A little about my Bong connection:
Probashi Bangali is what I like to call myself. Born and brought up in a small town of UP, I had never really understood the connection that all Bengalis feel with the city of joy. To me Kolkata, then called Calcutta, was my hometown-on-papers while in reality it was just the place where I spent the summer vacations and where all my relatives stayed. It was a place that always used to scare me in my childhood – the traffic… the pollution and the people…. everything. That used to be my connection with Kolkata. On being asked my preferred place for pursuing higher education (which was not to happen in the small town that I was living) Calcutta would figure at the bottom of my list.
I never had the understanding of the culture that we Bengalis are always so proudly boasting of. My parents tried to give me and my brother the most that they could. The bong traits in me resulted in me being a part of the school choir and other cultural groups, wearing glasses as early as in Class 4th (a permanent ornament for the Bongs – sorry for the typecast), developing a sweet-tooth and being what you may call a ‘good student’ (it was a commonly accepted notion amongst us that Bengali kids are the studious kinds). But that was where it ended. I hated Bengali food, could not bear the thought of having plain rice or fish or patla musur dal (lentil soup) or any curry which had sugar in it…. so while my brother was the mach-bhaat (fish and rice) types I was the roti-sabji one. I liked the thick dal with my rotis, loved any cuisine other than bengali and my meals were always accompanied with a fight with my mom for not having fish. I would wait long for everyone to leave the lunch table and then would quietly throw away the fish into the garbage when no one looked (something that I still feel guilty about). I remember me and my brother skipping the Bengali movies on Sunday afternoons on DD2 Bangla channel which my family loved to watch, except obviosuly the Gupi Baga series that even I loved. And though I danced to many a Rabindrasangeet I never really bonded with any of them. Infact I spoke Bengali so poorly that my relatives would make fun of my hindi mixed bengali language.
So somehow when I ended up being in Kolkata after high school (life has its own ways of surprising us!) my family was very – very – skeptical of how I might cope with the city life. And to be honest the first year I hated it terribly.
Life changed for me. The first year when I was staying with my dida.. she made me eat all kinds of Bengali food… from Uchchey shedhdho (Boiled bittergourd) to Loitta mach (Bombay duck fish) to lau er payesh (a dessert made of bottle gourd) – names that I had never heard of. Since I was preparing for my entrance exams that year my only recreation used to be the evening bengali movies that I would watch with my dida… mostly the Uttam-Suchitra or Soumitro-Aparna Sen ones. I learned to travel in the crowded buses and packed local trains, and in that one year stint at Kalyani University a friend of mine taught me how to read and write the numbers in bengali so that I could read the bus numbers. At night when I would sleep next to my dida, she would recite poems to me – what we call ‘abritti’ in Bengali. That’s when I got introduced to ‘Korno Kunti Sombaad’ – one of my favorites – in my Dida’s emotion packed voice. My friends and other family members introduced me to other bengali movies and songs. Hostel life, when I finally joined LBC, was a different chapter altogether. The celebrated menu of any bengali meal – the fish – for which I would have so many fights with my mom – became the only edible food in the lunch menu. The crowded street with all kinds of queer people became my co-passengers. I learned to protect myself and even vocally fight back in many cases in the crowded buses and trains – something that the daily passengers of Kolkata will surely understand. The constant hustle-bustle of the big city became my companion whenever I would feel lonely. Eventually the town girl who was once not sure if she would survive in this city started thriving.
After years of alienating myself from Kolkata – gradually, unknowingly, unwillingly, I started falling in love with it. The city gave me love and joy and a few heartbreaks and tears too… but more importantly made me what I am today. I rose above my biases and opened my heart to the city with all its givings and misgivings and the city, as it does with everyone, embraced me and added a distinct imprint on my life.
