Here is another Kashmiri vegetarian recipe. It is special because it is one of the few accompanying dishes that make up Kashmiri cuisine. The rest of India has a mind boggling variety of things to be ‘served on the left side’ of the thali. Let me explain this. There is a specific sequence to serving food in Maharashtra. You start with a bit of salt on the left side. This is the side reserved for all accompaniments: chutneys, pickles, wedges of lemon, koshimbirs (salads) or raitas. Bhajjis (pakoras), if part of the meal, will also find room here. Next will be a katori of daal, and then to the right of the thali is the main subzi. Rice and roti are towards the lower centre of the thali. The sweet, somewhere in the middle, is always served along with the meal. Even for everyday meals you will have something served on the left, even if just a pickle, though chutneys are served frequently. It would sadden my MIL to serve just a pickle ‘daavi kade‘ (on the left side!).
I have no idea why the Northern most state of our country is so lacking in this category. Maharashtra, Gujarat and all the Southern states lay as much emphasis on this ‘side’ to introduce a complexity of texture and flavour into their cuisine. It might have something to do with Kashmiris being obsessed with their meat or the harsh climate making cooking harder with women concentrating on getting the meat cooked in time for the unusually early meal times. Lunch, in most houses, would be ready and served before 10:00 in the morning. Everyone ate and went to work or school. Where was the time to sit and pound different things together in a pestle and mortar? The plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables such as radishes and cucumbers are perfect for snacking and getting the crunch that might have been missed at meal time.
Though there are just a few chutneys and raitas but these are much loved and used over and over. One loved vegetable is mooli (daikon radish). It is cooked with fish or nadur (lotus stem) to lip-smacking results. It is also the vegetable of choice for making our most popular raita – mujj chatin. For some reason it is called a chutney. Grated mooli added to thick salted dahi with chopped green chillies mixed in. Red chilli powder and a pinch of shah zeera (black cumin) is totally optional. This is the only Kashmiri dish in which I will use a garnish of coriander leaves. I love coriander, but it is not traditional to Kashmiri cuisine.
We make another side-dish with mooli, and strangely, this is also called mujj chatin. It is a simple dish of stir fried mooli with a hint of hing and a lot of Kashmiri red chilli. It combines well with plain dal. I usually pair it with Kashmiri moong dal (using my Nani’s recipe) and steamed rice. The dal has no red chilli and this is a perfect pairing. Comfort food at its best; yet again.
Mujj Chatin 1
Stir Fried Radish Chutney
Use your own feel for the spicing. I am giving rough amounts here.
2-3 C grated radish (preferably daikon), grate using the coarse side
A few whole fresh red chillies (or green ones)
Pinch of hing
1 t cumin seeds
1 ½ t Kashmiri red chillies (the dish will get its colour from this)
1 ½ -2 T mustard oil (not too scanty)
Juice of half a tart lemon (2 T of tart)
Wash, scrape and grate the radish. Break the red or green chillies into two. In a karahi or heavy bottomed pan heat mustard oil to smoking. Add a pinch of hing followed by the cumin and the chilli pieces. Stir for a few seconds and add the red chilli powder. Stir quickly and add the grated radish. Red chilli powder can burn very quickly in hot oil so ensure that you have the radish ready to add to the oil. Give a stir to mix. Add salt and stir again. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir now and then to ensure even cooking and that the radish does not stick to the karahi. Turn off the heat once the radish is barely crisp (10-15 min). Mix in the lemon juice. It will finish cooking in the residual heat and yet not be mushy. Serve at room temperature with dal-chaval. Mujj chatin, any which way, can perk up a plain meal with the kick that it adds.
Mujj Chatin 2
1 C grated radish (daikon or red radish)
1 ½ C yoghurt
1-2 chopped green chillies
1/2 t shah zeera (black cumin) (optional)
chopped coriander and red chilli powder (to garnish)
Beat and salt the yoghurt. Mix in the grated radish and chopped green chillies. Garnish with coriander and red chilli powder. Chill and serve with any Indian meal.
Incidentally, despite all our differences, this is very similar to the Maharashtrian version.🙂