Phodis

There is no dearth of deep-fried goodness in konkani food. There is an seemlingly endless variety of bajjo-s, phodi-s and ambado-s , just to name a few.

This is what I understand is the difference between each.

Bajjo : They are different veggies that are dipped in batter and deep fried. They are best hot off the oil and tend to become oily when cool. They are served as part of a meal or as a snack with some hot coffee. Essentially, Bajjo is konkani-speak for pakoda. Eg : piava(Onion) Bajjo, Goola(Green Brinjal) Bajjo etc.

Ambado : is a mixture of vegetables/herbs and spices, with potato/legumes/besan used as binder. They can also be seasoned mashed vegetables/tubers dipped in a batter and deep fried. Ambado is konkani speak for vada/vade Eg: Batate (Potato) ambado, Biscoot (Seasoned Urad Dal) Ambado etc.

Phodi : They are deep-fried veggies, too. However, there is no batter involved. They are marinated with a dryish paste of (red chillies+hing+salt and rice,soaked in water). The veggies used for phodi’s tend to be vegetables which have a low content of water in them. Root Vegetables like Suran (Indian yam), Sweet Potato etc. work best. Heat levels (as in Scoville) are higher in phodis than your average bajjo.They are sliced very thin and fried on medium heat for quite a bit longer than bajjos, making them crisp and chewy. They are great at room temperature, too. eg: see below . But they really come into their own when made with cross sections of fish like mackeral or pomfret. Yummm…..

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Clockwise from top : Karate Phodi, Surana phodi, Kadge Phodi, Ghointa Phodi

This post talks phodi. As explained above, they are marinated with the spicy paste. We call the spicy paste ‘Goolli’ and the whole process of applying the paste to the Vegetables/fish is called “Goolli Lavche” or applying the paste. However, the english translation comes nowhere to describe the importance of its konkani counterpart. Especially, if seafood is involved. It is not that you dunk the paste and the veggies together in a bowl and swish them all around. You take each slice and apply the paste to it and set aside. It takes a lot of time, but such kind of attention to detail results in properly seasoned fish or vegetable that are just amazing. It is all about details.

The phodis are , most often than not, part of the festive meal or a very large meal. Each vegetable that is to be fried has a special shape in which it will cut for the phodi. Traditionally, five types of phodi are made for any festive meal. I could get hold of only four. The one’s I made for Sansar Padwa and their traditional shape are

1. Suran-a Phodi : Indian yam. They are usually cut into 1 mm thick/thin quadrilatrals of about 1″ * 1″. I used the frozen suran availabe in Indian store, and they are available pre-cut into cubes.

2. Kadge Phodi : Raw Jackfruit. 1 1/2 mm thick wedges . The actual width would depend upon the radius of the Jackfruit. Again, my only choice was the canned variety. I cut each piece into two cross-sectionally.

3. Ghoint-a Phodi : Parwal. Each parwal is cut into three or four pieces depending upon its thickness length-wise. My favorite.

4. Karate Phodi : Bitter gourd. They are cut into thin rounds (As thin as you can make them) and fried crisp, almost like chips. It kind of takes the edge away from the bitterness, yet maintaining it’s integrity. Even haters of this vegetable eat thid deep fried version of them.

Certain rules that are followed.

1. Each type of the vegetable should be cut in approximately the same thickness, length and breadth. They all cook at the same time that way.

2. All vegetables except karate (bittergourd, because of the bitterness) can kept in the same bowl once the “goolli” is applied.

3. Irrespective of whether the vegetables have been mixed together or not, when deep-frying fry like vegetables together. Again, different cooking times for different vegetables.

4. Always fry the bittergourd the last as changes the taste of the oil.

5. You know the veggies are crisp enough when the oil around them stops bubbling.

6. All safety rules for deep frying apply. :)

Recipe for “goolli”:

1 cup un-cooked rice, soaked for about an hour or two.
A fistful of dried red chillies (about 10-12)
1 tsp of hing powder
Salt to taste.

Grind together in a blender, using as little water as possible, to a smooth paste. Absolutely no water used when my mom makes it. But then, she has the magic mixer, too. However, my recent acquisition, the cuisinart coffee grinder, with the detachable grinder, works great for this as well for most chutneys. At $29.99 (at Bed, Bath and Beyond), it is not as hard on the pocket as some other ones. :)

Apply to the sliced/cut vegetables and keep aside for about an hour. Deep fry. Best served with Rice and Daalitoy.

Psst,Dear Behena, Pudding recipe coming soon….Dheeraj Rakh…

Update : ‘karate’ to be read as Kaa-raa-tey’. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Coffee’s comment below.

Peanut Baje

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Last night, after I made these, I had no energy to do a write-up, let alone just type the recipe. So, remeding it today.

