Unwinding with litti, taas kebab and more @ Street Food Festival organised by NASVI

Do you want to unwind a busy day with piping hot crab curry with steamed rice in a chilly winter evening in Delhi without leaving a hole in your pocket? If you like to savour street food and looking for some delectable items from across India head to National Association of Street Vendors of India’s (NASVI) Street Food Festival which has opened yesterday in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Premises.

NASVI has been championing the rights of street food vendors and has been instrumental in campaigning for the Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 which was recently passed in parliament.  (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/a-historic-day-for-street-vendors/article5103508.ece) NASVI has been instrumental in bringing to the capital’s food lovers street food across India for the second consecutive year. The street food festival has brought together street foods from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan for a three day extravaganza – a treat to city’s food lovers.

Last afternoon J, C, M and I trekked down to the street food festival.  We started our food trail with ghee pulao and chicken curry from the Kerala stall. The long grains of rice coated with ghee and the tender succulent chicken cooked neatly wrapped with spices to beat off Delhi chill was a perfect start to the street food trail.  The creamy raita (beaten and seasoned yoghurt) with a mix of  onion, cucumber and green chillies blended well with the ghee soaked rice and spicy chicken.  And all for RS 100/-A perfect start for the hungry souls!

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Our next stop was Moong Dal Chilha with a filling of spicy potato and paneer (Rs 50). Personally I am not a paneer fan but the Moong Dal wrap seemed like the perfect snack, lunch item.

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Served with mint and coriander chutney and tangy sauce this truly took me by surprise. I strongly recommend you to try this!

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We thought of taking a break and stopped by to see a roller ice-cream machine at work. Though the texture of the ice-cream was nice, the rose essence put me off. If you like rose essence and want some fresh ice-cream (Rs 50) being churned out you can give it a try.

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Then we headed to the award winning team of Chicken 65 to spice up our taste buds. If you are a fan of fried chicken with no frills, you are bound to fall in love with this layered dish of crispness at the first bite, juicy spices at the second and then it melts into your mouth.  Chicken 65 is a perfect accompaniment with a steaming cup of chai or “spirits” as well. So if you are planning to throw a pre-Christmas  party tomorrow, pack some Chicken 65 from this stall or pack yourself a treat to unwind a weekend evening.

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Next stop was Litti- Mutton. To my mind, NASVI’s street food festival has brought out the best of Bihar’s street food to the capital’s food lovers.

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This time, street food festival has three stalls from Bihar, one serving Litti- Mutton and Litti- Chokha and the second serving Litti –Chicken and Litti-Chokha. We treated ourselves into piping hot littis with dollops of ghee from both these stalls. And even got it packed. If you are a garlic fan try Litti Mutton. The mutton curry has a fainting fragrance of mustard cooked with whole garlic soft with the spices … it leaves you yearning for more. Must Try !

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The sattu mix of the Litti –Mutton was a little bland compared to Litti-Chokha we had from the stall serving Litti- Chicken.  The mix had the perfect blend of mustard oil and pickles. My  mouth waters as I recall the taste…  Pack yourself a box of  Litti – Chokha if you are full with Litti- Mutton. After our litti trail we decided to take a break.

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We thought  of taking a break and headed for our evening chai ( tea). After a chai– break we headed for Chura with Taas Kebab from Motihari ( East Champaran) which reminded me of  buff kebab, spiced chana served with chura in streets of Kathmandu.

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The tender, soft pieces of chicken kebab served with crisp chura brought me back memories of my lunch on Kathmandu streets and unveil a completely different side of Bihari street food. I don’t recall tasting Chura with Taas Kebab in last year’s food festival so this was a welcome surprise.

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Finally we waited for half an hour chatting away to wait for our friends from Odisha to dish out a crab curry and rice (Rs 180).  If you are self-proclaimed crab lover you have to use your hands to scoop out the crab meat from the claws which carried a faint heat of the spices in the light gravy. Though the seasoning could have been a little better, we loved it…

I was a little disappointed with my home turf – West Bengal which is known for its street food starting from rolls, chop to rice meals.  The West Bengal stall had varieties of fish and rice. I wish winter varieties of ghugni and peas kachori with alur dom was there. For sweet lovers there is a stall fom West Bengal serving date palm jaggery sweets and Assam stall serving pithas.

