“Cut the kumro and the potato into thin matchsticks,” that was the instruction my Mother gave me over the call I had with her to brush up my Kumror Chenchki recipe.
Now, chefs and cooks all over the world will tell you that cuts in cooking matter. Those who say cut/chop any which way you want to, have no inkling how dicing is different from chopping, and chopping from slicing, and juliennes from slivers.
We Bengalis love to separate and categorize our vegetables by the different styles of cutting. The dalna will have diced vegetables, while the jhol should have them cut lengthwise. The alu bhaja ought to be little juliennes while the eggplant for beguni should be sliced thick, thick enough to be deep fried crisp. The lau for lau chingri should be kuchi kuchi, while the same lau which goes into making chholaar dal should be cubed!
While most of us now rely on our obedient kitchen knife, traditionally the bothi was the weapon of mass destruction in a Bengali kitchen. It could peel, dice, julienne, slice, shred, roll cut, parallel slice, you name it!
That ubiquitous bothi stayed on the cutting edge for many generations. The last to use it in our family is of course my Mother, who would peel the paka kumro with it first, then cut thick slices of it to cut into think matchsticks for the Kumror Chenchki. Next the potato was angled in a way that even peeling it with eyes shut seemed doable. From a long distance only.
I did not inherit bothi workmanship from my Mother. So I think I am more like my Father, who couldn’t do fine things. Except for the times when he was taking a catch in fine leg. He was a fine cricketer in the 1970s, who went on to captain his University and play Ranji Tropy matches. The story is that he used to go my Mother’s home (before they got married) to eat Luchi and Kumror Chenchi cooked my by Mother’s Grandmother.
Ingredients for Kumror Chenchki are:
250 grams paka kumro/ pumpkin
2 medium size potatoes
4-5 green chilies, slit
4-5 whole dry red chilies
2-3 tablespoons mustard or Canola oil
Peel the skin of the pumpkin, and cut it into matchstick shapes. Do the same with the potatoes too.
Mine of course were far from being “matchstick-like”. But this really is my upper limit. Pushing me further would have resulted in a chenchki disaster and a very teary-eyed 30-something.
Heat oil in a wok, add the green and dry red chilies. Let them pop and splutter for a few seconds. Add the pumpkin and potatoes, season with sugar and salt. Mix well, cover and cook till the vegetables are tender.
I served my Kumror Chenchki with Phulko Luchi. Something which would make a great breakfast for Mahalaya.
What is your most useful and your most useless kitchen gadget?