Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Undhiu - A True Classic

One post is not enough. I actually need an entire blog to write about Undhiu. There would be one post for each ingredient..some posts for the papdi sessions...some for the stories shared during the papdi sessions...some for the layering order..some criticizing the "caterer versions"...some about the side dishes...ohh..I could go on and on...Everytime I make this, the people around me are subjected to a million stories...In my mother's household, Undhiu is a religion...Every detail matters...and you never mess with the recipe..ever...

Let's see if I can fit all this in a post. If you have eaten Undhiyu at Gujarati weddings or at catered parties..this version is nothing like that oily, mix-all-curry-like substance. The Undhiu my mom makes (and I make) is an art form. It is about appreciating every single element..and yet enjoying the combined taste..but I drift again..it's basically stuffed, fresh winter vegetables, layered in a particular order and cooked slowly.

It all starts with the Papdi. Papdi is usually a generic term for many flat bean like vegetables. But in this case, it has to be the "Surti papdi" (The same one where Lilva comes from). If you're from Surat, you would insist on papdi from Katargaam. You would spend half an hour checking out different stalls to pick the freshest one, then make sure you cover it with wet towel, so it does not dry up on its way home..and keep it covered. Then you would gather up the entire family, and the neighbors - men, women, old and young...and host a "papdi session", where the strings are carefully removed by people surrounding the huge pile...(small kids trying to sneak in their share in someone else's mini-pile)...and stories are shared by the old men and women about their times..All the while, making sure that papdi is not exposed to air too long....so it stays fresh, moist and tender...If you live in the US, you cut open a pack of frozen "surti papdi".

Next, you need vegetables - As fresh as you can get, and in the US, as small as you can get. This is no place for the monster vegetables. Potatoes - preferably white; Baby eggplants - remove stems; Sweet potatoes (try to get the ones with white flesh, instead of the orange ones); Ratalu (this is basically a root vegetable that has purple flesh - you get it frozen in the Indian store); Bananas - ripe (I know many recipes call for raw..but this is my mom's version..trust me); Green garlic (a cousin of spring onions - incredibly delicate - again, may use frozen)

Then, you need to make muthias - You might have made this before..recipe follows..resist the urge to add besan..And finally, you need stuffing. This is the most crucial element, because it will decide the final taste, obviously. Make sure you taste it before you start stuffing. It must be over-salted, since it has to carry the salt for the entire dish - but it has to taste good.

This Undhiu has very little oil. You will not see it. The emulsion technique makes it invisible. Which is why this is so much better than the oily-red-horrible "caterer" Undhiu. Oh, and the stuffing technique is very unique, so that you can taste the stuffing on the entire vegetable, rather than on just one end. Pay close attention.

Serving The final Undhiu is also an art, and only the person who cooked it is given that privilege (it's kind of like carving the Turkey). Always move your serving spoon from top to bottom, so that each person gets a little bit of everything (in the second helping they can ask for specific things they like..and only you know where they are). Moving your spoon around in the undhiu pot is sacrilege. Respect it.

I usually serve it with pooris and Shrikhand (and some Surti Jeeralu on the side). But you have my permission to change the sides as you like. Hey, I'm very flexible otherwise...

So, enough story telling.. here's the recipe. Feel free to change the proportion of vegetables based on your family's preferences. I know I have done everything to make it sound very intimidating. It's not. With a little bit of help from the freezer and a bunch of friends - you will have a lot of fun...And you'll see why my mom and I simply love making Undhiu...


Papdi Marinade:
Fresh Green Chilli-Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Hing - 1 tsp (not just a pinch)
Oil - 1/4 cup
Water - 1 cup
Soda-bi-carb - 1 tsp

Surti Papdi (one packet frozen or about half a kilo)
Potatoes - 6-7
Baby eggplants - 6-7
Sweet potatoes - 3-4
Ratalu - one packet frozen or a half kilo piece
Ripe Bananas - 3-4
Green Garlic - a few bunches or one packet frozen

Coarse Wheat Flour (Ladoo no lot) - 1 1/2 cup
Methi (preferably baby methi, if not, regular is fine) - 1/2 cup chopped
Chopped Cilantro - 1/4 cup
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1 tsp
Dhania - jeera powder - 1 tbsp
Hing - pinch
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Water - enough to make a soft dough

Fresh dessicated coconut (one frozen packet or about 1 1/2 fresh coconut)
Finely chopped Cilantro - 1 1/2 cups
Dhania-zeera powder - 1/4 cup
Hing - 11/2 tsp (yes, a lot of hing)
Chilli-ginger paste - 3-4 tbsp (also seems a lot, but you will need it)
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 4 tbsp
Salt to taste (remember to over salt the mixture)


Mix everything (according to taste) and make a soft dough. Take a small ball (smaller than a lime) and form a longish shape, then press with your fingers to make marks. This basically helps cook the muthias evenly from inside. (And this is where the name muthia comes from, since you have to form a fist to make them). Fry them till about half done and keep aside.


Mix the Papdi marinade ingredients in a big pot and swirl it, so that the oil and water makes an emulsion. Add the papdi and stir gently. Cover and keep aside so that the papdi marinates for about half an hour. Wash and peel vegetables. Keep vegetables like potatoes, etc covered under water, so they don't get dark. Mix all the stuffing ingredients. For stuffing, you need to make two slits - First, make a regular slit till about half way through the vegetable. Then, turn it around, and make another slit at a 90 degree angle. This gives you two cavities to fill, without breaking the vegetable, and the taste seeps into the entire vegetable. Stuff it well with the stuffing. Repeat this for the potatoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes. Chop the two end of the banana and cut in two. Make only one slit and stuff it. Start layering the vegetables. First start with sturdy ones like potatoes, then sweet potatoes, eggplant, then add big pieces of Ratalu and finally bananas (the order is very important since, some vetables are more delicate and some take longer to cook). Between each layer, sprinkle a little bit of the stuffing and some chopped baby garlic. Finally, add the semi-fried muthias and cover (do not add more water - Undhiu will cook in it's own juices). Cook on a low-medium flame for about 35-40 mins. Do not stir. Check by inserting a knife through one of the vegetables to check if they are done. Serve hot.

1 comment:

beena said...

whatever beena can do Pallika cando it better