The early morning breeze from the open window was cool and nurturing, almost like a mother’s touch. The gentle wind was carrying with it a sweet and melodious voice of someone singing. I could not understand the lyrics of the song, yet I felt connected to the music and the voice.
It was my first brush with a city named Kolkatta and its people. And on that morning began my life-long love affair for the culture, people and food of West Bengal. My stay in and around Kolkatta was a short one, but I was enriched with music, art and culture.
The early morning “riyaz” (music practice) became something I looked forward to waking up to. I found out that the voice belonged to a young woman, about my age, who lived right next door. Her Ma, (Mom) used to teach “sangeet” (music) and she was one of her mom’s pupils and yes I became one of the pupils too.
So did I wake up others with my own melodious singing? Thankfully, for everyone in my family – NO! I never could become an early morning person to actually wake up and prep myself for a Riyaz and I am sure it would have been anything but melodious.
But I do know someone whose melodious rendition of Rabindra Sangeet makes me feel reconnected to all that I loved and still love about Bengali culture – love for music, art, cinema , literature and a strong sense of community. Here is the song by Purna di. In addition to being such a brilliant artist, she also manages a huge social networking group dedicated to preserving traditional Bengali food.
She says about Shrimp with banana flowers – Mocha Chingri – “A torn page from the days when cooking was not done in a jiffy, time was abundant for mothers and they produced dishes meant for kings!” It’s a leaf from traditional Bengali cooking – skillful, nurturing and full of love. Thanks Purna di, for all the nurturing you do!
Shrimp with Banana Flowers – Mocha Chingri & A Bengali Love Affair
- 1 medium banana flower
- 1 C cubed potatoes
- 1 pound Shrimp. peeled and devined
- 3 C Fresh coconut grated
- 3 green chillies
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbs ginger paste
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- Turmeric : 2 tbs
- 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
- 1 tsp Bengali garam masala powder grind some green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon- all together
- Smear your palms and fingers with oil and a bit of salt
- Watch the link to better understand how to prep the flower.
- Start removing the petals and keep removing them until you reach the actual stalk, where you do see the petals but can’t really remove them.
- Chop the stalk as finely as possible ; take off the small banana buds and slit them open, getting rid of the pin-like stems inside, and SOAK them in turmeric brine for at least 2-3 hours (the more you soak the better it is)
- Strain wash add some fresh turmeric and brine water and steam;
- bring the grated flower out after about 10 minutes and squeeze out the water as much as possible!
- Heat oil in a pan; sauté the shrimps (smeared in turmeric and salt) remove just as they turn color; add the potatoes and fry till they look crisp and golden.
- In the same oil, add bay leaf and cumin seeds for tempering;
- add the coconut and fry till you get the aroma! Add the Mocha , all the spices except garam masala, and cook for 2-3 minutes;
- Add the shrimp and the fried potatoes and half a cup of warm water.
- Cook on high adding garam masala; add the green chillies.
- Remove from heat when the potatoes are fully cooked the curry is rich and creamy.
- Add Ghee, garnish with roasted cumin powder and serve with plain rice!
Link : - How to clean the Banana Flower