Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 39, Tuesday, October 04, 2011


"Maa, tumi abaar esho"

Prajna Datta is from Kolkata but has now made Dhaka her second home. Prajna has witnessed the unique flavour of Puja from a puritan perspective of West Bengal and now experiences a somewhat different version here in Bangladesh. "In Kolkata, Puja is more festive," she says and goes on to add that the anticipation that goes into celebrating Puja in Dhaka is, however, unmatched. All her friends, who have now become like family, eagerly await the arrival of the Puja and a visit to the Gulshan Puja Mandap is a must. "Initially we used to go to Ram Krishno Mission" Pajna says but now resort to visiting the mandap close to home.

Puja bears special meaning to all devotees of Durga -- men, women and children. They pray for prosperity, good fortune. To the married women of the Hindu household the day is also marked with prayers for long married lives. "We pray for long lives for our husbands and for a happy, peaceful marital life," said Prajna Datta. For Prajna and countless million women devotees, the festivity of Puja surrounds the "Shindur Khela" -- a ritual of smearing Shindur, vermillion -- among the married women.

"As children we witnessed the elder women in the household engage in the smearing of vermillion. But we were not allowed to take part. When I got married, I felt as if I was inducted into an elite club." Sarani Neogi shared her take on "Shindur Khela."

On the day of Dashami, before the idols are taken away for immersion, vermillion placed in front of the deity is taken and applied on the parting of the hair, the forehead and the faces. The ritual of applying shindur can also take place at home when Bijoya Dashami is celebrated with family members.

Although deeply rooted in orthodox Hinduism, shindur khela is gaining popularity every year. "More and more women are taking part in this ritual," said Amrita Mazumder. Her friend Sumita Das reiterated that the appeal of this ritual is timeless. "Although deeply rooted in custom, shindur khela also signifies the fun and merriment of Puja." The young and the old, as it seems, seem to have found a common ground.

Every year, Rupa Banerjee, and her band of Kolkata ladies now residing in Dhaka, don their best attires, decorate their hair with gajras or garlands of white flowers, symbolising purity, befitting the worship of Maa Durga.

Bijaya Dhashami, they say is a day of mixed emotions. As the auspicious day comes to an end with a immersion of the deity, for these Kolkata ladies, this marks the beginning of a long wait for the coming of the next Puja, when Maa Durga along with her children will set foot on earth again.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Debabrata Datta and Prajna Datta for arranging the photo shoot for Star Lifestyle.


Purely Pujo

By Kaniska Chakraborty

The dreaded editor is after me to write on Pujo. Durga Pujo, that is. I am stumped.

Pujo is such a natural occurrence to me that nothing about it strikes me as different or unique.

Every year it is the same routine. Get up in the morning, if possible go downstairs to the pandal, eat the community lunch, take a siesta, dress up for the evening, be a part of the audience for the cultural events, dance to the DJ, try to eat dinner and fail miserably, drag sleepy self back to bed.

You tell me. What in this is noteworthy? But there was a time when noteworthy things used to happen. Let me take you back to my childhood. When Pujo was not merely a holiday. When Pujo had significant spiritual connotations. When Pujo was not a marketing tool. The days of my grandmother. The magician in the kitchen. Oh where do I start…

Her narkelnarus?

The white ones sweetened with sugar and perfumed ever so deftly with camphor. The dark ones sticky with the molasses and chewy to perfection. A result of hours of stirring on a wood oven in a cast iron wok. My favourite? The last bit that used to be scraped out of the bottom of the wok. A special treat for the little boy.

Her ghugni?

Never of chickpeas. They were always of yellow peas. Succulent peas swimming in simple sauce coloured to festivity with turmeric. Strangely docile in taste by itself despite the diced coconut. It got its spikes from the roasted, crushed cumin and red chillies.

Her goja?

Flaky flour masterpieces. Either in the rough shape of a tongue or a cube. Dipped in thick syrup that used to cling to the gojas in clumps of sugar crystals. Redolent of ghee, gojas were the perfect accompaniment with the morning cup of milky, sugary tea.

