The seasonal food calendar of India calls for drying foods in the summer. Traditionally, the season would have ladies from the neighborhoods coming together to dry large quantities of, papads, badis amongst other foods to e used in other times of the year such as monsoons and winters. This was primarily done to take care of food requirements in times of scarcity when fresh foods like vegetables, seafood and meat would go out of season. Since the preparation of these provisions was laborious and often intricate, many hands made the work easier. This paved the way for community cook-ups. Over time, these gatherings became a way of celebration, empowerment and even lifeline for scores of women In India.
Two foods that are dried at this time are Papads and Badis. So, when Rushina announced May 13 as #PapadBadiDay to celebrate these two iconic but often unsung foods we planned #PapadBadiDay potluck at our studio.
Papads or poppadums are an indispensable part of the Indian thali. Relished as a side dish that brings the essential crunch factor to Indian meals, papads are disks of dried ingredients such as lentils, rice, sago and numerous other things based on ingredients characteristic to the numerous sub-cuisines in Indian cuisine. Travel from north to south and east to west and you will find hundreds of papads! Like the spicy Amritsari urad papad of the north, rice appalams of South Indian, pohe or rice flake papads in western India and many more.
Badis are dumplings of dried lentils usually dried alongside papads in summer and sometimes in the winter in colder places. They were a great way of preserving lentils for use during the rainy season. The idea is simple, dals are soaked and converted into thick paste with or without vegetables and formed into little dumplings that are dried in the sun till they are hard like stones. Once sundried these were then carefully stocked away in air-tight dabbas or metal containers. Almost every cuisine has its own version, based on their favored dals (from the ubiquitous urad to mung, arahar , chana dals and more), vegetables or spices .
Very recently on an exploration of nuances of the Garhwali cuisine, our founder Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal had undertaken a trip to Garhwal region and brought back with her some staples that were a local specialty. These included a lot of sun dried foods like badis of different types – Naalbadi, Gehatbadi, Moong Badi and Methibadi. These had the entire APB team intrigued that how well-thought our Indian culinary practices were to take care of food requirements of not only current season but also that of approaching seasons.
Much discussion, back and forth with our foodies’ network and running around ensued, but it was all worth it because (At the risk of sounding over the top) the #PapadBadiDay potluck at the studio turned out to be an epic event beyond any of our expectations. Read on to find out more!
The event started with a very special interaction with food writer, Ananya Banerjee. A proponent of Bengali food, Ananya is about to launch a food and travel show called Ananya’s Bengal diaries on her YouTube channel and gave us a sneak preview of a snippet on a very special bori made in the Midnapore district in West Bengal. Called Goyna Bori, a name derived from the Bengali word for jewelry – Gohana, these boris are made by piping urad dal batter into intricate shapes resembling jewelry. Ananya then went on to teach all of us the art of making Goyna Bori while our kitchen fried up a batch of some lovely Goyna Boris she had brought with her.
After that wonderful session everyone went into a tizzy of finishing and warming up their dishes. 20 odd people had come together at our table and the studio showcased a total of 15 varieties of papads, 11 types of badi preparations and a few other dried foods as well. 38 types of dried foods in total! Check them out in this video uploaded by Rushina here. And we had only scratched the surface!
Here’s what we ate!
We began with the papad which are usually served as side dishes in Indian meals but also serve as great appetizers.
Chef Prabhjyot, served up Amritsari pepper spiked papads from the North. Saher showcased papads from the Konkani Muslim community made from urad dal. Food blogger Meghana Petkar introduced everyone to more varieties of papads from the state of Karnataka. These included jackfruit papads, from Kundapur district and Batata Khees. Geeta Mahadevan who belongs to the Tamil Brahmin brought us a taste of numerous South Indian appalams and vadams or papads and badis. The vadam made from javvarisi /sabudana or sago was the most delicate in terms of construct and was made by sun drying sheets of cooked sago and green chillies paste in banana leaves. The Marucheni Appalam or tapioca papad were made by pressing tapioca dough in palm leaf plates resulting in a skillfully patterned papad. Apart from these she treated everyone at the potluck to vengaya(onion) vadam, omapodi vadam that resembled noodles, rice appalam, sabudana appalam and much more.
The papad tastings concluded with food writer Anushruti tossing together her Kannadiga style papad salad called Avalakki Happala, a preparation of spicy rice flakes or poha tossed with buttermilk, Methkut and dried yogurt cured chillies. This is topped with crushed happala( meaning papads in Kannadiga) made of powdered rice flakes and sun dried.
After much tasting and discussion we moved on to the badi based dishes.
North of India was represented by Amritsari badi (perhaps the most popular badi in India) made by our own Prabhjyot’s mother, Davinder Kaur. Punjabi wariyan as they are called are made from urad dal (split black lentils) paste flavored with red chillies and black pepper. We also tasted Garhwali Naalbadi ka Saag from Uttarakhand. A unique badi from Garhwali cuisine, made by Rushina in which colocasia stems are covered with urad dal paste and sun dried till they resemble hollow pipes.
From West India we had Konkani Muslim Saandage, made by Dr. Khanzada, mother of food blogger Saher AKA The Bombay Glutton. The Konkani Muslim Community are from the western coastal stretches of Maharashtra. Badis in Maharashtra are called Saandage and each region of Maharashtra has their own unique recipe. The Konkani Muslims make their Saandage from urad dal and pumpkin. These are cooked in onion-tomato gravy on the lines of a mutton curry and served with Saandan, a beautiful steamed bread of the region.
Moving to central India Ruchi Srivastav AKA “The Greed Goddess” showcased a very interesting badi dish from the Bundelkhand region, somewhere between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Made of urad dal and doodhi, these badis are unique in that they are subtle in flavour, cooked in a curry of onions tomato, and flavoured simply with hing or asafetida.
From the East we tasted boda made by Ananya Banerjee. Boda, is a dumpling of fresh lentil paste made of motor dal which is very similar to toor dal but is grown only in the state of West Bengal. This was dunked in a delicate mustard based curry. In total contrast was a vibrant dish of Badi Ambula Sorisa Jhola. This dish was made of fried urad dal badis in a spicy flavored with the dried pith of raw mangoes, a critical ingredient in the Oriya cuisine.
From the South was a spectacular Vathal Kuzhambu comprising of fried Sundakkai Vathal or sun dried Turkey berries cooked in stunningly tart tamarind & jaggery based gravy.
We sampled 26 different varieties of papads and badis that day! And 38 dishes in total. But this is just scratching the surface! There are lots more Papads and Badis in the country as we found out in some measure from Social Media. Our social media handles were abuzz with people sharing recipes and details on papads and badis from their respective communities. So huge was the contribution to the #PapadBadiDay conversation from across the country that the #PapadBadiDay hashtag even trended! (We reached more than 1.6 million on Twitter alone).
As Rushina said, this just goes to show what we can accomplish if we all work together in celebration of Indian Food.