Monday, January 21, 2013

Inside A Market in Kolkata, India I

Bajars/Bazars, the traditional markets in India sprawl over large spaces with generally the traders selling same kinds of food stuffs sticking together, though not always. Though the cities house markets in ground floor buildings with stalls spilling over and around the market place, move a little away from the cities and you would find open air markets or at the most little shops created with bamboo and covered with jute and mat.  Big cities generally have local markets and also food, clothes, jewellery,  utensils, flower etc are sold in separate markets. But in villages generally one market  has most of the stuff people need, and if they need something special they have travel to the nearest town to get it.

There are also occasional markets which happen once a week or month, these are called haat.

I love roaming around in the markets. The sighs, the sounds, the smells and the bargains. Ah yes the bargains. Do you know most Indians love a good bargain? The best way to buy stuff is to sit down and have a chat and then get down to the business of bargaining. Of course if it is an incredibly busy market or shop, the trader might not give you much time. 

Now a days I have my camera with me, much to the amusement of the traders. I saw a few of them smiling in amusement at my clicking them. I wanted to tell them that with the rapid globalization the markets may one day soon be replaced by shopping complexes.

These photographs are taken in a market in Kolkata called the Lake Market.

Various varieties of rice on sale....there are two broad varieties called sheddho and atop and within these are many types. There are long grained, short grained, boiled, medium grained, par boiled, rice which smells heavenly the list goes on and on...

Sugarcane--you are supposed to take off the hard brown skin, take a bite and chew the straw like flesh to extract the juice. You need really strong teeth to do this. India especially the state of Uttar Pradesh is a major producer of sugar cane. Sugar is produced from sugarcane juice. This juice is a life saver during the scorching summers of India. 
Betel Leaf which is used  to make Paans
Tender Coconut, the water stored inside these shells make a lovely drink which helps in keeping dehydration at bay during the scorching summers. Because of our tropical climate and nearness to the Bay of Bengal coconut plants grow abundantly in West Bengal.
Ripe coconuts, the shells are cracked to extract the flesh which is used abundantly in Bengali cuisine, both savory and sweet.
Turmeric: the pods yield turmeric paste, which is then dried in the sun to make powder which we mostly use in our cooking...but even 30 years back cooks mostly used fresh turmeric paste which had a much stronger is also very good for your skin and a great antiseptic informs my grandma. 

Gur/jaggery stored in earthen pots
A typical Kolkata snack jhal muri-- puffed rice mixed with spices and coconut, onion, chilies, cucumber etc

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ranga Aloor Puli & Peas Kachori for Poush Shankranti

Yesterday was Poush Shankranti-- Poush is a month in the Hindu Bengali calender and shankranti means the end. The last day of the month is special for agrarian India because on this day winter harvest is celebrated. Various parts of India celebrates in various ways and call the celebration various names. But there are some broad similarities, another example of how India is united in her diversity. Though this is mainly an agrarian celebration, it has spilled over in the urban spaces as well.

Bengalis celebrate it by making pithe, a broad name for a range of desserts made mostly with chal er guro (powdered rice), fresh coconut, notun gur (jaggery of the winter season) and seasonal vegetables. 

On this day Ma Lakkhi (the Goddess of Wealth) is worshiped. Dhan (rice husks) play a prominent role in this celebration. In most houses kunke (a traditional rice measuring bowl) is worshipped as Ma Lakkhi. Women decorate their houses with alpona (motifs drawn with a mixture of rice powder, mid and water).

In our home my mother makes a range of pithes and pea kachoris (fried bread). I will share the recipes soon, for now enjoy the photographs.

This sweet is made of ranga aloo, a variety of potato which is harvested during the winter. It is stuffed with a coconut filling, deep fried and then dipped in caramel. This is called ranga aloo puli.

The kunke, which is the traditional grain measuring  bowl ; owl, traditionally regarded as Ma Lakkhi's pet and conch shells another sacred thing frequently used in Hindu prayers.
Peas Kachori with dry potato curry
Rice Husks-- Dhan
Coconut ladoos, til er khaja (seasame seed crisp), murir moa ( puffed rice ladoo) and chirer moa (flaked rice ladoos)
The alpona in the photographs is given by me. The s shapes in the alpona is supposed to be foot marks of the Goddess. It is a popular motif whereby people show the Goddess entering their houses.  My father guided me throughout this exercise.

Yesterday I got an email from Blogadda saying that that they have selected me as Notable Newbie. This news came during the week Kitchen Karma turns one. Yes last year kicked after the New Year I started Kitchen Karma. I want to thank everyone associated with Kitchen Karma for helping me along this journey.


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