Something Wicked This Way Comes…

March 10, 2008 at 11:47 AM (Arusuvai Friendship Chain, Bihar, dishes by main ingredient, India, various greens, vegetables/ fruits)


…wickedly-wonderfully-fragrant more like! My nose- yet three feet from the mailbox, already in bliss- and curiosity claimed hold of my hands, recasting them into grasping crab-claws to quickly, quietly clasp and crimp the box’s contents that the mail-carrier had bid “adieu”- undoubtedly with a fair measure of grief. Poor thing… but, ah! Lucky me! The Arusuvai Friendship Chain has now crossed over this humble threshold!

I had to inhale once again- before opening the package, before taking another step inwards, before even reading the sender’s name. I must have died within a fond dream, thought I, and day after day, from now until never’s noon, will I be gathering such delights from my mailbox… but, alas, the phone rings and, while I stand stunned, I hesitate and hear while a thoughtful message is left to remind me of a dreaded, upcoming appointment. I heave a sigh, turn the package over and read the sender’s address: “From the lovely and talented Mistress of Music, Deliverer of Dreams, Stocker of Secrets, Sender of Salubrious and Delicious Delicacies…

…or something like that. [grins] Someone really needs to tone down their intros- wouldn’t you agree? So now come a few photos:


I do wish it were possible to attach a “fragrance-file” to these (it is unfortunate in this case, but then I can imagine others wherein this olfactory handicap in technology might be considered fortunate), but Musical, I thank you thank you thank you for these wonderful things: a nourishing rice of rare origin, two extraordinary masalas, that mysterious spice that begins with a…with an…

These things have inspired me to think of or find new dishes in which to try them, but most of all I am impressed by the freshness of the mystery ingredient– I have never beheld it so! Such a powerful effect it has on the tongue….reminds me of a dish I dearly love and that I haven’t made in several years. It has something to do with an aged woman, I believe… but all in due time! And I’ll announce my forward-moving Arusuvai recipients then. (this is serious business- considering what to send and to whom!)


Clockwise from the bottom: Bhutanese red rice, Punju-style garam masala, Kerala-style garam masala, and a lil’ something that I sampled three of and afterward thought one would have sufficed for sampling- whoa- strong! (but I am not complaining!)

Can anyone guess- not what the mystery ingredient is– but something more difficult: what is the name of the dish which will be my next post? The winner(s) will become my recipients of the outward-moving chain, which will be posted on March 17th.

But what’s a post without a recipe, you might ask? That’d be like a grin without a cat…or something like that! So……here is a recipe from Bihar*, that you may just like- wherever you are! Mustard oil is truly a must- without it the dish might fail; I trust you will find some before you begin this simple venture. Not from a tin, but fresh buy some greens(found near the aubergines)- a pleasant mix is best. The dressing is blessed with raw garlic and ginger (whose taste tends to linger), so be sure to savour it with those who favour such flavours… alas, it would otherwise be like leading the blind to butterflies!

Mixed Greens ka Chokha

1 1/2 lbs. mixed greens

2 T mustard oil

2 T coriander leaves, finely chopped

1/2 t garlic paste (I just took one clove/flake…)

1/2 t ginger paste

1/2 t green chile paste- or to taste (er…does one, maybe two green chiles make that amount?)

1/2 t salt

1) Wash and pick over the greens; bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add the greens and cook until just tender; remove, let cool; squeeze out excess water- but not excessively, then either puree the greens in a food processor- adding a little cooking-water- or chop very finely by hand.

2)Mix the remaining ingredients together well to form a very pungent, raw-flavoured sauce; pour this over the greens and mix thoroughly (no folks…none of this is applied to a heat-source!). Serve with flat-bread of your choice, but puris are best! (and recommended by Madhur)

*This recipe is taken from (and modified only slightly) from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cookbook. It is titled Spinach Cooked in a Bihari Style, but there is mention in the foreward that it is traditionally composed of a mixture of chana greens, mustard greens, and spinach… For an exquisitely-written and well-researched post on the subject of chokha, check out Jugalbandi’s post.

