destination india

Thursday, September 16, 2004

tiny drops of ecstasy

‘Chhola’ (or gram) is a variety of pulse found in abundance in all parts of India. Also known as ‘chana’, it is extensively used in various delectable preparations of both the sweet and the non-sweet categories. The latter category normally uses the grains as available in the raw condition – namely, golden yellow spherical seeds. For preparation of sweets, however, these are ground into powder called ‘besan’ which transforms into beautiful artistic forms once they pass through the experienced hands of the experts. The most savoury of these is the mihidana. Mihi in Bengali means ‘fine’ and dana means ‘grain’. Mihidana, therefore, literally translates into ‘fine grains’. The process of preparation starts with a batter of besan and water. This batter is passed through a sieve into a pot of boiling oil. The holes in the sieve are such that the batter falls into the boiling oil drop by drop! These are then fried to obtain the required color after which these are removed from the boiling oil and transferred to a pot of syrup made of sugar. Within a few minutes, these are again moved and heaped on to a large flat tray (preferably made of wood) for drying. Finally, dried fruits and flavoring agent like nutmeg are added after which the mixture is ready for the artists touch! By the deft movement of the palm and fingers, the artists convert this mass into round balls simultaneously arranging them on trays for the final garnishing with chopped pistas and kish-mish.
At one time, ready made mihidana mix was a rage in Calcutta. One pouch contained the tiny globules (akin to Homeopathic globules) whilst the second one had the ground sugar. All one had to do to have a mouth watering dish was to dissolve the powdered sugar in water, bring it to boil and add the ingredients of the accompanying pouch – and, presto! Tiny drops of ecstasy were waiting to be pounced upon.
One more sweet variety is the darbesh.
The holes in the sieve here are of a larger diameter. The process is similar to that explained earlier except that color plays a significant role. Three colors are popular – red, yellow and green. Boondies are prepared in each of these colors separately, allowed to absorb the sweetness of the syrup separately and are mixed with dry fruits and flavoring agent on the flat wooden tray. Since the consistency of the syrup is lighter, penetration into each globule is more. In areas other than Bengal, coloring is absent and the boondies are drier. The finished product, in these cases, is called Boondi-ki-Laddoo.
For non sweet varieties, salt and red chili powder is mixed in the batter. The boondies are not soaked in syrup but are preserved dry for subsequent use in raitas as required. Boondie based raita garnished with chopped coriander leaves and green chilies are something one can seldom refuse!


  • At 10:24 AM, Blogger anti said…

    great post mate.
    We call it channa in this country, just a small difference.
    Many people eat it here, singularly, or with bread or barra or in rotis.
    Love the blog now that you've centralised.


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