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November 2004 Issue
Part 2
by Monica Bhide
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The Cooking of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

The state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is home to India’s holiest city of Benaras and the holy river Ganges. The primarily Hindu city of Benaras’s other claim to fame is its silk sarees, the typical attire for Indian women.

When I was child, I had visited the city of Nawabganj (close to Lucknow) from Delhi via a train. Lucknow is a largely Muslim city. My most vivid memory is of a couple from UP who were traveling with us opening their tiffin (a carrier for food) and offering to share with us the most delightful Pooris (fried Indian breads) and some kind of a yellow spiced potato dish. I distinctly remember the food was so good that my cousins and I shamelessly finished off the food belonging to this sweet old couple. They watched with kindness in their eyes and my father watched with embarrassment as we freely ate the food of strangers! Then they reached into their bag and produced the mango. Lucknowi mangoes, even my father could not resist!

Lucknow is also famous for its velvety Kakori Kebab (a kebab prepared with minced meat and many fragrant and wonderful spices), Raan (a whole leg of mutton, perfectly prepared) and the hospitality of their people.

To the outside world, UP is probably best known for its white marble treasure, The Taj Mahal, nestled in the city of Agra.

Bihar is the state where the Buddha obtained enlightenment. It is a state with a colorful past with various rulers leaving their legacy on the culture and cuisine. I have found Bihari food to be simple yet flavorful. The Bihari city of Patna is famous for it unparalleled quality of rice produced here. Rice is served in many forms here, the sweet rice dishes being the most distinctive – powdered rice cooked with clarified butter, milk and sugar. Another dish unique to Bihar is the Makhahe Ki Kheer. Makhanas are puffed lotus seeds and are cooked in milk to prepare this very sweet pudding. Sattu, roasted chickpea flour is used as a basis for many of the dishes of Bihar.

 

Bihari Aloo Ka Bharta

  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons uncooked mustard oil or vegetable oil
  • 2-3 whole dried red chile
  • Salt to taste
In a bowl mash the potatoes and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a ladle or a small saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, onion and cloves.
When cumin begins to splutter transfer the content of ladle to the mashed potatoes.
Roast the dried red chile over slow fire – Hold the chile using a tong and then hold it over an open flame for just a second.
Crush the roasted dry chile onto the mashed potato. Add the salt, and the uncooked mustard oil to the potato mixture. Mix well. Garnish with cilantro leaves before serving.
 

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