Other than these, there there is a grand spread from Maharastra, Bhopal, Tamil Nadu which we failed to explore.  Starting from Makki Roti to mirchi pakora, there are ample choices for lunch, evening snack or dinner. So beat the winter chill with street food festival.

Till then happy eating !

Photo : Jyoti Gupta

Important tips

How to reach : Nearest Metro Station – JLN Stadium on Violet Line ( Central Secretariat-Badarpur). Get out from Gate No.3 (Exit) and JLN stadium is round the corner.

Entry Fee: Rs 30. You can even buy coupons online else from the ticket counters at the entrance of JLN stadium.

Payment by coupons:  Stock yourself with cash as they do not accept cards. There are lots of coupon counters so buy coupons when you need them.

Date : 20-22 December 2013

Check NASVI’s fb page https://www.facebook.com/Nasviindia?fref=ts.

©itiriti

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Food-Stop a-float

As soon as our car parked near Ghat No 9 of Dal Lake, Srinagar around 3pm, a boat zoomed past carrying Lays, Kurkure, Mineral water bottles.  As I struggled to capture the brilliant picture of Cola-isation of Dal Lake,  the boatmen assured me that there will be more of that. And of course, they were right.  As the boat glided through the waterways of Dal Lake lined with houseboats, I was left awestruck by the life on waters.  We crossed a floating Phone Booth marked with Vodafone, Airtel stickers. A little ahead we saw a fruit-vendor selling watermelon to a local.

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As we got ready for the sunset Shikara ride in Dal Lake there were more surprises waiting for us. As soon as the Shikara left our houseboat, we saw boats zooming by with cans of coke, fanta and mineral water bottles. This was the trailor of what Dal Lake could offer to a foodie on a shikhara ride.

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 As the boat came close to the floating post office we encountered a man selling Chicken Tikka, Mutton Seekh Kebabs and Chicken Seekh Kebabs. We could not resist the temptation.

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We ordered half-plate of Seekh Kebab which came with three mouth watering chutneys. Already full from a lunch of Wazwan delicacies at Mughal Durbar ( one of the popular restaurants in Srinagar) we tasted a mouthful of kebabs.

As the boat zoomed past the Nehru Park we made another stop to buy a bottle of coke from a food stall (floating) which sold beverages. You could get anything that you wanted from a bottle of coke/ pepsi to even tea/ coffee. If that was not enough we coaxed a boatman selling roasted corns to strike a pose for us. As our Shikhara took to strange waterways we found ourselves near to a boat selling the famous “Kahwa”. As our two and a half hour long ride came to a close we sat in our verandah of the house boat watching boats sellings corns ( bhuttas), kebabs and fruits. 

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Life does not come to a standstill on these shores till its pitch dark and with the break of dawn the boatmen are ready to embrace a new day selling cups of tea and flowers.

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The lake of Paradise has lots to offer for a foodie on a Shikhara ride in Dal Lake,Srinagar.

Yongchak: The Bio-Bomb of Manipuri Cuisine

(Itiriti: I had invited a dear friend who believes life is about flavours. By training, an anthropologist, and a photographer by passion, Rekha Konsam is a wide-eyed explorer of herbs, and plants. She introduces the readers to the bio-bomb of Manipuri cuisine. Happy reading!)

