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As the clouds roll in, a look at niche monsoon treats from across India

A dry fish salad from Goa, a mashed-corn bhel from Gujarat... what’s your favourite comfort food no one’s heard of?

As the clouds roll in, a look at niche monsoon treats from across India
(Photo: Saee Koranne-Khandekar)

Makai No Chevdo: In Gujarat, the onset of the monsoon means it’s time for Makai No Chevdo, a dish very similar to Indore’s Bhutte Ka Kees. This is a snack of corn blended or grated to a comforting creamy texture, then spiced with green chillies, topped with tangy and spicy chutneys, grated coconut and crunchy farsan.

Patra: These spicy, fried colocasia leaf rolls are a staple with evening chai, in the rains (In Maharashtra, you might know them as alu vadi). Dipped in a spicy besan batter, the leaves are rolled up tight, steamed first then sliced into pinwheels, shallow-fried, and topped with sesame seeds.

Rushichi Bhaji: The Rushichi Bhaji or Rishi Panchami Bhaji is a wholesome Maharashtrian broth usually cooked during Ganesh Chaturthi. “Using seasonal vegetables like yam, amaranth leaves, colocasia leaves and green bananas, this mixed-vegetable stew is slow-cooked in a large pot as an ode to the bounty of fresh produce during the rains,” says chef Thomas Zacharias of The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai.

Kismoor or dry fish salad: A monsoon favourite in Goa, this dry, crunchy salad is a blend of fresh vegetables and dried fish (typically shrimp, mackerel or shark) that has been salted and stored for the rainy months when trawlers can’t head out to sea. Tossed with coconut, sliced onion, tamarind, bitter gourd, and sometimes jackfruit stem, this salad is garnished with coriander and a pinch of lime — a sort of seafood bhel.

Karakadaka Kanji: A porridge cooked with Navara or red rice and coconut milk, this warm dish is an immunity-booster to be enjoyed on cold, wet days in Kerala. Infused with ajwain, ginger, coriander, cloves and cardamom, it served topped with crispy, fried onions.

Khichuri: This is no poor man’s fare but a rich, nuanced dish fit for exacting gourmands. Mothers and grandmothers in Bengali households will slave for hours frying the moog dal and rice in ghee and then stirring, stirring to get the right consistency – the peas, the potatoes, onions, cauliflowers and other vegetables had to be done just right, soft but not squashed. And then came the accompaniments – the crisply fried slivers of eggplant and potatoes, papad, and on special occasions, a thick wedge of illish maach.

The ilish is de rigueur during the rains, and remarkably versatile. While mustard ilish is the default recipe, the bhapa or steamed variation is popular too, as is doi ilish, where curd is the base for the sauce in which the fish is cooked. Lesser known, but equally delicious are regional variations made with eggplant, pumpkin and raw mango.

(With input from Gargi Gupta)

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 18:54 IST

Topic: #monsoon
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