The best time to visit Ahmedabad (anywhere in Gujarat, actually) is during Uttarayan or Makara Sankranti, in my humble opinion. That is when the citizens go all out to enjoy themselves, when the kite mania is on, when you get to see the city in a whole new avatar. This is apart from the Navratri season, when the city is decked up at its glorious best, of course.
On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, I got my first-ever taste of ponk, and absolutely loved it. I even managed to get some back to Bangalore, which I used to make vadas. Crispy, delicious, deep-fried balls of goodness are what these ponk vadas turned out to be! We thoroughly enjoyed snacking on them, alongside our evening tea.
‘Ponk’, for the uninitiated, is the Gujarati name for immature grains of jowar, available only in the months between December and February in parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Gujarat, they are all over Surat, and Ahmedabad gets a few truckloads from there, which are hungrily grabbed by the locals within minutes. Known in Marathi as ‘hurda‘, these grains are packed with nutrition and highly delicious. They can be used to make a variety of delicacies, from bhel and vada to cakes.
On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, we landed right in the midst of ponk season, I managed to get my hands on some and even carried a little back home to Bangalore. I made some beautiful ponk bhel with the first batch.
Making methi na gota or fenugreek green fritters in the winters is an absolute must in Gujarat, where I grew up. Like the Gujaratis, we made them too. Winter wouldn’t be complete for us without Appa getting home huge bunches of fenugreek greens aka methi from the market, and Amma making big batches of methi na gota, scolding him all the while for the extra work. Even today, in Bangalore, I can’t not make methi gota at least once in the long months of winter.
Check out the recipe we follow to make methi na gota, just in on my photo blog!
I am a huge lover of khaman, the pillow-soft Gujarati snack usually made out of besan, commonly known as dhokla in other parts of the country. Dhokla is something else entirely in Gujarat, though, and made out of an urad daal and rice batter, which is very similar to idli batter, though not the same. Khaman, too, can be of two different types – one an instant version, made using a mix of besan and curd, and the other version, called Vati Daal Na Khaman, made of soaked and crushed chana daal. While I love both versions, I have only ever made the besan khaman at home. I have never tried my hands at the vati daal na khaman – hopefully soon!
When there is leftover khaman at home, a rare occasion, we make a chaat out of it which all of us love. You get this chaat commonly on the streets of Gujarat, called Amiri Khaman, wherein crumbled khaman is mixed with pomegranate arils, an assortment of chutneys and sev. Don’t get Amiri Khaman confused with Sev Khamni, though – that is something entirely different! A lot of roadside stalls, even in Gujarat, try to pass off Amiri Khaman as Sev Khamni, because the earlier dish requires a lot less effort to make than the latter. Now, you know, though! 🙂
Today, I am going to tell you all about my version of Amiri Khaman or Khaman Chaat, if you like. It has a beautiful texture with the crumbled khaman adding a softness and the sev contributing to its crunchiness. The pomegranate arils, chopped onions and chutneys that one adds gives the dish a gorgeous, unbeatable flavour. You must try this out to believe how delicious it is.
Here is how I make this dish.
Ingredients (serves 4):
About 10 pieces of leftover khaman (at room temperature – crumbled with the hands, garnish and all)
A handful of pomegranate arils
A small bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 fistfuls of nylon sev (store-bought, I used the Garden brand)
1 fistful of aloo bhujia (store-bought, I used the Garden brand)
4 tablespoons of sweet chutney (Click here for the recipe)
2 tablespoons of spicy green chutney (Click here for the recipe)
Mix everything together, well, in a large mixing bowl.
Do you like the sound of this chaat? I hope you’ll try it out, too!
1. I commonly make the khaman at home, and if there’s any left over, it goes into the preparation of amiri khaman. Occasionally, though, if there’s someone coming over from Gujarat, I ask them to get packets of Talod Nylon Khaman Mix, which turn out just gorgeous. Sadly, they aren’t available anywhere in Bangalore. 😦 Lately, though, I have discovered Shree Ganesh Nylon Khaman mix, available in a few shops in Bangalore, which turns out khaman that are just as beautiful as those from Talod or home-made khaman. Do ask around in the little Marwari shops in your neighbourhood – they usually stock it!
2. If you are wondering, ‘Nylon’ is not yet another type of khaman. It just refers to khaman that is super-duper spongy soft and fine in texture, like nylon. 🙂 The nylon sev, too.
It all started with a plate of Dhokla Bhel at Agarwal’s in HSR Layout. It is a great place to have North Indian-style chaats, BTW, but more on that later. Today, I am here to tell you about what that Dhokla Bhel inspired me to do.
The dish was a visual delight, with some pillow-soft khaman (known in this part of the country as ‘dhokla‘) strewn over some gorgeous-looking bhel. It tasted delicious, too. The khaman melted in the mouth, and the bhel was beautifully mixed up. All in all, a chaat lover like me couldn’t have asked for more. Before I tasted this, I never thought khaman and bhel could make such a lovely pair together! But they do!
The OH and I got into a big discussion over the Dhokla Bhel, and we talked about how it reminded me of Sev Khamni, a dish from the city of Surat in Gujarat. A host of memories flooded through me – of how Appa would get a packet of the khamni from a roadside vendor on his way back home from office every now and then, the strong garlick-y smell of it, and how I would sniff the packet out even before Appa had handed it to me. I told the OH of how some vendors would just crumble up leftover khaman, sprinkle lots of sev, coriander, and pomegranate arils over it, and try to pass it off as khamni. But that was Amiri Khaman, not authentic Surti Sev Khamni. Sev Khamni was an entirely different dish – made with soaked gram dal ground with spices, a whole lot of garlic and, of course, loads of coriander, sev, and pomegranate seeds. I told the OH of how the dish had to be made with a lot of garlic, so that the gas-inducing properties of the gram dal could be mitigated. I told the OH of how the stuff that Appa used to get home, all those years back, was the original thing, and of how I would love it so. Over the course of the high-spirited conversation, we realised that the OH has never had sev khamni, ever! Now, we can’t have that happening, can we? So, a quick shopping expedition happened immediately and ingredients were picked up to make it at home the very next day.
In spite of having loved sev khamni so much, I never attempted to make it at home all these years – it was always something that I had off of a roadside cart in Ahmedabad. A trip to Ahmedabad is nowhere on the horizon now, however, and it has been ages since we visited. I had to try and recreate the beautiful flavours of the khamni at home – I had to share the magic of it with the OH. So, that is how the khamni was made at home and, beginner’s luck or whatever, it turned out lovely, with exactly the same taste as I remember from my days in Ahmedabad. The OH loved it to bits, I am thrilled to say! I am happy I took the plunge, happy that I can now go back to this recipe whenever my heart longed too much for Gujarat.
There are a couple of different methods to make khamni, but I used the traditional method mentioned here. The quantity of oil that the recipe requires is a bit on the higher side, but I think, once in a while, it can be excused. The next time, though, I am going to try making a steamed version, relatively healthier, and see if I can still get the same taste.
For now, though, I will note down the recipe that I used. I made very minor changes to the original recipe, and will jot it down here, for the sake of reference.
Ingredients (for about 6 medium-sized servings):
2 cups gram dal/chana dal – soaked for 3-4 hours
Salt, to taste
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
6-7 big cloves of garlic, peeled
A pinch of asafoetida
4 green chillies
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds-cumin powder
Red chilli powder, to taste (if needed)
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
Sugar, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
Lots and lots of fine sev
1 large onion, finely chopped (optional)
Some grated fresh coconut (optional)
Once the gram dal has been soaked, drain out excess water if any. Grind in a mixer to a coarse paste, adding a bit of water only if needed. Do not make a very fine paste, make a coarse one. Keep aside.
Grind the ginger, green chillies, and garlic to a paste in a mixer, using a little water if needed. Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.