P.S. I’ve been reading. About Holi. And thandai… and the secret ingredient that seems to be left out in recipes I’ve read. Is it totally legal in India I ask?!



  1. Asha said,

    WOW! Musie is really taking the store to everyone these days! Hahaha!! Wonderful ingredients.

    Two points to make why I am not even trying to guess!

    1. I am BAD guesser, NEVER guess right, so why bother?
    2. I already got my Arusuvai package!!

    Whatever you make with those yummies will be delicious, I am sure! ENJOY!:D

    Ha ha… you do know how to keep priorities, for certain! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. musy said,


    I am touched, Pel! Touched, that you think so highly of these lil’ things…..Thanks for the kindest words, dear!

    And a really BIG thanks for the Bihari saag recipe 🙂 You do cater to popular demand, don’t you 😀

    As for what comes next, i guess i have an idea 😀 Aged women and all 😉

    From the looks of it, YOU might be my Arusuvai recipient! 😀 I was hoping there’d be at least ONE fan of China’s western cuisines to guess right, but…you never know! Cater to popular demand? Yeah…that’s me! 😉

  3. Pooja V said,

    I think they are “grains of paradise” or Melegueta pepper. I would pick Pulao or biryani since you have Rice there but a rice – lentil soup option too.

    Nice attempt! But no… 🙂

    That rice would make a truly lovely pulao, I agree (isn’t the colour splendid?), but for the next dish, of these ingredients I will only be using the mystery ingredient.

  4. shilpa said,

    Wow…thats such a nice list of secret ingredients Pel. I have no idea what you will be posting next….mashed potatoes??? ;).

    Mashed potatoes?! Now there is an interesting idea…. 😀

  5. bee said,

    this dish – ‘spinach cooked bihari style’, is called chokha. as for what you’re going to post next, i have no clue.

    Chokha…thank you! And I just read your post of it as well…does no dish slip past the keen eyes of Jugalbandi? 🙂 But, nice research! I’ll update the recipe title.

  6. Anita said,

    Yeah yeah – so you have teppal/tirphal now… 😀 and a lot of it. Thanks for reminding me that I have a few sitting in my cupboard as well. Had bookmarked Ashwini’s khatkhate to make with root vegetables…I’ll do it right away since those are the only vegetables at their best at the moment.

    And posts without recipes? Certain blogs are full of them. 😉

    What you are going to cook with it – no point in guessing, since I am not going to win nothing anyway…(the ‘aged woman’ clue rings no bell besides….)

    Bihari cuisine seems to love playing with the pungency of oogra flavours! I loved the addition of uncooked mustard oil in Bihari aloo, and I am sure to like this creation! But mustard season is over – spinach is all we have now.

    Ah…it is found in abundance here at the moment…yes, I am intrigued by Bihari cuisine as well for this, though my family is quite frightened by this dish! 🙂 …”not going to win nothing” ??? oh dear… 😀

  7. Manisha said,

    It’s a crime to have so much tirphal. It means that there is more from whence it came. An even bigger crime.

    Pel, try Shilpa’s fish curry. It’s one of the basic fish curries we make with tirphal. But whatever you do, do not grind or blend the tirphal into the masala.

    I have to try this Bihari recipe soon!

    And it’s not nice to call Anita aged.

    LOL! And yes, you are sure to enjoy the chokha…it is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten but I liked it immediately. I actually have tried Shilpa’s recipe for shark gravy– using tilapia instead- quite good, yes! And it would be even better with this very fresh Sichuan pepper. Isn’t it beautiful? I can see you’re pouting… 😀

  8. Suganya said,

    I see teppal. But no idea what comes next.

    Fasten your seat-belt then!

