**Rituparna Roy is a food writer and journalist based in Mumbai.**
Before my big move to Mumbai, I had lived in Pune for seven years. Quite naturally I had Marathi friends and later, work colleagues who inducted me into the local culture and cuisine. I was familiar with Marathi cinema and theatre; once I almost dragged my friends to accompany me to watch Vijay Tendulkar’s iconic play Ghashiram Kotwal. All this was long before I met my husband, a CKP Marathi, born and raised in Mumbai.
I got married in 2011 far away from my hometown in Bengal. Although friends and family wanted to attend a Bengali wedding, we chose a Marathi one: I draped a champagne pink Banarasi sari and not a nauvari; got myself shaakha pola to team up with my green glass bangles; and wore a beaded mundavalya above a quintessentially Bengali chandan art on my forehead. When it came to food, I had sampled Maharashtrian fare during my stay in Pune—from the mutton-vades and Malwani fish curries to the ubiquitous varan-bhaat, puran polis and the likes. Embracing a new food culture post-marriage was, therefore. a breeze. I often missed eating Bengali food, but a promise of fish fries and curries from my mother-in- law’s kitchen kept me satiated.
Born into a hardcore non-vegetarian family where fish is eaten daily, and festivities (including weddings) mean meat and some more fish, it took me time to get used to vegetarian food. However, I started eating everything—the usal, amtis, the typical bhajis, koshimbirs and bhakris. There were interesting revelations along the way for instance watching folks eat fish curries with chapatis (I was used to fish curry eaten with rice) and pile their plates with everything that was served on the table. The Bengali in me cried in pain.
Time passed by and I slowly realised that although we spoke different languages, what kept us together as a family was the food. An avid cook, my mother-in- law left no stone unturned to cook and feed. On festivals like Ganpati, I devoured ukadiche modaks, and on Diwali I playfully demanded jars of shakkarpara prepared by her. We bonded over foodie conversations centred around heirloom delicacies, recipes borrowed from her mother-in- law and dishes that she learned from a friend or relative. I have heard stories of her
preparing eight kilos of mutton curry for a nephew’s tikhti mejwani in flat four-hour notice! Unlike the rest of the country, Diwali back in Bengal is celebrated as Kali Puja where meat is auspicious and is even offered to the goddess. Mishti or sweets are not prepared at home, rather bought from the neighbourhood shop. Post marriage this changed. I found Aai spend hours in her small apartment kitchen preparing laddoos, shakkarpara, chivda and kanole with unmatched gusto—a scene that pushed me to make my own shakkarpara and kanola last Diwali.
But, beyond the usual faral, it was the syrupy chirote that won me over. The flaky, deep-fried puff pastry had been a crowd puller in the family for decades I was told. It reminded me of elo jhelo – a sweet traditionally prepared in Bengali homes on Bijoya Dashami (or Dussehra). It is crunchy, adequately sweet and addictive. If some marriages were made in heaven, ours was made in the kitchen. For this is where we shared our food stories in broken Marathi and Mumbaiya Hindi.
Recipe for Pakatle chirote
By Anuradha Deshpande
For the dough
- 1 cup fine suji or semolina
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Cornflour as required
- Enough ghee for frying the chirote
For sugar syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- A little more than 1/2 cup water
- Juice of 1 lime
- A few strands of saffron
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Mix all the ingredients for the dough and keep it aside for half an hour.
Prepare the syrup until sugar dissolves completely and achieves a single thread consistency. Turn the heat off and squeeze lime juice, saffron and cardamom powder.
Now roll the prepared dough into two thin chapatis.
Evenly spread ghee on the first chapati and dust some cornflour. Place the second chapati and repeat the process.
Roll the two chapatis carefully like you would do for a roti roll.
Cut the roll in a slanting manner into small pieces.
Now roll the pieces into small chirotes. Press the side gently with a finger to reveal the layers.
Deep fry them until golden brown.
Douse the chirotes in sugar syrup and take them out by flipping on both sides.