Cold Comfort: India’s Most Wanted Winter Food
Close your eyes and think of sesame seeds. Prepared in a variety of ways – as reverses by the North Indians and as chikki by the Maharashtrians and Gujaratis – it evokes memories of the winter sunlight that spreads through the winter mornings. As long as one can remember, winter means fresh products and good food. Here is a look at some of the nostalgic winter foods in India:
Milk or puff, Percy
Among the many dishes found in Udbada, a strange Persian coastal town in Gujarat, Pargen Patel is fond of milk or puffs. “Sweet and creamy, it’s a milk froth served in a glass. It reminds me of my childhood days, ”said Percy Catering Services, founder of Bowie Bride Kitchen. Patel says that during the day, before the refrigerator arrived in India, buffalo milk – for its high fat content – was boiled and stored in an earthenware container and hung on a tree overnight to cool. Boiled, sweet and chilled buffalo milk churning cream was a winter specialty, but is now available all year round in the Persian colonies of Mumbai and Gujarat.
Lai Zak, pork with Assam
One of the most beloved memories of Geetika Saikia’s house revolves around the big Bihu feast every winter. “All the extended families come together, the women cook and everyone eats together,” says Saikia, an Assamese who lives in Mumbai, where she hosts pop-up dishes of tribal and rural Assamese cuisine. The celebration, however, would be incomplete without pork including Lai Zak. “This dish, made with pork and a wide range of mustard greens, is a winter staple that is prepared in large quantities in a large pan over a wood fire before the feast,” says Saikia.
Pinni, Delhi, Punjab, up
North Indian power food, pinni as a dessert, can be eaten as a snack in the meal, but a true blue Punjabi heats it up and eats it very early in the morning, then a glass of warm milk. “It looks deceptively laddu, but Pinni is a source of instant nutrition,” said Bella Ahuja, a teacher who grew up in Chandigarh. But during delivery she realized what made it different. “Made with dried fruit, fried wheat flour, gram flour, sugar, cardamom and mawa, all mixed with a good amount of ghee, it came to my aid when I was weak after delivery,” Ahuja said.
It is the winter staple food of every Gujarati family but for Pramit Mehta, Undhiu is not a distinct food. “Sesame-molasses-peanut chickpeas, ber and undhiyu, all in one dish and I remember that food when I flew the kite on the occasion,” says Mehta, a Mumbai-based Mumbai-based grower. Prepared using winter vegetables including purple yam, raw banana, chapta beans, fresh peas, fenugreek, sweet potatoes and plenty of green garlic with ghee, Undhiu is a sweet-spicy dish, best with puri or gulka. What makes it special is the effort that goes into the preparation. In most cases, it is an occasion for the family to sit together, clean, chop or chop vegetables before cooking begins.
Sattu Paratha, Jharkhand, Bihar
Probably the lowest priced paratha, sattu paratha – with sattu stuffing (fried and desi chana and a few more grains), green chillies, chopped onions, coriander and spices – still pack in a punch flavor. “People across the class, from farmers to office-goers, enjoy these. A rich source of protein, it can be made into a litti or laddu or sherbet in the summer, ”said Manob Chowdhury, a resident of Ranchi.
Sesame chutney, Uttarakhand
Mumbai-based home chef Rushina Munsha Ghildial, who runs APB Cook Studios, said, “Winter menus in Garhwal and Kumaon region are different and cooking methods change dramatically.” Despite the meaty features during the festival, the spread of pulses such as ghat (various types of urad) and bhat (a black bean) can be noticed in the pantry. But comfortable food, he said, is sesame chutney. Dried fried in a pan and then roasted in silbatta with green pepper, salt and lemon, it is often served with grated radish and “next to it with dal-rice with warm ghee”.
Koraishuti Kachuri, West Bengal
If you grew up in a Bengali family, then you are likely to have some Koraishuti Kachuri memories. Because, this winter specialty is not one of those dishes that goes straight from the kitchen to the dining table. Koraishutri kachuri is peeling peas for stuffing while soaking in the winter sun, your grandmother is telling you about her childhood in Bangladesh. As soon as winter comes, Bengalis eat Divya with this spicy sweet pea. They dip it in gram flour, cover it with potato dome and sprinkle some nolen molasses (date molasses) on it. Leela Majumdar and Kamala Chattopadhyay’s iconic cookbook, Runner Boi, mentions that it is a dish that brings together the ever-fighting Bengalis (people from the eastern part of undivided Bengal) and the Ghoti (coming from West Bengal).
Coconut curry, duck in Kerala
Every time he made duck with potatoes in coconut curry, Bombay canteen chef Thomas Zacharias remembers, his grandmother told him that eating birds in the winter made the most sense because they were the fattest then. Growing up in Kochi, it was one of his favorite foods and a staple of Christmas.
It is not very cold in South India. What changes, then, is the quality of the product and more meat on the menu. Zacharias says the duck curry, prepared with fresh coconut, didn’t take too long to prepare but a lot of care was taken to make sure it didn’t overcook. “Served with puttu, rice cylinders stuffed with coconut, it makes a healthy breakfast. Otherwise, it is eaten with rice for lunch or dinner, ”he said.
With the input of Premankur’s faith.