Friday, March 23, 2012

Ugadi Pachadi - Life is a mixture of varied experiences

Ugadi/Yugadi is celebrated as the beginning of New Year. The festival celebrates the onset of Spring when everything in nature wakes up from the winter hibernation and starts a new life. I am definitely seeing changes around me that whispers Spring, warmer weather, exploding colors.. This is an unexpected beauty from my front yard and I am thankful for the previous owners of the house. A week back we noticed the blooms and all of a sudden there was this tender, beautiful pink bloom and they are all over the plant now.
In Karnataka, we eat a mixture of bevu-bella (Neem-jaggery) on this day symbolizing the two sides of the coin that is life, bevu/neem represents the 'not so good or bitter' experiences in life while bella is for all that is sweet and prosperous in life. I vividly remember the early morning baths on Ugadi day, the green mango leaves torana (decoration on the front door) and the bevu-bella eating. There was a huge neem tree in the back yard of one of our immediate neighbors and the previous day, they would cut branches with fresh leaves and blooms and distribute it to all. Nammamma picked the fresh new neem flowers and mixed them with ghee and grated jaggery and we ate the bitter-sweet mixture. Though you are supposed to welcome both sweet and bitter experiences equally, nammamma's mixture always had lots more of the sweet and a little bit of the bitter wishing her family a Happy New Year :-). Lunch spread on Ugadi almost always had mango chitranna and bele obbattu and get extended to many other delicacies if there were guests.
I learnt making the Andhra Ugadi Pachadi from amma after my wedding, the first time I had it was a 'love at first bite'. The pachadi is a burst of perfectly blended flavors, my daughter wants to eat it on any day of the year if only her mom would make it :-). This pachadi is a mixture of neem flowers, jaggery, tamarind, pieces of green mango, banana and salt. One of my Telugu friends also adds a pinch of red chili powder to bring the taste into the pachadi. As you can see the Ugadi pachadi is a conglomeration of bitter, sweet, tart and salty tastes. We have had nothing but bowls of Ugadi pachadi in the mornings filling us well until lunch is ready.
My experience of getting neem flowers in the local Indian grocery store has been very varied, some years I have been completely out of luck with it and have used powdered fenugreek seeds in my Ugadi pachadi, some years it has been great with my grocery store owner getting fresh neem leaves and flowers. So I have learnt to make the best of what is doled out to me on the day prior to Ugadi, I usually go shopping without setting the bars too high :-).

So yesterday evening was a new experience, the store was crowded as expected as it was not only the eve of Ugadi but also the day of the week the local store gets fresh vegetables. I didn't spot any neem in the aisles and was telling myself that it would be a fenugreek pachadi when one of the ladies that works in the store came around. I asked her if they carried neem flowers and she said 'Yes, ask for it when you check out, they have it at the front'. Yay, I was so happy and came to the checkout, I asked the lady for neem flowers and she handed me a small packet which had some very dark brown pieces inside, I repeated myself that I wanted neem flowers, she took the packet back and handed me another identical in size packet which had light brown thingies inside :-). That is when I realized they were selling dried neem flowers and for a premium, well I bought one of those and carried the treasure home like a grinning monkey though my dreams of fresh green leaves and flowers were squashed right there. In the spirit of Ugadi, accepting what I got I made a great Ugadi pachadi with the precious neem flowers and we had bowlfuls of it the whole day.

What do you need to make Ugadi Pachadi? 
2 ripe bananas - peeled and cut into small pieces
1 medium sized green mango - washed, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 cup of crushed jaggery
1 Tblsp of neem flowers - crush them a little between your fingers
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp of tamarind juice - soak a small piece of tamarind in water for 20 minutes and extract the juice
How do you make Ugadi Pachadi?
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, set aside for 10 minutes for the juices to socialize with each other before spooning into the mouth. Enjoy a very healthy, tasty Ugadi pachadi.

And here is a quick peek at what we had for our Ugadi habba today, recipes will follow
Mango chitranna, carrot kosambari, chikkudukaya-potato palya, ugadi pachadi, mango pappu, obbattu hoorana (yes obbattu is coming) and anna in the center served with papads


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow the Pachadi and the Menu is fantastic .real Ugadi. once again happy Ugadi. may GOD bless you all

Neelima said...

Wow ! Ur description of Ugadi brought some nostalgic memories ...yumm..the feast is really mouth watering ..

Aruna Manikandan said...

wonderful spread dear.
Happy Ugadi :)

Nagashree said...

Neelima, Thank you for visiting and lovely comments, we had a great time at yours last evening, will call.

Nagashree said...

@Aruna - Thank you for your comments!