When I was invited to write a guest post on Manipuri food for itiriti, I wondered and wandered in my thoughts for long about a suitable topic that would have something to do with food. The only thing I was certain about was that it would not be a recipe for the simple reason that I myself never follow any recipe while preparing even the simplest item. But somehow we always seem to be assaulted by food. More so, in the world of the virtual where the displaced diasporic communities always seem to be hunting for the taste of home. Anything near to that is relished – in thought if not in taste, consumed by the eyes if not by the mouth. Come winter, and the latest pictures of the winter seasonal vegetables, made their photographic presence in the community portals. Inevitably, these are accompanied by groans and slurps. Making use of one of my favourite timepasses (hunting out of English names of herbs and vegetables that formed a part of the Manipuri cuisine), I decided that it would only be befitting to introduce the readers of itiriti to the favourite winter vegetable that holds pride of place in the Manipuri cuisine. This is the yongchak.

Figure 1: A Yongchak Tree. Photo Courtsey - Mayanglambam Merina

 The English name for this vegetable is tree beans, but it has been infamously nicknamed stinky beans. It is one vegetable that has been drawn out as a caricature as well – there actually seems to be an internet game modelled on it! Certainly, its fame spreads far and wide. The Wiki page entry on this item lists several names by which – petai in Thai, sutaw in Indonesia, ….  A blogger called it one of god’s strange creation – you either love it or hate it. http://www.thefoodrenegade.com/2011/02/sambal-petai-chilli-smelly-beans.html .

Another one humourously recommends it as the most appropriate food to be consumed (next only to garlic) for keeping away an undesirable date. It appears to be widely consumed in Southeast Asia and is often to be found in Thai restaurants as part of its ‘secret recipe’ . Known by various names (petai, sutaw, etc), the Southeast Asian palate distinguishes two varieties of the tree beans. It is the glossy green seeds that are consumed.

For the Manipuri palate, love for yongchak is trully blind! We make no such distinctions and we try to make the best use of every part of the vegetable. The manipuri cuisine offers recipes starting from the flowers and the tender beans to the dried mature beans. The mature seeds of the vegetable is nicknamed ‘bomb’. The two most reknowned dishes made from the vegetable is yongchak singju and yongchak iromba. These two are only the more reknowned ones. There is an array of possible ways of consuming it. Despite my reluctance to write a recipe, I figure it is better to give an insight into how the vegetable is consumed as a part of the Manipuri diet.

Yongchak Iromba: Iromba is a dish made of boiled vegetables mashed together in a sauce of chilly paste and ngari (fermented fish). It is then served with a combination of herbs as garnish – onion, spring onion, chameleon leaves, coriander, vietnamese coriander, etc. it can be prepared from various assortment of vegetables. The iromba of yongchak can very simply be made with yongchak and potato. It can also be made with the other seasonal vegetables as assortment. The best garnish for the yongchak iromba is with a herb locally known as lomba (scientific name, esholtzia blanda).

For those interested in the recipe, here is the link http://chakhum.e-pao.org/ . The recipe is obviously written for people familiar with the Meitei cuisines. Just to add my own note to those unfamiliar with our cuisine, the thin skin of the whole bean is scrapped out. The Meiteis have a special instrument for it that looks pretty much like a tongue-cleaner, but a scrapper can well substitute for it, I guess (or may be try out with a tongue-cleaner :D). Post boiling, the bean would still have another film of skin. Remove this skin also and you would find the pulp and the seed – both of these would be used for the dish.

Figure 2: Boiled stage – potato, chillies, yongchak and fava beans. Photo courtsey - Sapam Shyamananda

 

Figure3 : Yongchak Iromba. Photo Courtsey- sapam shyamananda

Yongchak Shingju: Shingju is again a preparation made with the same base – a thick sauce made from red chillies and ngari (fermented fish). Here, the vegetables are added mostly in raw form. A shingju is the equivalent of a spicy salad in the Manipuri cuisine. For the yongchak shingju preparation, it is the tender ones that are often used while for the iromba, it is the more mature ones that are prefered, although there is no restriction as such. The only link of shingju I was able to find was http://www.gomanipur.com/your-story/item/206-yongchak-singju . For those unfamiliar with Manipuri cuisine, once again let me add a few lines of my own. Scrap off the thin green skin from the yongchak. Then remove the thick sides of the beans. Now, shred the beans into thin pieces.

