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Delhiwale: Nepali Aloo Achaar, in an Indian medley

Out of a jumble of languages and cuisines in her family, Alka Bagchi shares a recipe

delhi Updated: Feb 23, 2018 12:38 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhiwale,Dilliwale,Alka Bagchi
Alka Bagchi at her home in west Delhi’s Janakpuri.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The world is one family.

That’s what we are feeling in Alka Bagchi’s drawing room in west Delhi’s Janakpuri. It’s like being in an airport lounge. Everyone is talking in a mix of tongues. We soon learn why.

Ms Bagchi, who teaches Hindi in a high school, is a Punjabi. Her mother-in-law is a Nepali. Her husband is a Bengali. And now, after years of being marinated together, the house chatter has become a mixed pickle of Hindi, English, Bengali, Punjabi and Nepali.

And amid these happy people, we’ve fallen in total love with Ms Bagchi’s father-in-law. Wordsworth’s poems are sliding off his Bengali-accented tongue as casually as Arjit Singh’s film songs roll down from ours.

As happens in such cozy gatherings, the talk quickly shifts towards fish curries, “healthy” corn chillas, and “absolutely delicious” boar meat.“Of course, we make Punjabi, Bengali as well as Nepali dishes in our home,” Ms Bagchi proclaims.

Surprisingly, there seems to be no cuisine-rivalry in the house. Ms Bagchi’s Nepali mother-in-law tactfully expresses fondness for her Punjabi samdhan’s dal makhani, who returns the favour by uttering polite words about her mutton momos.

Expounding on the challenges of a multi-ethnic household, the Hindi teacher amusingly recalls her first week as a new bride.

“I had no idea that Bengalis and Nepalis can be very strict when it comes to eating habits... just three days after my wedding my mother-in-law gave me a bowl of fish curry and I promptly licked it clean right on my bed… everybody jumped in horror!”

Poor Ms Bagchi — “But I was from a Punjabi family!”

Now, she dines only on the dining table.

Wanting to proclaim affection for her Kathmandu-born saas, Ms Bagchi enters the kitchen to make a Nepali delicacy — aloo achaar. “It’s very easy to make. But unlike most pickles, it cannot last more than 10 days during the cold season and in summer I’ll suggest you to finish it off in two days.”

Be warned, the recipe needs two Nepali spices not easily available in Delhi. But the pickle is worth the trouble. We swear.

INGREDIENTS

1 kg Boiled baby potatoes
4 tbsp Seasame seeds
4 Red chillies
3 tbsp Ginger paste
3 tbsp Lemon juice
5-6 Green chillies
To taste Salt
1 tbsp Turmeric powder
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1 tbsp Jimbu (Faran)
1 tbsp Timbur (Pricklyash)

METHOD

Peel the boiled baby potatoes and slit them into halves.
Roast seasame seeds with red chillies.
Make a fine paste of the roasted mix above with the ginger.
Mix salt, turmeric and lemon juice into the paste.
Add this paste into the potatoes.
Mix well, making sure to coat each potato piece with the paste.
Make a seasoning of mustard oil, green chillies, jimbu and timbur.
Pour it on the potatoes and mix well.

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 10:20 IST