Durga Puja | Recipes | Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

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Durga Puja: Maa, mauja, mishti and more…

First things first, to those who have a little trouble in decoding these Bengali terms – ‘Maa’ definitely is Goddess Durga, ‘mauja’ is fun and ‘mishti’ is sweet (because, anything Bengali is incomplete without something meetha!). And when all these things and with others are put together, it translates into Durga Puja, the most important festival of the food loving bangalis across the world! This festival is held to essentially celebrate the victory of ‘good over evil’ and Goddess Durga, who, according to Hindu mythology, was the creation of the combined powers of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. She fought and defeated the invincible buffalo demon Mahishasura, who was a menace in all the 3 spheres – earth, heaven and hell.  


But, apart from this folklore, there’s much more to it – this festival is not just the devotion for Maa Durga but a lot more than that. It is also a cultural festival that is very much connected to arts, crafts, music, theatre, films, etc. for Bengalis. For them, it’s not just a 9 day celebration. It rather begins on mahalaya, which signifies Maa Durga’s journey to Earth with her children and this is a week before the actual celebrations begin. However, this year the gap was more than that because of the 2 amavasyas in the mala mash or unholy month. After this, it is the 6th day or shashthi that marks the beginning of the festivities, which goes on till the 10th day, that is bijoya doshumi or Dussehra.   


Food is one of the facets that cannot be left unspoken of, as it plays a major role in all Bengali occasions, festivals and celebrations. The same goes for Durga Puja too – from the spread of savoury and sweet dishes that are a part of the bhogs in pandals to the most delectable vegetarian and non-vegetarian food options (biryani, rolls, chops, mishti, etc.) at the unique stalls of anand melas – this festival cannot be complete without a touch of deliciousness in the form of flavours and aromas. Unlike the navratras, fasting is not an essential aspect for Bengalis during these days. 


All about the indispensable pujor bhog 

Bhog is nothing but the prasad that is offered to the devi. However, it consists of a full course meal that forms an intrinsic part of the celebrations for Bengalis as well as non-Bengalis during Durga Puja. The food is cooked and served by volunteers working and providing their services at a particular pandal and is not charged. Swarms of people line-up or gather to feast on this bhog that consists of individual portions of some of the most popular Bengali delicacies. This food spread is necessarily vegetarian. Read on to know about these dishes…  


Khichuri – Is nothing but khichdi, prepared in a traditional Bengali style with lentils, rice and sometimes vegetables. 

Polao – Some places might serve an aromatic vegetable pulao instead of the khichuri, on certain days of pujo. Basmati rice, assorted mixed vegetables, choicest of spices, sugar and the rest of the seasoning, cooked Bengali style. 

Labra – A semi dry mixed vegetable preparation. The authentic way to cook this is in mustard oil with seasonal vegetables like pui shaag (Malabar spinach) amongst others. 

Beguni – The quintessential batter-fried brinjal pakodas, sometimes with a hint of onion seeds. Apart from this, there may be other varieties of bhaja (fried) vegetable fritters too – like aloo, kumro (pumpkin), phulkopi (cauliflower), etc.  

Chatni – This is the chutney that goes best with the khichuri. The most popular version is a tangy tomato-dates-tamarind one, tempered in a traditional way. However, another unique one made of raw papaya, called the plastic chatni may also be served during special days. 

Payesh – Even the bhog is incomplete without a sweet in it. A typical rice-milk kheer or payesh as called in Bengali is the most preferred choice on this prasad platter. Alongwith this, sometimes there may be other famous mishtis (sweets) too like sandesh, gulab jamun, langcha, kheer kadam, chum chum, etc. 

Cholar dal, chanar dalna, luchi, etc. are some of the other preparations that one might find on a bhog menu. It is indeed a bliss and a one-of-a-kind experience! 


Before I end, here’s the easy-peasy recipe of the khichuri for you to try it at your home: https://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/recipe/Khichuri.html

Happy pujo! 


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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.