Recently while travelling by train, I had fun watching people eating food at stations along the way. Though stalls or kiosks sold essentials like water bottles, biscuit packs, fruit and namkeen or salty fried food, it was the local peddlar and chaiwala who were the most sought after. As one travels the vast Indian country by train – a great gastronomic journey unravels, local specialties adding colour and flavour!
At Nagpur station, the arriving train from Delhi stopped for 2 minutes. After having eaten paneer, parathas, kachori from Delhi, it was time to taste local Nagpur food. Saoji cuisine, a very spicy and masala laden cuisine is popular in Nagpur. The special spices used in making the gravy of Saoji food include black pepper, dry coriander, bay leaves, grey cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ample use of Khus -khus or poppy seeds and powdered coconut. This is mostly used for Mutton or chicken non vegetarian food preparations.
Today at the station, I tasted a local winter favourite – Matar Chatpata. Matar or spicy peas, sold for Rs. 10 in small plastic cups by the local vendor. Peas grow plentiful in winter season, largely in North India. Shelling peas often transforms into a bonding household activity, wherein the family gathers around a charpai or mat. Nagpur people like their food chatpata – spicy and tangy. Saoji cuisine is NOT for the faint hearted, beware!
Matar Chatpata – Nagpur Style.
Not for the faint hearted! So do adjust the chilli and spice!
1/2 kg shelled peas (or 1 pack frozen peas)
1 medium onion
2-3 green chillies ( adjust to your taste!!)
salt as needed
1/4 inch ginger,
1 tsps. cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cooking oil
fresh coriander for garnish – optional
Shell the peas from the pod and boil in water till medium soft. Drain and keep aside. Coarsely grind the chilli, ginger and some salt. Keep aside. Lightly roast the cumin seeds to let out the aroma. Coarsely crush them, once cool. Cut lime in half or wedges, remove the seeds. Remove the top skin of onion and chop lengthwise.
Place large, thick bottom wok or pan on stove and pour required amount of cooking oil. Add the chopped onion and chilli -ginger paste and roast lightly till strong aroma fills your kitchen. Keep tossing, add little salt to avoid browning.
Add the boiled peas and roasted cumin powder. Toss lightly, adjust salt and chilli to taste. Break off stem and leaves of fresh coriander coarsely, and garnish the pea preparation.
For a rustic look -serve in small individual eco friendly cups made from dry leaves (check local markets). Squeeze a dash of lemon before serving.
Enjoy the hot chilli taste on the palate – toned down by sweet peas and tangy lemon. Ooooooh, hot,hot beware !!
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