Mocha ghonto - In 7 simple steps.
When I was small, mocha or Banana flower used to be a favorite, but I rarely got to eat it, as mom was a working mother and cleaning and cutting banana flower took up a lot of time which mom couldn’t afford.
However as I grew up to become a teenager, I struck a deal - I’ll do the cleaning and cutting, you do the cooking, and Mom was game! Since then we did have it quite a few times during my teenage, and always when I came back for vacations during my hostel days.
I didn’t cook it for a long long time after I had my own kitchen in Mumbai. It wasn’t that I had lost the taste for mocha. I did pick it up a couple of times when I happened to come across one perched enticingly in a Supermarket shelf, but both of them died natural deaths waiting in mine. Mondays through Saturdays I never even looked at it, and Sundays were as always lazy. I started the process of cooking so late that there was hardly enough time to even cook a vegetable, leave alone Banana flower! Chicken or eggs were the preferred options, almost always. After those two failed attempts I had stopped buying mocha.
A famous Bengali writer once wrote “Cooking mocha is a symbol of women’s servitude. A poor D-i-l will peel the florets one by one…those many seconds of her life she loses for ever…why? Just because a few male and female members of her family will sprinkle a few words of praise on her culinary skills? Is it worth? Is she not capable of doing better things with those seconds?”
May-be those words, and the few failed attempts influenced the feminist inside me enough to banish mocha from my menu-card for a long time. But not anymore…I have convinced myself that I am cooking mocha to please myself – not anybody else. And gradually as I grew wiser with time I realized that like in every other project, the secret of cooking Mocha successfully lied in planning. Planning well and ahead of time was the key to an effective end-product of a mouth-watering dish called mocha-ghonto. I started buying it on a Friday or a Saturday, cleaned it while I watched TV till late in the evening (since next day was a holiday), and then cooked it on a Sunday afternoon! Actually cleaning is not half as big a deal as it is made out to be, provided you divide the job intelligently. Always do the cleaning while you are watching your favorite show on TV. It anyways does not take more than an hour, but that hour can count towards you relaxing time, if you are watching TV, and not towards a household chore! That way you wont feel exploited either.
This method works, and we now have mocha ghonto at least one Sunday a month!
Mocha (whole Banana flower) – 1
Chana dal - a handful, soaked in water for about 1 hr
Potato (optional) - 1
Oil (mustard, or as per preference) – 2 tsp
Moongdal (optional) - a handful
Tomato(chopped) - 1
Ginger - 1 inch
Green chillies -1
Tej pata (bay leaves) - 2 leaves
Ilaich (Cardamom) -2
Lobongo (Cloves ) - 2
Daruchini(Cinnamon) - 2 inches
Jeera(cumin) powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Haldi - 1 tsp
Gur/sugar (optional) - ½ tsp
Chilli powder (optional) - ½ tsp
Step 1: Clean the florets while you are watching your favorite show on TV. Watching TV is crucial here because unless you do so, you will never embark on the procedure, but if you do, you will realize how effortlessly the boring job is done. Cleaning is nothing but removing the stigma and the bracts (the translucent boat shaped petal-like part) one by one, somewhat like this.
Step 2: Chop the cleaned florets (you may also julienne it in a food processor like I do) and keep it soaked in water with a little turmeric dissolved in it for about an hour. Half an hour is also okay, if you are in a hurry. Soaking in turmeric water gets rid of bitterness if any.
Step 4. Heat oil in a skillet and all the bay leaf, and whole garam masala. Fry for about a minute,
Step 6. Add all the remaining ingredients excepting the chopped banana flower which is soaked in turmeric water. Stir nicely and cover for another 5 mins.
In between you may want to check if there is enough moisture, otherwise the dish might start burning. If there isn’t, sprinkle a few drops at a time – never pour. Water has very little to do in this dish.
If you have made a large quantity, you can also make mochar chop out of it. For the non-bongs, mochar chop is a savoury snack somewhat like a veg croquette made out of the stuffing we just made.