Dear Didi and Daibi,
I am proudly writing today to inform you both that I made the famed Mochar Ghonto without Ma’s supervision for the first time!!! Most people think that Mocha or Banana Blossom/Flower and Thod or Banana plant stem which is another of our Bengali delicacies are very difficult to make. I learned to cook both under Ma’s supervision and realised that both of them are actually not that difficult once you know what to keep and what to discard. So in this post I will explain each step of the recipe individually for easier comprehension. To serve 6 people you need 1 Banana Blossom/Flower, 1/2 cup whole bengal gram (I didn’t have this, so I used its shelled and split variety called the chana daal), 4-5 medium sized Potatoes cut into cubes, a stick of cinnamon, 2 green cardamom pods, 2 dried bay leaves, whole red chilli, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 3-4 tbsp of ghee (clarified butter), oil, turmeric, salt and sugar.
The Mocha or the Banana flower is like any other flower with many petals.
Each petal or bract has to be peeled and the flowers must be removed. Try to remove the whole stack of flower together like in the picture below as then it is easier to clean it.
Hold the whole bunch together, single out each flower and pull the black/brown looking stamen out. The fresher the flower, the lighter the colors, so don’t worry about the color. Just look for the hard stamen and remove it.
Once all the stamens are removed, the cleaned bunch looks like this.
Keep peeling the bracts/petals and the flower bunches till you reach the soft heart. From this point onwards the petals/bracts and the stamens get very soft and tender. It is difficult to separate these tender parts. So you cut it into very very thin slices.
Now while cutting this part, you would see very fine thread like stuff coming out or sticking to your knife like in the picture below. This can be rolled with a finger and removed or could be left just like that – it doesn’t matter actually.
Then chop the flowers also into small pieces.
Then soak all of it in water with 1 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp salt overnight (I soaked it for 6 hours). The flower is very high in iron content, so if cooked without soaking, it leaves the mouth bitter and weird…like you have eaten lots of plain spinach…in bengali we say, muukh ta koshey gailo…as in the mouth gets dry…At this time soak the lentils/bengal gram in water as well (minimum time – 5 hrs).
Then drain the water and pressure cook or slow cook in fresh water for 15-20 mins or till soft. Drain it again.
In a pan, heat 2-3 tbsp oil and add the whole spices and chillis. Remember to break open and slightly crush the cardamom pods for maximum flavor.
Then add the potatoes, turmeric and a little bit of salt. Fry for 5 mins on high heat and add the soaked lentils and the boiled flowers. Mix well, season according to taste. Now many Bengalis like it sweet (and I think it tastes the best this way), so I added 2 tbsp of sugar in it. But if you don’t want it sweet, you could add according to taste.
Mix well, add 2-3 tbsp of ghee, cover and cook on medium heat for 20 mins while occasionally stirring the pot. When everything is cooked well, use a wooden spatula to mash everything well and add 1 tbsp of ghee again. Serve hot with rice, daal and pappad.
Variations: Many people add dessicated coconut or badi (Lentil nuggets) to this recipe instead of bengal gram or chana daal. Also, the mashed version serves as a great stuffing for vegetable cutlets or can be turned into tikkis that are great snacks and appetizers!!
Didi, I know you know how to make this..but Daibi this post is mainly for you, so that wherever you are in the world, you can try making this favorite dish of yours!
Sending lots of love,