|Jhal muri, chops, alur dom, kochuri, roshogollar payesh|
Our plate of happiness for Jol Khabar from Peetuk Caterers
Jol khabar, translated literally as water and food, is a Bengali phrase used to describe a snack. Some say that it stands only for breakfast while others say that it could be a small snack through the day. I asked around a bit and saw that the jury was divided on this though an online Bengali to English dictionary & Google does define it as a 'snack'.
I have known of jolkhabar as a snack one could have at any time of the day. In the morning, as breakfast, or post breakfast. Post an afternoon nap with tea. At the college canteen. In between work. On the way home from work.
I must confess that I have been away from Bengal in a while but I do love a good jolkhabar spread for sure.
I guess phrases similar to jol khabar in other Indian languages would include nashta in Hindi and tiffin in Tamil. Are there equivalents in other Indian languages too for such a concept? Would love to know.
At its most basic, jol khabar could consist of muri or murmura or rice crisps. My mom used to have with milk and gur (jaggery) or even cut mangoes in summer as a kid. Mishti, or sweets, are popular too.
At its most elaborate, jolkhabar could include some of the dishes that you can see in the picture at the top of the post. Let me tell you what's there in the picture.
Kochuri, which is a stuffed puri or fried flat bread, made with all purpose flour in Bengal unlike the wholewheat flour used in many other parts of India. The kochuri is stuffed with various sort of spices and condiments to add flavour. The kochuri in the picture above is stuffed with a green pea mash and is called koraishootir (grean pea) kochuri. Traditionally this was made in winter as green peas were a winter dish but now you get everything all through the year! Then there is Radha Bollobi (which is stuffed with lentil bases mash and spices). Kochuris are usually served with alur dom, a garam masala and onion based, semi-dry, slow cooked Bengali dish.
I don't know how to make kochuris and my mother never made them at home either. My grandmom would make a simpler version of this called luchi. These are all purpose flour puris which are lighter than kochuris and don't have any stuffing inside. My granny served luchi with chholar dal (Bengal gram dal) or alur torkari (a simple boiled potato based curry with nigella seeds and green chillies). You could also have it with alur dom or kosha mangsho (slow cooked goat meat).
The croquettes in the photo at the top are what we called chop in Bengal. I guess, they could have been influenced by club food served during the time of the British in Calcutta (anyone has a theory on this?). Chops are a popular street food item in Kolkata and are served in Kolkata's egg roll shops (egg rolls work as jol khabar on the go). They could be made with minced goat meat (mangshor chop) or mashed bhetki fish (machhher chop). Mashed potato is the binder for the stuffing which is coated in bread crumbs and deep fried.
You have a vegetable chop too, which is beetroot and potato based and has fried peanuts in them. You get vegetable chops in the sweet shops of Kolkata in the evening along with shingara (samosa), the other jolkhabar favourite. Shingaras are stuffed with pieces of potato and fried peanuts. In winter the filling includes cauliflower and is then called fulkopir shingara (cauliflower samosa). There is a mishti or sweet shingara too which I think is stuffed with shooji or semolina.
|Vegetable chops with kashundi from Peetuk|
We also had mutton and fish chops
What you see in the paper packet in the picture on the top is jhal muri which is possibly the most popular jol khabar option in Kolkata. It is the Kolkata version of Mumbai's bhel puri. The muri or kurmura base is similar to bhel but the jhal muri has mustard oil at its core and green chillies and sliced coconut and chanachoor (namkeen) and lime juice and peanuts and pieces of boiled potato. All of this makes it different from Mumbai's bhel puri.
Our hard working chef took a break from frying chops and finely chopped onions and cucumbers and then made the jhal muri from scratch before getting back to frying kochuris.
|Muri from Bengal sourced from a shop in Mumbai|
by Peetuk Caterers
Read: An old post of mine on a jhal muri wala in Kolkata
Back home in Kolkata I used to have muri dalmut, a less elaborate version of jhal muri, while growing up. This constitutes of muri and the local namkeens/ farsan, that you get in Kolkata made by brands such as Mukhorochak or Baapi, that are called channachoor.
