) to try my hands at the cuisine. Today, I present to you the recipe for Easy Home-Made Falafel, one of the husband’s favourite snacks while on the aforementioned work trips.
‘Falafel‘ refers to deep-fried fritters made using chickpeas or fava beans or a mix of both, with a few herbs and spices added in. The origin of falafel has been linked to Egypt, though today, it is quite a common street food across most Middle-East countries, and is very popular even in India. With time, several versions of the falafel have come up the world over, including a healthier, baked version. Mine, however, is a Classic Falafel Recipe, where the snack is made the traditional, deep-fried way.
Making basic falafel from scratch isn’t a difficult task. Once you have the chickpeas soaked and ready, preparing it is a breeze. All the ingredients that one needs for falafel are easy to find in an average Indian kitchen, too. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they make for a delicious evening snack, especially on rainy, cold days. They are super versatile – lending themselves easily to make a more filling pita bread sandwich or wrap or burger, which would be just the right party snacks. They are deep-fried, yes, but full of protein, and better any day than snacking on junk food.
Enough said. Now, without any further delays, let us move on to the Classic Falafel Recipe!
Ingredients (makes 25-30 falafel):
1 cup chickpeas aka kabuli chana
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
5-6 cloves of garlic
1 medium-sized onion
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
1 teaspoon roasted cumin (jeera) powder
1 teaspoon coriander (dhania) powder
A dash of lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maida or gram flour/besan (optional)
Oil for deep frying
1. Soak the chickpeas for 8-10 hours or overnight, in just enough water to cover them.
2. When the chickpeas are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Transfer the drained chickpeas to a mixer jar.
3. Add the chopped mint and coriander to the mixer jar, along with salt to taste.
4. Peel the garlic cloves. Add them to the mixer jar.
5. Chop the onion roughly. Add to the mixer jar.
6. Add red chilli powder, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder, coriander powder and lemon juice to the mixer jar too.
7. Gently mix up the contents of the mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, a couple of seconds each time. Stop in between to mix up the ingredients. Remember not to make a fine paste – just a coarse mixture. There’s no need to add water while grinding, but do add a spoonful or two if you are finding it absolutely impossible to dry grind.
8. Meanwhile, take the oil for deep frying in a pan. Place on high heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot.
9. Try to shape small balls out of the mixture you ground earlier. If you are able to form balls that hold their shape, you can drop them – 3-4 at a time – into the hot oil straight away. Then, turn the flame down to medium and deep fry the balls evenly, till they turn brown on the outside. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. However, if the balls crumble when you try to shape them, you might need to mix in some maida or besan. This will help the balls get a bit firmer, post which you can deep fry them in the hot oil.
10. Serve the falafel piping hot, with a dip, sauce or chutney of your choice.
Falafel can be made with either fava beans or kabuli chana, or a mix of both. The ancient, traditional versions of falafel were made using fava beans, however the more recent versions use kabuli chana. I have made these falafel using only chickpeas aka kabuli chana.
Traditionally, parsley is used in falafel, for flavour. However, as parsley is not very commonly used in our house, I have used a mix of fresh mint leaves and coriander in the above recipe.
I have served the above Easy Home-Made Falafel with a simple hung curd dip. Here’s how I made the dip – Grind together a handful of fresh mint leaves, 1 green chilly, salt to taste, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of lemon juice and some honey. Mix this into about 1/2 cup of hung curd (curd that has been hung for 2-3 hours to remove all the moisture from it). Mix in some finely chopped coriander, and the dip is ready to serve!
Do not cook the chickpeas. They need to be used raw, in the above recipe, after soaking.
Freshly soaked chickpeas work best in this recipe, rather than canned ones.
Make sure you grind the falafel mixture coarsely. Do not make a fine paste. At the same time, you need to make sure that all the chickpeas have broken down completely – pick out any whole chickpeas that remain after grinding.
Adding water while grinding the falafel mixture is purely optional. If you are able to make a coarse mixture without adding in any water, it’s completely fine. However, I typically add in a couple of spoonfuls of water while grinding – not only does it make the grinding easier, but also makes the falafel softer, I think.
