May 24, 2015
In my childhood, summer holidays meant a train journey to Kolkata. In those days, the pantry car on the train (if there was one) was not to be trusted, and families always travelled with food and water for the journey.
The other option was to buy food from the carts on the railway stations we passed through, and those were not to be trusted either.
The journey from Mumbai to Kolkata (Bombay to Calcutta in those days) took at least 36 hours if the train was on time, and if it was late, it took as long as it took.
In fact, counting the hours and calculating how late the train was, was a major part of the ‘time pass’ indulged in on those journeys.
The day before we embarked, my mom would start preparing food for the journey. Being Bengali, she couldn’t think beyond luchi torkari.
Even if other stuff was carried, luchi torkari had to be there. Our favourite torkari (or vegetable preparation to go with the luchis) was a simple kalo jeere tomato diye aloo-r torkari or potatoes cooked with nigella seeds and tomato.
Luchi of course is the pale Bengali-style puri made with maida or refined white flour.
A mini mountain of luchis would be fried and then deflated before being packed in a flat aluminium box. Another box would be filled up with the aloo-r torkari.
A few knobs of patali gur (palm jaggery) would be packed alongside. Though she’d also bake a pound cake for the journey, and pack biscuits and other snacks, the luchi torkari was what we looked forward to the most.
Newspaper would be spread out onto the seats; small steel plates would be unearthed from the food bag along with the boxes of luchi, torkari and gur. My brother and I would be handed a plate each with a few luchis, some torkari and a big lump of gur.
And we would sit next to the window seats we had commandeered, and would watch the endless fields punctuated by villages, forests, and the occasional bridge over a river, zip past as we munched on this simple but somehow incredibly delicious meal.
Eventually as the years went past, Gitanjali Express was launched and it boasted an excellent pantry car.
Our luchi torkari meals were soon forgotten as we dug into exciting fare like chicken stew, chicken curry, or fish curry served in steel trays with sections for rice, daal, salad, and curry.
Now even the steel trays are a thing of the past as disposable foil containers have taken over.
Considering the quality of food served on long distance trains now, the packed luchi torkari meal is absolutely worth reviving!
Recipe for Luchi Torkari
1 cup Flour (makes 7 – 8)
Salt as per taste
Oil for frying
1. Knead the maida with a little salt, some ghee and water to make a soft dough.
2. Rest the dough for half an hour.
3. Roll out discs and deep fry in hot oil, but don’t let them turn brown. Bengali luchis are pale.
Kalo Jeere Tomato diye Aloo’r Torkari
2 medium-sized potatoes
1/2 tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
2 fresh green chillies
1. Cut a couple of potatoes into match sticks.
2. Heat mustard oil in a wok and splutter half a teaspoon of kalonji or nigella seeds.
3. Throw in a couple of fresh green chillies and then add the potatoes.
4. Season with salt and turmeric.
5. Add a chopped tomato and cook covered for five minutes.
6. Add very little water and cook till the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
Photo credit: Rhea Dalal
I am a trained archaeologist, but have hung up my trowel. At present, I am a food blogger and write and edit content on a freelance basis. I enjoy cooking, exploring cuisines and ingredients, and their histories. My experiences are shared on my blog euphoRHEA. I am an amateur photographer, I paint on ceramics, and I also organise occasional food or history based events in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. I am very active on Facebook and moderate the biggest Facebook food group, Chef at Large. I also run The Porkaholics (only for pork lovers) and Foodies in Navi Mumbai (focused on the growing food scene in Navi Mumbai).
Follow Rhea on Twitter @euphorhea