Lotus root fritters – Nadir monji or monji gul, served with a lip smacking Tamarind and onion chutney is a street food in Kashmir. Nadir monji is a cherished treat in all of Kashmir. It is a coveted snack. It is a required addiction – by law. Ok may be not by law. It is a requirement by virtue of being a true blooded Kashmiri. Any Kashmiri worth her salt should be obsessed with nadur. Full Stop.
Thin slices of lotus roots are mixed with spices and rice flour and then deep fried until crisp. If that was not enough to get you hooked, they are served with a tangy Tamarind onion chutney. Mouth puckering, lip-smacking, finger-licking good chutney. On the streets, however, this chutney is probably made with white vinegar.
I only have memories of eating this combination of lotus root fritters and the chutney. I never learned how to make it. I wish I could weave stories of my mom or aunts or grandmas making nadur monji and chetin (chutney) – but I can’t. These were the quintessential “halwai” ( street food ) items. No one made these at home.
The mere mention of the dish floods me with memories of my childhood, my Grandparents, my school, my friends and it reminds me of my Naani ( Grandma- Mom’s Mom)
There is a memory related to this dish that is deeply etched. I was studying for exams and needed a yummy break. So, I asked my Naani for something yummy to eat and she offered to buy me some Nadur monji. She had to walk about half a mile in blazing sun to the shop and buy them for me. And she did – happily so . While on her way back, she was attacked by a cow who had run off from her shed and was charging at every one who tried to pass the small street. My Naani was hurt and bruised and the nadur monji were all scattered on the street.
Did she come back home in a deep state of shock ? NO!! She got up, dusted herself off and went back to the shop and bought some more. And mentioned it over tea and nadur monji. I got real mad at her for not just coming home and checking if she was hurt. But she just laughed it off. To this day, It is our story to laugh at, hers and mine. And it is my story to keep with me to remember how much and how well I was loved and still am. It is one of the stories from her life that I fall back upon when times go tough on me. I remember how she brushes off the pain and misery and moves on. She is the brave, kind person I want to be.
I set to work. And told this story of my youth to my daughter, who enjoys listening to every single byte of my history with tiny bites of food from our kitchen.
Here are two ways I made them. I know I went overboard. BUT I had not eaten these in years.
- 1 C lotus roots peeled, cut into strips ( sort of like thicker french fries)
- 4 Tbs rice Flour
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp shahi zeera ( black cumin)
- 1/2 tsp salt ( add more or less to taste)
- 1-2 Tbs water if needed
- 2 C oil for frying
Mix the rice flour , salt, cayenne and cumin into the lotus root strips. Each strip should be coated well. If the lotus roots are more watery, you may need more rice flour. And if they are dry, you need to use the water. The idea is to just wet coat the strips.
Deep fry in oil on medium heat until nicely browned and crunchy
Kashmiri Style Tamarind Chutney
- 1/4 C seedless tamarind pulp
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 C sliced onions
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne powder
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
In a non reactive pan, boil 1 cup of water and add 1/4 C of seedless tamarind into it. Add ginger powder, cayenne and salt and allow it to come to a boil and cook for two minutes.
Add in the onions. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using