You can use either maida or besan (gram flour) to adjust the consistency of the falafel mixture, and enable you to shape the balls. If you are able to shape the balls as is, there is no need to add a binding agent like maida or besan.
Make sure the oil is nice and hot, before dropping the falafel into it for deep-frying. Reduce the flame to medium while you fry them, which will help in even frying.
The above is a Classic Falafel Recipe, meaning a recipe for the most basic version of deep-fried falafel. There are several variations to the classic falafel – baked versions, those with sesame or beetroot or herbs.
This Easy Home-Made Falafel can be served on its own, with a sauce, dip or chutney of your choice. They can also be used in a sandwich, made using regular bread or pita bread. They can also be used in burgers or wraps, along with hummus, pickled vegetables, sour cream, chopped onions and tomatoes.
The falafel mixture can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, to be deep-fried and served later. I prefer grinding the mixture fresh, though, just before frying up and serving the falafel.
Some people include a bit of baking powder/soda in the mixture, to make the falafel soft. I typically don’t use any. Even without the baking powder/soda, the above recipe does yield soft and delicious falafel.
This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is Levantine Cuisine, wherein members need to present dishes from the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordon and Cyprus). This week’s theme was suggested by the very talented Sujata Shukla who blogs at PepperOnPizza – you have to check out her blog for various exotic and traditional recipes!
Tattamangalam, a village near Palakkad in Kerala, is a small place if you compare it to the sprawling cities of today. However, it is quite big if you choose to compare it to the surrounding villages. It is the village where my mother-in-law was born and grew up, a cherished childhood and adolescence, judging from the several anecdotes she has narrated to us of the customs and traditions, the people and the lifestyle of her hometown. I have visited Tattamangalam a couple of times with her in the past and it is, indeed, a quiet and charming place, a world that is far, far away from the hustle and bustle of my own today. However, it is very recently, towards the fag end of 2018, that I got an opportunity to witness the Ayappan festival celebrations that are an annual affair in this village.
For the last 74 years, Tattamangalam has been conducting festivities to commemorate ‘Ayappan season’, the period between Diwali (October-November) till Pongal (January 14), which is when the maximum number of pilgrims visit the holy temple of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala. These festivities in Tattamangalam, typically held towards the end of every December, are quite grand, I have always been told, including parades by elephants, performances by music artistes, large-scale community meals, frenzied beats of drums and cymbals, and the blowing of trumpets. In December 2018, Tattamangalam celebrated the 75th edition of the Ayappan Festival Celebrations, and my extended family and I figured it was time to pay a visit. I am glad we booked our tickets at the very last minute (we were lucky to even get them, indeed!) and visited, for the festival was bigger and better than ever.
Many families staying away from Tattamangalam had had the same thoughts as we did, I suppose, as we saw an influx of city-dwellers to witness the festivities. I was, naturally, thrilled to see the magnificence of it all, in a relatively less crowded setting at that, and went crazy clicking pictures with my camera. It was lovely meeting my mother-in-law’s old friends and acquaintances, and just walking around the clean village roads, breathing in the pure air. We even managed to do some shopping for the bub in the fair that came up in the village streets, on the occasion of the festival celebrations.
I leave you with some pictures from the celebrations, of the pretty stalls that came up all over, of our walks around Tattamangalam.
The nearest railway station to Tattamangalam village is at Palakkad. From Palakkad, it is quite easy to find a cab that will take you to Tattamangalam. The roads are in excellent condition, and the on-road journey takes barely half an hour.
The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. From Coimbatore, it is a roughly 1.5-hour journey on road to Palakkad, with the roads in excellent condition. Local trains also ply between Coimbatore and Palakkad.
There are no great stay options in Tattamangalam, as far as I know, considering that it is but a small village. Your best bet would be to rent a hotel/stay in Palakkad, and hire a cab to reach Tattamangalam.
Please do find out the exact dates and timings for the Ayappan festival timings in Tattamangalam from the presiding body, the Sri Dharma Sastha Utsavam Trust, if at all you plan to witness them.
