Stir fried banana blossoms with shrimps. Chingri diya mochar ghonto, an ambrosial dish from Bengali cuisine.
The whiff of earthy cumin tossed in ladle full of pure ghee, the exotic fragrance of bay leaves as it slowly kiss the cumin perfumed ghee, the fiery green chillies tossed and turned several times to ensure that its piquancy has reached to every bits and pieces of finely chopped banana blossoms, a generous sprinkle of refined sugar that will slowly caramelize with the heat, and will infuse the banana blossoms with its inherent sweet taste. Finally a generous handful of milky grated coconut sprinkle all over it that will complete this delightful story called mochar ghonto, a lesson in subtlety and balance.
Preparing the banana blossoms is again a test for serious knife skills, a deft hand and a well learned lesson in patience and diligence.
Some recipes emerges through time as eternal classics, like mochar ghonto or kodoli pushpo ghonto in more refined language. The dark purple heart of sacred banana plant is nothing short of culinary gem. Though it is being widely used in many forms across different culture and cuisine but the kind of emotions, nostalgia, sentimental values, we Bongs extended to this innocuous humble blossoms are almost rare in any culture. No wonder that mocha or banana blossoms enjoys an exalted culinary status , an iconic stature in Bengali culture and cuisine.
Bengali food had been greatly influenced by the culture of early colonists and Muslim rulers of the state, but there are few recipes like this mochar ghonto that remains unscathed through time (albeit potatoes had firmly secured their position in every other Bengali dishes). The earliest references of food of deltaic Bengal region, as described in mangalkavyas and other such contemporary texts, since Medieval times describes mocha or banana blossoms as the most important and center to any five course celebratory meal preparations.
Using shrimps or small fishes in vegetable dishes was always remain an integral part of Bengali cooking because of the abundance of numerous streams and tributaries that intersects the riverine land. Also it was the main source of the protein for the people of that region. Hence this version of mochar ghonto is one of those ethnic and indigenous dish of the region.
Later under the Vaishnavite influences (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s love for mocha is almost legendary), mochar ghonto has emerged as iconic Bengali vegetarian dish, which can be prepared in myriad ways, using chinebadam (peanuts), gachchola (desi chana) and so on. You can refer here for the vegetarian version of mochar ghonto.
You can check this blogpost for “how to clean and cut the banana blossoms“.
- Banana blossom / mocha : 1 big size
- Shrimps / prawns, small size : 150 gm around +/-
- Potatoes , cut into small chunks : 1 medium size (optional)
- Grated coconut, fresh one: 1 cup
- Cumin seeds : 1 tsp
- Bay leaves : 1-2
- Turmeric powder : 1 tsp
- Green chillies : 2-3
- Sugar : 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Ghee : 2-3 tbsp plus
- Mustard oil for tossing the shrimps / prawns
- Follow the links given in the post for how to prepare the banana blossoms.
- I prefer to chop the banana blossoms finely.
- In a small pan, heat the mustard oil, toss the salt and turmeric rubbed shrimps for 2-3 minutes. Keep aside.
- In a kadhai, heat the ghee, throw in cumin seeds and bay leaves. Let the aroma heightens.
- Fry the potatoes, if using till lightly golden.
- Throw in the green chillies, followed by the finely chopped banana blossoms.
- Stir fry them on low heat for around 5-7 minutes.
- Cover and cook on low heat till potatoes are tender. If you are not using the potatoes, you can skip this step.
- It will release lots of water and potatoes will get cooked in its juices.
- Increase the heat, dry up the remaining water.
- Add sugar, salt and more ghee if required.
- Stir fry it along with the shrimps till everything comes together,
- Keep checking the seasonings, for a perfect balance between sweetness, salty and spiciness.
- Improve accordingly.
- A good stir fry slathered in ghee will ensure best mochar ghonto.
- Once done, add the grated coconut, mix it well.
- Serve warm with steamed white rice.
Happy Independence Day in advance,