Shubho Noboborsho! Wishing all of you on the occasion of Bengali New Year. Also wishing everyone for the other Indian regional New Years like Ugadi, Puthandu, Vishu , Baisakhi, Vihu, Gudi Padwa and others. If you aren’t celebrating a New Year… may we simply celebrate life!
A new dawn and a beautiful morning… and some behind the scenes hustle
We are blessed with stunning sunrises over an uninterrupted view of the backwaters. It had rained in the early morning hours and the horizon was still dark and thunderous on Noboborsho morning. The morning breeze carried the earthy aroma of the fresh rains and the seagulls seem to be too drenched and weary for their daily flights. There was a happy hustle and bustle in the home as well… polishing of silver bowls that dates back to our Annaprashan or first rice ceremonies, my excitement of cooking and preparing some dishes specially for the day … not to mention my flower arrangement in the urli that belonged to the Bearded Biker’s thakuma and handed over to me by dear mum-in-law. The floral urli was an inspired idea from a resident in our community, who’s been doing this daily for the last one year. If you think that it’s a breeze… try doing one and please share your secret tips!
Celebrating Noboborsho, the Bengali New Year
Our lunch and the dinner menu for ‘Poila Boishakh’ or ‘Noboborsho’ yesterday was a simple Bengali menu. It was a working and a school day and I had asked the Z-Sisters what they would like to eat. Lil Z requested for luchi, aloo bhaja and plain white Rosogolla, or rasgullas … “lots of it”, she said! She had been lamenting lately how nobody brings home the white dreamy roshogollas anymore. Big Z declared that she didn’t care as long as there was Mishti Doi, made by me. The latter has been a bit overdone in our kitchen and the last time I made mishti doi, which was only three weeks back, stayed in the fridge for almost two weeks. So I decided against it. “Then Mihi Dana please”… was her next request. Roshogolla and Motichoor Ladoos (in absence of mihi dana in most sweet shops here) were swiggy-ed in from the sweetshop Sri Gupta Sweets. Our wonderful cook Matree’s Malabari parota making skill was made to use for the brilliant ‘phulko’ luchis… meaning the perfectly fluffed up Indian fried flatbreads. Our Noboborsho menu was as follows… luchi, aloo bhaja or fried potatoes, begun bhaja or fried eggplant, cholar dal with delicate aroma of coconut pieces fried in ghee, Basanti or mishti pulao and Katla Kalia, a thick gravy preparation with Katla fish. The strategy was to focus more on the luchi for lunch so that generous portions of pulao and Kalia would be left over for dinner.
Bengali food is served in courses and I always feel that it can never be concised into a single thali, like many other regional food from India. The only one thali that could ever be … is the proshad, offered to the Divine Almighty. Accordingly, a thali with a mini sampling of the food was placed in our casual altar. I am not into rituals, hence the altar showcases many idols and images from several religions – a lot of them gifted by friends and families. After we have had a few spoonfuls from the proshad, it’s handed over affectionately to Big Z… “why does thakurer proshad always taste better?”, she always asks. I guess it’s the intention and the heart felt emotion of love and faith that go into the proshad. Sharing the blessed thali from our home with you all… and then the rest of the Noboborsho menu.
Celebrating Puthandu, the Tamil New Year… back to back celebrations
The day before was Puthandu, the Tamil New Year and it was naturally a holiday here (for those who are still wondering… Chennai is our new home). We had sapaddu, a traditional Tamil lunch served on banana leaf. Matree, herself a Christian, was keen to do a small puja in our puja room. She had decorated the room with flowers and strung a garland with mango leaves and hung it by our entrance door. The puja was followed by the traditional lunch that she had cooked. She insisted that we sit on the ground and eat while she served us individually. We swapped her suggestion into sitting on the ground and putting the food on our coffee table! It was a beautiful afternoon and we savoured everything that she had cooked. She explained the order in which we had to eat. First, we had to eat the plain white rice with Vendekkai Sambar, sambar dal cooked with ladies finger. Next, we had to eat the rice with Kara Kulambu, the spicy tamarind and tomato curry of brinjal, potatoes and other vegetables. The light Milagu Rasam or Pepper Rasam came last with the rice. A carrot beans Poriyal or curry and Urulai Kilangu Masala, a spicy potato curry and some Appalam or papad were served as sides to the rice. The Ulundhu Vadai she made were soft as well as crispy and could be had on their own or had to be dunked into the sambar. I have to admit that her vadas made from the batter that she had made at home, were the best I had ever tasted in my life. The Dessert looked exotic and something I was tasting for the very first time. Javvarisi Payasam was a milk pudding or payasam made with tapioca pearls. It had the delicate fragrance of cardamon. Cashews and raisins roasted in ghee, were tossed in it. I bought a new silk sari for myself, a traditional weave that would be worn for this occasion and put a garland of malli, the heavy-scented jasmine in my hair. Sharing the Puthandu menu below… again, starting with the prasad offering and then the rest.
In my happy space… in my home, talking about Bengali food
A prequel to Noboborsho was my Bengali food chat with culinary expert Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal in her InstaLive series #SpiceChroniclesWithRMG. Rushina started this in May last year during lockdown as an Instagram LIVE research project and her culinary marathon was now headed to Bengal. Rushina captured me in my happy space in her inauguaratory Bengal episode … in my dining room, in my home, chatting about Bengali food. I wore a kantha stitch dupatta instead of the traditional red and white saree on Lil Z’s insistence on wearing something casual and this was the most casual I could get! Sharing a picture that Lil Z took of me sitting amidst all my favourite cookbooks, dekchi, pots and pans and my shortlisted items from my Bengali pantry. You can enjoy the episode here.
I felt like sharing the therapeutic energy of our backwaters and the new day in my virtual Noboborsho video greeting with friends and family. I wish I could embed the video here with the birds’ chirping and the sound of the seabreeze. Sharing a still screenshot from a frame… hope you all will like it and and be engulfed with the same emotion that I felt in the morning… a new journey filled with hope, faith and joyful anticipation of a bright future!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Some posts from my recent Chennai Chapter: Finally calling Chennai home Homemade spicy Chicken 65 Chicken Chettinad cooked in a claypot Celebrating Pongal with Sakkarai Pongal and other dishes Some posts about Bengali food: Shubho Noboborsho | A traditional Bengali menu for Frying Pan Diaries podcast Traditional Bengali Cuisine | All The ‘Slight’ Details A-Z of Bengali Fish Bengali recipes from my blog
Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.