I never thought I would be sharing this simple thing. Someone was very curious to know all about the Bengali Aloo-bhate. All I could describe was hidden in the smile that came to me. She felt silly for she did not know how Bengalis make their food take a name even if that preparation was the simplest.As we sat and chatted I told her all about this Aloo thing and she asked me share this as she would like her other friends to read and enjoy the meaning and also the making of this.
Ask any Bengali about aloo-bhate and they will reply, “etato amaar favourite. Aamader badite rooj hoye (this is my favourite and we have it every day).
When a child first starts eating rice, a Bengali mother adds boiled mashed potato to the rice mixes it with some ghee or butter or mustard oil and salt and then adds some dal to it to make a preparation which the child likes to eat. The Mother cuts off small portions from the rice-mix and shapes it like small balls. As she picks up a ball to put it in the mouth of the child, she gives a name to it. She can be heard saying (mona, aaeta hooche kaak, eta murgi, eta… (baby, this ball is a crow, this is a hen, the next is…). She finds ways and means to make the child eat the whole portion she has on the plate. After all a mother has so much to do for her child...Maar bhalobasa (mother’s love).
Why only aloo, the Bengali grihini (homemaker) also adds kancha kola pieces (green bananas), kumro (pumpkin) cut in big chunks, also pieces of green pepe (papaya), dha(n)rosh (okra) and cooks these vegetables like the aloo in the cooking rice pot and then mashes it and enhances the taste by adding mustard oil, salt and some green chillies. Each boiled vegetable has its own distinctive taste and is really healthy. Papaya, pumpkin and okra are good for those who suffer from constipation. But this is so outdated for the new generation, still then this happens in many Bengali homes…I say happen for the aged like this during their lunch and so the happening.
Let me now make some space for the Aloo-bhate for now…
So simple. Take about 1 or 2 potatoes you require for your family.
Pressure cook it. Earlier potato pieces were cooked with the rice and once the water from the rice was drained, the aloo was separated, de-skinned and mashed. So this is more true to its name.
Remove the skin.
Add few drops of mustard oil…that’s the Bengali way. You can add ghee instead of mustard oil.
Mixed some chopped onion, chopped fresh coriander leaves and green chillies.
Can also add fried bodi (vadi) broken into tiny pieces.
Serve with rice for the first helping.
Then you will know Aloo-bhate, maybe befriend it.
© gouri guha 2014