Friday, 29 October 2010

Mocha r Ghonto

This post has some truly awful pictures, because I had to snap them while Shobhadi was cooking, and she doesn't encourage cameras in the kitchen. She thinks taking pictures of "our ordinary home cooking" is damn funny business undertaken only by those of unsound mind, and doesn't care who knows it. So these are sneak-shots, taken under her arm or while she wasn't looking. If I ever manage the will, I will cook the mocha (cha as in cha-cha) myself next time. But don't wait for it. Being home with a maid, cook and mummy-daddy has made be very, very lazy :-)

Okay, so, mochar ghonto. I'm not sure what mocha is in English, but I have heard arguments that botanically, this is more a flower than a vegetable. Whatever. Don't let scientific nitpickery bother you. The point is, this is yet another Bengali classic, and when served for lunch nicely offsets all the richly seasoned animal protein copiously consumed during sumptuous pujo dinners.

Now then, ingredients:
Mocha, 1.
Potatoes--a couple, peeled and diced.
Coconut--a small half or quarter, diced into really small pieces.
Bay leaf -- 2.
Cumin/jeera--1 tsp.
Garam masala powder.
Salt, sugar.
Cumin:coriander powder 1 : 2.
Mustard oil.

How to:
It's really the preparing of the mocha that is tricky. It's a vegetable -- available in almost all Bangladeshi shops abroad -- that is made up of large, wrap-like petals in dark liac. Two parts of it are edible, at least traditionally. Maybe the petals are edible too, I don't know, but I've always seen them being discarded in my middle-class home.

Begin my rubbing mustard oil over you palms, because some mochas will have a dry sticky secretion holding the yellow-tipped stalks together and you don't want to get sticky yourself.

This, to your left, is what a mochal looks like once you've taken the first protective layer of petal off (which can be seen to your right). Those yellow-tipped white stalks are edible, so they're collected while the petals are discarded.

But not all of the yellow-tipped stalks are edible. There's a hard thin cylinder of tissue which runs through the centre of each stalk, which must be discarded. Usually one can just pull it out from the base of the stalk, or slice the stalk halfway through the middle, grasp the cylinder, and pull it out. Frequently, ripping this cylinder off also rips off the yellow tip. Which is fine.

These are the discards as you peel through the layers. The central cylinder and the petals, which are lilac on the outside and yellow at the base on the inside.

As you get closer to the core, the layers will yield not just the yellow-tipped stalks, but also little white or ivory fleshy parts, firmer than the rest of the mocha. These should be dutifully chopped and put in a bowl of room-temperature water. As you peel off the very last layer, the largest of these fleshy parts reveals itself. It's the central... thing, around which the mocha grows.

Shobhadi peels off the thin top layer of this with the cutting blade, but that isn't strictly necessary. The thing as it is can be chopped directly and eaten.

Hereafter, I have just two pictures to show, thanks to having been chased off for getting underfoot. But the majority of the work being done already, this is no tragedy. From here on, the thing is as simple as boiling water.


First, wash the mocha under a cold tap. Then, boil it in salted water till al-dente. Drain well. This is what it looks like:

  1. Rub the diced potatoes with turmeric and salt and lightly sauté them. You can skip this step if you like, but it gives them a better flavour.
  2. Heat mustard oil in a wok or a skillet. Spread it around. Wait till it loses most of it's golden colour on high heat, then turn down the flame completely for about a minute to let it cool. Anything added right after it loses the golden colour will char immediately.
  3. Now raise heat to medium. Add half a teaspoon of jeera. Swirl it around for half a minute before adding the bay leaves. Let fry on medium for a minute or so, unless it begins to smoke/turn black, in which case turn flame down and proceed.
  4. Add chopped coconut. Fry till light brown.
  5. Add potatoes. Cook for about two minutes (a little less if already sautéd). Add the well-drained mocha and attack the lot with your spatula, stirring constantly on high so that they take on a well-fried look without charring. Add more oil if necessary, but never add raw mustard oil in the middle of cooking. Either add pre-heated mustard oil or sunflower/canol/vegetable oil.
  6. Turn flame down. Mix the cumin coriander mixture with a quarter teaspoon turmeric and make a thick paste with tap water. Add it to the wok. Add salt and sugar, according to your tastes. Mix thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes on medium, with occasional turning-over.
  7. Add water and cover, letting the vegetables soften in the steam. Check after ten minutes. Keep as much gravy as you like, although this is eaten fairly dry.
  8. Sprinkle garam masala on top for extra flavouring (and maybe a teaspoon of ghee), and mix it in.
  Stage 6

Serve with rice, and maybe plain mushur daal.


Abhishek Mukherjee said...

I've often used the phrase "made my day", but after a long time I've really meant it. I've linked you on my blog.

Soapsuds said...

mocha ta mone hoy "yam" bole english e. ekbar check kore niyo.

Rimi said...

Abhishek--thank you so much :-) That makes my day, rather.

Ushmi--na re, yam is sweet potato, ranga aloo. Jeta diye puli hoye :-) I have a feeling there exists no English name for mocha because the land and culture as a whole is unaware of the vegetable. It is, after all, a tropical vegetable. It's related to bananas.

Soapsuds said...

achha, sheta toh jantam na! bah. sweet potato. bhabtei parini!
hote pare, yes, in fact India tei bah ko jon khai eta?
NOT ushmi :D

dipali said...

Rimi, to the best of my knowledge this is the banana flower. The tiny yellow thingies are very wee bananas.
It's a dish that I love enormously but am way too lazy to ever cook.
Kewpie's zindabad!

Rimi said...

Thanks for that, Dipali. Those yellow-tipped things are wee bananas, eh? Gosh, and my parents used to complain I refused bananas. I must have eaten hundreds of dozens of baby bananas in my few years on this planet.

I shall have to keep that defence in mind when my great aunt comes to visit and force-feed me "fresh fruit".