Radhaballabhi with Niramish Alu Dom from West Bengal

Learn to make the Traditional Bengali Special Radhaballabhi / Radhaballavi with Niramish Alu Dom

There are moments that are very poignant and feel forever! Some moments appear to have frozen in the time frame and sneak on you when you think you didn't even remember. 

Calcutta has a very fond place in my heart, for the memories associated with it and the days, spent there many years ago. I had previously visited the place with parents during my schooling and have vivid memories of landing there one early morning in Howrah station, that was misty and hardly could see much. We were picked by Dad's colleague. He was from Andhra and unfortunately couldn't palate the sweetish food he was fed. He was away from his family, which added more to his ruse and the days he spent with us, he was only talking about the strange habits of the locals, who ate something so different like Kachoris for breakfast, that were greasy and stuffed with peas and what not.

When we had a chance to eat out with him, he was surprised that I loved all their dishes. Anyway even back then, I was thinking only of the food. 

And years later, we visited the place again when parents lived there for a couple of years. We visited them during Christmas holidays. That was the first time I stayed away from them and was missing them so much. The week we went there was the best I could ever want. Parents were praising the food for no end and got us to taste everything they loved there. I enjoyed the food so much and since I was already writing the blog, it was more the reason for me to make notes and try out, back home. We even got to taste the local food, as our neighbour hosted dinner for us and everything was so delicious. It was from this aunty I got to know about Peas stuffed Pooris.
So you will agree that it's just not a coincidence that I started Mega Marathon with this state. Imagine starting with the last dish first. Anyway, life is like that! You need something really memorable to get you going.

Have I warned you that this post is going to be really lengthy? Well be warned!

I am not sure how I landed in Radhaballabi, but what I read made it very interesting. I read that it’s pretty common to see a bong gentleman performing the delicate art of balancing a sack of fresh produce and a large newspaper filled with freshly made radhaballavai in the other. I am told radhaballis were rarely made at home, it is generally bought out.

When everybody was so busy planning, it was like I was on the side just watching the show. Then all of a sudden I had this urge that I had to make it.

This was the first post that gave me an idea on what this bread was about. However, this blogger used chana dal. I know roti or poori stuffed with chana dal was called simply dal roti/dal poori. So felt I had to confirm with somebody else. Obviously, I could think only of Sandeepa. And she has been such a sweet person to reply back patiently and for so many times. First with her mom, then her relatives. This was going on the side as Sandeepa is in the US and the time difference made it hard for me do it a right time.

She wrote back giving me her link to Hing er Kochuri. She said both RadhaBallavi and Hing er Kochuri are almost similar with subtle differences. 

I was still confused. So when I am confused, I mostly call up one person who has ready answers always. Vaishali said she will cross-check with her Bengali friend and get back to me. She confirmed that the stuffing was Urad dal. So it was decided for dinner that evening. 

I made it and everybody enjoyed it. 

However, the history lesson is not complete. Sandy wrote back to me with the following details, which I am quoting below. When the historians of food pass on information, I should make a mistake..:)

1. So both Radhaballavi and Hing er Kochuri are similar and made with Urad Dal

2. The Radhaballavi was the name given by a zamindar family who offered these stuffed puris for Lord Krisna in their temple. It is bigger in size than Hing er Kochuri, has little more spices like the Bhaja Moshla.

3. Hing er Kochuri is smaller in size, the predominant flavor is Hing/Asafoetida.

After this Somtapa wrote back to me as well. She called up her Aunt in Calcutta, who asked a friend who runs a sweet shop. 

This is how it goes, they make Hing er kochuri in the morning for breakfast where they use urad da (without Skin) with plenty of Hing as stuffing. In radhaballabhi, which is now mostly served in the wedding or such kind of ceremony, they use chana dal paste made with ginger, green chili and fennel and then some bhaja masala. This is also called as dal puri. At the end of the day, both are same with the stuffing of dal with different flavors.

So this confirms that different people make the same stuff in different ways. In the end, both the stuffing are used and ultimately it's a fried poori with all-purpose flour and you can imagine how delicious it will be.

However add to the confusion, I read this comment by a Bengali. If you have time, read it for yourself. For me, I rest my case. Whatever stuffing that goes in made this poori a great meal!

Coming to the Niramish Alo Dum, it was so interesting to read Sandeepa’s account of how only Bengalis can come up with a term like this. Imagine Aloo is Niramish, meaning a vegetarian dish. However, the bongs have divided this again as the vegetarian who eat onion and garlic and another sect, who are strict satvik, with no garlic and no onion. 

If you ask me, I simply can’t think of a dish without onion or tomato. So it was a challenge I was keen to take up. The other Aloo Dom, again from Sandeepa’s blog, has onions and was much liked. 

This recipe uses Bhaja Masala, a typical Bengali Spice blend, that’s sprinkled on gravies to perk it up. Come to think of it, we use many such spice blends, only we haven’t named it as such. This was pretty startling when I read about Pondicherry’s usage of Kootu Podi. Unlike Tamil Nadu or Andhra cuisine, Pondy has this Kootu Podi they use for many of their gravies. 

So this interesting link between two different cuisines. And yes they have a specific Garam Masala as well. Though Sandeepa’s recipe didn't call for it, I added it as I read in a couple of other recipes for aloo dum. 

Sorry, that was really too long of a chronological account. However, I didn't want to miss out. Especially since this was the first post I did and also enjoyed doing so much research on this.

