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If you thought Bengali cuisine was all about rice and fish, this unique papaya chutney recipe will correct your misconceptions!
Ours is a family with notorious sweet teeth. Well, this is not extraordinary given we are Bengalis and hard core Bangals (with Bangladeshi roots) at that. But I am the odd one our, since my interest in sweets is very limited, it’s activated only on special occasions.
I am a self-confessed lover of anything and everything that is hot, sour, spicy and salty (with a small portion of sugar) what my fellow community members sum up as tok-jhaal-mishti.
This interesting range encompasses several unique viscous achaars (pickles) eaten on their own. They may or may not accompany meals. These include permutations and combinations of kul (ber), tentul (tamarind), dried whole red chilis and aamsattva (dried mango pulp) Whenever I visit Kolkata, I ask extended family members to keep some (bought or homemade) handy. And sure enough, they comply.
Next we have the Tok (Literally tangy/sour) During meals tok– with its syrupy texture- is served in tiny bowls. You are expected to consume it with a slurping noise or by licking your fingers that have been dipped into it.
Tok can be both- vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The most common and simple version of tok uses raw mangoes as a base. This even serves as a delicious coolant during the summers. Some people also use the hilsa fish to make tok. The basic condiments include mustard seeds, tamarind pulp and raw mangoes. And how can I forget, raw green chillies!
Before anything, I must mention the chutneys too! The crowning glory of which would by the tomato chutney. It is tempered with whole mustard seeds and you can even add dates, dried mango pulp and topa kul (ber/jujubes) in varying quantities.
Personally, I love the chalta chutney! The main ingredient here is an elephant apple. And is a perfect accompaniment for the bhoger khichuri, prepared during pujas and other religious functions.
My mind flies back to the times I looked forward to sampling chalta chutney so lovingly prepared by my thamma (dad’s mother) Out of the world it used to be!
There are a few more options. Try using Amda (Hog Plum), Kamranga (star fruit) or pineapples. If made well, the end result will leave you craving for more.
Would you believe me if I said, even green papaya is also employed in chutney making and that it is called ‘Plastic Chutney.’
Why? Nobody really knows. May be because once, cooked the stuff assumes a light, translucent, plastic-like look. I furnish the recipe here for people to try out this wonder dish:
Green papaya: 1 small
Water: 2-3 cups
Salt : ½ teaspoon
Turmeric: one pinch (optional)
Lemon: 4-5 tablespoons
Dry fruits for garnishing (optional)
Peel the papaya and remove the seeds. Wash, drain and cut into thin slices. Alternatively you could fine grate the papaya. Put two cups of water on boil. Add grated papaya, salt, and turmeric. Simmer until the papaya is cooked. Remove and set aside. Now in another pan prepare sugar syrup by adding sugar to boiling water. Next add the papaya, stir and mix well. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Add raisins and cashew nuts to garnish for your papaya chutney to be essentially perfect!
My personal favourite in tok jhal mishti category is Koth bel makha. This translates into a tangy, spicy mishmash comprising the pulp of koth bel (a variant of wood apple/bel/ bael )
All you need to do is crack the hard exterior shell, scoop out the entire pulp into a deep dish. Add salt, chopped green chilies, jaggery powder/ brown sugar, kala namak (rock salt) freshly chopped coriander. Mix thoroughly and voila! You have a lip-smacking, finger-licking, delicious side dish.
A word of caution: Koth bel is a seasonal fruit available during autumn and winter only. At this point I recall how my mother, would churn out the most perfect koth bel makha during family get togethers at home. Most certainly she was lauded by all, on each occasion!
Picture credits: Pexels.
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