Her malpua?

Translucent discs of flour and evaporated milk fried to brown perfection. Dipped in thin syrup, they used to soak up the sweet goodness. As if by magic, each malpua used to have exactly one peppercorn. The sudden heat beautifully countering the fragrant sweetness. A generous sprinkling of fennel seeds in the malpua batter and the entire concoction was transported to a different level for a hungry plump boy.

Her narkelsandesh?

Basically the cousin of the naru, but more evaporated milk gave the coconut dough pliability. Her granite moulds gleefully held together a pressed amount of the coconut mix to shape it into the mythical conch shell or in the shape of the commonest offering to the goddess, a humble flower. Looking back, it was almost criminal to devour such pieces of art. But then again, someone had to do the dirty job. The plump boy got plumper.

I wanted to pay tribute to some of my grandmother's magic. This column is too small to get into all her brilliance and seasonal tricks.

From those days, two things remained with me. I have never forgotten how a well done malpua or naru or goja should taste like. And the second thing is my puppy fat. Never shed that too.


Pujo bhoj

Mangsher Jhol
½ litre mustard oil
2 kg mutton (cleaned and cut)
½ to 1 kg potatoes (cut into halves)
3 large onions (made into paste)
2 medium size tomatoes (finely chopped)
Ginger + garlic paste (less of garlic)
Dhania + jeera powder (freshly made)
Salt and turmeric to taste (red chilli powder)
3 bay leaves
3 cinnamons
4 to 6 pieces cardamoms
4 to 6 pieces cloves
Roast and freshly grind ½ of the above into a fine powder

Heat oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pan. Fry the potatoes till golden and remove from pan.

Add the whole spices to the hot oil, followed by the paste (onion, ginger, garlic) then after sometime add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the oil starts to separate. Then add the mutton pieces and stir on high flame. Add the dhania + jeera powder and salt and turmeric to taste. Keep stirring and cover to cook on low flame for about 1½ hours.

Add the nicely fried potatoes to the pan and add hot water to the required gravy level. Cook the dish for ½ an hour (if not in pressure cooker) till meat is done.

Add the garam masala powder and garnish. Serve with white rice to taste mangsher jhol and bhaat.

Doi Mach
500g rui/katol fish
100ml of mustard oil
4 cloves
4 small cardamoms
2 pieces cinnamon (about 1 inch each)
2 bay leaves
1 inch ginger
1 small bulb garlic
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
100g sour curds/yoghurt
Salt and sugar to taste
A few green chillies
2 tsp clarified butter (ghee)

Clean and wash the fish pieces thoroughly, and cut it into rectangles of around 4 inches dimension. Wipe dry. Smear 1 tsp turmeric and a little salt to the pieces. Keep aside. Grind the onion, garlic and ginger till it turns into a smooth paste. Keep aside. Beat the sour curd/yoghurt with half cup of water till smooth and set aside. Heat oil to smoking.

Lightly fry the fish pieces and keep aside. In the heated oil, now, add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Then add the ground paste of onions, garlic and ginger. Fry lightly till the spices are browned. Now mix the remaining one teaspoon of turmeric powder and red chilli powder with three teaspoons of water and add to the frying paste. Fry again. Stir to prevent the spices from sticking to the pan.

Add to this the beaten sour curd. Stir the mixture and add one more cup of water. Add salt to taste and a teaspoon of sugar. Add the green chillies and cook a while till the excess water begins to dry up and till the gravy comes to a boil. Next gently add the fried fish pieces let it cook on high heat till the oil separates and floats on top. Before taking off from the fire add the clarified butter.

Chana Ball
Chana (chola)
Onion (chopped)
Green chilli (chopped)
Coriander leaves
Garlic and ginger (chopped)
Chaal er guro

Soak the chana in water overnight. Make a paste of chola, green chilli, coriander leaves, garlic, aamchur; mix besan, chal er guro and salt to a paste. Make small balls with the paste. Deep fry the balls and serve hot.

