I never grew up hating mooli, unlike many I know. To me it was one of those aberrations, something that you found floating in your sambar one fine day, and stared at suspiciously, surprised by its crunch on your palate, while the mother explained, “I didn’t have time to go to the market, and there was nothing at home.” But you wondered why she was being so apologetic, as it tasted quite good anyway.
So this is not going to be one of those radish rants. I honestly don’t find its odour pungent or putrid or whatever they claim it to be. At least I never had to hold my breath while negotiating a mooli.
There was a time when Samovar beckoned every once in a while with its mooli parathas and pudina raita served with an assortment of chutneys.
Nowadays I go to Guru da Dhaba in Lokhandwala for my mooli cravings. I am not the type who will labour over parathas, and my cleaning lady-turned-cook has just about managed to get three recipes right so far, so it’s a bit early to get her to graduate to mooli parathas. And all my Panju friends have vanished into thin air, so I’m not getting fed at their homes any more.
Unlike many others, the mooli’s sharpness in taste is something I can deal with—nothing that a dash of lemon can’t beat though—I think lemon is the best antidote to all things that are still making up their mind whether to be nice or nasty to you.
Coming to think of it, there’s plenty you can do with mooli. You could cut it into strips, rub some lemon and pepper onto it, leave it be for 20 minutes and then stir-fry in mustard oil, adding salt, red chillies and amchoor, till all the water dries. Makes for a great starter.
Alternatively, you could make khatte lachhee, ala Punjabi style—a tangy side of grated mooli and its leaves, green chillies, salt, and a garnish of the sweet sour date and tamarind chutney (ala bhel). If there’s no chutney, tamarind pulp, slightly sweetened will also do the job.
Salad or raita?
And of course, the ubiquitous mooli raita—Grated mooli, mixed with dahi and chaat masala — very cooling, and not smelly at all.
I often make a mooli salad with pomegranates, where I chop the leaves and the tuber really fine, add lots of lemon juice, a dash of chaat masala and salt, and throw in the pomegranates. The latter offsets the residual sharpness (if any, after all that lemon) of the mooli and also gives makes for an aesthetic blend of colours (okay, I art-direct my food, but what’s wrong with that?)
Recently, I stumbled into a Gujju recipe (courtesy my friend Dipti) that got my taste-buds into a frenzy. It looks like a lot of work, but believe me, it’s not.
* 1 cup wheat flour
* 1/2 cup besan
* 1/4 cup oil
* 1/2 cup mooli (grated) + leaves (chopped)
* 1 tsp red chilli powder
* 1 tsp lime juice
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
* Salt, hing
To garnish: Chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut
1. Grate the mooli. Chop its leaves. Mix both.
2. Mix both flours, grated mooli and leaves, chilli powder, salt, haldi, sugar and lime juice.
3. Add some the oil and knead to a soft dough, adding water, little by little.
4. Make balls and shape into 1” diameter rolls.
5. Steam the rolls for 10 minutes.
6. Cool, cut the rolls into desired size.
7. Heat the remaining oil, temper with mustard seeds, add the muthiyas, saute well for a few minutes.
8. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut.