Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Chipotle Style Chicken Burrito Bowl

"Foods are memories" - The Hundred Foot journey

Couldn't agree more with the statement. There are certain foods in our lives which brings back a lot of fond thoughts. Like the smell of boiled beans. It might sound weird, but it reminds me of the days when I was a little girl and my mom used to feed me. She made sure I ate lots of veggies in every form.She used to tell stories around the food to make the meal interesting. Like one spoonful of rice would become an apple tree and the next would be an orange tree and so on. Soon my entire plate would become an orchard and it was my choice which tree I wanted to eat first. I don't remember the smell of anything else but somehow the smell of boiled beans always takes me 25 years back.

Similarly when someone mentions about Mexican food, I remember not Tacos but the lovely Chicken burrito bowl. And not just any Burrito bowl but Chipotle's signature Chicken burrito bowl. Yummmmm!

When I was staying in California, I was so close to the borders of Mexico. We even visited Tijuana a border city of Mexico. But then I was only aware of tacos as a Mexican food. Me and my room mate were really foolish not to try out the Mexican food even when we had the chance. Actually the lanes and by lanes of Tijuana appeared pretty shady, with wrinkled old ladies looking at us strangely and rough looking men standing at most of the places. The small joints also looked a bit intimidating with the dark ambiance and billowing smoke inside. Being only two girls on a road trip we didn't venture into what seemed like trouble. During my entire stay in California we always ate home cooked food apart from the weekends when we would go on road trips. Unbelievable but sadly true. A foodie like me never got to explore local cuisine!

Original Chipotle burrito bowl
In my next stint in US while I was in Atlanta my then roommate would not cook ever. The maximum she would do is make a toast and tea breakfast for herself everyday. And at all other times it would either be Subway, Panera Bread other such joints. During one of our weekend shopping's at Perimeter Centre she stopped at Chipotle to get her dinner packed. That was the very first time I ever entered a Chipotle outlet. My roommate ordered a vegetarian burrito bowl. My interest was piqued watching the layers of food items being placed in the white paper bowls - they looked fresh and wholesome. I didn't hesitate to order a chicken burrito bowl for myself. The best part of Chipotle was you could specify the things you wanted in the bowl. After the bowl was handed over to me I kept looking for a few seconds at the heap of food the bowl contained. My roommate explained the process of eating it - we should mix everything together and then eat. What no particular table manner to be followed? We had to just mix and dig in? Immediately I felt at home! It was then love at first bite. From then on I made a point every week to visit Chipotle at least once. For team lunch also Chipotle used to be the most voted place. Unfortunately in India we have all kinds of international food brands but no Chipotle. I don't understand it at all. If pizzas and burgers could gel into our food culture why not proper Mexican food like burritos? Mexican food very much resembles the Indian palate. I just wish someday even a Chipotle would open up somewhere here in Pune. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday while talking my mother mentioned about burrito bowl prepared by chef Sanjiv Kapoor on a food show. I had once prepared a chicken burrito bowl for her and she was comparing it with the one prepared by the chef and she didn't sound pleased about the chef's recipe. From what I heard about the recipe it was a very low on seasoning simplified Desi version of the original burrito bowl. And it was a paneer burrito bowl moreover. That's when I decided to post this recipe which copies the actual Chipotle recipe. The taste is very much similar to chipotle. Only thing maybe you would notice some seasoning difference due to the chillies we get here if different from the traditional ones used for the recipe. Alert: It may look like a laundry list of items and procedure. But once you get everything together its worth the effort. My mother who had never tasted burrito earlier had praised the recipe as well. So here it is:

Preparation Time: 40 minutes  

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Mexican


Marinade -
  • Boneless Chicken breast halves - 7-8 pieces
  • Lime - 1/2 juiced
  • Fresh Cilantro - 1 handful finely chopped
  • Chipotle peppers/ dry red chilli whole - 2 
  • Refined Oil - 1 1/2 tsp
  • Cloves of garlic - 4 grated
  • salt as per taste
Fajita Seasoning -
  • Ancho Chili / Normal Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin Powder- 1/2 tsp
  • Paprika - 1/2 tsp
  • Crushed Black pepper - 1/2 tsp
  • Dried Oregano power - 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
Corn Salsa -
  • Boiled Corn - 1 cup
  • Onion - 1 small chopped
  • Lemon juice - 1 tsp or as per taste
  • Salt as per taste
Sour Cream-
  • Heavy cream - 1 cup 
  • Curd - 1/4th cup
  • White Vinegar - 1/2 tsp 
  • An airtight bowl
Black Beans-
  • Lima Beans or any black beans - 200 gm
  • Onion - 1 medium sized chopped
  • Garlic Cloves - 2 fat crushed
  • Bay Leaf - 2
  • Tomato - 1 medium chopped
  • Black Pepper  - 1 tsp crushed
  • Garam Masala powder - 1 pinch (optional)
  • Green Chili - 2-3 chopped
  • Butter - 1 1/2 tsp
  • Salt as per taste
Cilantro Lime Rice -
  • Basmati rice - 200 gm
  • Fresh Cilantro - 1 handful minced
  • Lime/Lemon - 1/2 juiced 
  • Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp crushed
  • Butter - 1 tsp
  • Bay Leaf - 1
  • Salt as per taste
Others -
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Tomatoes - 1 chopped
  • Onions - 1 sliced
  • Yellow Bell Pepper- 1/2 sliced
  • Butter
1. Prepping the chicken: In a mixing bowl combine the chicken and its marinade. In another bowl combine the ingredients mentioned under Fajita seasoning with the refined oil. Add this fajita seasoning paste to the chicken and toss everything to coat the chicken evenly. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more.

You can use Olive oil instead of refined oil

2. Cooking the Chicken: Heat 2 tsp of butter in a skillet. Add the marinated chicken in a single layer. Cook on high flame for about 5-6 minutes each side taking care the chicken doesn't get burnt.

Cooking the chicken on high heat will retain the moisture inside while its well done on the outside. Thus you will get a juicy chicken.

3. Making the Fajita: The word "faja" is Spanish for belt or girdle and "fajita" is the diminutive form. Traditionally they were made of grilled strips of skirt steak though now you can get the same thing in variants of chicken and shrimp. The meat is seared to retain its juiciness and served with sauteed juliennes of bell peppers and onion.
To make the fajita for this recipe place the seared chicken from step 2 on a chopping board. Slice the chicken into rough bite sized pieces. Keep them warm and ready to eat.

4. Preparing Black Beans: Soak the black beans overnight. Wash and drain the water. Switch on the heat. Place a pressure cooker on the stove and add butter. When the butter melts add the bay leaf, pepper powder, garlic, onion, tomato, green chilli one by one. Fry for a minute till fragrant. Add soaked black beans and water. Add garam masala, salt and sugar. Note here sugar is just to balance the taste, the cooked beans should not taste sweet.

Cook it for 2-3 whistles or enough time for the kind of beans you are using. Once done let it rest till the pressure dies and then open the lid. With a spatula give a nice stir or two and slightly mash a handful of the beans. This would help in increasing the consistency of the beans gravy.

The traditional recipe demands lima beans. But I didn't find them here. So I used a similar looking small sized black colored beans. the local grocer shop told me its also known as Rajma only. So unfortunately I don't know the exact name. You can also use Kashmiri Rajma which is smaller in size to the normal Rajma and tastes much better.

5. Preparing Sour Cream: Mix all the ingredients mentioned under sour cream and keep it in a air tight container for 8-10 hours at room temperature. After that the sour cream can be refrigerated and had for a week.

Altering the amount of curd and vinegar may alter the sourness in the Sour cream so take care of the proportions.

6. Preparing the add ons: Chop yellow Bell pepper and onion into juliennes. Fry both of them separately until the Bell peppers are crunchy and onions are a little soft. Add some sugar while frying to make them sweeter. Keep both of them aside.

I suggest you use yellow Bell pepper because they are sweeter than the red or green version. Also we don't want the characteristic smell of green Bell pepper to overpower all other flavours of this dish. Yellow ones taste better and does not have a strong smell.
7. Preparing the Rice: Heat the pressure cooker. Add butter, coarsely ground pepper powder and bay leaf. Add rice. Add double the amount of water. Adjust salt and sugar. Cook the rice for necessary whistles. When vapour escapes add finely chopped cilantro and dash of lime juice and fork the rice evenly.

Since we add lime juice after the rice is cooked hence salt has to be added to balance the taste.
8. Preparing the Corn Salsa: Boil the corn kernels with a pinch of salt. Drain the excess water. Add salt, finely chopped onions and butter and toss to coat the corns evenly.

The traditional recipe has tomato salsa but I do not like it much hence as an alternative corn salsa works pretty well. Specially the little bursts of sweetness that occur with every bite you take really perks up the dish. 
Serving Tip: Layer the rice first in the serving bowl.  Add a layer of black beans on top of the rice bed.  Add the corn salsa. Add the chicken fajita. Add roughly torn lettuce leaves. Sprinkle around the sauteed onions and yellow bell peppers. Top it off with a few springs of cilantro. On one side place a few spoonfuls of sour cream and a wedge of lime. Dig in!

Chipotle also serves the optional guacamole an avocado based dip with the burrito bowl. Most of the people love it but I didn't like it much. Also in Pune I don't find Avocados that frequently in the supermarkets, hence omitted them from the recipe.

By the way do check out the movie "The Hundred Foot Journey" and make sure you don't watch it on an empty stomach. The movie is all about delicious food and a nice little journey of human relationship through food. Madam Mallory would definitely warm the cockles of your heart with her charming presence in this movie set in the rustic country side of France. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

শুভো নববর্ষ

"শুভ্রতা ছুয়ে থাকুক মননে

স্নিগ্ধো আলো এ জুডিয়া থাক দু চোখ

প্রাণের সঞ্চার উদ্বেলিতো হোক নতুন বছরে

শুভো নববর্ষ "

Wish all my readers a very happy Bengali New Year!

Gondhoraj Murgi or Chicken Gondhoraj

The seasons have acted up a bit curiously this year. In Pune, usually by end of February the summers would gradually crawl in and by March end it would transform into the typical summer days with blazing sun and scorching heat. But this year it had rained pretty hard in the first week of March. There after we had a week of summer like weather in mid March but again with the onset of April the weather changed. Last Sunday, people of Pune witnessed a strange phenomenon. From morning onward a feathery layer of cloud like thing engulfed the city. My apartment is located on a hill; hence I can almost see the whole span of the city from my patio. It seemed like a layer of fog had formed in the distance and the visibility became quite low. Fog in summer? Quite baffling. This is a verdant part of the city hence smog was also out of question. Clouds could not come so low and neither could be this thin. When I could not logically decipher the strange thing I decided it must be all my perception, nothing was actually different.

I place rice all over my patio in the night so that the neighborhood pigeons can eat in the morning. That night when I went out to place the rice, I noticed that the foggy mass was still very much present. And since I was not able to clearly see the highway which otherwise I could very well see every day, I became quite certain that it was not just my perception that something was there but it actually was there, only thing I could not understand what. My imagination flew high. Maybe it was an alien invasion and they had spread some kind of a sleeping gas on the unsuspecting earthlings. I smiled at my own thought. But whatever it was, it seemed quite strange and mysterious.

Next day the newspaper solved the mystery. The dust storm that had occurred in Saudi the week before was behind this sudden change in air quality.  Apparently the light particulate matter traveled all the way from Saudi and reached the western part of the Indian sub-continent. These floating particulate matters created this mysterious haze over the city. The condition in Mumbai was worse for the PM level (particulate matter) crossed the safe level. High concentration of PM is bad for babies, elders and asthmatic patients hence it was suggested to take care while going out. Actually you could only see the haze but not feel anything once you were on the road because the particle size was in microns which was more dangerous because such particles are not even restricted by masks. By Tuesday evening things cleared up. But again a dust storm in Iran brought back the haze on Friday morning, only this time it was little thinner.

Anyway the met department had predicted hailstorm and thundershowers over the weekend, which was a pleasant respite in summer days. Usually Kalbaishakhi is a signature storm that occurs in Bengal leading to abrupt heavy rainfall but it rarely happens that rainfall occurs in summer months in Pune. But this year as I have said we are getting all kinds of weather fluctuations in summer months.

Weekend means a chicken dish is must in our household. A is a hard core chikeniterian. He can strive on only chicken all throughout the year. I am more of a fishiterian and get quite bored eating chicken regularly. Unless you put your heart into a dish it doesn't come out well. And when I get bored of a dish or ingredient it becomes a grueling task to make a good dish out of it. So just to keep me engaged I try to experiment a lot with the chicken dishes. My signature dish Doi Chicken (curd chicken) is the household favorite. It’s a light soupy dish but for the summer months it still seems a bit heavy on the stomach.

The summer months result in loss of appetite especially during the hot afternoons. Your heart starts craving for light hearted dishes. Anything tangy or sour really piques the taste buds. Saturday started off on a pretty warm and humid note. So I decided if it had to be chicken then it had to be a tangy one this time. When we talk about tangy chicken the first thing that comes to my mind is using kokum or tamarind to prepare a coastal style chicken, but I was not in mood for that. I wanted something earthy yet light.

Some brainstorming later I remembered a dish that I had once seen on a TV show. A quick search on the net brought of the video and I was all set to prepare Gondhoraj Chicken. Pretty easy to cook and requires very little ingredients. It’s a recipe from the kitchens of the famous Bhojo Hori Manna Restaurant in Kolkata. It’s one of their signature dishes and is known as “Lebu Lonka Murgi”. But I prefer to call it Gondhoraj Murgi because the hero of this dish is not any regular lemon but the king of lemons or Gondhoraj. Also the name imparts the necessary zing for this dish :)

Gondhoraj lebu is endemic to Bengal. During my childhood I had seen almost all Bengali households used to have a Gondhoraj Lebu tree in their garden. We had one in our quarters too in Kharagpur. My mom is a passionate gardener and used to grow many things in her garden at that time. We had peas, chillies, and of course Gondhoraj. The Gandhoraj shrub was located very near to our dining room. Gondhoraj is not known as the king of lemons for nothing. The divine aroma of the lemon is simply out of the world. No other lemon can compete with this in terms of flavor and taste but the sad thing is that it only thrives in the soil of Bengal. You try to plant it elsewhere in the country and you would end up getting a normal lemon. The soil is the differentiator. Aroma per say only Kaffir lime leaves can slightly measure up to the Gondhoraj leaves. But again the actual Kaffir lime is rarely used in cooking only the leaves are used for flavoring. With Gondhoraj you can use every bit of it.

The aroma of the Gondhoraj on summer evenings would very therapeutic and appetizing at the same time. It was a joy to pick the lemons from the tree and hold the fragrant leaves in our hands. Crush it slightly in your palms and the aroma would remain with you for the rest of the day. The lemon is dark green in color with a woody thick exterior and bigger in size compared to normal lemon. It has very little flesh and juice inside but a couple of drops of this ambrosia is effective enough for the whole meal.  A few drops of gondhoraj lebu, masoor daal tempered with radhuni and any ghonto or bhaja – an unforgettable combo during summer months.

Once I left Bengal I left Ghondhoraj also behind. Nowhere did I find them again. Only some specialty Bengali restaurants like Oh! Calcutta has these lemons on the menu in Pune. So whenever I go to Kolkata I bring back a couple of these lemons back with me to Pune. But once they run out it’s again a long wait till I visit home.

The best way to preserve these lemons for a longer time in fridge keeping their aroma intact is to keep them wrapped up in a moist cloth inside the vegetable tray.

Now the recipe.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Marination Time : 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 4

Cuisine: Bengali 


  • Chicken on the bone - 1 kg 

  • Onion Juice - 2 tbsp

  • Ginger Juice - 2 tbsp 

  • Garlic Juice - 2 tbsp

  • Green Chilli Paste - 1 tbsp (adjust according to tolerance level)

  • Curd - 1 cup

  • Coriander Powder - 1 1/2 tsp

  • Regular lemon - 1

  • Gondhoraj Lebu - 1 

  • Gondhoraj Lebu Leaves or Kaffir lime leaves - 7-8

  • Cardamom Pods - 5-6

  • Refined Oil - 1 tbsp

  • Green Chilli - 3-4 slitted

  • Salt as per taste

  • Sugar as per taste

  • Ghee or clarified butter - 4 tbsp

  • Scale up or down the other ingredients as per the amount of chicken.

    Procedure 1 : Quick Fix Method
    1. Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. Take 1/2 cup of the curd and beat it uniformly. Add it to the chicken.

    2. Make a paste of 1 big onion, 7-8 garlic pods, 4 inch garlic and 5-6 green chillies in the grinder. Adjust chillies according to tolerance level. Add water to the paste and with the help of a strainer strain the entire juice from the paste using a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Add a bit of water if required to strain easily.Add this strained juice to the chicken.

    3. Add the juice of the regular lemon and Gondhoraj lebu to the chicken. Carefully scrape out some zest of the Gondhoraj lebu and add that too to the chicken

    4. Add the coriander powder, salt and refiled oil to the chicken. Mix everything together. Marinate the chicken for 30 mins at least.

    5. Heat ghee in a wok. When the ghee is fragrant temper it with cardamom pods.

    6. When the cardamom pods crackle, shake off the extra marinade and add the chicken pieces one by one to the ghee.

    7. Add the chillies and the Gondhoraj lebu leaves. I substituted with Kaffir lime leaves as I didn't have the Gondhoraj leaves. Toss around the chicken for a couple of minutes, taking care to slightly brown the pieces.

    8. Add half cup of water to the marinade and add it to the wok. Adjust the salt and sugar now. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of beaten curd. Add a little Gondhoraj zest. Fold everything in. 

    Notice that I have added potatoes at this stage. The original recipe does not have potatoes but in our house its inevitable in every chicken dish courtesy hubby. So if you want to add potatoes like me you can do so, only thing don't fry the potatoes before adding to the gravy. For turmericless recipes adding fried potatoes to the gravies might alter the actual flavor, hence I prefer to add it raw. The potatoes will get cooked along with the chicken.

    9. Cook the chicken on medium flame for an hour or till the chicken is cooked. Keep stirring 

    Procedure 2 : Actual Method
    1.  Extract the juice of the onion, ginger and garlic separately and then add everything according to the measurement written in the ingredient list. 

    Everything else remains the same in this procedure. Believe me there is practically no difference to the end result in both the process. The later one only adds to the task list. Flavor and taste per say both are same. So for lazy people like me the first process also works out perfectly!

    Serving Suggestion: Serve the dish with steamed Basmati rice. Drizzle some Gondhoraj juice on top of the chicken before serving.

    I had prepared the recipe keeping in mind the hot summer afternoon. But by the time we sat down for lunch the weather had changed again. Rain clouds had gathered all over and it became pretty windy too. Almost felt like a Kalbaishakhi coming over on a summer afternoon in Kolkata. The aroma of Gondhoraj added to this beautiful weather kind of transported me back in time when as kids we would have lunch together as a family in Kolkata. Those afternoons were much more than just having meals, it was a time when we bonded over a common love - food. No doubt sometimes a good dish can stir up a lot of fond memories!

    Sunday, 5 April 2015

    Bok Ful Bhaja & Detective Byomkesh Bakshy

    What began as a lazy Sunday quickly metamorphosed into an potboiler weekend day. Primarily because of two reason a very interesting movie and an equally amazing recipe.

    A couple of months back while searching for movies in Youtube I came across the trailer of “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!”.  The protagonist of Saradindu Mukhopadhya’s detective series novels Byomkesh being a very familiar name in every Bengali household I was intrigued. The trailer came up and the frames changed rapidly in the backdrop of what looked like a 50’s Calcutta and then emerged from the shadows Shushant Singh Rajput with a mustache! As the trailer played on the first thing that stuck my mind was that Sushant Singh didn't quite look like what we usually imagine as “Byomkesh Bakshi”. Sometimes certain actors make the character. Like Santosh Dutta based on whom the look of Jatayu was remodeled in Feluda stories or Rajit Kapur who had immortalized Byomkesh Bakshi on Doordarshan. Any reference to Byomkesh and the image of Rajit Kapoor – a calm reticent sharp minded middle aged dhoti clad man with a signature curved smile who always looked in control of the situations around him. Sushant appeared to be a far cry from that image. In fact he had a mustache!  Byomkesh didn't have a mustache! Secondly a Hindi film made on a Bengali character – I was pretty apprehensive about the treatment.  Any typical stereotype would literally murder an iconic character like Byomkesh. And frankly speaking even though many may beg to differ with me I found Abir who played the modern Byomkesh in the Bengali version also ill suited for the character. The poise or charm of Byomkesh did not reflect in any of the three Byomkesh movies he had done. So if a Bengali movie can falter then a Hindi movie can be a catastrophe! These two factors combined I was not very interested in watching the movie after watching the trailer.

    I pass a multiplex on way to office every day. Last week onward they had put up the poster of Byomkesh Bakshy in the upcoming movies panel. A dhoti clad intense looking Shushant singh jumping over an obstacle. Looking at it I was scared more about the reaction of the non-Bengali mass of movie goers. I kept my fingers crossed that let the movie at least be of some level that I don’t hear comments like what a crap this Byomkesh character is. My staunch Bangalipona had kicked in big time.

    While working on my laptop on Friday evening I chanced upon the homepage of Yahoo news and saw a headline saying “Detective Byomkesh Bakshi is engrossing”. I felt a bit relieved and went about my work. By Saturday morning the reviews and star ratings were there in the Times of India – both were very flattering.

    In the evening by a cup of garam chai and chanachur I casually told A that this movie seems to have got rave reviews. Actually here I must mention that both me and A are movie lovers but prefer to watch movie in the comfort of our home, only when it seems like an exceptional movie, do we venture to the hall. And last time we had ventured to the hall misguided by the noir like look and feel of a rather confusing movie called “Roy”. We were still reeling under its effect and had decided to read the reviews thoroughly before going to a hall. Coincidentally Roy was being shown in a movie channel on TV as we discussed about Byomkesh. I was pretty sure after the last debacle A would never talk about going to a movie hall. But he surprised me and told to check if tickets were available for the Sunday morning show. It was and thus we ended up in the movie hall once again.

    The good sign was that screen 3 was jam packed. In fact we could manage a seat only 7 rows from the screen. But the inclining seats were nice and cozy so chances of a stiff back was not there. The sound over started as we comfortably sank into our seats with a glass of chilled ice tea.

    20 minutes into the movie and we understood the reason of naming Bakshi with a ‘Y’ instead of ‘I’ in the title. Dibakar Banerjee had taken the creative freedom to mold Byomkesh according to his own thoughts, borrowing only faint sub plots from several Byomkesh novels and stringing them together to bring to life what would have been the rookie Byomkesh’s first case. The movie is fast paced and intriguing. Your mind would race and you would definitely feel the rush of adrenaline as you follow Sushant aka Byomkesh on a mad crime chase. Just out of college Byomkesh looks a bit impulsive and restless at times. He is very human also as sometimes he withdraws into a shell when he cannot decipher something or cringes at the sight of blood and gore. The names of the popular character of the novel has been retained only the characterization and introduction have changed dramatically. Ajit is not a blind follower of Byomkesh but has a mind of his own too; he even slaps Byomkesh for being rude. Satyavati is not anymore the typical housewife but a fiercely independent woman who calls the shot when required. Supporting characters have strengthened the movie’s flow. Swastika has become the signature of such noir films. She portrays the character of Angoogi devi with required élan and sensuality. Putiram instead of being an insignificant character plays a very important and endearing role. To say, during the length of the whole film never did I feel that Sushant was not fitted for the role. In fact he portrayed the young sleuth effortlessly.

    The story starts when Ajit’s father a genius chemist disappears mysteriously and Ajit seeks help from Byomkesh to find him. Byomkesh shifts his base to the boarding house of Dr. Anukul Guha where Ajit’s father was staying before he disappeared. As the story starts to unfold layer by layer, Byomkesh understands that the disappearance of Ajit’s father is only one end of the complex string that ties the case together. He uncovers bodies and filth amidst the buildup of a deep rooted conspiracy between the Japanese Army, a Chinese drug gang, wannabe politicians and movie stalwarts in the 50’s Chinetown of Calcutta. The movie grows darker and sinister by the minute, plots and sub plots thicken and create a mesh of mystery about the intentions of every character. The cinematography, background score and eye for detail is mind boggling. Very difficult to uphold the feel of a period film, but Dibakar Banerjee does it with the finesse of a seasoned craftsman. The upholstery, vehicles, buildings, advertisements everything underlines the fact that it’s the Calcutta of 1943 and not 2015! The bubbling sound of water in a hookah used for scenes in which reference to opium trafficking is made seems very innovative and apt.

    The end might be a little predictable but nonetheless beautifully crafted to impart that required cinematic climax. The 135 minute Bengal noir film is a class apart. It makes you think, question even laugh at times. A terrific movie after a long long while. Definitely worth a watch. We were still talking about the film till late afternoon.

    The mood was set right for the day. The weather was also nice and breezy. I felt it should be complimented by something to munch on as we discussed more about the film. I decided to make some Bok Ful bhaja.

    It’s not often that you get a Kumro ful or a Bok ful in Pune especially in the part of the city I live in. In fact had I not seen with my own eyes I would have never believed if someone told me you get Bok ful in Pune. I am a great fan of these flowery fritters and can go to any lengths to get hold of them in Pune. You might have already read about my Kumro Ful escapade earlier in this blog space. But thankfully for Bok ful I just had to buy it from the village lady at the vegetable market.

    Bok ful or Agathi has the best flavor when you can get them fresh. I selected the unopened fresh buds. These flowers are white in color and somewhat resembles a crane hence the name Bok which means crane in Bengali. The Bok Ful is a bit bitter in taste. The bitterness can be removed to quite an extent by removing the pistil from the flower. You can say this is one of the recipes of Bengal which invokes a lot of nostalgia. It’s something which reminds of childhood when we didn’t have burgers and pizzas for snacks. Plain homemade snacks like these were what made our evenings. But with the advent of fast food our traditional fares like these are fast moving into oblivion. I just hope that the effort that Bengali bloggers like me are trying to put in to make the new generation at least aware of our traditional dishes pays off in the long run. It’s a very simple recipe with very less number of ingredients:

    Preparation Time: 15 minutes  

    Cooking Time: 10 minutes

    Serves: 2

    Cuisine: Bengali 

    • Bok Ful - 10
    • Besan or Gram Flour - 4 tbsp
    • Rice Flour - 1 tsp
    • Kalonji or Kalo Jeere - 1/2 tsp
    • Pinch of Baking soda
    • Salt to taste
    • Pinch of red chilli powder
    • Pinch of hing powder (optional)
    • Water for knedding
    • Refined oil

    1. Carefully remove the filament from the flower. These are very delicate flower so take extra care while you remove the filament. We would not want the petals to break.

    2. Immerse the flowers in saline water for 5 minutes. This will ensure no bugs are inside the petals. Drain and keep aside

    3. Take a mixing bowl and mix the besan, rice flour, kalonji, salt, chilli powder, hing, baking soda and enough water to make a homogeneous batter. The batter should not be runny. It should be enough thick so that the flowers can hold onto it.

    4. Heat oil in a pan.

    5. When oil is hot enough dip the flowers as a whole into the batter and then put it into the hot oil one by one. Deep fry or shallow fry the flowers. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer them on a  tissue paper.

    6. Serve them hot and crispy with a chutney or sauce. It can be had as a tea time snack or a side dish,

    The evening slowly faded into night as we talked and enjoyed the bhaja. The aftertaste of the movie would linger with us for a while till we see something on a similar note.

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