I still love to call myself a probashi bangali instead of a true Bangali. My tastes have matured from Bollywood movies to foreign movies and yet I love to watch the mature Bengali movies of the recent years… While I listen to A.R. Rehman and Adele I also have a playlist of songs ranging from Anjan Dutta, Chandrabindoo to Lopamudra and the modern versions of Rabindra Sangeet…Old Uttam Suchitra movies hold more passion and romance than the current Ranbeer-Deepika movies… Though I am perfectly fine with the quiet and peaceful life of the US, there are times when I long for the traffic filled Bypass rides and the liveliness of the city life… While there is no place like New York city or Las Vegas, Victoria Memorial of Kolkata will always hold the memory of the most precious moment of my life… Comfort food ranges from dal bhaat aloo posto, rajma chawal to roti and mixed dal… While I still follow and prefer the North Indian style of cooking Indian meals, I have also come to love kosha pathar mangsho (Mutton curry) with mishti pulao (Rice), the slightly sweetend chanar dalna and I never forget to add a little sugar in my egg curries… While we both are still not crazy about fish, I have found that cooking it little differently suits our palate better. I have tried to imbibe in me best of both the worlds and keep myself open and receptive to the wide world where there is so much more to experience and learn.
Coming to today’s recipe – it is an attempt to accolade my bengali roots that I have come to understand lately. And the one thing that I have realized about bengali cuisine is that given a chance Bongs would put every edible thing in a poppy seed paste with lots of green chillies, maybe add some mustard or coconut and come up with a heavenly dish…! For the countless egg lovers here is a simple Bengali preparation – Eggs in poppy seed paste – Dim Posto
- Eggs – 4 hard boiled, shelled and halved
- Potatoes – 2 small, cut lengthwise into quarters (optional)
- Onions – 1 medium, thinly sliced
- Green chillies – slit lengthwise, 5-6 or to taste. I usually dont use red chillies but you can.
- Poppy seeds – 4 tbsp
- Mustard seeds – 2 tbsp for paste (optional, can skip it)
- Kalonji/Kalo Jeere/Nigella seeds – for tempering (optional).
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp and a little more for sprinkling on the eggs and potatoes.
- Red chilli powder – to taste, if not using green chillies
- Salt – to taste
- Oil – as required. Preferrably mustard oil but I use white oil.
- Water – as required
- Chopped coriander leaves – for garnishing
- Hard boil the eggs, once done keep aside and let them cool. De-shell and cut them into halves length wise. Sprinkle salt and turmeric and keep aside.
- Boil the potatoes half done and keep aside.
- Make a paste of poppy seeds, mustard seeds with salt and some water. I generally use the Sunrise mustard powder which I soak in 1-2 tbsp of water and salt for 15 mins. I grind the dry poppy seeds in a grinder and then soak it in water for 15 mins along with the mustard powder or sometimes separately.
- Heat oil in a pan, fry the thinly sliced onions till browned, drain and keep aside.
- Fry the eggs in the oil with the yellow side facing the pan and the white side up. That way the boiled yolk will not separate from the whites. Once done flip the eggs carefully and fry the white sides. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
- In the same pan, add some more oil if required, heat it and temper with the kalonji / nigella seeds.
- Add the half boiled potatoes with some salt and turmeric. Add green chillies and fry a while.
- Next add the green poppy paste / poppy mustard seeds paste, salt to taste, red chilli powder (if using) and mix well.
- Add some water – quantity according to the desired gravy – and let it come to a boil. This will not have too much gravy so adjust the quantity accordingly.
- Once the potatoes are completely cooked, check for salt and spice. Add salt / chillies accordingly.
- Now you can add the eggs to the gravy and mix it carefully so that the yolk does not come out. Alternatively you can arrange the eggs on a serving dish with the yolk side up, and pour the gravy along with the potatoes on top of it.
- Garnish with the fried onions and chopped coriander leaves.
Serve it immediately. This dish tastes best with plain rice when served immediately after cooking as on reheating the poppy paste gravy tends to dry up.