Once upon a time, back when I used to live in Ahmedabad, the arrival of winter used to be synonymous with the appearance of steamed water chestnuts by road-side vendors. I would spot these black lumps, known as ‘Singoda’ in Gujarati, in big baskets on the roads, steam rising out of them, and would know for sure that winter was about to descend on us very soon, with full force. Sure enough, it would, soon.
Water chestnuts or singoda, also known in other parts of India as ‘Singhade’ never looked appealing to me. In fact, I still think they are one of the weirdest-looking food items. Back in Ahmedabad, as a child, I would never stop by for a paper cone of the steamed chestnuts, when they were in season. I don’t know when I the foodie in me started taking over the rational part of me – maybe when I was in Class X or so – but it was then that I tried out these. And loved them. And then, went on having them every winter. Then, shifting to Bangalore happened and I never saw them again.
Recently, though, I was overjoyed to spot raw water chestnuts at quite a few vegetable shops around the city. I couldn’t resist buying some, though I didn’t know how to cook them. The OH has never had these, and he knows they are a favourite winter memory from Ahmedabad. I had to show him what they taste like, right?
So, some frantic searching on the Internet happened, as did asking friends for suggestions on how to use the water chestnuts. It all turned out to be so very simple in the end. I steamed them in a pressure cooker for three whistles, unpeeled, after cutting off a small opening in the peel. When the steam had escaped entirely, we peeled them and ate the kernel, still warm. There was that long-ago nutty, bland flavour in my mouth, all over again.
I am usually concerned about where the vegetables, fruits and other products we eat come from. I am not really happy about vegetables and fruits travelling half-way across the globe to meet me and my family. I would rather meet them in their home-town. But, for certain things, I make an exception. This is one of those things. Irrespective of where these singoda came from, I am glad I found this little part of Ahmedabad where I stay now.
I am not sure if these water chestnuts are the same as the ones used in Chinese dishes. I will try to find out. If I can find more of these chestnuts, I would love to bring them home again, and this time around, I would like to try doing something different with them. If you have any bright ideas, please do let me know!