New Delhi: Summer is here and the best way to beat the heat is through one's diet. It is the time to let go of fatty foods and greasy gravies, and instead switch to light meals and seasonal veggies. You will be amazed how easily your diet choices can help you stay refreshed throughout the season. And who says summer meals need to be boring?
These traditional summer foods from Bengal cools down the gut and is cooked with a minimalist approach.
Fresh seasonal vegetables are prioritised in the summer menu. Summer is known for jackfruit, sojne (moringa flowers, leaves, drumsticks), neem leaves, gourds and mangoes.
Including seasonal veggies in the diet is an age old practice that ensures the body gets the best nutritional value, but in modern times we are slowly forgetting that.
Here are some healthy gut cooling recipes from Bengal:
Raw Mango Dal
Raw Mango Dal is traditionally known as Tok Dal. Aam Dal or Tok Dal is an authentic Bengali recipe of summer which is prepared in almost every Bong house. It is immensely popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Aam Dal recipe is a refreshing sour and salty lentil soup with a hint of sweetness. In this preparation, green Mango slices are cooked with Moong Dal (Yellow Lentils) with some mustard seeds and dry red chillies. This summer delight is served at lunch with steamed rice. It requires minimal ingredients and gets prepared very quickly without investing much time and effort. Mango dal Bengali recipe is a perfect balance of taste and health. It can be a great addition to your regular diet during summer.
Bitter Gourd & Bottle Gourd Dal
Bengali Lau Die Tetor Dal recipe is a traditional Bengali Dal usually made during the summer season. This Dal recipe is a great way to include the goodness of bottle gourd and bitter gourd in your diet. Lau Die Tetor Dal is a very healthy and light dal made without onion and garlic, but is flavoured with green chilies, ginger and mustard oil.
Shukto is Bengali's pride and prejudice both. A plethora of vegetables, cooked in the most unique spices with creamy milky gravy with the slightest hint of sweetness and a core taste of bitterness, even describing the dish is such a pleasure. The Bengali style mixed vegetable or Shuktoni is a soothing rustic curry which clears your palate perfectly before you dig into the countless courses which comprise a typical Bengali meal .
Sojne Shaak Chorchori
Saag chorchoris are common everyday dishes in many Bengali homes. Sojne shaak (Moringa leaves) chorchori is a medley of stir fried vegetables, like drumsticks, eggplants, red pumpkin and potatoes, together with the moringa leaves, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti- oxidant properties, with a dash of mustard base. This dish keeps one hydrated and safe from heat strokes naturally.
Fried neem leaves with brinjals. In accordance with Ayurvedic practices, a Bengali meal typically starts with something bitter. And love for bitter food does not start and end with bitter gourd only. To begin with we have neem leaves and many more bitter flowers and leaves that we regularly use in our daily meals. Neem or margosa is loaded with anti viral, anti microbial and anti oxidant properties that can boost our immune systems. So, eating neem begun during the summers highlights that very thought and philosophy of clean eating in accordance with Ayurvedic practices.
That quintessential Bengali summer meal of kalai dal and posto, as no discussion on summer lunches are complete without posto, the white poppy seeds which has bestowed Bengal with a unique and rare culinary gift. Posto is one of those cooling foods and together with onions (another cooling food) is a perfect match made in heaven, and so is the pyaz (onion) posto jhuri. This one is my favourite accompaniment during summer lunches but we Bongs can be so creative, we can dish out even a complete full course menu with posto only. Bong's love for posto is simply undeniable. Click here for the bengali summer meal of kalai dal and posto.
An ultimate summer favourite. Ambol is a thinner and less sugary version of Bengali sweet chutneys. A very thin soupy preparation of sour fruits like kaccha aam/raw mango, kul/Indian jujube, aamra/hog plum, jalpai/Indian olives, chalta/elephant apple and tamarind etc. This is usually served at the end of typical Bengali meals and also acts as a palate cleanser, before moving forward to dessert. The uniqueness of this dish is that this can also be prepared with fish as well.
These Bengali light summer meals are mild in flavours and cooked with a minimalist cooking approach. They are healthy-easy to cook wholesome recipes.