So, it was around an odd October of 2011 that I visited Srinagar. It was the day of odds.. but admist all I found this wonderful cook who almost burnt my tastebuds.. and made a hardcore non-vegetarian believe that there exists vegetarian food thats drool-worthy too.
To the Odds of the day.. We boarded Bhatinda-Jammu Express, which was scheduled to arrive Jammu at 06:20 but amazingly and unlikely according to Railways, arrived early. I pre-booked the car that was supposed to take us up. The driver kept calling me and I was dead asleep. Finally the attendants in the train shook me off to sleep as they came up to clean. Imagine how embarrassing can that be! Finally I met the friends I were to travel with, who arrived a night earlier and we got in the car. Our car broke down 37kms before we reached Patnitop. The driver asked us to sit at a nearby dhaba.. and tried fixing and calling some people up.
Localites came up and fixed the car, we started again, and in about half an hour the car broke again. Fed up with the whole process.. we decided to quit on the car and take a car-pull instead. We did! It took us to Patnitop. We took a quick hault. Had refreshments and booked us another car to Srinagar. After about 1.5hrs of a good drive.. I got stuck in the weirdest traffic jam ever. Oh yes.. all of you complaining about the traffic in metro cities.. you have no idea how long one can be stuck in traffic in the mountains. It was 3pm, the mountain sickness hit my friend and my little sister, the cars weren’t moving. There seemed no option for food either. I requested the driver so that he could help us with some food considering he may know locals. He asked us to wait.
Its not like the cars weren’t moving at all.. Just that it was moving but like an ant.
After about 1 hour the driver got us to a place. It was a small and shabby hut. We had to bend our heads to enter ( I am just trying to explain how small that was 😛 ). There sat a fat man with two odd cots for people to sit at. The driver was talking to him in their local language, they call themselves dobris but they all sound like punjabis to us bengalis. I enquired aloud if they had anything from their non-veg section? The fat man replied that they don’t cook non-veg during the Navratras. I frowned and was about to say something to my sister when the man spoke.. “Okay letme cook for you guys today and you will forget all the non-vegetarian food you have ever had in your life”. That was quite a statement! For people who know me personally call me chicken-tarian.. Yup bongs are fish-fans but I am not.. I can’t go without chicken even for a single day. Munching on chips .. I watched him cook. He cooked Rajma for us (Red-Kidney Beans). He had them soaked overnight and boiled. So, that was fast and easy. And, we sat down for lunch at around 5PM. Undoubtedly it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. It was so yummy.. and I eat it all inspite of the fact it was very hot and hot. (And this was not the first time I was having Rajma Chawal in my life.. I have had it before, but I disliked Rajma then. #JustForTheInfo )
This dish changed my likes and dislikes.. Lol. I washed my hands, took a paper and sat in front of him, pleaded for the recipe. I noted down his tricks.. And ever since then.. on odd days whenever my mom insists on vegetarian food.. this is what I cook. This has become a family favourite now. Today, in the evening.. when I was cooking this.. I thought why not share it with the world. So, here I am sharing the recipe and tricks for the best Rajma-Chawal that I have ever had in my life.
- Soak rajma overnight for at least for 12 hours. If you have got the right beans, they will get double in size after soaking.
- Pressure cook the soaked rajma in about 3 cups of water and the “masala potli” created in pressure cooker until rajma is soft and tender. Don’t throw the stock, it makes the gravy tastier.
- Heat oil in a pan, fry cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf for a minute. Then add chopped onions. Saute it till the onions turns to golden brown.
- Add ginger garlic. Fry till golden and cooked. Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, cumin powder, and green chillies or red chilli powder which ever suits you best.
- Grind the potli’s ingredients into a paste, add about one teaspoon of it when the tomatoes are soft and cooked.
- Add boiled rajma to it with salt and the rajma stock. Add some water. Cover it and let it simmer it for 20-30 minutes. When the rajma gets nicely blended with the curry, add a tablespoon of butter.
- Garnish it with few coriander leaves or mint leaves, either.
Best served with hot rice.
- 1. the dobri man used red chilli powder, my bong taste likes green chillies more so I changed that bit. You may opt any one that you like.
- 2. Coriander or mint, neither was used by the man there .. I used it for garnishing. You may wish to add or not, your choice.
Now that I have successfully posted my first blog post.. I want you guys to please try this at home and let me know in the comment section.. how this turned out for you guys.
P.S- the odd day didn’t just end there.. After lunch, we got in the car and the cars kept moving like an ant. We reached Srinagar at 3am at night, when the real distance should have taken us 6 to 7 hours maximum.. It took us almost 20 hours to reach Srinagar. But then the moment I stepped out of the car at Srinagar.. all my complaints disappeared for there is a reason why they say.. It is the paradise on Earth.
Thankfully what follows an odd night is a good morning. The first morning in Srinagar.
Rightly said.. Paradise on Earth!