An Indian Monsoon Feast Recipe

Sonya Balasubramanyam

Traditional specialties from the rich cuisines of India, are one of the many aspects which makes the monsoon season truly special.

Take the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, as an example. Seasonal favourites here feature the Indian water chestnut or singhade. Adventurous cooks can enjoy this versatile vegetable in varied forms, but a staple version that is usually found during the monsoons, is singhade ki sabzi. This is a light, mildly flavoured vegetarian dish that celebrates the subtly-sweet flavour and crunchy texture of the water chestnut cooked with Indian spices. Often these water chestnuts are delicious enough to be eaten raw!

Another traditional monsoon delicacy that is seen along the Western states, is a dish called pathrode or pathrade. There are probably as many versions of this dish as there are the communities in this region! This is a very unique preparation in which colocasia leaves are smeared with a masala paste that is either made with rice flour or gram flour, depending on the community. The leaves are then stacked on top of each other, rolled tightly and either steamed or deep-fried and cut into slices, when cool. As a variation, the steamed/shallow-fried slices are relished in a coconut-based curry.

In the state of West Bengal, dark skies and clouds laden with the prospect of rain are welcomed with traditional khichuri, a hearty and comforting one pot rice-dish with vegetables and lentils. While there are many version of khichuri, an oft-enjoyed one is bhaja mug daaler khichuri or roasted split green gram. This wholesome dish is usually eaten with beguni baja, which are slices of brinjal, lightly seasoned with salt and tumeric powder, then fried. The potato version of this fried accompaniment is quite common as well. There’s also a special, seasonal dessert that is savored during the onset of the monsoon. Called taal kheer, it is a sweet custard made from Palmyra syrup, sweetened condensed milk and grated coconut.

From the land of fried snacks, Gujarat, its methi na gota or dried fenugreek fried in a spiced chickpea batter that is scoffed down with endless cups of hot masala chai. It is not uncommon to also find a plate of dal wadas – a dish of cooked lentils that are mashed with spices like green chilli, ginger and lemon into a thick batter and fried by the spoonful. These crisp, golden brown vadas are accompanied with mint chutney, fried chillies and onions.

Perhaps most interesting, are the forests of Jharkhand which produce a unique and indigenous wild, edible mushroom during the monsoons called rugda. This mushroom grows abundantly during the rainy months in the forests of Pithoria, Bundu and Tamar, and are harvested and sold by the tribal women of the region. These mushrooms, while tedious to clean, are enjoyed as a delicious dish accompanied by rice or pooris.

Needless to say, if you’re stuck anywhere in India during the monsoons, you will be spoilt for choice by the variety of food available. All you need to do now is make that hot cup of chai, enjoy it with the snack of your choice, while watching the rains from your window.