Now, add the asafoetida, the crushed chana dal, salt and sugar to taste, coriander seeds-cumin powder, and turmeric powder. Mix well. Turn the flame to low and cook for about 5 minutes.Add half of the milk, bit by bit, to the pan, to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Now, add the ginger-garlic-green chillies paste and red chilli powder (if using) to the pan. Mix well. Cook for a few more minutes on a low flame, adding the rest of the milk at regular intervals, till the smell of the garlic is not overly powerful.
Switch off the gas and mix in the lemon juice.
Let the mixture cool down completely before you serve the khamni.
When you are ready to serve the khamni, make six portions of the chana dal mixture and place them in bowls/plates. Sprinkle generous amounts of chopped fresh coriander leaves, sev, finely chopped onion (if using), grated coconut (if using), and pomegranate seeds over each portion. Ensure that the coriander, sev, onion, coconut, and pomegranate are added to the dish just before serving, otherwise the sev becomes too soggy. Serve!
Have you ever had Surti Sev Khamni? Do you like it? If you haven’t tried it ever, you absolutely must give this recipe a shot!
I just realised there are hardly any travelogues about Ahmedabad on my blog. That is unfair, considering that the city has so much to offer travellers! So, I set out to rectify this and present to you the first in a series of posts about my hometown, the lovely Ahmedabad. This one is about the stepwell in Adalaj, a short distance from the city.
‘Adalaj ni vav‘, as it is called in Gujarati, is a stepwell located in the village of Adalaj, about 18 km away from Ahmedabad. It is a beautiful piece of Solanki architecture, one that is quite popular with the tourists who visit Ahmedabad. Flowers, leaves, animals, birds, scenes from court life, scenes from domestic life, forms from Islam and Hinduism – these are some of the things that have been depicted in the intricate carvings that grace the many sandstone columns of the stepwell, carvings that have withstood the test of time, largely, and which are sure to take one’s breath away.
The stepwell is five stories deep, and was constructed in the year 1499 by a Muslim ruler, Mohammed Begda. Built in those days to collect rainwater, with the intention of putting it to good use later, the well has hardly any water now. Another reason to build the stepwell was for it to serve as a resting place for traders and pilgrims. Apparently, localites as well as travellers from far away places would make a pit stop at the well, to quench their thirst, and to meet up with other people, sometimes to further trade! Fascinating, right?
Apparently, thanks to the depth of the well, the temperature inside was significantly cooler than that outside. This encouraged the women visiting the well to fetch water to stay for longer periods of time, worshipping the gods and goddesses depicted on the walls and talking to each other.
A smell of damp and flocks and flocks of pigeons rule the place today but, otherwise, it is clean and well-maintained.
The beautiful carvings and the jharokhas that are a part of the stepwell make it a favourite destination for photographers.
The legend behind the construction of the stepwell is very interesting, though tragic. It is believed that Rana Veer Singh, the Hindu king who ruled what is now Ahmedabad, began the construction of the stepwell for his beloved beautiful wife, Rani Roopba. Mohammed Begda, the Muslim ruler of a neighbouring kingdom, invaded Rana Veer Singh’s territory and the latter ended up getting killed in the war that ensued. Begda was charmed by the beauty of Roopba, the former king’s widow, and proposed marriage to her. The former queen agreed, on the condition that Begda would complete the construction of the stepwell that her husband had started. Begda had the well constructed in as short a time as possible, in the hopes of marrying Roopba soon. Roopba, however, had other plans. She jumped into the well and ended her life, making explicit her unwillingness to marry Begda. For reasons of his own, Begda let the stepwell stand as it was, and did not deface it in any way.
Another popular legend is attached to the six tombs that can be seen adjacent to the stepwell. These are believed to be the tombs of the six chief masons who constructed the well. Apparently, Begda was highly impressed with the beauty of the stepwell, and asked the masons if they would be able to construct a replica. Begda was enraged when the masons said that that could be done, and ordered for them to be killed immediately.
Steeped in rich history, Adalaj ni vav is poetry in sandstone, definitely worth a visit if you plan to be in Gujarat.
I wonder what stories those walls, those columns could tell, if only they could speak! What events have they been witness to, over all these years?