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KAIR, SANGRI

One of the recent highlight of my trip to Jaipur was a dish made with three berries namely kair,
sangria and kumita. I am not sure whether five star hotels are the real place to have the original
experience as they are famous for developing their own version. Out of wild berries growing
freely in the Thar dessert, one of Marwari’s cuisine’s signature dish was born to be known all
around India as a culinary representative of Marwaris of Rajsthan.
Piquant and tangy, Kair-sangri-kumita is a simple vegetarian preparation and an experience of
Rajsthani cuisine is not replete without a curious bite of this otherwise mundane preparation.
Kair, sangria and kumita are actually wild berries which grow abundantly in Thar dessert region
and are there for easy picking. The scarcity of green vegetables and their high prices have
pushed these berries into day to day usage in the home kitchen of Rajsthan. Legend has it that
these berries were discovered long ago during a severe famine which struck the region. All
other natural vegetables and cattle died but Kair (small pods), Sangri and Kumita (long dried
beans) flourished uninhibited during the testing time. Their existence brought joyous
revelations and delightful reactions amongst the inhabitants who plucked all three and took
them to their home for cooking. Of these sangria is a very good source of protein, while the
other two provide the bulk in the preparation.
These three wild berries were put to test with some other ingredients in the absence of water
which came as premium during famine. As there was no water, villagers kept the berries to dry
and sourced out whatever they could lay their hand on at home from their kitchen shelves like
mustard oil, red mathania chilies, amchur (dried mango powder), salt and yogurt. A paste was
made with all the available ingredients and those three dried berries were marinated in them.
The same was stored for some day to allow the pickling flavor to develop; as a result a great
invention was born out of necessity which was consumed with bajre ki roti (millet bread).
Nowadays Kair, sangri are generally soaked overnight for their better utilization, boiled and
then fried in oil, to prepare a mouth-watering delicacy flavored with tints of dried dates, red
chillies, turmeric powder, shredded dried mango, salt, coriander and cumin seeds.These three
berries have survived the test of the time due to its long shelf life when converted to pickle and
continues to be prepared in this ostensibly simple and mundane ways, more so because much
help is available now during famines and floods. This is highly regarded, even today, as one of
the mainstays of Marwari cuisine of Rajsthan.
The modern day kitchen preparation also incorporates the fresh kair, sangri and kumita which is
soaked overnight and then simmered in yogurt based curry. These three ingredients are,
coincidentally, also a contributor to the very well know Rajsthani delicacy called “Panchkuta”
which also comprises of the other ingredients namely. Dried mathania chilies and whole dried
amchur. These are then fried with spices in little oil and served with local bread. They also do
not require refrigeration and keeps well.
KAIR, SANGRI, KUMITA KI SUBJI
¼ cup kair
¼ cup sangria
¼ cup kumita
3tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1tsp cumin seed
2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced thinly
3 cup full fat yogurt
2tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
3tbsp coriander seed
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Salt
For garnish
Chopped fresh coriander
Ginger julienne (matchstick size)
Method:
Soak the kair, sangria a nd kumita in a non-reactive bowl (stainless steel bowl, glass bowl etc.).
Wash, drain the dried berries and discard the water. Bring them to boil in a suitably large pan
for 5-7minutes until done but still retaining a slight crunch. Drain and keep aside.
In a kadhai (Indian wok) heat ghee and bring just to smoking point, add cumin and allow to
splatter, 10seconds. Next add onion and sauté for 5-7minutes until light golden. Add kair,
sangria and kumita and continue cooking until water from the berries is released. Remove from
heat and rest until yogurt gravy is ready.
In a bowl, stir together the yogurt and besan until smooth, bring to boil in a suitably large pan/
kadhai, reduce to simmer, add turmeric and season with salt.
Next, add the berry mixture to the yogurt mixture and continue simmering at slow heat until
the sauce thickens and coat the berries.
Garnish with chopped coriander and ginger julienne and serve with the local bread of your
choice.

Tags: naan, gosht, tandoori, curries, handi, dhokla, chicken, indian food, chana, tandoor

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