Personally my preference for the base sauce is to roast the red chillies and the ngari. Then mash them with salt properly. Avoid putting more than a little water – the less watery the sauce, the better the dish. Toss the shredded beans with the sauce and mix it up properly. Add garnish of spring onion, lomba leaves/flowers. My mom adds her own touch to it. Along with the herbs, she garnishes it with slightly crushed roasted shrimps.  

Besides these preparations, it is used in several other dishes. The less cited delicacy from the same vegetable is the shingju prepared from its flower. Because it was less cited and less talked about as compared to the beans and its bombs, I thought it was less sought-after. I wondered perhaps that this was not less available in the market but I stand corrected. It is apparently very much available in the markets also but unlike the other two popular parts of the same vegetable, it travels less. I have not seen it arriving much in Delhi, at least.For a clearer picture of the yongchak and of the iromba dish, check out http://www.mbobo.net/food-vegetable-manipur.html

As winter closes in, the yongchak season also gets over. By the time of Cheiraoba feast in March/April, the ‘bombs’ makes their appearance drapped in ‘overcoats’. The Manipuris have a simple way of preserving their favourite winter vegetable. They select the mature beans and simply hang it up to let it dry. The deep green beans are allowed to turn black. Either they continue to hang like so or they may be taken down to be de-seeded. The seeds are then stored. As and when they are needed, they are taken out and soaked to be used for cooking. The seeds are black on the outside but it is the inner kernel of deep green that is eaten. It is this black covering that is nicknamed ‘overcoat’.

Keep reading more stories about yongchak  www.ingallei.wordpress.com.

© itiriti

Bengali Cookbooks-II

Debi Chaudhurani, Renuka. (March 2007 3rd ed). Rakamari Amish Ranna. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited (Ed. Sheela Lahiri Chaudhuri).

Sheela Lahiri Chaudhuri’s brilliant attempt to bring to the forefront the non-vegetarian culinary delights of Renuka Debi Chaudhurani must have been exhausting and she does a commendable job by introducing the readers to the book in the introduction she pens down about her mother-in-law. In the introduction Sheela mentions that Renuka Debi Chaudhurani could not complete the manuscript before her demise in 1985. The editor also apologises for the missing gaps in the cooking methods and procedure in some recipes. Well, the book has been divided across 60 sections. Each section has a minimum of 5 recipes. The book will help you sail through 365 days of cooking non-vegetarian meals. The recipes collected from Renuka Debi Chaudhurani’s cookbooks reveal the galaxy of cooks from whom she had learned to cook. There are three sections which mention that the recipes are inspired and cooked the way Bawarchis usually do. In fact the most interesting section to my mind is the section on Meat Stews. While Stews on one hand had entered the Bengali palette during colonial times, and it was being cooked in Bengali households also indicate that the everyday cooking in Bengali upper middle class households might have colonial influence. This is particularly evident in the variety of non-Bengali Chicken/ Mutton recipes that Renuka Debi Chaudhuri pens down for us.

Her East-Bengali lineage is evident in the Hilsa preparations and other fish preparations particularly the section on Fish Shukto. Infact the editor also draws attention to the culinary delicacies that Renuka Debi Chaudharni must have been drawn to considering she spent a considerable time in the then East Bengal. This collection moves beyond Bengal and actually gives us a glimpse of the recipes from North to South India which makes this an interesting read. Though I did try out some recipes from the section on prawns I am yet to enter my kitchen with this book. What I seriously miss are the cooking tips or the list of tips in kitchen which is there in the former book. Nevertheless the personalised introduction of Sheela Ray Chaudhury makes up for the missing anecdotes,  and wit of our author Renuka Debi Chaudhurani.

As I browse through the pages, and make a list of things to buy for a recipe I will cook for our Sunday meal, you take a pause and dawn on your chef’s act to get your act together.

 Choose from Fish to Mutton to Chicken to anything that catches your fancy and plan for that Sunday meal. Till then a glimpse from the cover page….