Monday, October 12, 2015

Girmit - a North Karnataka special chat that you will keep eating without a break :-)

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
- L.M. Montgomery(Anne of Green Gables)

If someone were to wake me up from deep slumber, take me to a library full of good reads, handed me a basket and asked me to pick my 10 favorite books, "Anne of Green Gables" would definitely be in the basket. There is such a 'cheer me up' factor in that story of the spirited, red haired orphan girl that I can go back to reading it any time. On the other hand, picking 10 favorite books - I am not so sure I can ever do that, you see 10 is a very small number especially when it relates to the world of imagination.
With such vivid tapestry of colors and descriptions, just like the Autumn itself, I love both the book and the heroine of the story. I am sure Anne (spelled with an 'e') with her 'never say die' attitude long before Mr. Bond made it famous continues to tug at many a kindred souls across the world.
And yes, I am so glad we are in October. Although it is hard to believe that we are in the last quarter of the year already, as always the crisp, cold weather accompanying the palette of colors never fails to cheer me up. This is nature's one last chance to do the peacock dance before donning on the grey of winter. This is the time where I no longer wear my head phones while walking or bury my head in the little electronic screen held in hand but rather bundle up and look around to breathe in as many colors as I can. Did you mumble if it was possible to breathe in colors? I bet you can, give it a try.

Ah, onto matters of food, right? That is why you possibly came to a food blog and here I am blabbering about the colors on the trees. Well I had to divert your attention before you asked me, "Where were you? MIA for more than 2 weeks??" :-). Well, I think I had mentioned my visit to the dentist some time back on the blog. Things started all well and dandy and though I hated going to the dentist, I convinced myself that it was a necessary evil. The place I go to is very patient friendly and they actually make you feel welcome (well almost :-)). The first couple of visits were all good and I came to believe that the dentist visits were a no brainer and even relaxed. I know I should have stopped when the going was still good.
After a couple of fillings (this is what probably happens when you don't go to dentists in a decade) and just as I was starting to relax that I was at the end of the road, she found that my wisdom tooth needed a filling too. Going by the fast recovery I had on the 2 fillings thus far, I very bravely signed up for this last one and that is when the trouble started. The pain wouldn't go away for days after the anesthesia wore off and days turned into weeks with shooting pains all over the face. We went to drop DD off at college and the distraction was enough of an excuse for me to postpone my visit to the dentist. I kept glancing longingly at the yummy, crispy favorites that DD brought back from India but unable to eat them, BH kept teasing me as he munched on all of them. Time just marched on without a even a second glance at poor me :-(. Finally, when the pain seemed unbearable even after 6 weeks,  I made time to go back to my dentist. She very sweetly and gently explained that she may have pushed the needle a little too far into my muscle and that there was an infection. Bottom line I had to be on antibiotics for a solid 2 weeks to clear it up.

Finally the silver line at the end of the tunnel became visible and last week I was officially certified clear and good to start using my chewing capabilities as a normal person would do. I am so happy that I have since been constantly chewing and eating my favorite food as though I was a cow :-). And that is why I have this super delicious snack from north Karnataka that not only tantalizes your senses but exercises your mouth too. Girmit is typically eaten during evenings and along with mirchi bajjis (deep dried, gram flour dunked green chilies) on the side and a cup of chai (Indian tea). I skipped the deep fried version of the mirchi and went for a lower calorie alternative I had seen on the internet somewhere and didn't really make tea either. It was so good to be able to finally (after 8 weeks) chew on my food and enjoy the explosion of tastes and textures, ah the simple pleasures of life :-)
If you go to places like Davanagere, you will get this in all the street side shops and temporary shacks too. If you are not familiar with this dish but have eaten the famous 'Bhel puri' from Mumbai (another popular chat from India) then I would say this resembles Bhel in spirit but the taste is entirely different and made with different ingredients. If you are now totally lost since you didn't know what Bhel was, here is a break down of the dish for you - it is made with crisp, puffed rice called puri in Kannada, seasoned with onions, tomatoes and green chilies, flavored with loads of fresh cilantro and crunchy peanuts to round off the experience. You do not want to miss this and if you are not close to Davanagere, don't fret, I am not either. Follow this easy recipe and enjoy at in the comfort of your own home :-).

I love everything about chats, they are my favorite kinds of food. I can eat them any time and every time. Girmit is one of my favorite chats in this genre after ofcourse the Mysore churmuri and ties right with Bhel puri :-).

What do you need to make Girmit? 
Quantities below are good for 2 adults
6-7 cups of puffed rice or puri*
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
small lemon sized tamarind
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3-4 green chilies (adjust to taste) - chopped into small pieces
1 heaped Tbsp pappula podi
6-8 curry leaves
2-2.5 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
To garnish: 
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp chopped tomato
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2-4 whole green chilies slit vertically - optional but you will miss a great experience without this :-)

How do you make Girmit? 
  • Soak tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes, squeeze out the pit, seeds and extract the juice. Keep it aside until ready to use. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add the chilies from 'garnish'  
  • Stir and roast for a minute or so or until the chilies develop blisters on the surface. 
  • Take them onto a plate, sprinkle a pinch of salt and keep aside. This is to be eaten along with girmit :-)
  • In the same oil, add mustard, cumin. 
  • Let the mustard pop, add the chopped green chilies & curry leaves.
  • Let this cook for a minute before adding chopped onions. 
  • Add salt, turmeric powder and asafoetida and let roast until onion starts to sweat. 
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook for a minute. 
  • Add the tamarind juice and let it all cook together for another 3-4 minutes until the raw smell of tamarind is gone. 
  • Taste and check, adjust salt, green chilies and tamarind if needed. Remember it needs to be a little stronger in flavors as it gets diluted when you add it to the puri. 
  • Add the pappula podi at this stage along with chopped cilantro. Give a good mix and switch off the stove. 
  • Let the mixture cool slightly. 
  • Take the puffed rice and roasted peanuts in a deep bowl. 
  • Add the cooked mixture and with the help of a spatula, mix it all together in a rotating motion (The word 'girmit' comes because of the way the vendors mix this dish in a deep vessel so the puffed rice doesn't fly around and turn the vessel in a circle imitating the childhood game where kids hold hands and go around in circle) until every grain of puffed rice is coated with the mixture. 
  • Serve it into a bowl, top it with chopped onions, tomaotoes, cilantro and a side of the oil roasted green chilies :-) 
  • Fresher the puri (puffed rice) is, better this snack tastes. So I crisp up the store bought puffed rice in a heavy bottom pan on a very low heat for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can spread the measured quantity in a thin layer on cookie sheets and leave them in a preheated to 350 degree for 10 minutes. Switch off the oven before you place the cookie sheets and check once or twice in between to ensure it doesn't burn. 
  • If you do not have the pappula podi at home, grind 2 Tbsp of roasted chana or chutney dal into a fine powder along with 1/4 Tsp of cumin.
  • Adding the powder not only adds taste but also absorbs moisture preventing the dish from becoming soggy quickly.  
  • I used the store bought dry roasted, salted peanuts. You can roast peanuts at home and use them in this recipe too.  
  • The green chilies are to be added based on their quality and your tolerance for spices, do not yell at me if the chilies you used are very spicy as some of them are :-)
  • Skip the chilies on the side if it is too spicy for you. 
  • If you can find the green byadagi chilies (these are long, slender and usually curved and are less spicy than the Thai varieties), use them. They make the dish very tasty.