  9. Mansi said,

    That bihari recipe sounds interesting pel! here’s my guess…you are going to cook “spicy bhutanese rice”…hahahhaaa!! how’s that??:)

    Hmmmmm…never thought of that! 😉 hehehehe But no, I’ll be wandering to the far north for the next one. 🙂

  10. outofthegarden said,

    Only one teeny clove of garlic!? Still, the recipe sounds yummy. I got a package too, from dear Mandira, just this week, but I am off for a few days so it’ll be next week before I post it. I think you have some szechuan peppercorns there — aka teppal as mentioned above? But honest, I guessed that before I read the comments 😉 What could you make with that — egads. Salt-and-pepper tofu? :):)


    Oooooh! So close, but no cigar for Linda! That one clove of garlic be used raw for the chokha, so it has a presence- not to worry! 🙂 Yes, that spice is actually Szechuan pepper, but tirphal/teppal is of the same genus and fairly indistinguishable from its sister and can be used interchangeably- but you probably know this already from your food-ventures. Enjoy your time off!

  11. Manisha said,

    That one has garam masala. I meant the absolute basic fish curry with tirphal. It sounds simple but the flavors are complex: ginger, tirphal and kokum.

    Looks yum, but sharks half swum past Shilpa’s harpoon twice, and therefore you will be demoted to HLO… 🙂

  12. Anita said,

    You have a problem with my grammar?! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    Dat dere kind o’ writin’ don’t look the best comin’ from tha likes o’ you! You been traipsin’ ’round the taverns wit dat Jahandar agin’? 🙂

  13. Manisha said,

    I swear it had garam masala when I read it.

    And no, you *cannot* substitute kudampuli for kokum. They may both be from the same garcinia family but they each impart a distinctly different sourness and smell! So let me say it yet again: please try Shilpa’s basic fish curry with tirphal because you know what? You haven’t eaten it yet. You can change the fish but you can’t change the spices. So there! Methinks it needs to be harpooned yet again.

    You must have read this one! 🙂 But somewhere in all of that you do have a point (don’t you? lol): I acquired some kokum, and it is quite different from kadampuli… so…well, maybe…I’ll try the fish recipe. What will I get if I do? 😀

  14. Manisha said,

    Bhang? I believe it is legal in some parts of India. And where it is not, it is consumed anyway.

    And there needs to be a point? Since when?

    What will you get? A mouthful of flavor. Isn’t that enough? Jeez. What is this world coming to…[laments and goes back into into NaBloSiMo mode]

    Oh ya poor dear…all of this lamenting. I think you’ve been making too much payasam again…take a break. Order out some Chinese.


  15. Cynthia said,

    Darn! there goes my chance to get a package because I am horrible at guessing!

    It’s one of those riddles that, if you know, you know instantly…but I have a feeling that no-one will be guessing it!

  16. Anita said,

    Bhang is legal all over the country, no? It is made into sherbat, ladoos, barfis…all things Pel loves 😀 .

    And, Manisha, don’t go looking for lamer excuses for your blog silence – blaming it on the world are we?! That stuff mentioned above might be the perfect antidote for you!

    No…first-timers need charras. 🙂 Sherbat, LADOOS!, and barfi….?! So…. basically I’m living in the wrong country? My family would miss me though. Somewhat. 😀

  17. Manisha said,

    I don’t know for sure, Anita. That’s how I remember it. But then things have changed since I left and from reports after recent visits, it almost seems like urban India is more American than America itself.

    Lame? Tsk! tsk! tsk! Really whatever is this world coming to…and yes, Bihari saag should get me going – inside and out! Or did you mean bhang? Never had that stuff. Never will.

    No? Mixed into a chokha would be a good place to start. Just kidding. Sort of, but I do admire your resolution. Have a lychee-nut? 😉

  18. zlamushka said,

    Awesome, a pack of mahua. I hope you re making:

    That’s not fair! You can speak and type Mandarin and I can’t…. but nope! Very close though. Ma hua..”numbing flowers”…I must thank you for that.

  19. Diane said,

    sechuan peppercorns? zingy!

    Ain’t it the truth?

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