My first foray into cooking was a disaster! I was visiting my cousins during the holidays. My aunt had to step out to meet some friends and the rest of us had planned to eat out. My cousin, the oldest of three, came up with the idea of ‘cooking dinner’ instead. I decided to make ‘fried rice’ and she was going to make channa chaat! Secretly I was thrilled. How can channa chat compare with fried rice? I had just got the recipe from my friend back home and everyone knew how complicated it is to make fried rice.
The two of us went to the store nearby and got the necessary ingredients—vegetables and spices. We chopped everything up chatting and laughing. Then came the actual cooking. I took a nice size pan, sautéed what need to be sautéed and went on to work with the spices. Finally I added the rice and the water and waited for it to be done…and waited…and waited!
I removed the lid to check if it was done and noticed that the water was all used up but the rice wasn’t cooked—and it was almost up to the brim! I added more water to keep it going and spoke about how delicious it was going to be. The younger cousins were hungry and kept buzzing in and out of the kitchen. One of them pointed out that the lid was popping up and down and it looked like the rice was going to overflow! I changed the pot. The other kid wondered, “Are you sure that’s fried rice? It looks like kichadi to me.” Their elder sister brushed it off saying, “Yeah, if we had ajinomoto, it would look like fried rice. You know you can’t get ajinomoto in our local shops. We have to go to ‘town’ to get it.”
I was worried though. It looked we were going to have enough to feed a party and the rice was looking stickier and stickier by the minute. How were we going to finish all that without throwing some of it away? And why was there so much rice? I had added only one cup of rice per person and it should be enough for five of us but this looked like ten people could eat the kichadi. My ‘fresh food freak family’ never liked to save food from the previous day in the fridge. They always cooked enough for the day and that was it.
It was time to eat and I could delay the inevitable no more. So we brought everything out to the table. I needn’t have worried—no one made fun of my rice—in fact there was a remarkable absence of comments. There was also reversal of courses—the fried rice was supposed to be the main course. Channa chaat took over that role and everyone came to the rice as a second thought. After dinner we cleared everything up and waited for my aunt to come home.
Eventually the mystery was solved! All these days while listening to people’s conversations about cooking I had heard details about measuring so many cups of water to so many cups of rice. Unfortunately no one told me that one cup of uncooked rice and one cup of cooked rice are not the same! I didn’t know that I had to cook a smaller amount of rice, especially with so much vegetables added to the mix!
My cousins make up for not teasing me then—the first question they ask my husband and kids when we meet is, “Has Vicky made any fried rice recently? Did turned out alright?”
I tell them I made Channa Chaat instead.
Onion 2 medium
Tomatoes 2 medium
Potato, 2 medium
Kala channa 2 cups
Green chilli (to taste)
1) Wash and soak the kala channa overnight. The following day pressure cook the kala channa with a pinch of salt.
3) Wash, peel and chop the potatoes into cubes. Boil the cubes or add some water and cook in microwave.
4) Wash the green chilli, remove the seeds and chop it into small pieces
5) Layer the vegetables and the kala channa in the dish.
6) Sprinkle salt and chaat masala over the vegetables.
7) Squeeze the lemon and add the juice to the vegetable/channa mix.
8) Garnish with coriander leaves.
9) Stir the ingredients to let the vegetables and channa soak in the lemon juice.
10) Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.