Bhee curries are served in many Sindhi ceremonies. Photos: Alka Keswani
For many, cooking Indian food appears to be a complicated process because of the interminable list of ingredients required, comprehensive cooking methods and layers of flavours that need to be created by using specific spices to make that perfect Indian dish.
But Sindhi food is actually very easy to cook (and equally delicious) since majority of the recipes call for regular spices like turmeric, coriander powder, red chilli powder and the quintessential garam masala powder. The traditional Sindhi gravies are not supposed to be blended, but only whisked using a wooden whisk, mandhiyaro, as we call it in Sindhi.
The curries are either onion-tomato based or just tomato based; the dry subzis are made either using sliced onions, or the Sindhi pesto i.e coriander, green chilies, ginger or garlic paste, which again is not blended but pounded using mortar pestle.
The day-to-day food is quick, no fuss, and consists of readily available spices and seasonal produce. But then, there are some special ingredients used in Sindhi cuisine to create some of the most unique recipes. Today, the spotlight is on those special few.
Darun Khatta: The dried seeds of wild pomegranate (Punica granatum) are extensively used in many Sindhi recipes, like Koki, Besani (spiced up thick rotis ) mint coriander chutney etc. My mother-in-law makes Tidali dal (the three lentils mix dal) using the crushed anardana seeds as souring agents instead of tomatoes.
Katal/ Khark/Pohp: Khark or dates are used to cook festive pulav known as Pohp patate varo pulao, and Pohp vari khichreen, the two rice dishes where the cooked rice is layered with sliced dates and cooked further on dum.
Dingri/Khumbyun : The fresh as well as dried mushrooms, preferably morels and Podaxis pistillaris are being used in Sindhi curries since long. Even turnips were strung using a large needle and thick thread, sun dried and cooked to make Sukal Ghogrun, a curry with meaty flavours.
Bhee: A Sindhi's love for lotus stem/roots could be judged by the fact that it was mandatory to serve Bhee curry during ceremonies celebrating birth, engagement or marriages.
A very traditional Kunhey Ja bhee used to be a popular street food in Sindh (now in Pakistan), which is nothing but slices of lotus stem cooked in clay pot till soft and buttery, and served with green chutney. Apart from that, bhee stuffed with spices and coated with besan batter, is deep fried to make bhee tikkis.
Sohandhro (Suandhro/swandhro): The dried tender drumsticks are used to make a dry subzi by cooking it with onion, curds, tomatoes, garam masala and black pepper. Addition of bhee enhances the earthiness of this dish. The boiled sohandhro is also added to beaten yoghurt and spiced with ginger, chilies etc to make spicy and nutritious raita.
Macroli or Macaroni is being used by Sindhis way before the Italian pasta or Mac and cheese entered Indian kitchens. The soupy Tamato Macroli i.e. elbow macaronis cooked in tomato gravy, as well as macroli patata (Mac and potatoes in onion-tomato gravy), are loved equally.
Mukundwadi : The Multani wadis, made from wheat gluten obtained by washing the dough, which is then steam, deep fried and used in curry, are rarely used nowadays.
I will try to share all of the above mentioned recipes in due course of time. To begin with, it’s a simple dal that Sindhis adapted from Punjabi mix-dal recipes. It is known as Tidali (three)/Tridali dal and is often served with patted Jowar roti called Doda.
At times my mother-in-law cooked it on a sigree, and the slow cooked dal with little smokiness, mild tanginess from pomegranate and the freshness of lemon juice that kick it up a notch, was simply the best!
Recipe for Tidali Dal (serves 3)
Tidali dal is cooked up by mixing three different dals.
1 cup Chana dal, Urad chilka, moong chilka ((Bengal Gram lentils, Black split beans and Green Moong, splitbeans) mixed in the ratio of 1:1:1/4
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
3 Green chilies
1/2 inch piece Ginger
2 heaped tsp dried pomegranate seeds
Salt to taste
6-7 cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Oil
5-7 Curry leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
1 Onion, sliced (optional)
1. Rinse well with water for few times and soak mixture of three lentils in warm water for 1-3 hours.
2. Pressure cook three lentils, with 3 cups of water, finely chopped ginger and green chilies, add turmeric, and salt and wait for 5 whistles of cooker.
3. Let the pressure cooker cool, open the lid and whisk the dal. Add crushed or pounded anardana.
4. For the tadka, heat the oil in a small frying pan; add crushed garlic, followed by curry leaves and cumin seeds and wait till garlic turns golden brown. You can add a sliced onion too along with garlic.
5. Add this tadka to cooked dal and close the lid immediately, simmer it for 5 min on low flame.
6. Adjust the consistency of dal, adding some hot water if needed.
7. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rotis or rice or Juar dodo.
Alka Keswani is a microbiology graduate, a hands-on mom and food blogger. Besides contributing articles to various magazines and newspapers, she has also co-authored a food section in ‘We The Sindhis’ book. Her blog Sindhi Rasoi won the Best Regional Food blog in 2013 and Best Vegetarian food blog in 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. She also manages another blog called Recipeonclick for non-Sindhi recipes.