Monday, May 16, 2016

Phalse ka shorba : a fruity sweet and sour soup with chilli kick

phalse ka shorba

Phlasa (Grewia asiatica) is a small berry that comes for a short season in summers and we feel lucky if a cart full of phalsa passes by. It is very uncommon to see cartloads of fruits in Delhi now but I go for walks and there are a few areas where fruits are still sold the old fashioned way. Phalsa is not a regular fruit that every corner fruit vendor will stock and sell like the season's best peaches or plums unfortunately. Phalsa has a few takers and very few sellers too. 

phalsa of falsa

Phalsa berries are not too juicy but once ripe the berries do not last very long. Also this is one of those berries that people like sucking into one by one, sprinkled with some herbed salt so a little phalsa goes a long way. The seed has to spit out and the flavourful but meager amount of pulp makes a nice chatpata snack. One can't eat too much of it like a fruit. But once made into sharbat, you can consume fairly good amount of phalsa in one go. With its wonderful antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties phalsa must be used frequently till the season lasts.

Phalse ka sharbat can be made savoury like a jaljeera or a regular sweet version.

phalse ka sharbat

This season though I experimented with a new recipe of Phalse ka shorba because both of us were down with flu last week and we wanted something comforting for our throats. I made a few more regular shorbas but phalse ka shorba was one of the favourites owing to its novelty and tangy sweet taste. One actually cannot imagine the taste of this shorba as the ingredients used are so opposite to each other that it leaves one wondering about the final bouquet of flavours.

(for 2 servings)

200 gm phalsa
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp pepper powder
2 whole dry red chillies (I used a pinch of red chilli powder too)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of heeng (asafoetida)
1 tsp mustard oil
salt to taste (preferably pink salt)


Add sugar and salt to the cleaned and rinsed phalsa and leave it for a while. Then mash well and add a cup of water. Strain and reserve the liquid. You can blend the phalsa in mixie and strain to get the juices.

Now heat mustard oil and tip in the heeng and cumin seeds. followed by broken dry red chillies. Let them all get aromatic and then pour the phalsa juice along with ginger powder and pepper. Add more water to make the shorba about 600 ml or enough for 2 servings and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour into teacups as this shorba is better sipped slowly like tea.  

phalse ka shorba

Please don't replace mustard oil if you can. If you don't have mustard oil you can use butter. The flavours of heeng, cumin and ginger together gives this soup a real kick that staves off all the discomforts of flu. The shorba is great even if you don't have flu as we repeated it many times this summer. This became a way to drink more liquids and we loved it served warm.

With all the ingredients that help healing this soup becomes a wonderful anti inflammatory soup that works in summers too as one is always dehydrated, always exhausted for no apparent reason. Try this if you are getting phalsa in your part of the world or use any sweet and tart berry to make this soup and let me know how you like it.

The flavours are very typical of Banaras let me assure you.

I will share a few more shorbas we tried this summer. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

aam ka kuchla 2 ways | seasonal recipes of UP using raw mangoes

raw mangoes

Come summer and we start thinking mangoes in all it's hues and flavours. Raw mangoes hit the markets first and our kitchens go berserk with all the raw mango chutneys and chundas and khatta meetha aam ka achar or aam ki launji.

Few weeks ago when my house help's daughter wanted a raw mango to be peeled and given to her with salt, I thought she would eat one slice but she devoured 2 large raw mangoes within a matter of 10 minutes puckering her mouth all this while much to my entertainment. I can't remember when I myself did that.

We love to pucker up with some raw mango in our mouth all over the country in fact. A plethora of pickles, chutneys and preserves made in every region are a testimony to that.

Since raw mango is considered cooling if consumed in a specific way, there are recipes of aam panna and many related drinks that are made regularly in Indian homes. A fresh chutney is made with loads of mint leaves and some raw onion and green chillies to make a summer meal finger licking. Another soup like kachhe aam ka saar is made to be served like raita especially with lunch as it is the hottest time of the day.

kachhe aam ka kuchla

Kachhe aam ka kuchla was one recipe that was made frequently in my home when my grandmother was around, but I had somehow started using the mixie and my kuchla started getting chutneyfied. But when I started making the Thai green mango salad I thought of reviving this kachhe aam ka  kuchla in my kitchen too.

So kachhe aam ka kuchla is of 2 types. Both Kuchlas are freshly made condiments but one is made with chutney ingredients and the other is more like a quick pickle, often called as kuchla achar. The name kuchla comes from the act of thrashing the ingredients lightly in a mortar and pestle that macerates the mango slices to soak up the flavours.

Sometimes the raw mango is grated to make kuchla but the idea is to keep the kuchla coarse. .

The kuchla chutney is more of my type because it borders on being a salad of sorts.

kachhe aam ka kuchla

ingredients for kachhe aam ka kuchla chutney

one large raw mango peeled and sliced thinly
one large red onion sliced thinly
2-3 green chillies sliced
few springs of mint leaves
salt to taste
1/4 tsp mustard oil (optional)


Gather everything in a mortar and pestle and thrash till everything is macerated well. It looks like this when you want it to be like a salad.

kachhe aam ka kuchla

Thrash a bit more to make it a coarse chutney.

This is the best summer condiment for everyday dal chawal meals but the best pairing in my opinion is with sattu. Both these exotic things together make the most common summer food for the farmers who work in the fields all day. I think if not the meals it becomes a snack to keep them cool. I have tasted it made by my grandmother made in our urban kitchen as she used to recreate a few things that she loved.

recipe of kachhe aam ka kuchla 'achar'
The achar version of kuchla is a quick pickle that is made int he morning and should be over during the day. It tastes great when fresh and that is the USP of this kuchla which is sometimes called as 'achari' too. Some people prefer kuchla achar more than the regular spicy preserved aam ka achar

kachhe aam ka achari kuchla

The achar version of kuchla had traveled to the countries wherever the farm workers from eastern India migrated. I found slightly varying kuchla recipes from Fiji and Guyana when I was searching on the internet. But the achar version of kuchla has almost disappeared from our kitchens it seems. I asked a few friends who didn't remember kuchla achar being made into their homes.

This kuchla achar can be added to jhal mudi type snacks or can be added to plain Bhindi stir fry or Karela stir fry to pack some punch in the everyday subzi. 


Raw mangoes peeled and sliced 1 cup
turmeric powder 1 tsp
mustard powder 1 tsp
red chilli powder 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp


Toss everything up and let it rest for a couple of hours before serving. This quick pickle doesn't keep well and it gets softened the next day which is not the best way to eat it.

Any leftover kuchla achar was happily added to next day's arhar ki daal to make it sour and of course that also became a special summer treat.

Frugal cooking has been India's tradition. Something that we have forgotten with the deluge of ingredients available from all over the globe.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

rickwachh ki sarson wali subzi | colocasia leaf rolls in a mustard based curry

rickwachh ki sarson wali subzi

Rickwachh is a popular pakoda from UP and Bihar made if colocasia (arbi) leaves layered and rolled up together. The roll is steamed, cooled and sliced to make pinwheel shaped pakodas that everyone loves. Different version of the same are made in other states too and is called as alu chi wadi (Marathi), pathrode (Mangalorean), patode (Punjabi), patir (Himachali), and so on.

The recipe of rickwach can be found here, it was made with soaked and blended chana daal earlier but besan is used mostly for convenience. There is a difference in the taste but each version of this pakoda is so tasty no one minds what is added to it when it is made. Just some chutney and hot chai is needed to make a conversation around how rare it has become now.

rickwachh or patode

I wrote a story about the pakodas of India recently and it became so popular that I have been getting mails to write more about such traditional foods. Of course I will keep writing about our traditional foods as I believe traditional wisdom has honed itself over so many generations and there is a reason why some foods have lived so long and even have been adapted by many cultures across the country or even the world.

Traditional recipes are more nutrient efficient because they have evolved along the human civilizations and changing microcosm of human environment.

In the picture below, there is another type of pakoda calle Joori and 2 types of chutneys. The white one is a poppy seeds chutney while the green one is a coriander mint chutney which is quite a common accompaniment with pakodas of all types.

rickwachh or patode

The leftover rickwachh was always curried with mustard based thin gravy in my family. I think my grandmother's Dhaka upbringing had to do something with all the mustard curries we make or may be the proximity of Banaras to Bihar where such mustard based curries are quite common.

Making rickwachh used to be a ritual in my family and several rolls were steamed together. A couple of rolls were sliced to shallow fry the rickwachh while more was refrigerated to be fired later or to curry them. This curry is actually treated as a mock fish curry just like besan katli ki subzi.

recipe of the rickwachh curry
(for 10 slices of rickwachh)

to make a paste
3 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
4 cloves of garlic
3 green chillies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

powder spices
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp amchoor powder

1 tbsp mustard oil, more for shallow frying the rickwachh slices, about 2 tbsp for 10
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds 


Make a fine paste of the ingredients listed along with 4-5 tbsp of water. It is better to powder everything together and then add the water before blending again to make a paste. If you add water in the beginning it doesn't make a fine paste.

Heat mustard oil and tip in the fenugreek seeds and let them fry till they darken and get fragrant. Pour the above paste in it slowly. Bhuno the mix till it starts getting glazed and oils tart separating.

Add the powdered spices and bhuno some more till the masala mix gets fragrant.

Add about 1.5 cups of water and simmer the gravy for 5 minutes. Slip in the shallow fried rickwachh slices and simmer for a couple of minutes before serving with plain boiled ice.

rickwachh ki sarson wali subzi

You can adjust the consistency of the curry by adding more water or by simmering it a bit longer. With plain boiled rice and some tomato onion kachumber you actually don't need anything else with this rickwachh curry.

It is the vegetarian's version of fish curry and rice.