I wish to thank Sandeep. and Somtapa for taking so much time to share their knowledge and for being so patient for my never ending questions. And of course, all of you if you have come to this point in this long account! Enjoy the delicious Radhaballabhi with Alu Dum!





Niramish Alu Dom

Potatoes -- 10 small potatoes (not baby potatoes)

Pressure cook the potatoes with enough water for 4 -5 whistles or till done. 

Once the pressure falls down, all the potatoes to cool, then peel skin, prick them randomly.

Heat a nonstick pan, add 2 tsp oil, add salt, 1/2 tsp ginger paste, 1/4 tsp amchur powder, 3/4 tsp Kashmiri chili flakes and 1/2 tsp black pepper powder. Now add the peeled potatoes and then fry. The black pepper and red chili flakes add a beautiful layer to the dish. Remove and keep it aside.

In the same pan, next heat 2 tbsp of cooking Oil + 1/2 tsp ghee/butter and temper with

Bay Leaf - 2
4 Dry Red Chili (I added 2 Kashmiri Chilies, 2 Andhra chilies)
Star anise - 1
Methi seeds 
Hing - 1/4 tsp

Switch off the heat and let the oil soak in the flavor of the spices. Switch back on again.

Add puree made from 2 - 4 large tomato with 2 green chilies. Fry for 6-7 minutes till the tomato gets well cooked and oil comes out. At this stage add 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger and fry for 2 more minutes. Simmer, while you make the curd paste

In a bowl make a paste of
2 tbsp curds 
1/2 tbsp of Coriander powder, 
1 tbsp and 1 tsp of Bhaja Masla
1/2 Bengali Garam Masala

Whip the curd mix well with the spices and add the paste to the simmering gravy.

Then add 1/2 tsp of Red Chili powder.

Fry the masala, sprinkling water as needed for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes, toss in the masala.

Add about 1 cup of water, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp of sugar and simmer. Cook covered till potatoes are done.

Garnish with chopped coriander and two green chilies chopped in thin rounds.

Serve with Radhaballabhi

Notes:

Original recipe calls for finely chopped tomatoes, however, it is also suggested puree works out better. I always add puree to my gravies, so simply used puree.

Chopped green Chilies are also added along with tomato puree, I skipped as my gravy already has too much spice.

The recipe also didn't call for Bengali Garam Masala, I added based on few other recipes.

The final dish does end up being quite spicy as we add it in different forms. adjust the chili heat to suit your style.
How to make Radhaballavi | Poori stuffed with Urad Dal

Ingredients Needed for the Urad dal stuffing:

For the dal paste

Urad dal - 1 cup
Green chilies - 3 - 4 nos
Ginger - 2"

Soak the Urad dal overnight or for at least 5 -6 hrs. Drain and grind to a coarse paste along with green chilies and ginger. The dal paste should not be very coarse but not as smooth as vada batter as well.

For Tempering

Oil - 2 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Fennel powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt a pinch
Sugar - a pinch

Heat a nonstick pan with oil, temper with hing, fennel powder, sugar, and salt. Then add the ground dal paste and saute well. Continue sauteing till it comes out of the sides.

The whole process takes about 15 - 20 mins when you use nonstick pan. Once it cools down, make small balls from the dough.

Notes:

One of recipe I referred uses Bhaaja Masala powder. I skipped in this and added to the Aloo Dum.
Also, ginger is added to the tempering as well. Since I felt I added more during grinding, I skipped in this.
The dal tends to get very dried up, so make sure there is little moisture left when you are sautéing.
Ingredients for the Radhaballabhi's outer layer

Maida / All purpose flour - 2 cups
Ghee + Oil - 3 tsp
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Water for kneading
Oil for frying

How to make the outer layer for the poori.

In a bowl take maida, salt along with ghee and oil.

Mix them together to crumble them. Then slowly add water to knead into a tight dough. 

Grease oil over the dough and keep it aside for 15 - 20 mins, covered with a wet muslin cloth. 

Before making the pooris, knead again and pinch out lemon sized balls out of the dough.

Making the Radhaballavi

Smooth the maida balls between your palms, flatten the sides, place the dal ball in the center and enclose it completely, making sure it encloses the dal ball.

Flatten it and roll it out uniformly into flat round discs of 4 -5 diameters by dusting it with flour.

Heat a Kadai with enough oil and let it get hot. Gently slide your radhaballabhi and fry on both sides.

Even if this is stuffed, the art lies in rolling it very lightly so that during frying the pooris puff up.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen towel. 

Radhaballavi is served with Aloor Dum.
Since I was procrastinating so much on this dish, I just took off and made it. I made this for the dinner and was quite harassed as I was trying to make it quickly but had to click pictures as well. Finally had to seek help and Konda and Hubby took turns in clicking pictures of the step by step process. I had already clicked so many and on top, they also added to the merry. There were so many angles and I had a tough time choosing the pictures.

On the hindsight, I wish I was more organized for this post. And also made a couple of more of my favorite dishes or at least made a sweet to end in the sweet tone! 

I have done none and here I am with just a delicious Dal stuffed Pooris and a spicy Aloo Dum.

With this, we come to the end of the Indian Food Odyssey! It's been a wonderful journey of over five months, with so many emails, discussions and what not.

I hope you all enjoyed reading the posts. I wish to thank my Blogging Marathon friends, who have made this journey so much more beautiful, with their beautiful posts. 

We will be back with another exciting Mega Marathon shortly, until then, enjoy the regular BM.


Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 39


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