Monday, October 18, 2010

Rootlessness and Alu-Potola Bhaja

When people ask me where I am originally from, I just don't know what to say. As I hem and haw trying to figure out a suitable uncomplicated answer without getting into my unsavoury family history, I usually mumble a vague reply - "From all over", to which the questioner usually comes up with this gem - "Oh, so your dad was in the army?" More hedging around follows. No such simple way out for me. No army, navy, defence background to explain the anchorless-ness of my life :(

Ok, so to cut short the drama I just launch into the complicated explanation. "See, I'm basically Telugu, but born and brought up in Orissa. But left Orissa for good when I was 16, so since then I studied for 2yrs in Vizag, 3 yrs in Chennai, 1 yr in Mumbai, then worked in Chennai & Hyderabad for a year and now been living in Mumbai for 5-6yrs. Pheww!!"
But if you thought the questioning ends there, you are sorely mistaken. Oh, so where are your parents? Ummm... Mom's a single parent (see that's why we left Bhubaneshwar in the first place) working in Muscat (now in Maldives), Dad-I-haven't-seen-in-10yrs-so-don't-know-and-couldn't-care-less, brother another anchorless soul flitting from this city to that and oh please don't even get me started about my husband who is Punjabi but born and brought up in Hyderabad and is definitely more Telugu than I am. Sigh... so much for trying to hide unflattering family drama!

But look at the bright side I tell myself - aren't we the truly integrated Indian family? D-uh. Yeah, if you think confused roots is a sign of cosmopolitan national integration, why not? A-nyway... the point I'm trying to make, as usual, is actually about food.

There are days when I crave for some childhood comfort food... And a lot of my memories of food are intrinsically linked with Bhubaneshwar, the city that I was born in and grew up in. So comfort food for me is a strange mish-mash of South Indian dishes and simple Oriya recipes. Both my parents were born and brought up in Orissa too, so Oriya food is truly as much a part of our family heritage as the traditional Telugu Brahmin diet.

One of the staple vegetables in Orissa is Potola/Parwal otherwise known as Pointed Gourd. And one of the simplest dishes made in every Oriya home is this Potato and Parwal fry. The picture of the Pointed Gourds below is courtesy Shreya of Mom's Cooking.


Parwal/Pointed Gourd - 250 gms
Potatoes - 2 large
Panch Phoran - 2 tsp (equal parts jeera/cumin seeds, rai/mustard seeds, onion seeds/kalonji, methi/fenugreek seeds and saunf/fennel seeds)
SaltRed Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/4 tsp
Mustard Oil - 1 tbsp

Wash and peel the potatoes and gourds and cut them into long thin slices. The gourds actually do not need to be peeled, but some people don't like to chew on the slightly tough, crunchy skin. Heat the mustard oil in a wok or kadhai and add the panch phoran. Once the seeds start sputtering, lower the flame and add the sliced potatoes and parwal. Combine well, cover and cook for 7-8min till the potatoes are soft and the parwal is cooked but retains its colour. Now add the salt , chilli powder and garam masala and stir well. Let it cook for another couple of minutes, remove from heat and serve.

The way I like it:

This is a great side dish with rotis and a simple moong ki dal or the tradition Oriya Dalma and rice.


Satya said...

hey swati ,
u sounds like me dear ..same ya telugu gal bought up in orissa(cuttack) ,job in vizag n marriage in chennai n u know i too face the same problem n behave n ans like u only potala bhoja looks superb favorite too ..yummy


Karishma said...

Never had this vegetable before...always thought it was a smaller version of the cucumber...thanks for educating me :-P

I think you're right to be proud about your pan-Indian identity...if everyone were like that, we wouldn't have any issues about caste and creed and religion and state and blah blah blah..we're all just Indians and humans!

Tejal said...

be proud of your travels..that's what I call it..most people haven't seen the world outside their state!

5 yrs in karnataka and I was a adapting to the gujju version of everything (garam masala in pav bhaji, bhindi in pav bhaji, garam masala in dahi batata puri, Schezuan rice..)

Lakshmi said...

How I love the way you desribe your heritage..
I *heat* parwal but cant find it anywhere. And Pawan and co havent even heard of "potals" leave only tasted it. Sigh. Anyway, I'll sure try this the next time I find some..

Swati Sapna said...

@satya, karishma, tejal, lakshmi - thanks girls for all the kind words and making me feel 'normal'! :D

Susan and Abraham said...

wow love this, my mum used to make this. bookmarked. would be happy to see your entery for the 'THE 30 BEST RECIPES OF 2010' event here: rgds susan

Shreya said...

Hi Swati, finally I check my email and also your blog to see this post! Thanks for the source credit on the photograph. Btw, I miss Hyderabad so much! I'm in Mumbai now, my husband is from Vizag, but born and brought up in West Bengal, so more a Bengali at heart. I'm a mallu, half educated in Muscat, and lived in Kerala and then in Hyderabad for 8 yrs, and now in Mumbai. :-) Glad to note we have some common Telugu bond:-) All the best..