I am pretty sure there are several villages across Kerala that host similar festivities for the Ayappan festival. Tattamangalam’s celebrations are believed to be among the best, though. I don’t have any information about the festivals that might be conducted in other villages, but we do receive the schedule for Tattamangalam, as it is my mom-in-law’s ancestral place.
I hope you guys enjoyed the visuals! Please do let me know, in your comments!
Today’s recipe is a magic one! Christmas time, the season of Santa Claus and fairies and unicorns and secret gifts and all that, eh? 🙂
Now, this is a simple lemonade recipe at heart, but a magical, colour-changing one! When served, this drink is a pretty, deep blue. Squeeze some lemon into it, and it changes colour to a gorgeous purple! Let me hasten to add that this happens very naturally, without the help of any artificial colouring agents. The secret ingredient here is butterfly pea, a beautiful blue flower that grows in several Asian countries, including parts of India.
Also called Shankapushpam, blue pea, cordofan pea, Asian pigeonwings, bluebellvine, Darwin pea and Aparajita, the scientific name of the butterfly pea is Clitoria Ternatia. The blue flower is used as a natural food colouring in several parts of Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia and Burma. Adding a few of these flowers while cooking infuses the dish in question with a lovely blue colour – it is, actually, quite difficult to believe that such a brilliant blue colour can be achieved in food this naturally, without any chemical involvement at all! The colour of the food further changes to purple or pink, depending upon what ingredients have been added to it.
So, how does this colour-changing happen? It is simple science. Butterfly pea flowers contain a high concentration of something called anthocyanin, a pigment whose colour depends upon the amount of acidity present in its environment. When added to plain water, the pigment makes the water blue. Add something acidic to the water – like lemon – and when the pH level changes, it turns purple. When the acidity increases further – say, the addition of more lemon – the water turns a pretty magenta or pink.
Thanks to being rich in antioxidants, the butterfly pea flower aids in relieving stress, improving blood circulation, bettering eye health, and nourishing one’s skin and hair. This is precisely why the flower is widely used in South Asian countries in various food products as well as skin- and hair-care products.
I was introduced to these flowers for the first-ever time on our recent holiday in Thailand, in our hotel spa. I dropped in to the spa for a massage, and was served a warm blue-coloured tea with a wedge of lemon on the side. I was stunned to see the tea turn purple with the addition of the lemon, and wondered why on earth would they be using something so artificially coloured in a spa that claimed to use only traditional Thai methods and natural ways of healing! It was much later that I came to know that what I was offered was, in fact, Butterfly Pea Tea and that the blue was entirely natural. I had to pick up a packet of dried butterfly pea flowers in a Thai departmental store to get back home (very reasonably priced, I must add) – and good I did that too, for they cost an arm and a leg online!
On its own, the butterfly pea extract does not taste like much. It has a mild woody taste, not unlike green tea. I am not particularly fond of that, but when mixed with something else – like rice or lemonade, for instance – the woody taste gets masked by the other ingredients. This Butterfly Pea Lemonade tastes just like regular lemonade, but is much more healthier thanks to the addition of the flowers. The colour-changing property of this lemonade makes it a perfect drink for parties – especially Christmas parties. Instead of pre-mixing it, serve it with some lemon on the side, and watch your guests’ mouths open with wonder as they see their drink change colour! Just imagine how much kids will love this – mine did, to bits!
Enough said. This wondrous flower needed this long-winded introduction. Now, without further ado, let us check out the proceedure to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1 tablespoon dried butterfly pea flowers
3 cups of water, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar, or as needed
Lemon halves, as needed
Chilled water, as needed
Heat the 3 cups of water on high flame, till it comes to a rolling boil.
Add the sugar to the boiling water, and mix well. It will dissolve immediately. Let the water boil for a minute, then switch off gas.
Add the dried butterfly pea flowers to the hot water. Close the pan with a lid, and let the flowers steep in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. By this time, the dried flowers would have let out their colour into the water, which would have turned a bright blue.
