By Naini Setalvad
Naini Setalvad kicks off a new series on the amazing diversity of cuisines in India by celebrating the palate-pleasing Sindhi food
India's mindboggling diversity is vividly reflected in its manifold cuisines. Each cuisine is uniquely born of the agriculture of the region, its climate, religious and socio-cultural beliefs and health practices. Over thousands of years, this has bred a cuisine beautifully attuned to the health and well-being of its people. Every regions grows food that is good for your health, improves performance, moods, memory and can prevent, retard and reverse diseases. It's therefore absolutely important to have knowledge about the food of the region that you are in and use it for your well-being instead of consuming alien foods.
Most states have two to three different cuisines due to the diversity of climate, soils, culture and religious beliefs. Apart from indigenous influences, the cuisines have picked up the influence of the erstwhile conquerors such as the Moghuls, Portuguese and British.
In this instalment, we shall study the cuisine of the erstwhile Sindh.
Sindhi cooking originated from Sindh in Pakistan. Due to its proximity to the Indus river there was great vegetation and lots of river food for people living nearby. One part of Sindh had the River Indus, while one part was hemmed in by the desert.
Sindhi food has been influenced by the neighbouring cuisines of Kutch, Gujarat, Punjab, as well as Iran and the Gulf. Therefore each region of Sindh has its unique specialities. Sindhi food is best known for the fried pakwan, tuk (twice-fried potato topped with dry mango powder), papad, kadhi, and sai bhaji. Sindhis are also known for the love of the lotus stem popularly known as bhee. I love the bhee myself as well as the nutritious sai bhaji, best had with rice. Other delectable combinations include Sindhi curry and rice , as well as the mouth watering koki ( thick roti made with spices, onions, fresh coriander leaves) served with curd .
Generally speaking, Sindhi food avails of four spices haldi (turmeric) dhania powder( coriander powder) garam masala, and aamchoor (dry mango powder). It also makes plentiful use of onions, which forms the base of both dry as well as gravy dishes called daagh which means curry with browned onions. Other masalas include seyal (onions , ginger, garlic base), saye masaley mein (green base - coriander leaves and fresh garlic) or tamatein mein (in tomato gravy). They also make a number of kadhis (curries) using besan (chickpea) flour as a thickener. The cuisine makes abundant use of seasonal vegetables as well as lentils/pulses, when fresh veggies are not available. Today, most Sindhis have migrated to India and elsewhere in the world, though their hub spot is definitely Mumbai. A typical Sindhi meal consists of a vegetable, wheat roti or rice, and a lentil in the form of dal, curry, sai bhaji. Non vegetarians may substitute the curry with a chicken or Sindhi mutton curry. Though originally vegetarians, Sindhis converted to non vegetarianism on account of the diverse influences upon them. A celebrated non vegetarian dish is their mutton/red meat called teevarn, which is mutton made in an onion-based gravy.
A typical Sindhi breakfast would consist of koki, as well as a variety of parathas, including one made from yellow moong dal. Seyal mani and seyal dhabhal are delicious preparations that frugally use up leftover roti and bread. Indeed, a notable feature of this primarily business community is its thrifty and inventive use of leftovers. Almost nothing is ever wasted. During festivals a very popular sweet dish rich in sugar and ghee called kada prasad is served.
Festivals like Cheti Chand, Diwali, Holi, Akhand Teej, Thadree are celebrated with Sindhi sweets like tosha, paraghree, geear, singhar ji mithai, malpua, and sweet boondi.
In short, Sindhi food is delicious, and relatively rich with wide-ranging flavours. if you don't have a Sindhi friend to invite you home for a meal, try the recipes given here.
Sai bhaji recipe
Spinach 1.5 bunches , chopped
Dill leaves (suva) 2 tbsp (depending on your taste)
Khatta bhaji (sorrel leaves) Few leaves
Onion 1 big
Tomato 2 big
Carrot 1 small, chopped
Potato 1 medium, chopped
French beans 6-8 , chopped
Brinjal 2 small, chopped
Ginger-garlic paste 1 tbsp
Green chilli (1 chopped finely)
Chilli, turnermic powders 3 tsp
Chana dal 3 tbsp Oil 1 tsp
Salt as per taste
1) Heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion, fry for 3-4 mins. Add ginger-garlic paste. Saut onions till brown.
2) Add all the cut vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the dal. Let it cook for about 7-8 minutes. Then add the masalas (turmeric, chilli powder, salt) and mix well.
3) Then add the chopped tomatoes, cover with a lid and let it cook for 5 minutes.
4) Remove lid, transfer the mixture to a pressure cooker, add 1 glass water, cook for 3-4 whistles, put on slow flame for 7-8 minutes.
5) When done, open the cooker and churn with a wooden churner, until it becomes a thick consistency.Serve with brown rice, or their version of kichadi made of rice and split green moong dal, seasoned with jeera.
Bhee (lotus stem) with potatoes in onion gravy
Bhee (lotus stem) 8-10 (depending on size and thickness)
Onion 2 large, chopped
Tomatoes 2 medium, chopped
Potatoes 2 large, remove skin and cut into large chunks
Ginger 1 inch
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
jeera powders 1/2 tsp each
Dhania powder 1 tsp
Salt as per taste
Oil 3 tsp
1) Clean and cut the bhee into slanting slices and pressure cook with salt for at least 2 whistles. Do not overcook.
2) Take a thick bottom vessel. Add 3 tsps oil in it. Add chopped onions and saut. Add crushed ginger-garlic and cook onions till brown. Then add chopped tomatoes, green chillies and saut.
3) Add potato chunks and cook on high flame. Reduce the flame, add salt, dry masalas, cover and let cook . If the mixture is too dry , sprinkle some water, so that the gravy does not stick to the vessel .
4) Cover with a lid and keep some heavy weight on the lid, so that potatoes are cooked. Add the pre cooked bhee. Cook on slow flame. Add a little more water, so the gravy does not stick to the vessel.
5) Once potatoes are completely done, turn off the flame , sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve with roti /chapati.
Wheat flour2 cups
Onion 1 big, finely minced
Green chillies 2, finely minced
A pinch of ajwain (carom seeds)
Cumin seeds powder 1/2 tsp
Black pepper powder 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder1/2 tsp
Fresh coriander chopped
Oil 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Water to knead the dough
1) Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl, add 2 tbsps of oil and knead into a stiff dough by adding a little bit of water. It is very important that the dough should be stiff.
2) Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Heat the tawa on low flame. Roll out one portion of the dough into a thick-sized roti.
3) Drizzle some oil on the tawa and place the roti on it.
4) Roast gently on either side, take out from the tawa, and again roll it until it gains the thickness of a paratha.
5) Place on hot tawa and cook on low flame.
6) Drizzle oil on both the sides and cook until small brown spots appear from both sides.
7) Serve immediately with yogurt.
About the author : Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specializing in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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