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When the grey-sky mornings of the monsoon hits, there’s one thing that comes to mind: chai-pakora. Spiced tea and crisp fritters are synonymous with the season, when the temperatures dip, winds get fierce and all one wants is something warm.
And fried foods are consumed with reason: Ayurvedic principles state that dry foods are difficult to digest, as opposed to oily foods, which are easier for the body to assimilate. And during the monsoon, digestion slows down…which is why oily foods, ghee, and fresh, seasonal vegetables are prescribed.
The good news is, eating local and seasonal is back in the spotlight, championed by a growing tribe of chefs, culinary educators, and food writers. And each region has its own monsoon specialties.
In Assam, rongalau phool (pumpkin flowers) are made into elegant, long fritters. In UP, arbi patode, or fritters made from colocassia leaves, are popular. In West Bengal, snacks like kakrol bhaja (pointed/spiny/teasle gourd fritters) are made.
There’s a wide range of seasonal produce and an even wider range of snacks to choose from. Our contributors move away from kanda bhaji and share lesser-known fried monsoon snacks that will make a welcome accompaniment to your chai.
Chef Pawan Bisht’s Urad Dal ke Bade
Who: Chef Pawan Bisht is the R&D Executive at one8 Commune by Virat Kohli and Culinary Advisor at Neuma by Karan Johar. Hailing from Chhoi, a village near Nainital, he’s an expert on the cuisine of Uttarakhand. His food mantra is to have patience, cook from the heart, and to use local ingredients as much as possible: something he follows at his restaurants, where he changes the menu to align with the seasons.
Linguda or fiddlehead ferns are a monsoon staple in Uttarakhand.
Seasonal favourites: “Kaddu ke tukul (soft pumpkin veins), colocassia leaves, linguda/fiddlehead ferns, especially linguda pickle. I also serve linguda in the form of soup at our restaurants.”
When you cook for King Kohli, you know a thing or two about plant proteins. Black urad dal (which he deems a ‘super lentil’ due to its iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium content) is ground and mixed with spices and sesame seeds to make a heart-healthy, easy-to-digest snack.
• 500 grams urad dal, soaked overnight
• A pinch of cumin powder
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
• 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
• 1 teaspoon coriander powder
• 2-3 green chillies, chopped
• A handful of chopped fresh coriander
• 1 teaspoon chopped onion (optional)
• Salt to taste
• Sesame seeds
• Oil for frying
• Rub the soaked lentils with your hands and try to take out
outer black colour covering as much as you can.
• Strain and grind the lentil into a finely ground but thick paste.
The urad dal vadas/bade are deep-fried and garnished with sesame seeds.
Make sure you don't use water to make the paste, otherwise the paste will become thin and shaping the bade will become difficult.
• Add all the masalas and chopped onion. Mix well.
• Adjust seasoning. Make small balls from the mixture.
• Apply water on your palms and flatten the balls. Now, with help of your finger make a whole in the centre of the bade.
• Sprinkle sesame seeds on the bade and deep fry in hot oil till golden colour.
• Serve hot.
Chef Sushil Dwarakanath’s Stir-Fried Peas in a Pod
Who: Bengaluru-based Chef Sushil is a culinary veteran with 21 years of experience behind him; at the Taj Group of Hotels and later as the HOD of the Culinary Department at Christ University, Bangalore. He loves hyper local cuisine, with a focus on seasonal and sustainable foods, sourcing vegetables, greens, fruits etc from small-scale vendors and farmers markets.
Seasonal favourites: “Fresh crabs during the early monsoon are fantastic, especially after the full moon. Malabar spinach, water spinach, paddy field crabs and certain storm water fish are available in rural Karnataka.”
Chef Sushil says that while peas are considered a winter vegetable, the season starts in August, with the first harvest making an appearance in July during the monsoon. This is more a guideline than a recipe; the level of spice can be adjusted to your liking.
• Green peas (in their pods)
• Water for boiling
• Cumin seeds
• Turmeric powder
• Oil (not too much)
• Salt to taste
Boil the green peas in their pods.
• Heat some oil in a pan.
• Add the cumin seeds, splutter.
• Add the turmeric.
• Add the peas, toss, add salt and toss again.
A healthy stir-fried snack with fresh, in-season peas and a handful of spices.
SaiPriya’s Odia Nimki
Who: SaiPriya is a food stylist and blogger with her roots in Odisha, currently living in Fort Kochi where she’s researching her latest food project. Her food choices are influenced by the changing weather, and a wish to supporting the ecosystem: so, whether she’s at home or travelling, eating local is her mantra.
Seasonal favourites: “During the monsoon, we avoid leafy vegetables. Pointed gourd is a vegetable I use often, and root vegetables like sweet potato, elephant foot yam for Odia dishes like dalma, ghanta.”
Here, she shares a recipe for a teatime snack called nimki: savoury wheat crisps made with ghee and studded with kalonji or onion seeds.
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp ghee
• 1 tsp onion seeds/kalonji
• Salt to taste
• Warm water, as needed
• Oil for frying
• In a bowl, add flour, salt, and ghee. Rub the ghee with the flour
to get a coarse texture.
Nimki is a crispy fried snack from Odisha that pairs perfectly with tea.
• Add onion seeds and mix well. Add warm water little by little to prepare a tight dough.
• Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
• Take a lemon-sized ball of dough and roll it into a thin circle. Fold it to half to form a semi-circle.
• Fold again to form a triangle shape. Press the corners using your index finger.
• Repeat with the remaining dough to make more nimkis.
• Heat the oil in a kadai. Fry the nimkis on a low to medium flame till golden brown colour.
• Slot out and set aside.
• Cool and store in an air-tight container at room temperature for 5-6 days.
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