Among the tribals of Bastar, monsoon months are known as haduk. They are the lean months when grains in the house are used up in sowing and the new harvest is yet to arrive.
It is a time to go creative with food, a time for trying out nutritious and tasty wild vegetables. The tribals believe in eating local, seasonal food. These are medicinal and provide strength. In early July, the tribals pluck tender bamboo shoots after they grow up to one foot in height. Some also sell bamboo shoots. For the next few months, bamboo shoots become the staple food.
Slivers of bamboo shoots are dried and can be stored to be cooked later. Other food options become available in September. But if you are looking for new recipes to impress your family and friends, Bastar is not the right place. Cooking is minimum. Pej—a soup made of rice, mandia (ragi millet) or corn—is the only dish cooked regularly. Elaborate meals are a rarity in this area.
Sour and low on calorie
Aamat, a tangy soup made with bamboo shoots (known as basta in Gondi and kareel in Chhattisgarhi), is the only dish which has a detailed list of ingredients and preparation method. Aamat also means sour in the local dialect. The recipe is low in calorie and highly nutritious. Bamboo shoots are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and high in fibre, vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, protein, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin and iron.
Aamat can be easily altered to suit different palates. The preparation is long and needs patience; accompaniments of rice or pej are optional. Lachandai Netam, an elderly resident of village Leda, who provided Down To Earth with instructions on how to prepare the dish, said tribals in the region consider vegetables grown in the wild as good for health.
Aamat when eaten hot, keeps cold, cough, chest infection and other common ailments of the season at bay. In case of fever, it is effective in removing the bitter taste in the mouth as well, Netam added.
Traditionally, aamat is boiled (Bastar tribals do not consume much oil), but the younger generation, thanks to urban influence, prefers to add an oil seasoning or tadka to make the soup tastier.
Proportions of ingredients can be altered according to taste or depending on what is available in the region.
HAND - ME - DOWN RECIPE
Ingredients: (proportions according to preference)
Black gram (kala chana)
Vegetables like drumstick, potato, brinjal, onion and beans are the preferred ones. Avoid sticky vegetables like lady’s finger and bitter gourd
Ginger-garlic-green chilli paste
Preparation: Soak black gram overnight. Peal and finely chop bamboo shoots and boil them till they get cooked in about four times the water without covering. Drain out the water. The bamboo should remain crisp, but not bitter. The boiling process also removes the poisonous substances in the shoots. Wash the shoots in clean water and drain again. Soak the rice for a while, dry and grind it to a fine powder. Chop vegetables.
Method: Take a big pot of water. Add black gram, bamboo shoot chips, turmeric, salt and boil the water. When the black gram is half cooked, add the vegetables, beginning with the slow-cooking ones.
Add ginger-garlic-chilli paste and tamarind pulp to the mixture and stir till the vegetables are fully cooked. Let it boil for a minute on high flame. Stir the rice powder slowly till lumps get dissolved and the soup reaches the desired thickness. Serve it hot with rice or pej (rice soup), or by itself.
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