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Friday, April 25, 2014

Sikkim Platter ~ Chambray, Kodo ki Roti, Til ko Alu & Tamatar Chutney

Indian state: Sikkim 
Other names: Shikim / Sukhyim
Capital city: Gangtok
Predominat religions: Hinduism and Buddhism
Original inhabitants: Lepcha

This landlocked northeastern state of India is located in the Himalayan region and has the only open land border between India and China. I was surprised to learn that this state has 11 official languages - Nepali, English, Sikkimese, Limbu, Lepcha, Tamang, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar and Sunwar. 

According to wiki, the name "Sikkim" is supposedly combination of two words in Limbu language - "Su" meaning new and "Khyim" meaning palace / house. Besides, the different groups of Sikkim have different names for it. The Tibetian name is Denjong which means the "Valley of Rice". The Bhutiyas (Sikkimese and Nepalese of Tibetian ancestry) call it Beyul Demazong, which means "The hidden Valley of rice". The Lepcha people, the original inhabitants of Sikkim called it Nye-mae-el meaning paradise. Hindu religious texts referred it as Indrakil - the garden of the God Indra.

Sikkimese are traditionally rice eaters. Nepalese cuisine is very popular in Sikkim as it is an ethnic Nepali majority state. Noodle based dishes such as thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, gyathuk and wonton are common. Momos are a popular snack. Tongba, a millet based alcoholic beverage is popular. Local breads include kodo ki roti - a pancake made from finger millet and phapar ki roti, made from buckwheat. Interesting vegetarian preparations include til ko alu, Nepali-style potato curry with sesame seeds and sishnu, a nettle leaf soup. 
Ingredients (3 - 4 servings)
1 cup rice
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon
2 -3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. ghee / oil
1 tsp black cumin seeds
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste

* Soak rice with bay leaves and cinnamon in water for about 15 - 20 minutes, such that rice is submerged in water. After the soaking period, shift rice to a colander to drain the water completely. 
* Heat ghee in a wok / non stick sauce pan or a pressure cooker directly. Add cumin seeds and sauté for about 30 to 40 seconds. Add the drained rice along with the cinnamon piece and bay leaves. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
* Next add salt, turmeric powder and about 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a simmer, set the heat to the lowest setting and cover the wok / pan so that no steam escapes.
* Cook until the rice is done and each grain stands separate. It takes about 18 - 20 minutes to get the rice cooked. Don't be tempted to peek and stir in the middle.
If using a pressure cooker, cover it with it's lid, put the whistle on and cook for 2 -3 whistles. Or you can transfer all the contents into a stainless steel container and place it in a pressure cooker and cook as directed.
* Serve chambray hot with til ko alu.

Kodo ki Roti: 
I found a recipe here and thought it was easy to prepare this roti style instead. I added some green chillies also for some spice but it is optional.

Ingredients: (Yield 3 rotis)
1 cup finger millet flour / ragi flour
1 tbsp. ghee / oil
Salt to taste
1 green chili finely minced (optional)
Oil to make rotis

* Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Gradually add warm water and form a stiff dough. The ragi dough usually would be non sticky and somewhat elastic compared to the regular roti dough prepared using wheat flour. There is no need to rest ragi dough to make rotis but I let it rest for about 30 minutes since I was busy with other things in the kitchen.
* Divide the dough into three portions and shape them into balls. While working on one portion, keep the other balls covered to prevent them from drying out.
* Pour a tsp of oil at the center of an iron griddle / a nonstick pan. Place the ball and gently pat it into a thin circle of about 4-5 inches in diameter, using your right hand fingers.

It is common for the dough to break at the edges. Just gently pinch with your fingers and fix them. However if there are cracks around the edges, don't fret over it. It is common with ragi rotis.
* Pour a tsp of oil around the edges and cover it with a lid. Place the griddle over medium heat and cook until the bottom side appears cooked with a few brown spots over it.
* Flip it and pour another tsp of oil around the edges. Cover and cook again until it appears cooked. This side takes less time than the first side getting cooked.

Remove the roti from the griddle and let the griddle cool down a bit to pat the next roti. If in a hurry, just place the griddle under running water to cool it down.
* Repeat the steps with the remaining dough balls.

Til ko Alu:

This Nepali version of potatoes seem to be quite popular in Sikkim. I have never combined potato-sesame seeds in a curry before and this was a new dish to me. As a non-local, this was a mediocre one compared to the standard aloo fry.

Ingredients: (yield 4 servings)
1 - 2 tbsp. oil
2 onions, chopped
3 - 4 green chilies sliced lengthwise (I used 2 long, hot Serrano peppers )
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 tsp white sesame seeds
Salt to taste

* Chop the onions. Slice lengthwise or chop fine the chilies. Peel and cube the potatoes.
* Dry toast the sesame seeds in a small pan until they start to crackle. Cool and grind them fine.
* Heat oil in a pan / wok and add green chilies and onion. Fry until onions turn golden brown.
* Next add potato cubes and 1-2 tbsp of water to the onion and cook until done. Or if preferred, potatoes can be cooked in a microwave until done and can be added to the cooked onion.
* Next add the ground sesame seeds and salt to the potato mixture. Cook for about 3 - 4 minutes and turn off the stove. 

Tamatar Chutney:
I am guessing this must be a rustic dish, By pounding in a stone mortar-pestle, it will turn out into a coarse paste but my blender turned out it into a puree.

* Cook a tomato and peel of the skin. Grind it along with 2 chillies and salt in a stone mortar and pestle.


The Pumpkin Farm said...

very simple flavors going in to make this delightful platter, i realoly liked the way you have combined the dishes here..and probably the most healthiest option of platter around

Harini R said...

You have the energy to make thalis for the NE region? Hats off! All of them look like doable and likeable as well.

Tahemeem said...

Love your presentation... I have ragi flour and was thinking what to do with it.. this is perfect.

Priya Suresh said...

Wat a spread, each dish came out extremely delicious and i can have that plate without fuss, somehow my eyes goes towards the til ko alu and chambray..

vaishali sabnani said...

The whole spread looks awesome..simple dishes but very well presented and executed.Too good.

Unknown said...

beautiful spread!!! love everything there and can enjoy it anytime, but my fav is the til ka aloo and the ragi roti!!

Srivalli said...

Suma, you have a wonderful spread of dishes..wish I had found that roti recipe, though it's much the same as how we make at home..so may not have been a new one to try..Sel roti was so tough..:)..good to see so many dishes from one state, when it was really so hard to find..Great Job!

Pavani said...

What a hearty and delicious dishes from Sikkim.

Usha said...

All the dishes look delicious. I like the addition of green chili to kodo ki roti and love the color of the tomato chutney. I want to try the rice, chambray.

Nalini's Kitchen said...

Awesome looking spread,everything in the platter turned out so delicious...great effort.

Priya Srinivasan - I Camp in My Kitchen said...

That is one delicious platter!!! I too made kodo ke roti, loved the simple flavors of the tomato achar too!!! :)

Chef Mireille said...

what a homey meal - nicely done

Padmajha said...

Great job on the Thali.Lovely spread and I want to make that rice and aloo curry...

Archana said...

Wow wow wow! This is so yum! I am bookmarking this post.Its to deliciously made and presented.

Unknown said...

the til aloo is my favourite.. i am always on the lookout for new ways to make potato.. all dishes look tasty