At it least exciting, toast butter, often with sugar sprinkled on it, or a mamlet (omelette) can be jolkhabar too!
Sweets are a big part of jol khabar and in the plastic bowl in the picture on top you can see roshogollar payesh, a sort of simple and very tasty ras malai.
A true plate of happiness if there ever was one.
|Part of the Jol Khabar menu put together by|
If you have been reading my blog for long, you will probably remember my blogging about parties and get togethers that we used to have in our house. As some of our friends point out ruefully, we don't seem to have these parties as often after we shifted into the house we rented a few years back. I have no idea why. Possibly because I don't cook as often as I did before and a big part of those parties for me was cooking for my friends. I feel a bit lazy to cook these days to be honest.
We had an evening party on Saturday, 4th June 2016. It was joyous and happy occasion. The Gohonzon, or the object of devotion in the practise of Nicherin Daishnon's Buddhism, was enshrined in our house that evening. I had first chanted approximately 20 years back when my aunt introduced me to the practise. I then became a member of the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organisation dedicated to peace and happiness, when I came to Mumbai. I left the practise after a very short though wonderful stint. Life had other plans for me then. I returned to the practice after a gap of about 12 years in the end of 2013 and it has been a life changing experience for me and has given me, and those around me, immense happiness.
The twenty year wait was worth it and now my wife practices too and we were ready to welcome the Gohonzon to our house this Saturday.
|The Butsudan or the shrine in which the Gohonzon is kept|
Behind the flowers our friends sent
We called a few of our friends, who have stood with us through this journey of faith (we couldn't fit everyone in our Mumbai flat), to join us on this wonderful occasion.
I wanted to serve a Bengali jol khabar to welcome the Gohonzon and our guests in the evening. Amit Roy of Peetuk Caterers said he will take care of the food and sent one of his chefs who cooked in the kitchen while we chanted in the hall.
You can here the sound of chanting from the hall in the video below which started as the cooking for the guests began in the kitchen.
My mom in law had dropped in and gamely sat in the kitchen, despite the heat, while the cook fried and chopped and mixed. Then Banu came to work and without being asked, as is her nature, started to help in the frying and chopping. The food was ready to be served just as we finished the enshrinement and the jol khabar started with a refreshing drink of aam panna that Amit had sent.
|The hard working chef from Peetuk|
He was gamely helped by mother in law and then Banu
To make the aam panna, they boil raw (or 'unripe raw mango' as Floyd Cardoz says the rest of the world calls them) mangoes at Peetuk, then squeeze them to get the juice out and filter out the juice and add sugar, jal jeera and some fried jeera (cumin) to the mix. The guests loved the chilled freshly made summery drink of aam pana.
The group consisted largely of non-Bengalis but they did seem to like the freshly made fare including the kashundi served with the chops. The few Bengalis present approved of the jol khabar too.
Kashundi is a spicy and pungent Bengali mustard sauce that you get in glass bottles in Kolkata. In Mumbai, I have seen plastic bottles of kashundi made by Sing Cheyung, a Chinese sauce maker from Kolkata, in grocery stores such as Vijay Store's in Bandra's Pali Market.
Peetuk Caterers makes their own kashundi. When I asked Amit how, he said that they make a paste of yellow mustard seeds along with ginger and green chilli and then blend it with mustard oil, salt and sugar.
Adding to the festivities were the bounty brought by our friends which included books on Buddhism, chocolates (specially for the chocolate loving better half), Sweet Bengal nolen gurer shondesh and some lovely cakes including one baked by someone named Annmarie.
What we cherished the most that evening were the smiling faces in the house and the warm wishes of all to bless us on the joyous occasion.
|Brilliant cake from Annmarie's|
As I sign off, I am going to leave you with some pictures on an evening when our apartment truly felt like the 'Palace of happiness'.
PS: In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that Amit of Peetuk Caterers just refused to charge us and said it was his gift for the auspicious occasion. I strongly recommend him for Bengali catering in Mumbai and his number is 9870126912
I would also recommend Annmarie for the cakes and you can call for them at 9619994487 and do give the reference of Tanya while placing an order.