Ahmedabad is a 5000-year-old city and has a lot to offer to a travelling chef. Old 'Amdavad' is a culturally (culinary) rich and an architecturally opulent city. The old city bustles in a mish-mash of narrow streets and 'pols' enclosed in a 12-gate fort. Each Pol typically has a corner shop selling Chawana and farsan, and is a world in itself because these super narrow streets house some of the most beautiful and humongous havelis that you will ever see.
In one such Haveli I met Abhay Mangaldas, who has taken upon himself to restore these architectural gems and lure the people of “new” Ahmedabad into the old city by opening restaurants and cafes in the restored Havelis. One food conversation led to another, and a lunch seemed inevitable. At the lunch table Abhay made me taste a salad that stuck in my head forever. A raw turmeric kachumber that was fresh, aromatic, mildly astringent and divinely combined with 'fafda', a pulled lentil crisp that gave it a perfect balance of flavours and a perfect contrast of textures.
Surprisingly, raw turmeric and peanuts - even though underground veggies - are acceptably used in Jain food. There’s a lot more to this rhizome that one finds out on the slightest scratch, literally.
Native to Tamil Nadu, this pre-Aryan spice has been known to mankind for over 4,000 years.
The term 'Hardira' (haldi) is believed to have a Munda air to it; Munda is an ancient aborigine dialect. Even in the early Vedic times the only four spices recorded are mustard (Baja),a sour Citrus (Jambira), Turmeric (Hardira) and long pepper (Pippali). Out of these, turmeric was regarded as the most auspicious because it was the most useful for the entire body. Turmeric stands tall as a cure in Ayurveda, Chinese, Unani and Siddha medicine thanks to Curcumin, a compound that is now also widely accepted in the West as a cancer buster.
Yet all I say is forget the past and experience the present, grate some fresh turmeric and raw papaya together, toss it up with chopped green coriander, lemon juice and black pepper and top a papad with this salad for a taste you will savour forever. A chef’s promise!
For a little more complicated recipe try this:
Turmeric-scented Mango Sago Pudding
• 1 cup coconut milk
• 1 cup soaked sago
• ¼ cup mango pulp
• ½ tsp raw turmeric paste
• Mango pulp according to requirement
• ¼ mango
• 1 mint leaf
In a pan put water, coconut milk, turmeric soaked sago and cook. Now, add mango pulp. Take mango and coconut sago mixture in a glass. Keep it in the fridge to cool. When cooled take it out from the fridge. Then in the same glass put mango pulp. Cut a mango wedge and keep it on the glass. Garnish mango and coconut sago with mint leaf.