March 14, 2014
No trip to Kolkata for me is complete without the dreaded stomach infection. This has little to do with the environment there. More a result of the abject torture I put my system through cramming the food in before the inevitable return to Blighty. (I am a camel, I will fill my hump, etc etc etc.)
The first week flew by. By the middle of the second week, the familiar tummy cramps set in. The fever was yet to descend so off we went to India’s premier North Indian restaurant. With a cup of chamomile tea, and a stern warning from the manager, I deep dived into Maa Ki Dal, a ghee laced bread basket and soft, spicy kebabs. The stuff of heaven.
Hell was soon to follow. Bundled into the car afterwards, I told driverji to find me the nearest pharmacy. It was late at night, the options were limited. I soon found myself ducking stray dogs in a local fruit and vegetable mart, which handily housed a shiny pharmacy.
I flung myself inside. Hello, I have come from London. And then launched into a sordid recount of the painful symptoms.
The object of my self diagnosis was directed at a smiling man, sat presidentially behind a desk. He waited patiently for my tirade to end, and then said in Bengali: “Acha, tell me something.”
I was all ears.
“Who told you to eat food outside your mother’s house?”
Was this man telling me off?
“Can your mother not cook? Ok, never mind. Filter water.”
Was this a question?
“Why did you drink filter water? What is wrong with mineral water? Available everywhere, tsk tsk.”
Now, I know Bengalis have a particular affinity with medicine. But it was late, and I was being given a dressing down by the owner of the only open pharmacy in the locality. I started blubbering a response. Translating feebly to my man. Who by this time had started taking portraits of the quasi medicine man.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, he declared his remedy: “Quickly, go quickly, to the shop next door and buy some chire [flattened rice]. Cook it gently and eat it with yoghurt tomorrow morning.”
This was quite enough. Are you a doctor?
“I am a homeopath,” he proudly declared, breaking into the widest grin. His assistant finally handed over the stash of the OTC drugs I was really after.
There are a few things Bengalis eat to settle the stomach. But Sheddo Bhaat has to top the list. This is basically rice, lentils, vegetables and eggs, boiled, subtly flavoured, and then eaten with bits of broken green chillies. You can cook it all together, or at least cook the rice together with the veg and eggs, and the lentils separately. Vegetables that can be used here include pumpkin, potol (pointed gourd) and karela (bitter melon).
So this is what I ate on my return. And sooth it did. My bruised pride and burning insides. Until next time, my dear friends…
Half cup Moong lentils (easier to digest than Masoor dal)
Half tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ghee
2 medium potatoes
1 small onion (optional)
1 tbsp mustard oil
1 cup Basmati rice
Two green chillies
Salt to taste
Wash the lentils thoroughly and set to boil with cold water. When it starts bubbling, use a wooden spoon to scoop out any foam/scum that rises to the surface. Then lower the heat to a medium, mix in the turmeric, and cook for about 20 minutes until you get smooth cooked lentils with the texture of a very thick soup. If the lentils dry up too quickly, add some hot water and stir to prevent sticking. Stir ghee and salt in to finish, cover and set aside.
Peel and boil the potatoes, boil the eggs and cook the rice. I boiled the eggs with the potatoes, fishing them out after they boiled for about 15 minutes. I know that some people boil the whole lot together, simply shelling the eggs later.
Mash the potato well, adding salt and the mustard oil in. Shell the eggs. And that’s your lot. Just mix the dal, lentils, potatoes and eggs together, squish a green chilli into the mix and get stuck in. Sheddo Bhaat is also lovely on very hot days, as a soothing and cooling aid.
My all time favourite comfort food….to add that extra punch to this dish, add chopped onions and a burnt red chilly in the potato mash….have with home made ghee or butter and gondho lebu ( sweet smelling green lemon)….its now become the favourite of my non bong husband who thought I was insane when he saw me eating this the first time….now he is an expert in making this….ole sheddo with mustard also is a great addition to this…thanks mallika for posting this
Great tips, will do! Thanks for that and you’re most welcome M x
Sorry Mona, my bad. I would add it with the turmeric when you are boiling the dal. Enjoy!
Got to try this recipe! When should I add the onions?
Hi Mallika, A few years ago, I couldn’t resist and ate some bread pakora from the street and then paid for it, by taking meds on the flight back. Glad you’re all better.
Hi Sonata, that made me giggle! Boredom is the best aid to recover
I must try this . It sounds a lot more comforting than the Spanish remedy for an upset stomach which consists of :
Day 1 = plain boiled rice Day 2 = plain boiled rice with half a peeled and grated Granny Smith apple mixed in . Drink lots of Chamomile tea .
By Day 3 , bored to death , you’ve willed yourself to be better .
Loved it mam.All the recipes are stunning.Tanq for all the yummy yummy things you are doing for us……:)
Hi Laurie, what wre the chances of a half used bag of urad dal. Go, go, go…
Hi Keka, the holud goes in after you’ve taken the scum off the dal. I ate it after so long… absolutely lovely!
Holud ta kokhon dewa hobe bolle na to?
sheddho bhaat probably tops the list of my favourite things to eat! not just when you’re feeling under the weather, but also when you’re depressed and need a boost and just like that – any time, any day!
loved the post!
Ahhh Mallika, seemed like I was reading my story. And I could visualise the Homeopath doctor. One question – originally does ‘sheddho bhaat’ use Basmati Rice since its more difficult to digest?
I am not a rice person but I could actually finish the entire *dekchi* full of shedho bhaat!
Great story, Malika! And the recipe sounds good – I like the idea of cooking all of it together in one pot (the fewer dishes to wash, the better). Thanks also for the link to your old post with the urad dal recipe – I’ve had a bag of them in my cupboard for some time now and have been wondering what to do with them.