• Thursday, March 05, 2015

Deshi Mix

Charred food

By Salina Parvin

CHARRING food is the most primitive method of cooking. At first people used tree branches and wood to make fire and burn their food. Gradually men discovered coal and in this day and time we mostly use gas and electricity. However, the real taste of charred food is imparted if the food is roasted in firewood. Rural families in Bangladesh still cook their daily food in earthen ovens, as they do not have any other options but in the cities, most of our daily meals are either boiled, or fried or baked. Occasionally, we burn eggplants or tomatoes to prepare mashed dishes which we Bengalis call 'bhorta'. While bhortas are integral components of our local cuisine and can thus be enjoyed throughout the year, there is no better time than the first day of the Bengali new year to go back to our culinary roots. To kickstart our Pohela Boishakh campaign, our recipe column this week focuses on charred food recipes, which can all be prepared on either charcoal or gas ovens.

Chungi pitha
This dish is mainly consumed by indigenous Marma people, living in the Khagrachari hill district. The specialty of this dish is that it is cooked inside a bamboo stem while roasted in fire. This process of cooking is called 'kendo khang'. For this purpose a special bamboo of 'browa' species is most suitable.
2 cup binni rice            
1 cup grated coconut        
1 cup jaggery            
½ cup powder milk            
2 tbsp ghee                
1 feet long green bamboo stem        
1 pc banana leaf            
Soak rice in water for 2 hours and let the water drain. Mix rice, coconut, milk, ghee and jaggery thoroughly. Now pour the mixture into the bamboo stem from the open end. Seal the open end with a piece of banana leaf. Place the stuffed bamboo inside charcoal fire and keep it for about 1 hour. When the 'pitha' is done, remove the banana leaf and pour out the contents. Cut and prepare to serve.

Burned eggplant bhorta with egg
Eggplant is known in South Asia as brinjal. Begun-pora (charred eggplant) is a very popular in Bangladesh and most Indian states, where the pulp of this vegetable is mixed with onion, chilli, salt and mustard oil. Sometimes other ingredients are added to give it a different taste.
2 pieces eggplant            
2 pieces chicken egg            
2 tbsp sliced onion            
½ tsp sliced garlic            
1 tsp red chilli powder        
½ tsp turmeric powder        
4 pieces green chilli            
Salt to taste
3 tbsp mustard oil            
Wash and burn the eggplant in a gas oven or charcoal fire in low heat. When it is done, peel off the skin. Mash the eggplant with all the ingredients, except the egg and oil. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and keep it aside. Now, heat oil in a pan and put the mashed eggplant in it and stir. After a few minutes, add the eggs slowly in it and keep stirring continuously.

 The eggs will soon create small lumps. When oil floats over the surface, remove the pan and prepare to serve.
Brush oil on the surface of the eggplant before burning. This will make peeling of the skin easy.

Burned shoal fish
Shoal fish belongs to the catfish family. It mostly contributes to the dietary intake of protein. Many splendid dishes can be made with shoal fish. I am using it because it is a fatless fish and hence suitable for making a charred dish.
1 whole shoal fish    
1 tsp ginger paste        
½ tsp garlic paste        
2 tsp red chilli powder    
½ tsp turmeric powder    
½ tsp cumin powder        
Salt to taste
3 tbsp mustard oil        
Aluminum foil     (to fold the fish)
Clay to cover the fish over the foil

Wash the fish and cut it into pieces. Leave behind the head and tail portions. Marinate the rest of the pieces with all the spices for about 45 minutes. Now take all the marinated pieces, fold them inside an aluminum foil and cover it with the clay. Put the wrapped fishes inside a charcoal fire for about an hour. When it is done break the cover and remove the pieces and prepare to serve.

Burned tomato pickle
Tomato is actually a winter vegetable, however these days it is grown throughout the year thanks to greenhouse farming. Tomato is now grown and eaten around the world. It is used in diverse ways -- from raw form in salad to processed form in ketchup and soup.
Unripe green tomatoes are used to make salsa and pickle. Tomatoes are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisines, where they are a key ingredient in pizza and pasta sauce. Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit, tomato is a vegetable for culinary purpose, because of its savoury flavour.
½ kg tomato            
250 gm mustard oil            
2 tsp ginger paste            
1 tsp garlic paste            
½ tsp five spice (panch foron)    
2 tsp red chilli powder        
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp vinegar            
2 tbsp sugar                
Salt to taste

Wash and burn the tomatoes on a gas oven or charcoal fire in low heat. When it is done, peel off the skin. Heat oil in a pan. Add panch foron to it. As it starts giving out its flavour, add other ingredients, except the charred tomatoes. Cook them for five minutes. Now add the burned tomatoes and cook in low heat without stirring. When the tomato is done remove the pan and preserve in a jar.

Burned green mango serbet
Green mangoes are widely used in chutneys and pickles. A summer drink called 'aam panna' comes from mango. Mango pulps are used to make jelly and mango slices are added to 'daal' to give it a tangy taste. Mango is also preserved in different forms: morobba, amchur and various pickles, by mixing them with spices, mustard oil and vinegar.
4 pieces green mango            
½ cup (or to taste) sugar                
½ tsp rock salt            
Table salt to taste
1 tbsp mint leaves            
½ tsp chat masala            
5 glasses water                
Wash and burn the green mangoes on a gas oven in low heat. When it is done, peel off the skins. Now blend all the ingredients until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then prepare to serve as chilled serbet.

Oal kochu bharta (elephant foot yam)
In Bangla elephant foot yam is known as 'oal'. It also grows in abundant quantity in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and in other parts of Southeast Asia. In Bangladesh it is used mostly in curries and in mashed form and sometimes in pickles. The leafy part of elephant foot yam is also eaten as green vegetable and is called oal shaak.
250 gm Elephant foot yam        
2 tbsp fried sliced onion        
2 tsp fried slices garlic        
1 tsp fried mustard seed powder    
1 tsp fried red chili flakes        
2 tbsp mustard oil            
2 tsp any pickle            
Salt to taste
Burn the elephant foot yam on gas oven or charcoal fire in low heat. When it is done, peel off the skin. Now mash the elephant foot yam with the other ingredients and make a 'bharta'. Serve it with plain rice.
All vegetables of the arum family cause itching in the throat. You can reduce this effect by adding a small amount of lemon juice or pickle during the preparation.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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