Foods of India – Kutchi Memon Cuisine

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Introduction

While the fare on Cutchi (Kutchi) Memon tables is legendary, it is a little known fact that these recipes are considered sacred and guarded zealously by the owners of the keys to paradise. Those who do not qualify by bloodline have often received the recipe for sheekh kabab without the ingredient that encourages the mine to adhere to the skewer. This is a matter that has triggered suspicion, speculation and conspiracy theories that could rival the plot of many a bestseller.

Muslim food is a generic term loosely used to describe food that is rich and heavy on meats. Cutchi Memon food is Muslim food with a difference. It is only available in Cutchi Memon homes. There is no restaurant that serves the kormas, sukha goshts and biryanis that they serve within the precincts of their home. The balance of flavors is robust, gentle yet hearty and what’s more, in Cutchi Memon homes, the aromas greet you before the hostess does.

Cutchi Memons have no culture of soup or salad. A salad when served, would comprise a plate of circular, sliced cucumber which would most likely remain undisturbed during the meal. Their food uses garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, tomatoes and yogurt – and all the inherently medicinal and therapeutic herbs and spices to excite the mind and soothe the soul.

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Khatti Dal Gosht (Tangy Lentils with Mutton) | Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 500 gms mutton on the bone, cut into 1 ½’’ pieces
  • 1 cup pigeon peas/ arhar or tuvar dal
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 5 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 ½ tsp zeera-methi powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 6 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Seasoning:

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 whole dried red chillies
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 12 curry leaves

Method:

  1. Put the meat in a colander, wash and set aside to drain.
  2. Put the meat, dal, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spice powders, salt and 1 litre of water into a pressure cooker. Pressure-cook for 10-15 minutes after the cooker reaches full pressure.
  3. Open the cooker when cool, remove the mutton with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Blend the remaining mixture in a food processor, till the dal fuses with the cooked ingredients.
  5. Reunite the mutton with the blended ingredients.
  6. Add the tamarind pulp, and cook for 10 minutes, till the dal has the consistency of a gravy. The tamarind gives the mellow flavors a healthy punch.
  7. Put the oil in a pan on moderate heat, till it smokes. Toss in the seasoning ingredients and allow them to crackle and release their aroma into the oil. When the garlic cloves begin to brown, lift the pan and pour the oil and its seasoning accompaniments into the dal.
  8. Give the dal a gentle stir. Sprinkle in the coriander leaves and serve.

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Masala Vada (Spiced Gram Dumplings) | Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups husked Bengal gram/ chana dal, soaked overnight
  • 4 medium onions, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp ginger paste
  • ¼ tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 8 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped dill/ sua bhaji
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • Oil for deep frying

Method:

  1. Strain the soaked gram through a colander and rinse thoroughly. Drain out the water completely or else the vade will not form properly.
  2. Mix 2 tbsp of the strained gram with the onions and set it aside to be used later.
  3. In a food processor, grind the remaining gram into a coarse consistency.
  4. Add all the other ingredients, except the oil and reserved gram and onion, to the coarsely ground gram and knead them in.
  5. Now you may add the reserved gram and onion. Mix it boldly into the kneaded mixture.
  6. Make 1 ½ ‘’ balls of the mix, flatten between your palms and fry in hot oil, till they turn golden brown.

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Kofté ka Saalan (Spicy Meatball curry) | Serves 6

Ingredients:

KOFTÉ

  • 500 gms mutton, minced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 7-8 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 5 almonds, blanched and peeled
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • A pinch of turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup husked Bengal gram/ chana dal, roasted and powdered
  • 1-2 tbsp yogurt (if required)

CURRY

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, quartered
  • ½ tsp ginger paste
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, puréed
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • ¼ tsp saffron strands soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk

SEASONING

  • 6-8 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 3 x ½ ‘’ cinnamon sticks

GARNISH

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

Method:

KOFTÉ (MEATBALLS)

  1. Wash the mince and squeeze out water completely by clenching it in your fist. It is important to squeeze the mince dry or else the kofté will not form.
  2. Reserve the mince, gram and yogurt and put the remaining ingredients for the kofté into a food processor. Grind the ingredients without water. If it is too dry, add the yogurt.
  3. After the ingredients have been ground, add the mince into the food processor and grind only till it mixes into the remaining ingredients. Over-grinding will make it pasty.
  4. Add the roasted, powdered gram and mix well.
  5. Make small 2’’ balls and keep them on a platter.

CURRY

  1. Put the oil for seasoning in a pan on moderate heat. When hot, season with the whole spices. Add the onions and fry to a golden brown.
  2. Add ginger and garlic and fry well for about 5 minutes sprinkling in water as required.
  3. Mix in the spice powders and salt and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, till a seamless masala is created.
  5. When well fried, stir in the yogurt gently.
  6. Sprinkle a little water if necessary, bring the broth to a boil and add the meatballs, leaving them to cook on moderate heat without disturbance for 10 minutes.
  7. Pour in the lime juice. You can now reduce the broth to a gravy consistency.
  8. Add the saffron-infused milk and simmer for a few minutes.
  9. Garnish with mint and coriander leaves.

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Imli ki Khatti Meethi Chutney (Sweet and Sour Tamarind Chutney) | Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 200 gms fresh tamarind, without seeds and strings
  • 500 gms jaggery, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 4 dates, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Wash the tamarind. Soak it in 2 cups of warm water for 15 minutes, till it softens.
  2. Cook the tamarind with the soaking water on moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, till a thick pulp is formed.
  3. Remove from heat and press it through a strainer, till you have extracted all the pulp.
  4. Cook the pulp on moderate heat and add pieces of jaggery while stirring continuously, till they form a cohesive blend.
  5. Mix in the chilli powder and salt.
  6. Stop cooking when you achieve the consistency of jam.
  7. Stir in the dates and set aside till cool.
  8. Fill into clean glass bottles and refrigerate.

Source: Hajra’s Recipes of Life, for Life by Hajra Mohammed.

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