Inspirations come in different ways. The inspiration to cook Bengali vegetarian food came after my visit to Oh! Calcutta - one of the more authentic Bengali cuisine restaurants in Bombay. S and I actually wrote down all that we had ordered in detail so that one of us could blog about it. We even fought over who'd write about it first. And then like how it happens sometimes, the paper got pushed inside a drawer and neither of us wrote about that brilliant meal that proved that Bengali food is not all 'phish' We had started with an amazing hyacinth beans patties steamed in banana leaves with tomato-khajurer chatni. The flavour was very unusual and just the perfect start to the meal. For the main course it was a chorchori - a mixed vegetable dish in mustard-green chilli gravy and a Alu-Pulkopi Daalna - Cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy gravy. We had this with plain rotis and ended the meal with Rosogulla in Payesh.Will you believe it if I told you we'd done this dinner almost 4-5 months ago and I still remember every single taste of that evening? That's how good it was.
The next step was to try and replicate some of these beauties in my kitchen for which I had to get hold on one special ingredient called Kalonji - Nigella seeds to make the Paach Phoron, since I had the other four ingredients in my pantry.
Paach Phoron is a typical Bengali whole spice mix made using 5 spices in equal proportion, namely-
You might have tasted all these spices individually, but mix them up and you will discover and entirely new zone of flavour, something heavenly that you have to taste to understand. The first time I'd got hold of some ready made Paach phoron that my friend got for me from Kolkotta, I was so addicted to this taste that I used to add it to any vegetable dish. This simple cabbage saute I made yesterday is truly Bengal inspired. It uses both paach phoron in the tempering and mustard powder for extra flavour, some slivers of green chillies and that's all there is to it.
Cabbage curry with Bengali Spices
Time taken: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
Category: Indian side, Vegetables
3 cups shredded cabbage - tightly packed
1-2 tsp vegetable oil or mustard oil
1 tsp paach phoron [see above]
2 light green chillies, deseeded and diagonally sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coarsely ground mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
In a heavy based wok, take 1 tsp oil. Once moderately hot splutter the spice mix (paach phoron). Saute the chillies for a few seconds.
Add the shredded cabbage with salt and turmeric powder - on a low flame, saute every 2 minutes or so, until the cabbage is almost cooked buy maintaining slight crispness.
At this stage, sprinkle the mustard powder and saute for a minute or so.
Serve hot with rotis or a bowl of curd for a light / low-cal lunch.
Check what Haalo has to say about Paach Phoron and she has some eye-catching pics of the spices there too.
This one goes to Sunita's event - Think Spice: Think Mustard