Oct 21, 2015
Like all Bengalis living outside the state, Durga Pujo is when I miss home the most.
Over the years, thankfully, I have begun to feel more at home in Mumbai during the pujos. This is thanks to the Notun Polly Pujo, which is held beside Bandra’s Patwardhan Park.
I remember going there during my first pujo away from home, and was almost reduced to tears as I realised that I was alone during the pujos for the first time in my life.
This is the pujo I now visit every year when I am in Mumbai during this time of the year.
In my early years, I would make a beeline for the food stalls here with my friends, and later my wife. I would binge on the rolls, cutlets and Moghlai porothas there.
Like festive carnival food all over, the fare here is over priced and mediocre. You will get much better Bengali food in people’s homes, and in the Bengali restaurants, which have come up over the years in the city.
However, there is no substitute to the electricity in the air here. The joy of seeing people dressed up in their new clothes, the excited screams and smiles, and hearing people talk in Bengali… you suddenly feel you are at home!
In the later years, I got to meet the folks who organise the Bandra pujo, and we became friends. I jump in during the festivities and try to help especially in serving the bhog or free community meal to all who come.
The menu is typically khichudi, labda, chutney, mishti and papod. The volunteers span across ages, and I might have a 7-year-old to my left, and a septuagenarian to my right serving food with me. This also reminds me of my growing up days in Kolkata where I would help serve the food in the pujo in our building.
I will be travelling outside the country during pujo this time, but I will leave behind the granny’s recipe for khichudi. You can prepare it at home if you cannot make it to a pujo pandal for bhog.
Recipe for Bhoger Khichudi (serves 2)
1 and 1/2 cups of rice
2 cups moong dal (yellow lentils)
3 tbsp green peas
5-6 cauliflowers florets
2 potatoes cut into half
1 tbsp ghee
2-3 bay leaves
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp of jeera
1 tbsp mix of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom
2 green chillies
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
For the khichudi curry
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp of haldi (turmeric powder)
1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar
1. Roast 2 coffee mugs of moong dal in a pressure pan till it turns brownish orange. Take it out.
2. Now heat 2 tablespoons of ghee.
3. For the phoron or tadka – add 2 dry red chillies, 2 dry bay leaves, some whole garam masala and 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds. Stir till you get the aromas of dry roasted spices.
4. Add the halved potatoes and cauliflower florets, and stir till the masalas get coated properly.
5. Now add the roasted dal and 1 coffee mug of soaked rice (gobindobhog is used in Bengal, I use the more easily available Basmati). The rice to dal ratio is 1:2 or 1:1.5. You can add some green peas too.
6. Stir everything well. Add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar.
7. Add 4 coffee mugs of water and close the pressure pan and put the flame on high.
8. Allow the first whistle and then switch off the gas. (my granny, Didu says switch off before the first whistle).
9. Open the pan once the steam escapes. If it’s thick or bhuno, add some water to make it paatla (runny) and cook it a bit.
10. Enjoy with begun bhaaja or fried aubergines.
Watch the video on How to Make Bhoger Khichudi here –
Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013 and 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.
Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped