Last summer, my husband was hell-bent on inventing a new dish with watermelon and chicken. Expectedly, I was horrified at the idea, and cringed every time I thought how that might taste. I mean, sure, on paper it sounded do-able. And to be fair, far more frightening experiments have been successfully conducted in the name of food -- Pit-viper ice-cream, congealed blood soup, Kangaroo Tail soup, anyone?
When it comes to tasting the unknown, I am, what you would call a veritable chicken. Frankly, I'd rather be chicken, than be put off by food. Sure, I might miss out on wonderful, culinary experiences and such, with this attitude. But, cummon! I can just see myself keeling over with a spoonful of pit-viper. Of course, Andrew Zimmern also mentioned something about it tasting like bile. So, that was that.
That being said, I am not completely averse to experimentation (water-melon and chicken, not withstanding, obviously). For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I accidentally poured hot oil tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds and asafoetida, into my idly batter. Dismayed, and not wanting to waste it, I decided to make pancakes. And, what do ya know? Not bad. Not bad in the least! The hot oil transformed the batter into crispy deliciousness, and the aromatics didn't seem out of place at all. I was so impressed with it, that I have bookmarked it for a later date. ... ooh, maybe I could make it on one of these days for the marathon. If I can only remember to soak the urad dal and rice, first.
You know, come to think of it, the idly pancakes aren't the only happy accident that I know of. My late, father-in-law, loved introducing the family to unique food, and is at the helm of many a cherished recipe. Amongst his many creations, two are outstanding. The first, involves serving phodnicha bhaath with sunny-side eggs. Phodnicha bhaath, the Maharashtrian version of fried rice, is typically made with left-over rice and is fantastic on a hurried morning, or on those days when there's precious little in the house. When AM told me, about his family's tradition of combining my beloved bhaath with eggs for the first time, I was as usual, skeptical. Besides, sunny-side eggs are not my thing. Unwilling to give in so easily, AM made the eggs well-done, (and knowing how I love my spice), seasoned them with lots of freshly, ground pepper. Now, of course I have happily consented to the match, and the fried-egg and rice will live happily, forever and ever in this house.
The other though, is a bigger favorite. And it just so happens, that it's something I would ordinarily scoff at -- Vangi and pohe or egg-plant with beaten rice. But, does it work, or does it work! We use the smaller variety of eggplant for this dish; if you can get your hands on the ones that come with prickly thorns on its short, stubby stem, that's even better. It lends a wonderful, smoky taste to the beaten rice, and really brings forth the sharpness of the green chillies.
Perhaps, water-melon and chicken might not be that far-fetched, after-all. (Oh, dear what doors have I opened).
♣ Vangi + Pohe = Deliciousness!
My mother-in-law tells us that my father-in-law came up with vangi-pohe, out of the blue, one Sunday morning. She didn't think anything of it, as she'd tasted an even more unusual, and delicious version -- mutton and pohe -- made by her mother for visiting company. Apparently, this version had some ginger-garlic paste to compliment the mutton, and was greatly appreciated by the guests.
Vangi-pohe is relatively simple, that way. AM's mum doesn't add potatoes, but I cannot imagine my beaten rice without them. During my trip to India, earlier this year, my sister-in-law Vaishali Vaini, gave me a fantastic tip for crisp potatoes. Seeing, how I was searching for some crispy bits, she mentioned I could always deep-fry the potatoes before mixing them in the pohe. And truly, even though it's time-consuming, it lends a wonderful crunchiness; combined with the crisp eggplant, it's really something else.
This is recipe no. 2 for the seven-day-seven-recipe challenge, over at Nupur of One Hot Stove.
1 1/2 C poha (beaten rice)
1-2 small eggplant (preferably the thorny variety), one minced, while the other cut-lengthwise
2 potatoes, sliced into thin quarter-rounds
3/4 large, red onion, cut lengthwise (if using Indian onions, use 2-3)
3-4 small, Thai chillies, finely sliced on the bias
A few curry leaves
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste (I use scant 1 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp oil + oil for frying
1-2 lime(s), cut into quarters
Handful of cilantro, finely chopped
Handful of fresh coconut, grated
Place the beaten rice in a sieve, and briefly run water to moisten it. Fluff with your hands, and set aside to drain. In about five-seven minutes, sprinkle over sugar and half the salt, and mix well.
Then, deep fry the potatoes and mix in with the resting beaten rice. Now, deep-fry the eggplant cut lengthwise and combine with rice and potatoes.
Heat a pan over medium-flame, and add 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Into it, add the minced eggplant, chillies and curry leaves. Stir until the eggplant begins to turn golden, and add in the onions. Saute, until onions are golden and start to crisp around the edges.
Turn the heat to very low, spoon in turmeric, and give it a quick stir or two. Now, add the beaten rice, fried potatoes and eggplant, and combine everything well. Squeeze juice of one lime, mix again and place a tight lid; steam for about five minutes.
Garnish with cilantro, freshly-grated coconut, and serve hot with a lime wedge each.
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