Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 74, Tuesday, June 30, 2009


rain, tea, snacks - and presto!

Lady rain, I hear you at my window
Lady rain, I need you softly falling on my face
Why did the sun shining come and take you away
I wait for you again my lady rain
~Indecent Obsession

Monsoon came in behind schedule this year; adding to the discomfort and the misfortune of a prolonged summer.

Rain brings in a concoction of emotions among city dwellers. Some view rain with disdain, detesting the discomfort caused by the down pours. While others look forward to it with much affection and romanticism.

No rainy day is complete without satisfying your palate. Your taste buds are as attached to rain, as are your heart and soul- your five senses. Sitting on your terrace with a cup of steaming 'chaa' and reading a novel is something for which there is no substitute. You immerse yourself completely in the story, with the refreshing sound of rain as the 'background music'. Even the touch of the hot mug in your palms is relaxing.

Snacks are a lovely addition. Rain can't be enjoyed to its maximum unless you sit for some time with tea and the native munchies- piaju, shingara, chhola, jhalmuri or chanachur. Rain, tea, snacks- and presto! You are in heaven.

Munching on an unbelievably spicy and hot jhalmuri and then immediately afterwards gulping a rather large sip of steaming tea: the combination does something to your mouth. The sensation generated due to the concoction of a steaming drink and hot food lifts up your soul to an extraordinary round of satisfaction. The best aspect of it is that the contentment is almost unbearable! True.

If you (strangely) don't happen to fancy the local food, you could always go for a bowl of popcorn or a plate of French fries. Stuffing your mouth with as much popcorn as it can handle while enjoying the rain can never be a bad idea, never.

This is not the core concept, though. And neither is the concept of tea and snacks. At the end of the day, we are Bangladeshis; the whole notion of 'mache bhaat e bangali' is impossible to escape.

No matter what, fried food is always in when it's raining. So, fry things up, not just for light treats but also the heavy meals. Fried Hilsa is enormously popular- and when you have it with khichuri on a rainy day, especially with your family - you get yourself the perfect meal. On the other hand if you are not a fish fan, you can always opt for 'deem bhuna' (egg curry).

What's the relationship between the particular food items and rain? Why do we crave certain foods in the rainy days and not the others? Frankly, I don't know. Curtly, I don't care! I'm no expert. I'm no Anthony Bourdain. But I do know, however, the soothing effect and the delightful adventures rain and nature and food has put together for me with their team effort.

I do care for the people around me who made such occasions so special - they are my true spices. I remember the time when I ran home, fully wet and shivering, and my mother treated me to a steamy cup of tea. And I remember staying over at my friend's house on a stormy night, where we chattered away about useless things while all the time we ate the most delicious boot-piaju I have ever eaten.

'A smiling face is half the meal', a proverb says. During a rainy day, with all the yummy food - and of course, smiling faces - you actually get more than a meal. And that's where the magic of the culinary joy of monsoon lies- it's not just a meal; it goes way beyond the chemistry of food.

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Our pick for your pick

The traditional favourite: Bhuna khichuri, egg curry, egg plant tempura, hilsa fry.

Tea with shingara, pakoras and dalpuri. Popcorn. Chotpoti, Phucka.

Soothing classics and romantic tunes that go with the grandeur of the view. Nothing too loud, so that you can hear the continuous refrain of the rainfall.

Borisho Dhora Majhe Shantiro Bari (Rabindranath Tagore)
Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain (The Cascades)
Water (Shiv Kumar Sharma)
Ei Brishti Bheja Raate Tumi Nei Bole (Shironamhin)
Moment of Surrender (U2)
Man in the Mirror (Michael Jackson)
Rain must fall (Yanni)
Brishti (Raaga)
Any music that you like, because after all you are the one who will be listening to it.

For many the supreme pleasure is to curl up under a blanket with a good book while listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops. Thrillers and romantic novels are especially good for lazing around.
The Eagle has Landed (Liam Devlin)
Helter Skelter: The true story of the Manson Murders (Vincent Bugliosi)
The Shining (Stephen King)
Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)
Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky)
The Last Time they Met (Anita Shreve)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)

Here again, you can't go wrong with thrillers and mystery movies. They will keep you glued to your seat; perfect for days spent indoors.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Seven (1995)
The Prestige (2006)
Public Enemies (2009)

Wash and drain meat. Heat oil and add chopped onions. Fry until just brown. Then add garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.

Turn down the heat and stir whilst you put in the turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Then, taking care, add the chopped tomatoes slowly, simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add meat and stir continuously for 1 minute. Pour water and bring to the boil; add salt to taste.

Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until meat is tender. Add Garam Massala and sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves.

Bhuna khichuri
45g moog daal (mung beans)
45g masoor daal (brown-skinned lentils), washed
90g rice, washed
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
1/2 head cauliflower, separated into large florets
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly-grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
salt and sugar, to taste
Dry fry the mung beans in a hot pan or wok until lightly browned. Add 1litre water and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and stir-in the rice and lentils.

Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to steam for a further 20 minutes

Add a little oil to a pan and use to fry the potatoes, cauliflower and onions for about 6 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the heat and gently fry the ginger, cumin, tomato and chillies. Season with salt and sugar and continue frying until aromatic.

Return the pan with the rice and beans to the heat and stir-in the vegetables and spices. Return the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick. Serve hot with pickles.


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