Ghoti’s love their ambols. Most ghotis I know of, have some kind of ambol everyday, at least my family does. While growing up, I only knew of ‘chutney’ and it was only after marriage, that even ‘kancha aamer jhol’ became ‘kancha aamer ambol’. Ambol or a tok, whatever you call it, has a lighter runny consistency than a chutney and there are countless variations of an ambol. Here we are going to explore begun borir ambol or tok.
Did you know that this ghoti bangal obsession is stronger when you live in Kolkata? For a long part of my life (my childhood in Port Blair), I was clueless about ‘ghoti or bangal’ or for that matter, anything to do with sub castes. I just knew, I was Bengali girl in an island with a mix bag of people from across the country. It’s only when I came to Kolkata, that I was asked personal questions like whether I am a ghoti or a bangal, whether I am a brahmin or a kayasta, etc etc. That makes me wonder about how strong racsim is within our society. Over the years, especially after marriage to a ‘ghoti’ boy, I began to fully understand the cultural differences between the ghoti and the bangal.
There are many cultural differences between a ghoti and a bangal
My uncle had once told me that marriage itself was difficult and having to deal to cultural differences is even strenuous. This was before I left for Cardiff for my post grad. I remember him saying this clearly ‘in case you fall in love, try to fall in love with someone closer to home’. I thought I was in safe water, when I decided to marry Anindya. He was a Bong. Only, eventually, I realized how strong our differences were in our upbringing, our styles of eating and many more things. It was almost in fine print, but it was there. One of them was this need, to have some kind of ambol or chutney everyday. My question was, why everyday?
Now even Tugga wants ambol everyday but he calls it chutney. That has got to do with him spending a considerable amount of time at my mother’s place. So now Ashok makes ambol for my mother in law and my son everyday. Kancha aamer ambol is one of our favorites but it is unfortunately seasonal. I find tomatoer chutney or khejurer chutney too sweet for my palate. An ambol, however is more appealing because of its runny consistency. Begun borir ambol is a much favoured ambol at our home and both Ma and Tugga love it to death.
If you are keen about Cranberry chutney then check out this post
There are three key ingredients for making a good ambol or tok
Making a begun borir ambol is like any other ambol or tok. Three key elements- tamarind for the sourness, sugar or jaggery for the sweetness and panchphoron for tempering. Panchphoron is our magic spice blend of equal portion of nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and half of fenugreek seeds. You can use only mustard seeds in place of panchphoron, that is upto you. Kancha aamer ambol, on the other hand is made with sugar and not jaggery and I prefer using mustard seeds for tempering.
How to make begun borir ambol
Before you start making the ambol, it is essential to prep the brinjal in a certain way. You need to wash and cut the brinjals in either one inch cubes or rectangular form (your choice). Then sprinkle some salt and sugar and massage the brinjal cubes. Leave it aside for 10 to 15 minutes for the bitterness of the brinjals to drain out with the water. Also you need to fry a handful of bori and leave it for use in the end.
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After that, drain the water and fry the brinjal cubes in a frying pan with a little bit of any vegetable oil. Once they are lightly sauteed or half cooked, take them out of the oil and keep aside. In the same oil, temper panchphoron with a dried red chilli. Make a slurry of jaggery powder, tamarind pulp, turmeric powder and a pinch of salt in water. Add this slurry to the tempered spices. add half a cup of more water and let it cook for two to three minutes on high flame for the raw smell of the turmeric powder to go. When the consistency thickens, add the brinjals and reduce the flame. Coat the brinjals in the sauce and let it simmer and cook for another couple of minutes till the brinjal is completely cooked (not mushy).
Ambol needs to be had cold.
Turn off the heat and leave it to cool down. So chill it or keep at room temperature. Add the crushed bori only at the time of serving.
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This recipe is also part of the vegetarian menu which has been curated by Debjani and me for a 15 day Pop Up at Chilekotha. This pop up will feature an exclusive, vegetarian, non- vegetarian and an Ilish menu and the festival dates are from the 15th till the 31st of July.
How the food of chilekotha sang a song to our heart read here
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Begun Borir Ambol/tok
- 2 nos medium sized brinjals
- 8 nos bori
- 1/2 tsp panchphoron see notes
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 1 no dried red chilli
- 3 tbsp Any vegetable oil
- 1 tsp thick tamarind paste see notes
- 1 tbsp jaggery powder may need more or less, as per taste
- salt as per taste
- Cut the brinjals in one inch cubes and wash them. Pat them dry and sprinkle some salt and the sugar and massage them all over the cubed brinjals. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes till it starts to release water.
- In the meanwhile, in a small skillet, take a tbsp of oil and when moderately hot, add the bori and fry them over medium flame. Bori burns quickly so you have to keep a watch and stir and as soon as the colour turns golden brown, take the boris out and keep them aside.
- Drain the water out from the brinjals and fry them over medium heat in a frying pan with the rest of the oil. Lightly toss around and cover for a minute or two until the brinjals are almost cooked. It takes about 5 minutes for this process. Take them out and keep aside.
- In a bowl, make a slurry out of the tamarind paste, jaggery powder, pinch of salt, turmeric powder and 3 tbsp of water.
- In the same frying pan, where the brinjals were fried, add 1/2 a tsp of oil (if there is no leftover oil from the frying of the brinjals). When it is hot, add panchphoron and dried red chilli. Let the spices splutter and give out aroma. Just before the colour turns dark, add the tamarind slurry.
- Stir and add another half cup of water. Keep the flame at medium and let the slurry come to a boil. Simmer and let it cook for a couple of minutes until the raw smell goes off. Then increase the heat and let it boil till the sauce almost thickens.
- At this point, add the cooked brinjals and coat them with the sauce. Add more water if you feel you need to thin the consistency.
- Adjust the sweetness or sourness by adding more jaggery or tamarind pulp.
- Finally when the brinjals are completely cooked and coated in a sweet and tangy sauce, turn off the heat. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl and let it cool down.
- Never keep an ambol in a metallic container. Once it is cool, crush the bori and serve ambol with crushed bori from top.
- Panchphoron is a spice blend of equal portion of nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and half of fenugreek seeds. You can use only mustard seeds in place of panchphoron.
- If you are using fresh tamarind paste, take a lemon sized ball and soak it in 2- 3 tbsp of water. While making the slurry, discard the seeds and squeeze out as much pulp as you can.
- The amount of jaggery powder and tamarind that you use is completely upto your tastebuds. Ambol is supposed to be sweet and sour. Use your own judgement.
- If you do not have jaggery powder, use sugar but the flavour is not the same as jaggery.