Do you really need a good reason to eat some Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday?
It has been proven that Pohela Boishakh – the Bengali New Year – happens to be the largest and the most widely celebrated festival celebrated by Bangla speaking people all over the world. Overcoming the boundaries of faith, Bengalis from India, Bangladesh and all around the world, celebrate the advent of the new Bengali year with frenzy and fervour.
Not that you have to live in Putney and cut knee to make some chutney out of some green mangoes. This mouth-watering ‘aamer chutney’ or ‘Mango chutney’ – a savoury side-kick making special appearances in Bengali dining can be made very easily as long as you can get hold of some green (unripe) mangoes from Indian shops (Bengali, Srilankan shops may also sell these). The speciality of this mango chutney is that ‘man….this goes’ with just so many Bengali food dishes.
It is time again to shake things up with some Shak-it-baby! The group of leafy vegetables which features so prominently in typical Bengali culinary heritage that one really can not stay away from them for too long. Not long ago, I shared with you the story of Pui Shak and how with some prawns and pumpkins, this super veg could turn things around in your kitchen. In this episode, we switch focus on another shaking member of the same family and that is the ubiquitous lal-shak or red spinach, also called as red amaranth.
The erstwhile Viceroy of India Lord Curzon would have thought twice before proposing to split Bengal in 1905 had he been regularly fed on yellow split peas (Cholar Dal) with some luchi.
If we should call a ‘spade’ a ‘spade’, then there should be no shock to call ‘Pui Shak’ – Pui Shak. Sure to quench the thirst of the curious minds, I am talking about Basella alba which is also known under various common names, including Malabar Spinach, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach and Ceylon spinach among others. However, given this is also a leafy vegetable making frequent appearances in the lunch and dinner menu in Bengali households that the true honour will be to call it by the name it is called at home – Pui Shak!
Mark my words when I say that the future will not only be bright but also will be bright red. This is because red is the most auspicious colour in the Chinese culture and with the Chinese New year just round the corner, this is high time to turn up the heat and turn red with some succulent Sichuan style prawn and chowmein.