I have been born and brought up in Sindhunagar or Ulhasnagar, or USA (Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association). It is a small Satellite town approximately 60 km away from Mumbai. Growing up, we were the butt of all jokes because we lived in Ulhasnagar, which has a reputation for making fake goods and constructing illegal buildings. I always wanted to break free and move away from there, and I eventually did. One thing, however, stayed back with me was the generosity of my Sindhi friends and neighbours, and the fantastic food that you get in the small forgotten by lanes of Ulhasnagar.
I remember waking up early whenever we had relatives to go to the market and buy “Dal Pakwaan,” which is a traditional Sindhi breakfast. The “Dal Pakwaan” at the restaurant I used to frequent was so popular that the owner used to open the shop at 7.00 am and close at 9.00 am. People used to stand in queues to grab their share of piping hot Dal with crispy Pakwans and rush home to eat it.
Another famous dish of Ulhasnagar was “Chole Pattice,” a fried potato dumpling served with chickpea curry and garnished with lots of mint sauce, tamarind sauce, and onions. After my marriage, every time I visited my parents, I would ensure that I would make the religious trip to “Kishore Pattice Wala” near Gol Maidan to eat the pattice. Or force my mom to make “Seyal Bread,” which was a dish made out of leftover chapatis or pav.
The Sindhi cuisine is very diverse and unique, and Sindhi’s are known for their love of food. I miss this fantastic cuisine a lot, especially now that I am settled abroad, and my parents have finally moved from Ulhasnagar.
So to relive my days, I often make “Sindhi Curry” which is a very easy gram flour curry made up of few vegetables and gram flour. This one-pot dish is not like the other Kadhis you get in India which are made of Yogurt. This one has a Tomato & Gramflour base and then you add whatever vegetables you like. It is not just unique dish but also nutritious and hearty and a staple in Sindhi Cuisine. Known for its distinctive tangy taste because of the two souring agents – Tomatoes & Tamarind which makes it what my taste buds remember as the Kadhi maa made on weekends when we didn’t make the very Punjabi Rajma. Try and make it and see how you feel.
Here is the recipe (cooking time 40 minutes, serves 6)
2 Tablespoons Gram flour (Besan, I love to use the flour that one uses to make Ladoos, it is of a finer consistency and blends well)
1/2 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds (methi dana)
3 Tomatoes blanched in hot water and pureed
Salt as per taste
2 Tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
A mix of vegetables – Diced potatoes, French beans, Okra (bhindi), Drumstick (seengi), Cauliflower florets, Carrots (you can use any of these vegetables), Baby Eggplants
A Big ball of tamarind soaked in hot water
A tsp of Asafoetida (Heeng)
1 tbsp Oil
For the Tempering
2 tsp Oil
5 – 7 curry leaves
1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds (jeera)
1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds (rai)
Step 1 :
Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan or a pressure cooker add Asafoetida and Fenugreek seeds. Once they start to add the gram flour splutter and roast it till light brown on a low flame (be careful as the gram flour can burn quickly).
Once the gram flour is slightly brown, add Salt, Turmeric & red chili powder and start adding water in batches and using a whisk, keep stirring the mixture, so there are no lumps at all. This is important as you want the base to be free of any lumps. Keep adding water as you go. We need around 4 cups of water here.
Once the gravy comes to a boil, add peeled & diced potatoes and cook till they are half done. If using a pressure cooker, cook for one whistle.
Get your vegetables ready – Slice Eggplants into four pieces. Peel and chop the Drumstick, Chop the French beans, Cut the Cauliflower into florets and wash, dry, and cut the top and bottom off the Okra and fry them lightly.
Add the Tomatoe puree to the kadhi and let it come to a boil.
Now add the Vegetables to the Kadhi in the order in which they cook. The key is to ensure the vegetables hold shape and are soft but not mushy. The cauliflowers and eggplants go first, then add the beans, then the drumsticks, and finally the Okra. At this stage if you want to add more water, you can add some more. The consistency of the curry is slightly watery so it can be eaten with Rice.
Squeeze the tamarind in the bowl you have soaked it to make a nice thick pulp and throw away the flesh and seeds. Add this pulp to the Kadhi only after all the vegetables are cooked and let it come to a boil.
In another pan, heat 2 tsp of Oil and the Mustard and Cumin seeds, Curry leaves, red chill powder. Pour the tempering over the kadhi and let it come to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and serve hot with plain boiled rice.