Mochar ghonto – a quintessential Bengali recipe
Mocha or banana flower is one of the more complex Bengali cooking but it brings out the flavors of rural Bengal – fields of paddy, fresh rain on dry earth, and the green smell of ponds…..
On a recent visit to Delhi, had some mocha chops at My Calcutta restaurant. So, inspite of its robust flavors, it is not merely the terrain of a home cook. Once the basic prep method is complete, it can be moulded into various forms – chops, kofta curry etc.
In US, banana flowers can be purchased from Indian and Mexican grocery stores in Bay Area. The first step in prep is the hardest. Peel the purple layers of the Banana flower to expose the banana blossoms. For each blossom, pull down the stamen. This will pull a translucent skin alongwith. Remove the stamen and the skin from the blossom and drop the blossom is a large bowl of water.
When the blossom becomes very small, it won’t be feasible to carry on with this removal step. For these small blossoms, use whole. When the flower is fresh, these blossoms are cream colored. As they lay around, they get oxidized and get dark. Your fingers may get a little sticky during this process – use a little vegetable oil to clean your hands if necessary.
Rinse the blossoms clean, pulse through food processor. In a pressure cooker, add 3/4 cup water, the chopped blossoms, 1 tsp curcumin and 1 tsp of salt. Close pressure cooker, place on high heat. Once it reaches full pressure, reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 7-8 min. Take off the heat. Let cool. Use a strainer to drain off the water. Gently squeeze the cooked blossoms – you don’t want to make a paste, just make them clump a little.
Ingredients (serves 4 generous portions):
- 1 cup raw ground coconut (available in frozen section of Asian grocery stores)
- 1 cup 2% milk (Lactose free if necessary)
- Aromatic spices – Ground together seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, 5 cloves and a 1 inch bark of Ceylon “True” cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp mustard oil
- 3 Bay leaves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp garlic-ginger paste
- 1 Idaho potato, skinned and chopped in 1 cm blocks
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves for garnish
Mix coconut and milk. Cannot be substituted with coconut milk – you will lose the crunchiness coming from ground coconut. Set aside.
Heat the mustard oil until smoking. Reduce to medium. Add bay leaves and cumin seeds. Add the ginger-garlic paste. Fry for a few minutes. Add the potato cubes and toss until golden brown. Mix the cooked blossoms. Fry gently for a few minutes.
Now add the coconut and milk mixture. Mix gently, add salt and red pepper and cook until the potatoes are cooked through and the liquid evaporates. You may need to control moisture and heat content by increasing the flame (or closing the lid and reducing heat) if potatoes are cooking quickly (or taking longer to cook). At the end, add the aromatic spice blend, toss and switch off the flame. Serve hot with chopped coriander leaves – excellent with chappati accompanied by daal and raita.