Of all the countless variety of dishes and cuisines that India has, if there is a single type of dish that can qualify as trail mix, this is it. All those wonderful nuts, coated in batter and deep fried to perfection. Normally, I would make these with cashews. But, I couldn’t find whole cashews at the Indian store. I think everybody is stocking up for the festive season and I really didn’t want to make another trip to the regular grocery store. So, I made do with peanuts. Where Cashews would make it more royal and festive, don’t underestimate these glorious peanuts.

‘Baje’ is Konkani-speak for Pakoda.

My son loves these and hence, I used less chilli powder. Don’t be afraid to ante up on the heat, the peanuts can stand upto it.

1 cup Peanuts, shelled and peeled.

For the Batter
1/4 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/8 tsp Hing/asafetida
Salt to taste abt 1 tsp

For Deep-Frying
Peanut/Corn Oil

When I say Peanuts, shelled and peeled, I don’t necessarily mean do it yourself. I buy the ones that are already so. Wash them in a colander and let the water drain out. Meanwhile, mix all the batter ingredients and make a thick paste using water. Add the peanuts, they will be wet and thats ok. Just not dripping water. Mix everything together, making sure all of the peanuts are completely covered. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Deep-fry in Peanut Oil a handful at a time. Cool and enjoy. I am told , it will last a couple of weeks stored in an air-tight container. Mine never last that long, so I can’t promise.

Chalta Hai…Diwali Hai

Finally, My kids decided to sleep at the same time, giving me some time to cook up those diwali goodies that I wanted to make. I went for the simple ones first, the ones that I had made before and hence did not require much thinking. By thinking, I mean Improvising when things go wrong. Hey, its the thought that counts. Besides, I don’t think I have ever met a combination of ghee and sugar that I haven’t liked. In fact, I love eating ghee mixed with sugar or should I say Sugar mixed with ghee.Yummmmm…As for the dreaded “C” word,Chalta Hai…Diwali Hai!!

So first, I went for besan Ladoos. My husband loves Besan ladoos. They are right up in his list of fave things right after Cars, Cricket and Crab. Those are his “C” words. Then, its besan ladoos. Before you all go pitying us, we are talking about material things here. The “F” word is on the top of the list. Family, people? What did you think the “F” word was?

So, anyway here is a fool proof recipe for Besan ladoos. I just follow it blindly. this recipe makes about 30 Ladoos.

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3 cups besan/Chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups Ghee
3 cups powdered sugar
2 green Cardmoms pods, peeled and powdered

Sieve the besan to get rid of any lumps.

Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Yes, all one and half cups of it. Don’t think, just do it. Don’t use oil. Don’t use the Store bought ghee. Try fresh home made ghee. I made a fesh batch of ghee in the morning. Do it. Go the extra mile. Chalta hai…Diwali Hai. Its worth it.

Add the besan, and keep stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring. It will kind of seize into a tight ball first, making it a bit tough to stir. But after a few minutes, it will actually become the consistency of “pakoda batter” making the stirring simpler. So, keep stirring and stirring and stirring. Until the besan goes from sunny yellow color to a burnt orange. The color ‘burnt orange’ not ‘burnt’ besan. Oh, No!!
Kind of like going from sunny yellow of the summer to the oranges of autumn, isnt it?. How symbolic!!! Yes, I am going nuts. Chalta hai…Diwali Hai

Just keep stirring it and dont even think about looking away for a second. The second you look away, will be the time it will decide to change color. And it can go from deliciously roasted to yucky toasted in a jiffy. The best way to know its done, is the amazing nutty smell that starts permiating through your home. My friend once told me how her mom would just shout out from the kitchen “does it smell like ladoos, yet?” to know if they were done. When the besan is done, believe me, you will know and those zombies sitting in front of your television will know, too.

Take it off the heat, and let it cool completely. It will be a little liquidy(If thats a word, you know what i mean).Thats ok, thats the way it should be. While it cools, pound regular sugar into powder in your blender. Don’t go for the powdered sugar in the market. They have cornstarch in them, which has its place, but not in besan ladoos.

When completely cool, add the sugar, cardamom powder and raisins and chopped almonds/ cashews(If using) and mix till incorporated. Shape into golf ball size rounds. Yummy besan ladoos are ready.

With the besan ladoos done and the kids still down, I decided to go for another staple at our home during diwali. They are called “tukdi” and they are crisp, savoury and a perfect antithesis to the sweet ladoos. Very simple ingredients, but can be quite a chore because they have to cut into diamond shapes and then deep fried. But, I cannot imagine diwali without these.

