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I am in Boston. I am Irish/English, and live in the US. I was a cook in Hare Krsna temples/restaurants in England, Ireland, & Caribbean for 15-20 years. So I learned to cook from Indian people, mostly from Bengal and Gujarat. Its what I am used to cooking and therefore my comfort food.

At the moment in my house is a big bubbling bowl of iddli batter, and I cant get wait to get home and eat it. And that’s about all I can say for myself.

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Dear YajnaPatni,

A very warm welcome. Hope you will write often about your experiences in the ISKCON kitchens. While i have never eaten there, have heard much good about them. Have you cooked at Sridham Mayapur? My foster mother, from whom I learnt everything in life, was very close to Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati and Bhakti Hriday Tirtha swamis, and would help cook at Mayapurat every festiva!

I can surmise that you are an idli expert; hope you are a luchi and kochuri expert as well; we badly need people who can introduce more Americans and Indians to the delicacy of luchis and Bengali vegetarian cuisine. Oh yes, the wonderful khecharanna, as well! So please, do write often and start lots of new threads.

Warmest regards,

gautam.

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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How wonderful! What wonderful people your family members sound like!

I have never cooked in Mayapur, the last time I was there I was 17 or 18, in 1982. I remember chopping a lot of vegetables.

I was going to post on the earlier Poha thread, the big mind blowing event of that trip, aside from being an Irish teen in the middle of India, was a huge plate of poha with yogurt, banana and mango and gur. I ate it at a big festival with kirtan and it was the most sublime mixture I had ever tasted. That and Sukta, which took me much longer to appreciate!

And luchi.... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I try really hard not to fry anymore, as it tends to stick to my hips. But luchi and sooji halava is a very wonderful combination.

Thank you very much for your warm welcome.

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Chopping vegetables? with bontis, and on your first trip to India? Now that must have been quite an experience! That and the heat+ humidity, as i surmise by the presence of mangoes that you were there, what, July-August? Please do write about your phalar experience in detail in the poha thread. Were your parents ever at the famous Panihati festival in Haora, which had been initiated by Srimanmahaprabhu, and the very combination of mango. Banana, poha gur and yogurt you describe is de rigeur? That, and the fun of Harir Loot, where confections are thrown on the ground in joyous merriment, and everyone rushes to pick them up amidst much laughter.

Friends on this forum probably suspect me of being a crazy Bengali making up outrageous claims for weirdo Bengali foods! You are my witness! By the way, did you ever reconcile yourself to the fried neem leaves and Neem Begoon or Eggplant with neem leaves? My very favorite, but certainly an acquired taste. Also, have you ever worked with Kurma? Too many questions, but am so excited to find someone who has visited Mayapur.

I had written Monicaji, that the huge katahas/woks of Mayapur bubbling away with khichri and feeding thousands definitely are one of the wonders of traditional Indian kitchens. Would you have any photographs?

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Yajna Patni,

I have no idea what lochis or kochuris are but from the sound of it, they sound absolutely divine. As a vegetarian who has had absolutely no introduction to bengali vegetarian food, I exhort you to educate us further and maybe even post a couple of recipes so novices like myself get a chance to taste them as well?

eagerly awaiting response,

w@w

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I have no idea what lochis or kochuris are but from the sound of it, they sound absolutely divine.

A "Loochi" is the same as a "poori", except maida (all purpose flour) is used instead of atta (wheat flour?). This makes it a more white looking, and also gives it a different texture. Bengalis traditionally eat "loochis" and not "pooris".

A "kochuri" is a similar thing, except it has some sort of a filling (usually mashed cooked green peas) inside.

A "Khasta kochuri" however is a different thing -- its a much harder, and more spherical thing, usually had as a snack -- I have no idea how its made.

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The green pea filling Bong mentions is especially delicious, and the kachauri is then fancifully called Radha-ballabhi [‘of Radha’s lover] when rolled thin. You can also fill it thicker in a thicker crust of frozen puff pastry and bake for another type of kachuri traditionally made of two rounds of dough stuffed with filling and closed with beautifully fluted edges.

Fresh green peas are best but frozen ones will suffice. They are pureed raw [food processor, not blender], and delicately spiced with a ginger-fennel paste, a bare hint of red chile powder, salt and sugar to taste, A very light touch with the spices .so as not to kill the pea flavor. In hot oil, add asafetida powder, then this raw, seasoned puree, cook until raw smell disappears. Cool and stuff. Potato tikkis can be stuffed with this filling.

Now that I have stood in for Bong for the pea recipe, I shall leave that good gentleman to fill you in on pulir pithey and the Bengali redaction of malpua, something quite appropriate for Janmashtami, although tedious to prepare. It is one of the only sweet dishes where I have found this strange but good commingling of the following spices: coarsely crushed black cardamom, ditto fennel, ditto black peppercorns. Don't let him run away!

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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You are bringing back so many memories. bubbling enormous woks of kitchere, and innumerate sadhus lined up with banana leaves.

And radha ballabha katchoris.... those are so so good. I haven’t had them for years. I can see this will be a cooking weekend.

I never knew Kurma, but i did know Yamuna quite well. We cooked in the same kitchens in England for several years. Also I think she has a recipe for malpua that is not so difficult.

The heat and humidity and general strangeness of Bengal really overwhelmed me. I came home with rolls of photos, but I couldn’t even remember what they were of when I got home…it was the poha and sukta that i can still taste in my mind nearly 20 years later!

I really like eggplant and neem, but I never make it. I have never seen Neem for sale here.

I will see what i can come up with for recipes, but I am not great at that. I learned to cook watching people, and tasting stuff and figuring it out, so I am not very good at writing it down. Yamuna is the only book I have really used, ( starting with a typed draft of her first book many years ago), except for Aroona Reejingsahni, and she doesn’t really give recipes as much as general ideas... cook it till it is done, a nice amount of maida etc.

See, I talk too much! But food is one of my favorite topics, and you are all making my mouth water!

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Hi Yajna Patni,

Welcome to the forum. I have had many ISKCON friends over the years and learned alot about Bengali and other vegetarian cooking from many of the institutions fine cooks. Even had a few good conversations with Yamuna about food 6 or 7 years ago(on the phone). ISKCON was my intro to Indian food in the late 80's early 90's. Never made it to Mayapur(decided on Puri instead, but that is a whole other story), but tasted the prasadam at Vrindavan.

All this talk of luchis and kachoris is making me want to go the nearest Sunday feast!

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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i have comforting memories of having a great dinner at the restaurant in Juhu, Mumbai during my teenage years at the then recently opened ISCKON temple. It was quite dramatic to have experienced the temple (not the restaurant) with my 3-year old African American son 2 years ago - but we did manage to share samosas and batata vadas at the cortyard food stall.

Raghavan Iyer, CCP

Winner of 2004 IACP Award of Excellence (formerly Julia Child Awards): Cooking Teacher of the Year

2003 James Beard Awards Finalist for Best International Cookbook - The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood (St. Martin’s Press, 2002) -

Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking (Wiley, 2001)

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