A Vegetarian Thali dedicated for the 6thday Of the Durga Puja in Bengal, a journey across the taste buds
Durga Puja is a huge affair in India, especially in the region of Bengal, a religious festival at its core; it celebrates the ‘Devi Shakti’, the celebration of the divine goddess power winning over the power of the demons. It is a six day festival, starting from the sixth day the days of the names are respectively sasthi, maha-saptami, maha-astami, maha-navami n vijaya-dashami. In some parts of India, Navratri is being celebrated at the same time and the tenth day of Navratri is the day of the Dashera/ Vijayadasami. This puja is widely celebrated across the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal.
It is a fantastic festival, the biggest Hindu Festival in all these states and as years pass by the celebration only gets bigger n more colorful. Though it is a religious festival, everything about life comes to life during this time-food, fashion, music. It is the food scene which gets interesting here-I can actually divide the whole range of food during the festival in 2 categories, one will be the food for the Puja and another will be food not intended for the puja. The food that is offered during the 6 days to the goddess Durga is mostly vegetarian, though on certain day fish is offered to her. All the food that is offered to her is termed as ‘Bhog’, which is food offered for the divine. Interestingly most of the vegetarian food is cooked without onion n garlic. Bhog is cooked in enormous amounts at times, which is offered to the goddess and then distributed to the people worshiping her and the food is considered blessed.
So on the 6th day of the puja this year I went to my kitchen and cooked up 6 dishes and 1 salad which made up my puja thali. ‘Thali’ is the word meaning a whole meal served in one big plate, the plate can consist of dishes from 6 to 16! However often several small bowls of food are served alongside one big plate and all the savory n sweet comes together in the package. So there I was with my first ever puja thali, in fact my plan was to cook a new thali for each day and to present it with all of you, but my computer did crash just then! May be it was a divine plan!
For this thali I made 6 dishes, one CHOLAR DAL/CHANA DAHL, which is a lentil dish, a dish of green beans n potatoes pan-fried with spices, deep-fried flat bread called LUCHI, SAFFRON PULAO/PILAF of Govindobhog rice, VERMECELLI PUDDING /SEWAI PAYESH, PLASTIC CHUTNEY of green papaya and a simple salad of cucumber n tomatoes and fresh strips of coconut.
The ‘CHOLAR DAL’/ ‘Chana Dahl’ is a savory lentil dish, flavored with coconut n hing (asafetida) n green chilies the taste is balance of salty n sweet. Very subtly spiced with turmeric, its color is light bright yellow and it is fantastic paired with the deep-fried flat bread ‘LUCHI’ or ‘POORI’.
‘LUCHI’ is made from plain flour, they puff up as they are being deep fried, lightly crisp on the outside n soft inside, the proud moment of a LUCHI is when it has puffed up with a lot of air inside him!
The ‘Green Beans with Potato’ is spiced with ginger, cumin seeds, red chili powder, turmeric, coriander. The green beans still have a little crunch in them while the potato is soft n has absorbed all the flavors together. This dish is good paired with the saffron pulao of ‘GovindoBhog Rice’ which I served.
The ‘ GovindoBhog Pulao with Saffron’ is made using the ‘GovindoBhog’ rice , the rice grains are small in size and they are very aromatic, they impart a beautiful flavor both to sweet n savory equally, so much so, they are often used in cooking the food for the gods-‘BHOG’ and often at home where something special is being cooked. The pulao is flavored with saffron, cloves, green cardamom, a touch of turmeric and raisins are added to them.
The ‘Simui/Sewai/Vermicelli pudding’ is a sweet dish, made from thin vermicelli strands with milk, Ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, Indian bay leaf, it gives fulfilling sweet feeling, I like it cold.
The ‘Plastic Chutney’ is sweet chutney of green raw papaya, light n fresh in its taste. The thin papaya slices becomes translucent being cooked in sugar syrup, so they look like tiny plastic chips. The chutney has the flavor of the papaya, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, lime juice, sugar, raisins and it also has the crunch of the almonds in between. Fantastic stuff it is.
So in this post I guess there will be 6 recipes, in fact 5 because you can read about plastic chutney in my previous post. So hold on dear reader because simply it’s a lot of cooking.
For The Recipes:
For the recipe of the Plastic chutney it is already in my previous post, here is the linkhttp://thetaleofasaltedsoul.blogspot.in/2014/05/plastic-chutney.html
So there it is-The Fantastic Thali for Durga Puja especially for the 6th day, sasthi. In fact you can cook it on any puja occasion and it will be delight to eat. Serve it to your loved ones and see their faces light up, which is fantastic thing you will agree. So come on in, the Thali is waiting. Bon Appetit.