Koraishuti'r (green peas) Kachuri
250g green peas,
1/2 kg flour
4-5 green chilli,
25g chopped ginger
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar

Method: For the stuffing take green peas, green chilli, ginger together and make a smooth paste. Add oil to a frying pan and add the paste. Add salt, sugar, turmeric powder and chaatu to the paste and mix well. The stuffing is ready.

For the dough --
Take the flour, oil (2 tbsp), salt (pinch) and hot water in a bowl and make a dough. Break the dough into small balls. Fill each small piece of dough with a little of the stuffing and make a round and small kachori (like luchi). Dip in oil and fry till the thing puffs up. Serve hot.

Aata Phol-er (custard apple) Payesh
2 litre milk
100gm khoya kheer
250g sugar
4 medium sized custard apples

Boil the milk (2 litres) till it becomes thick. Add the khoya kheer and mix. Add sugar. Keep stirring so that the milk does not stick to the pan. Stop cooking and allow the milk to cool. Then remove the seeds from the fruit and mix with the milk. Then refrigerate it. Serve cold like ice-cream.

Narkel Dudh-er Polao
250g chinigura rice
2 cups coconut milk
5 tbsp ghee
100g cashew
1 cup peas
Salt to taste
2 cups water
3 tbsp sugar
50 g raisins
10g garam masala (whole)
2 bay leaves
2 green chillies (slit)
1 tsp chopped ginger

Wash the rice thoroughly and allow the water to drain. Add ghee to a frying pan, wait till it gets warm. Add bay leaves, green chillies, ginger, garam masala to the heated ghee. When slightly fried, add cashew and raisins. Stir a little and add the rice to the pan along peas, salt and sugar. Fry the rice in low flame and add the coconut milk, water and cover the pan. Then, increase the flame. Wait for 10-15 minutes till the rice is cooked. Serve hot.

Aanarosh-er Chutney
1 pineapple
1/2 cup grated coconut
½ tsp mustard seed
1 red chilli
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp mustard oil
250g sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar
10-12 raisins

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and red chilli. Add coconut, ginger and sauté for some time. Add the grated pineapple and sugar and mix well till it becomes a thick syrup. Add vinegar and raisins and mix again. Serve cold.

Posto Narkel Murgi
1kg chicken
1 tsp whole pepper
4 tbsp tok doi
50g posto
1 cup grated coconut
5 green chilli
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon
2 tsp garam masala paste
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste,
25g cashew and raisin paste
2 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ cup grated cheese or creme
Oil (groundnut and mustard oil mixed)
2 tsp ghee

Marinate the chicken with ginger paste, garlic paste, onion paste, green chilli paste, tok doi, salt and a pinch of turmeric powder. Also make a paste with grated coconut and posto.

Add the oil mixture to a pan. When the oil is heated, add bay leaves, cinnamon, whole pepper and sugar. Add the marinated chicken and cook for sometime. Then add the coconut and posto paste, cashew and raisin paste. Add the grated cheese. Mix and cook thoroughly. Once cooked, add ghee and serve hot.

Gurer Malpua
Saffola oil to deep fry
3 litres milk
10 pieces cashew and raisins
Patali gur (sugarcane jaggery) liquefied
2 cloves green elachi
10-12 pieces mouri
1 cup flour
½ cup sooji

Thicken the milk to 2 litres. Let it cool down. Add to this the flour, sooji and some jaggery (to sweeten), the mouri and chopped dry fruits. Let this mixture stand for about 1 to 2 hours.

Heat saffola oil in a non-stick frying pan; fry one by one by pouring little of the above batter, each time. Place these deep fired Malpuas on a flat plate and pour the heated liquid jaggery on top of them.

Let it stand for about 1 hour and serve warm to taste best

By Prajna Datta, Susmita Bhattacharya and Amrita Mazumdar


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