Food

Avatars of bhog

Durga puja bhog took a twist at Bhattacharjee House, Shibpur, Howrah when hunger and deprivation hit Bengal in 1942. Following a dream commandment from the deity, the Bhattacharjees started to offer banana stem and green amaranth dishes as part of their bhog spread which was distributed to the people. A ritual started then, is now an integral part of this 300-year-old puja.

The nearly 250-year-old Baishnab Das Mullick’s Puja (one of the most famous Bonedi Barir Pujo in Kolkata) offers annabhog (rice-based bhog) to Ma Durga cooked without salt and turmeric powder. The cooks who make it have worked with the Mullick family for generations.

In 1901, Belur Math Durga Puja was started in the presence of Swami Vivekananda and to this day serves khichuri bhog to devotees during the pujo. The bhog includes rice, ghee rice, deep fried seasonal vegetables (bhaja), two or three types of pulses, many vegetable dishes, and several types of freshwater fish curries.

The Chanda Barir Puja that has been on for 33 years offers a lavish bhog to the deity from saptami to navami. Some of the dishes are sada anna (rice), holud pulao (sweet pulao), bhaja, chutney, sweets along with fish and mutton curries. Sondhi puja bhog (evening prasad) includes fried fish and duck egg curry is a part of their navami bhog.

Puja bhog, actually a part of Naivedya, is an essential phase of Hindu worship where devotees offer various foods to the Deity. Bhog offered during the four main days of Durga Puja are sumptuous and of course, vary from family to sarbojonin (community) puja.

Usage of garlic and onions is strictly prohibited in puja dishes, even for fish or mutton curries. The mutton curry, niramish-mangsho, is cooked with cumin powder and ginger paste as predominant spices. Some families, in keeping with tradition, offer uncooked rice, lentils, and veggies to Ma Durga as the bhog.

Some families offer kochur shak (taro leaf stems) and panta bhaat (fermented rice) with other accompaniments on dashami as a mark of sadness that the idol is leaving, hence nothing can be cooked in the kitchen.

Ashtami however, holds a special treat for Bengalis. Anticipation for the bhog begins with the morning fasting. After offering the Ashtami Anjali, one gets slices of fruit as prasad. In the afternoon, people gather at the puja pandals to get piping hot khichdi bhog. A common khichuri platter in a sarbojonin puja pandal would consist khichuri, torkari/labra (a semi-dry mixed-veg dish), beguni or begun bhaja (fried brinjal), tomato chutney and payesh.

Khichuri bhog is the most prevalent bhog as it’s distributed largely to the devotees. This rather satisfying bhog gets its authentic flavour from two important ingredients — Gobindobhog chaal (rice) and Sona moong dal.

Being an unparalleled yet humble dish of every puja, khichuri still varies from family to family. I’ve learnt to cook this from my mother. Her recipe was quite basic with just rice, lentils and potatoes and we loved to devour it after every puja. Over the years however, I’ve tweaked her recipe and here is how I cook Bhoger Khichuri.

Bhoger Khichuri

Ingredients

380 gms Gobindobhog Chaal

250 gms Sona Moong dal

½ tsp Cumin seeds

¾ tsp Turmeric powder

2 Bay leaves

2 Whole dry red chili

½ cup Peas

3 Potatoes (medium sized)

2-3 Green Chillies (cut into halves)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp Ginger paste

2½ tbsp Sugar

½ tsp Garam masala powder

½ cup Grated coconut

½ tsp Dry roasted Cumin seeds powder

2 tbsp Raisins

Mustard oil

3 tbsp Ghee

5 cups Water

Method

Dry roast the cumin seeds till fragrant, cool and powder with a mortar and pestle. Set aside. Peel the potatoes, and cut into two equal halves. Wash and keep aside. Take a pan, dry fry the moong dal on medium heat till golden brown. Remove, wash the dal once and keep aside.

In a deep bottomed pan, add the washed rice, dal, turmeric powder, water, salt, potatoes, green chillies and one teaspoon oil. Let the rice and dal cook together. When it is half cooked, take another pan and add three tablespoons of oil. Temper with dry red chillies, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Add ginger paste into this. Mix and stir fry for a few seconds. Transfer this masala and peas into the khichuri and mix well. Check to see if the water is sufficient to boil the rice and dal. If required, you can add some water. Keep in mind this khichuri is supposed to be semi-dry. Now check after 10-12 minutes, the grains of rice and dal should be visible but at the same time they should get mashed when pressed. Add ghee, sugar, grated coconut, roasted cumin seeds powder, raisins and garam masala. Mix and cook for two or three minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Serve hot with beguni, labra and bhaja (deep fried veggies).

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2020 6:05:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/avatars-of-bhog/article19769360.ece

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