Sunday, May 30, 2010
Kairi chi Dal/ Split Chickpeas with Raw Mangoes
Yes, she would have to eat it, else the tabloid journalist accompanying them would have a field day declaring how the heroine of the movie acted snooty and refused to touch a morsel. And moreover, she would hurt the feelings of the lady who had made it if she didn't eat.
Yet, she couldn’t get herself to eat even a single spoonful – she dreaded the torrent of emotions it would unleash - and so she toyed with her food, absently pushing it this way and that on her plate, as she took in her surroundings. It was a simple house that had homeliness written on every wall.
There was a time when she had known a house like this intimately, she thought.
Coming here to this house hadn’t quite been part of the plan, but then her co-star Aamir could be extremely eccentric sometimes.
They had been touring the country as part of publicity for their soon to be released movie; the promotional blitzkrieg had taken them to theatres and multiplexes, malls and restaurants in an attempt to connect with the audiences. But barging in unannounced into somebody’s house? That was something that happened on the spur of the moment.
They were waiting at a traffic light when Aamir saw this chawl at the corner of the street. “Let’s go visit some house in that chawl,” he said. “It would fit in wonderfully with the theme of the movie.”
The sycophants accompanying them had lauded the idea and that is how she found herself in this house; the paint peeling off its walls, a noisy fan spinning furiously, its attempt at offering some respite from the relentless summer heat almost futile.
There was a time when she had lived in a house just like this one, she recalled.
Their visit had created quite a stir, people from the neighbouring houses were thronging to see them and the ladies of the house had bent over backwards bringing out tea, coffee and snacks for them.
Her publicist gave her a subtle nudge. “You’ve not touched your plate and everyone is watching.”
Reluctantly, she ate a spoonful. It had the perfect balance of spicy, sour and sweet, with just the right crunch. A burst of freshness from the cilantro and grated coconut. Exactly the way she liked kairi chi dal.
Exactly the way her aayi used to make it, she remembered. Exactly the way it tasted the last time she had eaten it.
She could barely swallow that small spoonful. The lump in her throat made swallowing difficult.
“Did you like it? I helped my mother make it,” said a voice. Looking up, she saw a young girl, her long hair neatly braided into 2 pleats. She was apparently shy for she was clinging to her mother’s sari, her face virtually covered by the pallu.
She used to be like that little girl, shy and reticent and extremely attached to her mother. Her mother was the centre of her universe and vice versa, till that fateful day 6 years ago when her actions and decisions had changed it all:
“Aayi, there is something I need to talk to you about,” she began, tentatively.
“What is it Gauri? And grate the kairi quickly. If you want to take the kairi chi dal in your lunch box, you’d better work those hands,” her mother admonished, as she added the coarsely ground chana dal to the hot oil.
“Aayi, I don’t know how to tell you this, but some days back I had sent my pictures for the Miss India contest,” she said, “I got a letter today confirming my selection in the final 24 contestants. I have to go to Mumbai next week,” she concluded.
She knew her mother would be upset at this revelation and prepared herself for an angry outburst. But her mother turned up the flame of the gas and proceeded to vigorously stir the dal. When she finally reduced the flame and covered the vessel with a tight fitting lid, she turned to her and said, “ Turn off the gas after 5 minutes and stir in the grated raw mango. Top it off with the coriander and grated coconut. I am getting late for work, pack your own lunch box today.”
“But aayi, what about…”
Her mother had silenced her mid sentence. “There will be no further discussion on that matter. I want you to finish your medical studies. Two years and you will be a doctor! And,” she continued, “Should you pursue this stupid beauty pageant thing, I will cut all ties with you,” she said as she picked up her handbag and left for work.
Tears streaming down her eyes, Gauri packed her lunch box and gathered her books. She was torn between her dream and her mother’s ambition. She glanced at the watch. Her friend would come to pick her up in 10 minutes; the bus to Mumbai left in 25 minutes. She took a deep breath and made her decision. She threw in some clothes into a suitcase, wrote a brief note to her mother, used her lunchbox as a paper weight and walked out of her home.
She didn’t make it beyond the first round of the pageant but managed to catch the attention of a film producer. The rest, as they say, was history. Instead of Dr. Gauri, she had become megastar Gauri.
Another voice jolted her back to the present. “Yes, she is my little helper in the house,” laughed the girl’s mother. “She loves your movies and can mimic all your dance moves!" The mother’s eyes lit up with pride as she spoke about her daughter.
Seeing her, Gauri felt a pang. Yes, she had always missed her mother all these years, but today, her pain at being estranged from her mother was suddenly overwhelming her.
Would her mother be proud of her achievement, the heights she had reached, she wondered. What would she say to her when they met? And most importantly, how was her mother?
She could not bear it any longer, this separation from her mother. She just had to meet her mother and reconcile with her. Yes, she would go right away to her home, to her mother. She calculated the distance to her home town; from here, it would take her around 6 hours to reach by road. This meant that by the time she reached, it would be very late in the night.
But then, it was never too late to go back home, was it?
Sandeepa is hosting the 2nd edition of our food fiction event, 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' and this is my entry for the event.
Have you sent in your entries to Sandeepa yet?
Kairi chi dal is a very popular evening snack in Maharashtra in the summer months and is something I absolutely love.
The final taste of this dal depends a lot on individual taste buds. I load mine with a lot of raw mango - I love mine tangy, my husband, on the other hand doesn't like it so sour.
You are looking for a balance between sweet, sour and spicy that tickles your taste buds, so use the quantities, especially of the raw mango, given here more as a guideline.
Once you've found the right balance of the three tastes, believe me, you are going to go into absolute raptures of delight.
Chana dal: 1/4 cup, soaked overnight
Raw mango, grated: 1 (use lime juice as a substitute if you can't find raw mangoes)
Ginger: 1" piece
Green chillies: 3-4
Oil: 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Asafoetida: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Salt, to taste
Sugar: 1 1/2 tsp
for garnishing (essential):
Chopped coriander leaves: 3 tsps
Grated cocout: 2 tbsps
Soak the chana dal for at least 5 hours, preferably overight.
Drain the water and let the dal 'drip dry' for about 30 mins.
Grind alongwith the green chillies and ginger to a coarse powder.
Heat oil in a wok and pop in the mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add in the asafoetida and the turmeric powder followed by the coarsely ground dal. Sprinkle the salt. Stir briskly for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the flame to the lowest possible - and cook covered for a further 2 minutes. When you uncover the lid, steam should rise up from the dal. Stir once more and turn off the gas.
Stir in the sugar and the grated raw mango - don't add in all the mango in one go - taste as you add some in - stop adding the raw mango once you reach your desired level of sweet, spicy and sour.
Garnish with grated coconut and chopped coriander leaves.
This is also my entry to MLLA - 23 that Susan herself is hosting this month.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!