Featured in the Delicious Links in The Kitchn.
Here we are waiting and praying for a few drop of rain. The earth is cracking in deep veins, dry and thirsty.The cool summer green has given way to patches of yellow and brown and an inexplicable stillness in the air. The scorching sun at 100 degrees and above, has been beating down on Texas for the past two months without mercy.
But the monsoons had arrived in India while we were there, the rain and the clouds bringing in relief and transforming the heat into a soothing, calming green -
The rains also made our trip comfortable,
Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan India
and less tiring.
Hotel Udai Kothi – Udaipur, Rajasthan India
and Begunis are inseparable from the monsoon lyrics in Bengal.
The thunder marched in like a drum roll, followed by the drizzle which soon turned into a steady downpour satiating the thirsty earth. I woke up with the rains beating against the windows and could hear the calming swish of the tree branches that swayed with the cool wind. My girls were curled up by me on the bed, breathing softly in deep sleep like little kittens. All of a sudden I went back to my student days – the days I would have to travel and the monsoons were taken with mixed feelings.
The rain usually throws the city and transport into a fit; the muddy slushy roads and the delayed trains and buses always got us late, but the ecstasy of getting wet with my friends never diminished. Some days we reached school to see that it was a rainy day holiday and came back with more energy than we left in the morning. We stood by the open doors of the public trains, opened our raincoats and wrapped our book bags and drenched ourselves – our feet resting in a pool of water that settled in our black polished mary janes.
We had the entire day to spend together doing nothing but severe mischief.
College days were a little different; I used to meet A briefly in the morning on my way to my college. Young love, nascent romance and under one umbrella in the rain was definitely not the same ecstasy as my school days, but lovely and worth every second.
The rain at home feels quiet different. It makes me a bit sad and reminiscent, but not the unhappy kind.
It is also a nostalgic feeling that makes me want to stay by myself and make a trip down the memory lane – thinking and wishing for a million things -every droplet churning and creating memories.
The rain in India also calls for deep fried delights. It is almost a tradition, probably in all parts of India to indulge into deep fried savories, tea and company when it rains. The downpour provides a perfect excuse to stay home, call on friends to come over and make a celebration with a snack party for no good reasons other than friendship.
Beguni is a traditional Bengali recipe. The eggplant/aubergines/brinjals are sliced, coated with chick pea batter and deep fried until crisp. Often times these are served as a side with a meal – esp. with dal and steaming hot rice or with Khichuri. But they are also perfect rainy day snack and are enjoyed with a bowlful of Muri (puffed/krispy rice) . The savories are also a popular street food.
Many years back the “beguni” would be served during the wedding feast and me and my ma looked forward to this more than anything else. It is sad that this tradition is almost dead and the “beguni” is no longer a part of the wedding feasts. This humble delicacy has been replaced by more exotic menus.
Beguni- Batter Fried Eggplants
- 1 small fresh eggplant/aubergine/brinjal, (about 7-8 inches long)
- 1 + 3/4 cup besan/chickpea flour/gram flour
- 1 cup water, or as much needed to make a thick batter
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (Optional)
- a nice pinch of baking powder
- salt to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon nigella/kala jeera/kalonji or white poppy seeds
- kala namak or rock salt (a culinary salt) to sprinkle on the fritters (Optional)
- oil for deep frying
Note: The amount of ingredients for the batter (flour, water and the spices) will change with the size of the eggplant. Adjust amount to your needs.
Wash the eggplants/brinjal/aubergines and pat it dry. Slice the eggplants/brinjal/aubergines vertically, and then slice each half into half moons – about 1/4 inch thick slices.
Combine salt, turmeric, red chili powder (if you are using), besan/chickpea flour, baking powder, and also the kalonji/nigella or the white poppy seeds.
Add the water to the flour mix and whisk well till the batter is of the consistency of a paste, but a little more runny – the kind that coats the spoon, but drip out slowly. Make sure there are no lumps.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed wok/kadai/pan.
Use a small tong and dip the brinjal slices in the batter; coat the slices well and gently shake off the extra. Slide each one into the really hot oil into the frying pan.
Fry in batches and fry till they are deep golden brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle rock salt/kala namak, toss and serve them as a snack – piping hot.
and savor every bite….