Strain out the flowers from the water (you can choose to keep them in, too!). Allow the blue extract to cool down completely.
When you are ready to serve the Butterfly Pea Lemonade, fill up as much of the blue extract as you need in serving glasses. Add some plain chilled water to the glasses, as needed. Taste and adjust quantities. Serve the glasses with lemon halves on the side.
For those of you who are interested, I picked up the dried butterfly pea flowers at Big C, a departmental store in Pattaya. The store stocks most traditional and contemporary Thai products, priced quite reasonably.
If you are planning a visit to Thailand or have a friend or relative flying in, dried butterfly pea flowers are something you could ask them to get you. They are also available online, on websites like Amazon, but they are heavily priced.
I haven’t worked with fresh butterfly pea flowers in my kitchen, so I’m not sure how they need to be used. If you have access to them, you may try using them instead, in this Butterfly Pea Lemonade recipe.
In Thailand, these flowers are used in rice-based dishes, cocktails and mocktails, bakery goodies, ice creams and patties, among other things. I have not yet tried any of these things out, but I am simply amazed at the world of culinary possibilities these little butterfly pea flowers have opened up for me.
You may use a healthy sweetener – like palm jaggery, coconut sugar or honey – in this lemonade recipe, instead of refined sugar, too. However, I am not sure how that would alter the pH level of the lemonade, and alter its colour.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!
This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is #FlowersAndFruits, wherein members are cooking recipes using fresh or dried flowers and/or fruits. I chose to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade for the theme.
Coconut and mango is a classic combination, one that is much loved. The two flavours marry beautifully, which is why they are found together in many dishes like Sticky Rice With Mango, Mango & Coconut Smoothie, Mango & Coconut Bliss Balls, and the like. The dish I present to you today – Coconut & Mango Pulav – uses this classic ingredient combination again, in a very Indian way.
This Coconut & Mango Pulav tastes lovely. The coconut flavour comes from fresh coconut milk, and I have used some of the dried, sugared mangoes that I picked up while holidaying in Thailand recently. I tried out this pulav recently at home on a whim, and it was an instant hit with everyone.
This is a pressure-cooker dish, a one-pot meal that can be put together in mere minutes. It makes for a different-from-the-usual lunch or dinner, perfect for busy weekdays or lazy weekends. Kids will love this Coconut & Mango Pulav – mine did!
Let’s now see how to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav, shall we?
Ingredients (serves 3):
1 cup rice
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 medium-sized onion
1 small carrot
2 tablespoons shelled green peas
4 green chillies
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon oil
2 small bay leaves (tej patta)
4 cloves (laung)
4 cardamom pods (elaichi)
A 1-inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini)
4 large pieces of dried mango (with sugar)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
We will first prepare all the vegetables we need to use in the pulav. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop the onion finely. Remove the strings from the green beans, and chop them finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the prepared vegetables aside.
Wash the rice thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.
Now, heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon (broken into two), cardamom and cloves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
Add the chopped onions to the pan, along with the chopped carrot and beans, and the shelled green peas. Saute for a minute.
Add the washed and drained rice to the pressure cooker. Saute for a minute.
Add the 1 cup of coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water. Add in salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Mix well.
Put the pressure cooker lid on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
Meanwhile, chop the dried mango into small pieces.
Mix in the finely chopped coriander and the mango bits. Serve immediately.
I have used Sona Masoori rice here. You may use any other variety of rice you prefer.
The heat in this pulav comes only from the green chillies. Adjust the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the dish to be.
Use only a minimal amount of vegetables in this pulav. Only mango and coconut are supposed to be the dominating flavours here.
I have used dried mango from Thailand here, which had some sugar in it. It was quite soft, so I just had to chop it into pieces and add it to the pulav. There was no need to soak the mango.
Increase or decrease the quantity of dried mango you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
I have used 1 cup of thick home-made coconut milk here. Alternatively you may use 200 ml of store-bought coconut milk, which roughly comes up to 1 cup.
I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav.
I have used refined oil in this pulav. You may use any oil of your preference or ghee, instead.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!