Va­ri­ety comes home

Snack, curry or soup, be spoilt for choice with the nu­tri­tious vadiyaan

Down to Earth - - FOOD - SANGEETA KHANNA

DUR­ING A re­cent trip to Ut­tarak­hand, I was walk­ing through the vil­lage of Dhanachuli with a few friends. One thing that caught my at­ten­tion was huge, yel­low cu­cum­bers dan­gling from trees and sturdy hedges. Th­ese cu­cum­bers are so heavy that the vil­lage peo­ple use large trees and pieces of wood to support the vines.There is so much fruit in one sea­son that a fam­ily is un­likely to fin­ish the en­tire har­vest.

Till now I had only seen my friends from south In­dia make sam­bar,pachadi and cur­ries us­ing this large va­ri­ety of cu­cum­ber. I was cu­ri­ous about its use in the hills and wanted to find out more when I came across a few women work­ing in the fields. One of them sur­prised us with a fiery and de­li­cious chut­ney made from pa­hadi kheera to be smeared on the cu­cum­ber ba­tons we were en­joy­ing as our hy­drat­ing snack.

The vil­lage res­i­dents use the har­vest quite in­ge­niously.The raw,ten­der cu­cum­bers are used to make raita and curry and the ripe, seeded ones are used to make vadiyaan. Th­ese nuggets are made by mix­ing the grated flesh and seeds of ripe, pa­hadi kheera with a paste of urad daal (black gram) and some ba­sic spices. The mix­ture is then sun-dried. The urad daal fer­ments in the first three to four hours of sun-dry­ing. While the pulp is rich in fi­bre, the seeds are rich in both fi­bre and omega-3.When cooked in a gravy, the pulp and seeds soak up enough wa­ter to be­come soft and de­li­cious.An in­tel­li­gent way to en­sure nu­tri­tion through sim­ple meals.

Vadiyaan are the ul­ti­mate way to pre­serve abun­dant gourds, es­pe­cially those that be­come fi­brous as they ma­ture. It brings the

much needed umami flavour to food. Even sea­sonal gourds and pump­kin are cooked with vadiyaan for great taste and added nour­ish­ment.

A veg­e­tar­ian's de­light

Almost ev­ery veg­etable can be used to make vadiyaan.Pyaz vadiyon ki subzi can liven one’s palate after ill­ness or when sea­sonal vegetables taste in­sipid dur­ing the rains.The slightly hot curry made with sautéed onions and vadiyaan is the spicy onion soup for the In­dian soul. I have al­ways loved Am­rit­sari vadiyaan, and cur­ries like aloo vadiyaan and pyaz vadiyaan were my favourite till I ex­pe­ri­enced the bain­gan vadiyaan from the Mithila re­gion of Jhark­hand.

In the plains of cen­tral In­dia, plain vadi with moong daal is called mungodi. Lauki aur mungodi ki subzi is a tra­di­tional way to churn out a spe­cial veg­e­tar­ian treat in this re­gion. In Mad­hya Pradesh, vadiyaan or bi­joda is made us­ing lentil paste,some sea­son­ing and spices and a lot of mixed seeds like pump­kin seeds, sesame seeds,flax seeds and melon seeds.This bi­joda is not cur­ried like the reg­u­lar Am­rit­sari vadiyaan but is deep fried.A ready snack that can be en­joyed with tea.

Vadiyaan are popular in other states too. In Hi­machal Pradesh and Ut­tarak­hand, the stem and leaves of the Colo­ca­sia plant are used to make vadiyaan. Colo­ca­sia grows in abun­dance along the rivers and rivulets in the moun­tains. The stems are chopped and mixed with urad daal paste to make pa­tod badi, as vadiyaan are called in Ut­tarak­hand. The same vadiyaan with slightly dif­fer­ent sea­son­ing are called sepu badi in Hi­machal Pradesh.

Another va­ri­ety that is pre­pared in Jhark­hand and Odisha is minia­ture drop­shaped vadiyaan called tilouri with a lot of sesame seeds em­bed­ded in them. This is a mix­ture of urad daal paste, salt and sesame seeds. The paste is piped on a dry cloth and sun-dried. The tilouris are deep fried and served with rice and daal as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment like pa­pad.

Vadiyaan are usu­ally made with a paste of urad daal as the slimy na­ture of this lentil holds the in­gre­di­ents to­gether to form a disc- like shape. Urad daal is the most nour­ish­ing of all lentils grown in In­dia. Plain urad daal in it­self is con­sid­ered flat­u­lent be­cause of its high phytic acid con­tent, but vadiyaan make it more di­gestible owing to the fer­men­ta­tion and pre­bi­otic fi­bre.

As I write, I am re­minded of matar ki vadiyaan cooked by my grand­mother when­ever there was a sur­plus of peas. Matar ki vadiyaan was added to a sim­ple aloo matar ki subzi. In those days,peas were used in many ways. In to­day’s con­ve­nient times of frozen green peas,we do not think of us­ing matar in any other way apart from adding them to pu­lao and cur­ries.My grand­mother also made vadiyaan with grated ash gourd to­gether with its seeds and urad daal paste. Lightly fried vadiyaan pounded with raw garlic pods, lime juice and salt served as a de­li­cious chut­ney.

Vadiyaan brought flavour to every­day meals, and each fam­ily had its favourite style. Adding va­ri­ety to food was eas­ier back then. There was no need for stock cubes or pack­aged spices that to­day come loaded with preser­va­tives to ex­tend their shelf lives. To ex­tend the shelf life of sun-dried vadiyaan by more than a year,some women dried them in the sun in the next sea­son as well.

Vadis can be made and used in a va­ri­ety of ways.Ben­galis are quite cre­ative.The plain urad daal vadiyaan are called bori in West Ben­gal. Crisp, fried vadiyaan are of­ten sprin­kled over some curry and en­joyed with boiled rice. It has be­come a cel­e­brated tra­di­tion in the state for women to make vadiyaan be­fore Durga puja. Spe­cial vadiyaan are also made dur­ing the har­vest sea­son. Th­ese are called goyna bori (or or­na­ment vadi), and are shaped like del­i­cate mo­tifs of or­na­ments like pen­dants or ear studs. Mo­tifs of pais­ley, flower or paddy in­flo­res­cence are also carved out and sundried. Th­ese are more of an oc­ca­sional treat for es­teemed guests, par­tic­u­larly for son-in­law, and for fes­tive oc­ca­sions. Sangeeta Khanna is a food and

nu­tri­tion con­sul­tant

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