Draupadi Chugani, or Juhi aunty as we know her, lived in Indore for 39 years of her life till she married and moved to Bombay. And although she married later than most, she started cooking far far earlier than most. She started cooking when she was 9 because her mother wanted her and her sisters well trained for their future lives in the homes of their future husbands. Such advanced planning!
Juhi aunty even started working earlier than most. At 13 years old, she snagged a job as a receptionist at a hospital and while it wasn’t exactly legal, she wanted it and so she wore saris and 6 inch heels to look older. She got the job because the doctors that owned the place were so impressed with how she took care of her mother, they wanted to adopt her! And while they didn’t get themselves a new daughter, they got themselves a receptionist to be reckoned with. Many years later, she’s still a whirlwind of energy. She’s a real estate agent in Bombay, and she’s in it for the game. She runs her home like clockwork, and can cook up a storm. We had the privilege of watching her in action, cooking up a meal of Sindhi Kadhi, Sano Pakodo, Tuk, Baida Masala and a killer Palak sabzi, in no time at all. And she even managed to whisk herself off to close a property deal in the middle of all this.
Her Sindhi Kadhi is wholesome, satisfying and filled with flavors and textures – sour from tamarind and tomato, the textures of all the different vegetables, each adding its own flavor, richness from the besan used to thicken the kadhi – It’s a great one pot meal especially on a rainy day with steaming hot rice.
And here’s a bonus – for fussy kids that are poor eaters, this is a great way to feed them vegetables that most kids (and quite a few adults!) wouldn’t get within smelling distance of – bhindi, drumsticks, eggplant. We say this from years of Juhi Aunty and friends conspiring to feed one reluctant child her vegetables and always succeeding with Sindhi Kadhi.
Juhi Aunty’s Sindhi Kadhi
1 long eggplant cut into 8 cubes
2 Potatoes, quartered
Small handful of Gavar (Cluster) beans
A few Arbi, thickly sliced
Oil for cooking
2-3 tbs Ghee or Oil
1/2 cup Besan (Gram flour)
2 tsp Cumin powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili powder
Salt to taste
2 glasses water
8-10 Tamarind pieces and water to soak
Soak the small ball of about 8-10 tamarind pieces for an hour in about 1 cup of water. Pass the tamarind paste through a sieve, squeezing out all the water and pulp. Reserve the tamarind liquid for later.
Heat oil in a pan and add the eggplant, saute till they’re pinkish and remove from the pan. Lightly fry each vegetable separately.
In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the ghee and add besan. Add the cumin powder, turn the heat down and keep stirring so the mixture is smooth and lump-free. As soon as its fragrance hits your nose, add the 2 glasses of water, salt, turmeric and chili powder. Bring this to a brisk boil and keep it going for about 5-7 minutes. Add the vegetables to the kadhi, turn the heat down and let it come back to the boil.
As the kadhi boils and thickens and changes color to a pinkish-brown, turn off the heat and gradually add the tamarind liquid to the kadhi.
Serve with plain white steamed rice and be prepared to be mellowed.