The all season congee with mashed potatoes that fuels Bengali kitchens across the world. Made with the rice that the Gods love to feast on. Fyana bhaat/ alu sheddo bhaat with Gobindobhog rice
|Fyaana bhaat (with admittedly less fyan/ starch than optimum in this case), alu sheddo, deem sheddo,|
dhyarosh, fulkopi sheddo. Hopefully it won't sound Greek to you by the time you finish reading this post.
Let me tell you about a rice that even the Gods love to feast on
It's all about ageing and maturity
Nothing gives me as much sorrow as overdone, soft and squishy rice does. Hence, I am very careful when I cook with Gobindobhog.
When I do call her on the phone though, I make it a point to ask what has been bought from the market. What has been cooked at home. She first points out in her reply that she barely has any appetite these days. She then proceeds to tell me about her dinner plans and what her cook is cooking, a bit of life returning to her voice. At times she goes into details of how these dishes are cooked. Talking often from memory and not practise. Her voice firm and confident again for a short while. Making me wish that I could have recorded her voice.
More than its taste and texture, many would say that it is its aroma that makes Gobindobhog special.
It is all about respecting your ingredients as our grannies always knew
|My attempt at a Gobindobhog choriz pulao. Not the best|
use of Gobindobhog
One night I experimented with the Gobindobhog rice Anindya gave me by making a choriz pulao by adding the Goan sausage that I had brought back from Goa recently. I didn’t follow any recipe. I boiled and cooked the choriz and then added pre-boiled Gobindobhog to it and mixed the two together with peppers and potatoes and sliced onion.
|Khichuri with Gobindobhog, begun bhaaja (fried brinjals) & maachh bhaaj|
(fried rohu). Gobindobhog at its most beautiful
|Gobindobhog Kimchi rice at Toast & Tonic at Bengaluru|
It didn't take kindly to the excesses that went into its making
Fyana bhaat memories
Fyana bhaat, or sheddo bhaat as it is called too, is a dish that I grew up on as a kid. It makes for a handy and filling one pot and one dish meal. A dish that my parents told me that they used to make in the UK. It was made later in our house in Kolkata when we moved to the city by my parents on days when they were busy and tired. And later, after my father passed on, on days my mother would be back late from work and when the cook had not come.
I remember refusing to eat it one night and my father lost his cool and snapped at me and said, “khaabe to khao, na khabe to na khao (eat it if you want or go hungry).” His reaction caught me by surprise. He had never scolded me before in the nine years of my existence. I guess as children we never sense the stress and strain that our parents shield us from.
I soon took a liking to the dish though and did not fuss when my mother would make it in for my brother and me in the years that followed after my father passed on.
A congee by any other name
|The start of the second chapter of my fyana bhaat story|
The recipe narrative
|The final dish. I had drained out most of the 'fyan'. I should have kept some|
Egg protein to power one on
|With your hands is the only way to eat fyana bhaat|
Mashing the yolk to it feels special
I added the ladies fingers towards the end as I were worried they might overcook. Though, to be honest, I used to love the sliminess of the ladies fingers when I would mix into the rice as a kid.
It all came out well at the end.
My only 'mistake' was that I had drained a bit more of the water than I should have and the meal lacked its characteristic slight soupiness. The rice was soft but not squishy. Gentle is how I would put it. Nurturing. Draped in a hint of the moisture of the fyan.
Alu sheddo. The potato mash that unites the subcontinent
I added some red chilli powder to the one I made the other day. My mother would put butter and pepper and make it the ‘English way’ for me as a child as I did not like mustard oil. As most on Twitter and Facebook said when I put up pictures of it, shorsher tel, lonka, peyaj (mustard oil, chillies and onion) are non-negotiable in making alu sheddo. I did add them them this time.
They remain our secret. Not to be shared.
I was first introduced to the Assamese alu pitika by Gitika Saikia. The Biharis call it alu chokha I was told on social media. In Punjab it is called alu bharta said my blogger friend Monika Manchanda. In Bangladesh, it is one of the many types of bhortas.
Call it by whatever name that you want, the alu sheddo is comfort food for the entire Indian subcontinent for sure.
|Alu sheddo in focus|
When my mother saw the picture of my plate, she told me that fyana bhaat with Gobindobhog is indeed special.
You can imagine from the smile on my face, the joy that sitting down to the meal, after plating and taking pictures for Instagram, gave me!
|My fyaana bhaat smile|
Here's a little video that I did before I sat down to lunch that day: