It’s Poila Baishakh. The Bengali New Year. As a kid, other than another holiday which meant fun filled moments with friends and endless games, Poila Baishakh also meant new clothes. The curious child in me always used to have this question, why a new set of clothes on this day as this is not Durga Puja, neither my birthday – Ma used to say it’s a new beginning, so new clothes are a good gesture for the same. Its indeed a new beginning.
The day normally starts with touching the feet of the elders at home and seeking blessings. The scorching heat during this time is never a deterrent to the cause of the sumptuous lunch, which will include a mandatory classic dal (lentils), some deep fried vegetables or fritters and Mangsho (goat meat). Unlike most of the daily Bengali lunches where fish is mandatory, this day the fish is optional per say, although most of the houses end up having fish in addition to mangsho. As like the lunch the afternoon nap is also necessary and then the evenings would be putting on the new clothes (if not already worn during the day), visiting relatives (if they have not already met them over for lunch) and if little adventurous with the power of a great digestive system, a plan to dine out and majority will like to partner with the Chinese (the alternate Bengali cuisine). Yes, like all other occasions Bengalis love dining out and it’s not a matter of surprise that all the dine out places will have a queue and no tables can be reserved. Like the tulips in Europe, which are very short lived and while they are there, the entire place looks too colourful, the sweet shops in Kolkata come up with all the best sweets possible during this time and it is a gala sweet affair to fall in love with.
Some cult sweet shops in kolkata which cannot be missed on Poila Baishakh
How can I forget that my first tryst with a Satyajit Ray book happened over Poila Baishakh and from the least expected source. Bengali New year also has a ritual of the shops inviting the loyal customers on this particular day to attend the Puja that they hold and offer a calendar and box of sweets too. I don’t remember which class I was in, but one of the initial years when I knew Feluda (the legendary private investigator created by Ray) but was yet to own a book of him; one particular store was giving away books as gifts and I had my first copy of Satyajit Ray and more importantly, Feluda. I still remember that Poila Baishakh evening when Baba handed over the surprise book to me.
This occasion is made special with people around, friends, relatives, adda and even meeting some of them once a year and that too, only on this day. What else can be a better occasion than to rejuvenate the relationships with your aunt, take a small stroll down the memory lane with grandparents, a peep into the future with your son and also wishing to have them all around the next Poila Baishakh.
Cleaning of the house and kitchen in particular, during this time is a ritual which gets performed every year. Being fussy about cleanliness has its own merits and demerits but if someone is fussy about the cleanliness in kitchen then it really helps to avoid numerous unnecessary germs and bacteria dwelling around. Fortunately for the family, both the women sharing the kitchen are fussy about it and as we have a 4 year old kid we need to be extremely careful about not only the kitchen, but across the house and Godrej HIT definitely is a very helpful partner in that.
It has been sometime that Godrej Hit has become a trustworthy name for almost all households since its inception in 1991. Be it the HIT anti roach gel which is perhaps one most trusted friends and worst enemies of cockroaches or other HIT Black spray and HIT Red Spray, I dont remember a single monthly grocery which didnt have HIT peeping out from the bag.
When it comes to food, this New year we are going to make a fish which is traditional as it has mango as one of the ingredients and unconventional as it also uses dates. Here is the recipe.
Bhekti Tok Jhal Mishti (with Raw Mango, Mustard and Dates)
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Time: 15- 20 Minutes
|Bhekti||500 gms (abt 4 pieces)||Raw Mango||1 small|
|Dates Seedless||4 -5||Mustard Paste||3 tbsp|
|Turmeric Powder||2 ½ tsp||Red Chili Powder||½ tsp|
|Panch Phoron *||1 tsp||Mustard Oil||2 – 3 tbsp|
|Green Chili||1 -2||Sugar||1 tbsp|
|Salt||As per taste||Water||As per requirement|
(* For those who do not know what is a panch phoron. It is quite widely used in most traditional Bengali recipes. “Panch” means 5 and “Phoron” means flavor. It is basically a mixture of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in equal quantities, measured in weight. )
- First marinate the fish in salt and 1 tsp of turmeric powder. After 5 – 10 minutes, shallow fry in a little bit of mustard oil. The fish must be very lightly fried.
- Take the fish out and keep aside.
- In a wok, heat mustard oil and add the panch phoron. The seeds will start to splutter. At that point add the dates. Immediately, reduce the heat or else the panch phoron will burn.
- Add the balance turmeric powder, chili powder and little bit of salt.
- In low flame, cook the dates till they are soft and mushy. It takes about 3-5 minutes.
- In the meantime, skin the raw mango and deseed it. Then make a paste of the same in a grinder.
- Once the dates are mushy, add the raw mango and continue cooking and stirring from time to time.
- After a couple of minutes, add the mustard paste.
- Keep stirring so that it doesn’t catch at the bottom of the wok. It takes a few minutes for the raw mango to cook completely.
- Add a little bit of water (as per your choice of consistency).
- Add the fishes and bring the gravy to a boil.
- At this point, split the green chilies and add to the gravy.
- Add the sugar and then finally check on the seasoning.
Serve hot with steamed rice.