Granny diaries ... Didu's chide bhaaja

Warning: Long, rambling piece of nostalgia with a recipe tucked in somewhere
It rained heavily at Mumbai through Saturday.

After breakfast at Candies (what lovely chicken sausages, juicy, nice and salty, with the occasional amazing bite of gristle) Kainaz suddenly felt like a spontaneous drive down the Bandra Worli Sea Link. Problem is so did nine million other Mumbaikars. So we headed back after I spent a few teeth gritting moments behind the steering wheel trying to get out of Bandra.
Woke up in the evening after a nice lunch and snooze. The rain was still on. We have a few big trees surrounding our place and there is no track more divine than the sound of rain falling on leaves. Took me miles away from muggy Mumbai. A bit like the monsoon scenes in those Africa films we grew up on - Born Free, I dream of Africa and the ilk.

Very romantic no doubt. I felt like a hot coffee and something to munch on. Problem was that there was nothing to munch at home!!! And it was raining too heavily to head back to Candies.
I racked my brains - no dalmut or chips (Kainaz tries to make our house a trans fat free zone), nothing that I wanted to order home, in desperation I even thought of Maggi noodles.

Then I suddenly remembered a snack which Didu, my Mom's Mom, used to make for us. This is called chide bhaaja (fried rice flakes)... but more on that later.

Grandparents are the coolest folks in the world. This is a universal truth. They are far more chilled out than one's own parents. I guess they are immune to all shocks after raising their own children. So freedom, liberty and justice is what you get when you go to your grand parents with any problem or anything that you want.

Universal truth number two is that in most cases you are that much closer to your mother's parents and therefore your maternal grand mom. The story is the same whether it was about Kainaz's Mamma or my Didu. If you want to be spoilt, indulged and pampered ... head to granny!
Didu is a commonly used Bengali kiddie abbreviation for didima which is what you call your mom's mom. And I guess that it is fine to use it even you are in your mid thirties.
We stayed with my grand parents for about a year after my father passed away. And it was during one of those evenings that she made chide bhaaja. I liked it so much that I made her a do a couple encores that evening itself. I was a chubby nine year old and could pack in quite a bit even then.

Didu was, and is, my favourite cook. I was quite fussy when I came to India and wouldn't touch Indian food. But her luchi (Bengali fluffy puris) and chholar daal (gram pulses) were dishes that I would eat by the bushel. As were her parathas (fried rotis) where I would pack in around ten at a go with a bowl of ketchup (child is the father of man anyone?). I remember her making pantuas (gulab jamuns) during my first visit to India when I was five. I refused to eat those suspicious looking black dumplings at first. Then I had one. And she had to make it three to four more times for me during that trip as I couldn't stop having them. No wonder that I wanted marry her when I was eight!

Didu is hurtling towards her eighties now. With every possible ache and ailment. But like Kainaz's granny used to, Didu keeps asking us about our health (!) when I call her to ask about her health.
And she still rustles some invisible reservoirs of strength to make luchi and chholar daal for Kainaz and me when we go to Calcutta. And these aren't easy dishes to make.

Now for those of you who wanted to know about chide bhaaja and were patiently travelling with me on a nostalgia trip... I had no idea what the recipe was! But that never stops me.
In fact I had seen a similar recipe in a blog on Oriya Food. Now I don't know if this a right time to say that I rarely read recipes. But I like the Oriya blog a lot as I have discovered that there is a lot of similarities in the food of Bengal and that of the neighbouring state of Orissa. It's just that the names are slightly different. For example Chide bhaaja versus chuda bhaaja.
If I had read the recipe there, which I just did, I would have seen that it is quite similar to Didu's.

But since I didn't here's how I made this very very easy dish and I think it turned our pretty well. In fact Kainaz who wasn't hungry and abhors chide agreed to and had quite a few spoons.
Naati's (Bengali for grandson's) chide bhaaja recipe (seven minutes cooking time)
Ingredients:
  • A handful of Chide (Bengali) aka chuda (Oriya) aka Poha (Marathi) -- these are dry rice flakes
  • A table spoon of finely chopped onion
  • A tea spoon of kalo jeere (Bengali) AKA kalonji (Hindi ?) AKA onion seeds (English)
  • One finely chopped green Indian chilly
  • 2 table spoons of Olive oil ( we live in a generation where is oil is a four letter world unlike in Didu's time)
  • A bit of salt and black pepper powder

Process

  • Heat a tea spoon of olive oil
  • Add the kalo jeere and let it crackle
  • Add onion and chillies and let them fry (I love fried onions and fried chillies)
  • Add the chide, stir
  • Add a bit more oil and you will see the chide puff in glory
  • Add salt, pepper, stir, end of story



A fantastic evening snack to have with tea or coffee, especially when it is raining, and takes less than ten minutes to make.

I got very excited and called Didu up in Calcutta after I had the chide bhaaja. These calls are not easy to make. It is very difficult to hear this superwoman, who had raised all of us without a single complain, talk about her ailments. Right now she is recovereing from jaundice, is weary of stomach stones, has a very bad knee pain, has to run the house, shop, cook, make the bed, put up the mosquito net, and look after my Dadu (my grandpa). Dadu, who is well into his eighties, has his set of illnesses, is hard of hearing and pines to go to Puri on a holiday. One feels very helpless since all one can do from another city across the country is to make the odd phone call. It is difficult to picturise her using a stick.

Anyway I told her about my making chide bhaaja. Suddenly a new life came into her weary voice as she begun telling me about how one has to fry the chide FIRST in a lot of oil till the chide swells up like flowers, then add onions, chillies, peanuts (which she asked me to keep at home) and green peas in winter. She said she used to often make it in Delhi.

Actually the order of chide first and then everything is similar to what was there in the Oriya food blog. But hey, that's me, I stumble upon recipes, I don't read and follow them.

Something tells me that Didu forgot her paining knees for a few minutes during the call as she narrated the chide bhaaja recipe to me.

What are your favourite granny stories?

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