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?

Comments

Sharmila said…
I dry roast the chire first till it is no longer raw. And then do the rest ... have posted it loooong back. :-)
I know I have so many of my granny stories too... Everything she makes is the best I feel. My granny makes the best mansa tarkari (goat curry). But the gravy was so watery - after all she had to feed a battalion of 13 kids + an army of servants....
I am glad you could chear up granny for few minutes....
spi ce and more said…
Hey nice post...very evocative of the monsoon season in India. I appreciate the English words for the spices too - otherwise I would have been totally lost! I will have to give this one a try...something different from my usual approach with poha.
As for grandmothers favourite - my grandmother used to make an amazing prawn biriyani...not replicable by anyone, even my mother.
spice and more said…
Meant to say too - I love the new home page photo. That food looks fantastic...I want some!!
Sonia said…
No no no! Not the end of story.
Process
It should be
Add salt, pepper, stir, Eat/Munch,
repeat process, Munch,
repeat process till you are full and can't pack in any more :D
end of story.
That's how much I love the recipe. We call it Chuda bhuja :)
Miri said…
Bhajias for me on a rainy day :) I know, I know, deep fried and all that - so bhajias have become a four letter word here too. But hubby wasnt home the other evening when it poured (and I always maintain that I dont have to watch my calories, in fact need some more!lol) so decided to give the daughter her first taste of bhajias - kanda and batata!

The chide bhaja looks very interesting and must make a lovely snack!...and if memories of grandparents are attached then it must be even more evocative!

Unfortunately I hardly knew my grandparents - living so far away from them, hardly saw them once a year during our summer vacations. My Dad was the youngest of four siblings, so they were quite old when I came along and passed on when I was quite young....

Miri
Rhea said…
My Ma makes it a little different, but in the end it IS chide bhaaja.. N yummy too! She just fries the chide. And separately, saute cauliflower with finely chopped up onions and dried red chillies and green chillies. Scramble an egg or two. And just mix the whole thing together and season with salt and yes, a little bit of sugar (shaad'er jonnyo! :). It tastes heavenly!!
The knife said…
@Sharmila...do you fry it too...there used to be these guys in cal who would roast and sell chide with peanuts on the streets
@Somoo... the first time I had poached egg was from my other gran who said how my dad and his six siblings shared one... how? I heard the story and had three. was seven then
@Spice and More... prawn biriyani...wow!!! the pics from istanbul where we ate some great stuff on the streets
Rhea... that sounds exotic, Anthony Bourdain would do a feature
@Sonia: that's a lovelier ending...thanks
@Miri...I can only envy you :( I tried to sneak a mutton chop during breakfast yesterday. Got caught. And it was confisticated!!!!
Manasi said…
My ajji's home made goda/kala masala. I would eat karelas cooked in that masala and I DON'T like the vegetable :)
Mumbai Diva said…
it was tea and pakodas at our place on sat evening.....It really rained so much. I badly wanted to go out for dinner but it just wasn't possible....had to order in....
The knife said…
M D ...pakoras are divine in the rain

Manasi...would need a granny's magic wand to make one have karelas
Bong Mom said…
Ektu age phone eleo amar Dida mara gechen, khub hope korchilam ei bochor giye dekhte pabo. Ta ar holo na. Tomar Didu'r chire bhaja pore khub bhalo laglo
The knife said…
Sandeepa, khub kharap laglo shunle. Ei shob shomoi onno shohore thaaka is really tough. Aami kichhu din dhore bhaabchhilma kolkatai ghure aashbo. Er por aaro eechhe hocche... make your Dida happy by making her favourite dish. Take care, Kalyan
k said…
kalyan i could dedicate an entire blog to granny stories.