Vijaya Mishra, born in Bombay, is a Bombay girl through and through. Except those parts of her that are Bihari through and through. She’s a feisty, confident, metropolitan lady that can travel the world on her own but there is a part of her deeply tied to her Bihari roots. Whether it comes through in the festivals and colorful rituals of her people or in the food that she and her family enjoy, especially around Holi, or in the lovely lyrical language you can hear when she’s speaking to her sisters. You can take the girl out of Bihar, but you can’t take Bihar out of the girl.
Vijaya’s father, a handsome, smooth talking charmer, moved to Bombay when he was 17. He and his child bride, married at the age of 5 and 4 respectively, moved from Gaya to Bombay and established themselves in the city in the early ’50s. And Vijaya, the spirited city girl growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, always dressed in the height of fashion, with bell bottoms and large hoop earrings. She only learned to wear Saris and to cook in the rigorous training ground that was her mother-in-law’s house.
While she enjoys eating every cuisine possible and cooks Bihari food particularly well, one of her signatures dishes is her version of a dish created by her husband while at a hostel at Darbhanga Medical College. In order to make hostel food more exciting, he would take left over chicken curry, break a samosa into small bits and spoon the curry over it. She recreated this dish for him often, calling it Fowl Curry with Samosa.
Since that is simple enough to recreate with any Samosa and Chicken Curry, she shared a recipe for a very typical Bihari dish using Pointed Gourd or Parwal in Hindi or Potol in Bihari. Not a popular vegetable but made delicious by this simple preparation and perfect for the hot months coming up.
Parval ka Kalonji
250 gm Parval, lightly peeled, halved lengthwise
½ tsp Panch Phoron
A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1 dry Red Chili, whole
½ tsp Garlic paste
¼ tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Coriander powder
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Chili powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
Heat mustard oil in a pan and add panch phoron, Hing and chili. Add Parval. Stir and cover. Let them cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down and add the pastes. Fry till fragrant, 2-3 mins. Add the ground spices, stir and cover. Let the dish cook on a low heat for about 10 mins, till the Parval shrinks and the juices dry up. Sprinkle a teaspoon of Cumin powder, stir through and cover.
Squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish just before serving.
Eat with steamed rice or fresh, hot chapati.