The colourful story of the last ilish in the fridge and the return of red rice


I had forgotten how long red rice takes to cook and the executive decision to take today was to whether let our cook Banu make rotis for lunch and leave the rice that was boiling away in the kitchen for dinner instead. She comes late to work and the rice was still uncooked well after she had put it on. Even though I had soaked it for an hour before she came. I was famished and frustrated. You do not want to know me when I am in that state. Raging Bull would seem like a Buddha in comparison.

I decided to grit my teeth and wait. There were the last two pieces of ilish (hilsa) left from what I had bought for K's birthday. A lyaaja (tail) for her and a gaada (back) for me. Those would be smeared with turmeric, red chilli powder and salt and deep fried in green chilli seasoned hot mustard oil. You cannot have ilish with roti, I thought, and canned my own suggestion of Banu's making rotis and waited patiently for the rice to cook.

I moved to red rice a year back as a part of what I call my #LittleJackHorner meals. My attempt to eat better, more sensibly and in an age appropriate manner. Red rice has more fibre than basmati I am told and a smaller amount of it satiates me in comparison to in the case of basmati. I developed a taste for red rice over time and it became my rice of choice at home.

Come the lockdown and this ended. We used to buy red rice loose from Vijay Stores at Pali Market, Bandra. They stopped stocking it after the lockdown due to supply issues. It is hard to get the Vijay Stores folks on the phone and I do not know if they are stocking it again. I moved back to a basmati only rice diet through the lockdown till Kainaz spotted a brand of organic red rice in Nature's Basket and ordered it for me online. It was worth the wait! The third variety of rice that I use, ambe mohor, the local equivalent of Gobindo Bhog is not easily accessible yet. There were folks who raised their eyebrows when I posted pictures of eating Bengali fish dishes with basmati. I thought that the best strategy is to ignore them than get into sharing the story of my life.

Giving company to the ilish maach bhaaja and bhaat (rice) today was the bhindi (ladies fingers in onion and tomato) that Banu made, Bengali kalo jeere phoron mushuri dal (orange masoor with Nigella seeds) that she made with my recipe and Parsi bheeng garab nu achar (hilsa roe pickle) made and sent by our friend Zinobia Schroff.

I was enamoured by the colours on my plate as I sat down to eat. They held me in a spell. Made me forget my earlier hunger induced angst, which soon changed to bliss as I wiped my plate clean and did a #chetepute with it.

Lunch turned out well as the nap that followed proved.

PS: For those who asked, chetepute means licking your plate and fingers clean in Bengali. A sign of really enjoying your meal.

Update: 3rd September - We called Vijay Stores and they delivered today. Bought ambe mohor. They said they have red rice too. Number: 002 26499533