Buy her a gift or give her an experience? It was a hard decision for mother’s day over the weekend.
“Mooch Moochey hoyecchhe”. It’s nice and crispy, she said after a bite in the Pitha, the deep creases on the back of her hands almost matching the design on the Pithas. She looked into my eyes and she didn’t. I could see Ma was transported to a different time, a different land.
A land with many rivers. As a little girl she remembers those carefree days. Taking off with her siblings to explore the neighbourhood while the elders in the family were busy in the kitchen. “Nodir dhare ekta mishti gondho beroto”, There used to be a sweet smell on the river bank, she is not sure if that was from an unfamiliar flower or the paddy fields nearby. It used to be East Bengal then, it is Bangladesh now.
I have heard these stories many times. My octogenarian mother sometimes mistakenly calls me by my sisters name and cannot remember what she had for breakfast that day. But the stories always remain consistent.
Osteoporosis is rapidly claiming her four feet eleven frame. Arthritis causing her knuckles to swell and fingers to twist, as if daring her to carry on the daily chores. These are the same hands that tended to our sore knees after a game, embroidered fine designs on our dresses or even disciplined us when needed.
“Ki korey banali? Khub shundor hoyeche.” How did you make it? They are beautiful, she said, overlooking the imperfections.
I could see the memories that were coming back to her. Memories of the land that she will not be visiting again but live only through these experiences..
Gift or experience? Glad I chose to bring her an experience for Mother’s day.
Recipe: Number of yield depends on the size of the design you choose. About 18-20 on average.
Yellow Moong beans 1/2 cup
Rice powder 1 cup
Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon stick 1 inch long 2 pcs
Sugar 1 cup
Canola oil 1 Tbsp plus more for frying
Salt 1/4 tsp
Dry roast the yellow moong bean in a sauce pan on high heat. Keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. It is done as soon as it gets a bit of colour. Wash with running water.
Take this roasted moong in a saucepan. Add about four glasses of water, salt, one Tbsp of oil, cardamom powder, cinnamon sticks and boil until mushy, about an hour, faster if using a pressure cooker. Discard the cinnamon sticks. Add the rice powder and stir with a whisk to mix thoroughly. Put the gas off and cover the mixture till it cools a bit.
Transfer this mixture to a bowl. Knead with oil dipped palm to form a smooth dough. Add a sprinkle of rice powder if sticky.
Cut out small balls, the size of a lime. Roll it such it stays about 1/4th inch thick. Refer to the picture above and this video. Draw a design of your choice. Use a tooth pick to accentuate the edges of the design. Using a spatula carefully lift these and collect on a plate. Keep them covered.
Take canola oil, an inch deep in a non stick frying pan on medium heat. Carefully fry the Pithas till golden brown, gently turning once. Collect them on a kitchen towel.
Take the sugar with with 3/4th cup water on high heat. Work to make a syrup with one string consistency. Follow this instruction. Dip the Pithas carefully, turn once and remove.
Cooking the Pithas is a folk tradition, hence all the design is done by hand. This takes a lot of practise and patience.
Being a novice with this Pitha, I took help from cookie cutters, giving it a modern take.