Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Posto Sorse Dhyarosh - Bengali Style Okra with Poppy Seed and Mustard Pastes

Posto is a must-have in most Bengali kitchens. In fact, it would be a rare Bengali kitchen that didn't have it. Moni cooked different posto dishes quite often and I loved it. My favourite, and the most commonly made, was aloo posto. As far as the cooking method goes it's pretty much the same with whatever veggies you use - a tempering of nigella or kalaunji with some fresh green chillies in hot mustard oil, followed by the veggie of choice being sauteed in this oil, and ultimately the posto paste joining the party in the kadai along with seasoning and sugar. 

However, this darling of the Bengali kitchen has a bit of a murky past. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 the British East India Company gained control of Bengal. The Company realised that there was a huge market for opium in China and decided to cultivate poppy as a cash crop in massive swathes of agricultural land in place of every other food crop. The Company made huge profits while the local populace languished without ingredients to cook with beyond a very few basic things. The extraction of opium from the poppy flowers left behind tiny dried seeds. Since the scale of this cultivation and the subsequent extraction was massive there was a large amount of these 'waste' seeds. In a desperate bid to bulk up their dishes and add some new flavour/texture to the food this waste product came into play and turned out to be quite delicious. It was used as a thickener and has a lovely nutty taste of its own. 

Today posto or the poppy seed is  literally a part of a Bengali's identity. We have so many preparations with this one ingredient we could actually fill a cookbook. 

Anyway! I had some posto paste in the fridge and as a change from the usual aloo posto I decided to make something I haven't eaten in years - dhyarosh posto. I made it with a dash of mustard paste to liven it up. 

Posto Sorse Dhyarosh 

500 gm ladyfingers or okra
2 tbsp posto paste
1 tbsp mustard paste
1/2 tsp nigella or kalaunji seeds
2-3 fresh green chillies
mustard oil

Cut the ladyfingers into two to three inch pieces.
Heat mustard oil in a kadai and chuck in the kalaunji and green chillies.
Add the cut ladyfingers and salt and fry for a few minutes on medium heat. I like to cover the pan and let the ladyfingers cook properly when I have cut them this big. The sliminess goes away when you take off the lid and dry it off. 
Once the ladyfingers are cooked through cook for a couple of minutes to dry it up. Then add the posto paste and the mustard paste. Also put in half a teaspoon of sugar. Stir to mix properly and let it cook for a few minutes on medium heat till the posto is no longer raw and whatever moisture is in the mix has gone. 

Serve the Posto Sorse Dhyarosh with daal and rice.

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