Mocha or banana blossom holds a special place in Bengali cuisine. I have come across very few bongs in my life who do not eat or love mocha. Owing to the effort needed to clean and cut them, they are often consumed on special occasions. Mocha is often served as an alternative to fish and meat, i.e. on days when we eat vegetarian at home. However, there are a number of preparations in which fish is cooked along with mocha, the most popular being mocha chingri (banana blossom cooked with shrimps).
In Israel, I had often heard from people about mocha being available in a particular shop. But somehow never managed to reach the shop. Not that I did not look for the shop sincerely. Being a passionate foodie and a blogger, I have really hunted for it. And at the end of 4 years of my stay in Israel, I finally managed to locate the shop. And then when I successfully, hunted the place, I was almost jumping with triumph. Clueless about how many to buy, I immediately called my husband and after a discussion with him, I took home three of such huge flowers. And, for the next three days, chopping them and freezing them became our project for every evening after my son went to sleep.
Chopping mocha is cumbersome but is completely worth it. Isn’t it? But there are few things you should keep in mind before you begin chopping mocha. You should smear mustard oil on both your palms since banana flower stains the skin black. Mustard oil though does not completely prevent staining and is a traditional way of getting fewer stains on one’s hand. Alternatively, you can use gloves to prevent staining completely.
Mocha is a rich source of iron. Therefore, the mocha turns black gradually when it comes in contact with air. when you steam the mocha, you should discard the water. Keeping the water might give a metallic taste to your chaal mocha. You need to be also careful while buying mocha. This is because some mocha turns out bitter in taste. You can break just one corner of a flower and taste before buying. Sometimes buying a slightly bitter mocha and later discarding the water after steaming also helps.
- 3½ cups of mocha cleaned and chopped
- ⅓ cup of gobindobhog/basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons of refined oil
- 1 tablespoon of mustard oil
- 1 tablespoon of ghee
- 1 inch of cinnamon stick broken into pieces
- 4-6 cardamom pods
- 6-8 cloves
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 10-12 cashew nuts split
- 10-12 raisins (kishmish)
- 3-4 green chilies or according to your tolerance
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon of sugar (adjustable)
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- 1½ teaspoon of cumin powder
- 1½ teaspoon of coriander powder
- 1½ teaspoon of red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons of Bengali garam masala powder (See Notes)
- Wash the rice properly in water and let it soak in water for about 30 minutes
- Drain the water from the rice and keep them in a kichen towel to drain the water.
- Pressure cook the chopped banana flower. Discard the water and keep the steamed banana flower aside.
- In a kadai, take the refined oil and heat it. Once hot, fry the cashew nuts and raisins to golden brown and keep them aside.
- Now, add the rice to the kadai and saute them till they change their color. Remove the rice on a plate and keep it aside.
- Add the mustard oil to the kadai along with the oil remaining in the kadai. Temper the oil with cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves and cumin seeds.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the ground ginger with turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, salt, red chili powder, sugar along with 3 tablespoons of water and keep aside.
- As the whole spices release their aroma, add the spice mix prepared earlier, to the kadai along with the green chilies.
- Saute the spices till they begin releasing oil from the sides. Sprinkle water in between if necessary.
- Now, add the steamed banana flower to the kadai and give it a hearty mix.
- Add about 1 cup of hot water to the kadai followed by the rice and cashew nuts and continue cooking on medium flame.
- Cook the rice till it is completely done. Keep hot water handy and add if necessary. When the rice is almost completely done, add ghee, garam masala and kishmish (raisins) to the kadai and give it a hearty mix and let it cook for another couple of minutes. (See Notes)
- Turn off the flame. Cover and let it rest for 2 minutes or till ready to serve.
- To prepare Bengali Garam masala, take 2″ cinnamon stick, 7-8 green cardamom pods, 5-6 cloves. Dry roast them in a pan and grind them to a fine powder. Strain the mixture to remove the bigger chunks. The powder is ready to use.
- Chaal mocha should not be completely dry as polao nor should it be watery. It should have just enough water to form a silky sauce that coats the rice and the mocha.
- For such preparations gobindobhog rice is the best choice but if you do not have an access to it like me, you can use good quality basmati rice.
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