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First we make the dough

3 cups regular atta/ wheat flour
1 tbsp Chilli powder
1/4 tsp Hing/asafetida
salt to taste (abt 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp Ghee
Water, enough to make a malliable dough

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a wide bowl. Heat up the ghee and add it to the bowl. Take a fork and mix the ghee with the flour. The flour will change color. Mix thoroughly, with a fork at first and then fingers after the ghee has cooled enough, until all of the flour has changed color. Then, add water, little by little, until the dough is soft enough to roll out but still tougher than a regular roti dough. Let it rest for 10 mins.

Heat oil in a kadhai. The kadhai should hold the oil at least 2 inches deep. Take balls of dough and roll them out like you would a roti. Don’t use flour to prevent it from sticking, use some of the hot oil from the kadhai.Cut into diamond shapes. I use a pizza cutter to do the job.

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Deep fry in hot oil. Keep the oil at smoking point.The pieces will hit the bottom and rise up immediately. Turn them over. And after the other side cooks up, remove onto dry paper towels. Keep doing that until you have used up all of the dough. Store the cooled tukdis in an airtight container.

And thus, finally, I have at least 2 diwali goodies cooked up. My Mother makes five and I think it is kind of a tradition to cook up five. Well, I am not even half way there. But, hey, at least I have made a start. Between the roasted besan and Deep frying, at least the house smells like diwali. So what, if it is 2 in the morning and I hear Anoushka up and demanding her mommy. Chalta hai…Diwali hai

Buns…Deep-Fried Banana-Flour Bread

Buns!!!…You mean the hamburger buns?

NO.

You mean the buns that we used to get in India…maska bun?

NO.

You mean those sweet breads that we used to get at the local baker in India?

NO.

These are Mangalore Buns.They are a sort of a spongy poori made of maida kneaded with mashed bananas ..kinda sweet from the banana and kind of a mild kick from the black pepper.

In case you are wondering,that is not a typo error. I really mean Mangalore.Mangalore is small town in Karnataka and yes, it is a completely different entity than Bangalore.As far as I am concerned,this city is the center of all things Konkani.There might be many to disagree with me. But hey, my blog, my rant. S and I stayed in Mangalore for a couple of months immediately after we were married.Though I mentally prepared myself for the change it would be for a city-bred-Mumbai-snob that I was (and still am to some extent),I just wasnt prepared for the culture shock that I was in for. Mind you, growing up with my Bapama (Paternal Grandma), I knew all the traditions, rituals etc.that is Konkani. It wasn't the traditions or the small town, it was just the sheer number of amchigeles(as we like to call ourselves,loosely means "our people") around.In the vast diversity of mumbai, I had never been in such close quarters with amchis that were not my relatives. Its a feeling I couldn't shake as I left the city to head towards the new world, so to speak. But, I digress.

These buns are generally a breakfast item in Mangalore, but my bapama used to make them as an evening snack, too. Its a great way to use up an overripe banana. In fact,my mother-in-law keeps aside a banana to let overripe so that she can make these.

Now that you know what they are and whence they cometh from (I am into Shakespeare these days),you might as well know how to make them.

Mangalore Buns…

Maida or Regular flour 2 cups

1 overripe Banana

1/2 buttermilk or (yogurt + water beaten together)

3 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp Baking soda

salt

Oil + ghee for deep frying

Peel the banana and mash them with a fork in a large vessel.Add the buttermilk. If you are using yogurt, beat it and dilute with enough water to make 1/2 a cup.Add in the sugar,salt, pepper and baking soda. Mix together. Add the flour and keep forking it till it all comes together and forms a dough. You might have to add more flour or water depending upon the consistency of the buttermilk you are using. If its thick, may require extra water or if its too watery, may require more flour. Knead for a minute or so (isn't that great?). Apply a tbsp of oil all over the dough,cover and keep in a cool place (I keep it in my non-hot oven) for at least 4 hours.

Heat oil, add 2 tbsp of ghee to it. You don't want to fry this in just oil, they wont taste as good.Shape ball sized dough pieces into round shapes about 3-4 inches in diameter and a little thicker than a poori.Use extra flour to help roll them. Sprinkle some on the counter and rub some on the rolling pin. Use sparingly or you will be left with a gross black sediment in your oil rendering it un-reusable.Been there , done that.You might also want to roll and fry one at a time instead of roll all pooris and then deep fry. This being a maida dough, you will be left with a 2 inch diameter thick rolled poori. Not good.

Deep fry on medium heat. As soon as you put the dough in oil,keep poking at it with the slotted spoon and pressing it into the oil till it puffs up. At this point, I would like to say that the oil is HOT, be careful and please don't sue me if you meet with an accident. You deep fry at your own risk!! :) . Now that you have read the disclaimer, we can move ahead. Once it puffs up, turn over and let the other side fry up. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. They are not going to be as crispy as a poori would be , they are not supposed to be.When you bite into them, they are going to be crispy and spongy all at the same time.If they are,you have just made a perfect Mangalore Bun!!!.