Debjani and I were planning our menu for the food festival at Chilekotha sometime in July 2019. The menu was broken down to a non veg set menu, Ilish set menu and a pure vegetarian set menu. There were a few a la carte dishes too. I took up the challenge of pure vegetarian menu. Bengali vegetarian food has such a wide scape, I was thrilled to do it. Also, by pure vegetarian, it meant no onions and no garlic. My mother is my source of recipes when I run out of ideas. So midway, I gave her a call and asked her for a pulao recipe, which is not basanti pulao or ghee bhat. She suggested chal potol to me.
Ma shared the potol recipe with me and the next day, she sent over a tiffin box full of beautiful fragrant chal potol. Unexpectedly, there were several takers for the vegetarian set menu at Chilekotha and everyone appreciated the food. Albeit, chal diye potol was one of the highlights of the menu. I honestly don’t have any idea, how this recipe came about in Bengali cuisine. Perhaps, it has got to do with women utilising all sorts of resources in their kitchen to work up some magic. Just like now, in the lockdown period, we are utilizing whatever is there are creating masterpieces.
Lockdown period and Chal Potol
There couldn’t have been a more significant time to share this recipe. So many of us worldwide, are stuck at home. In India, we are without our househelps. While many of us know to cook, some are completely baffled by this new situation. From cooking, cleaning to taking care of children and so much more, the day never seems to end. Hence, more or less everyone is trying to look for easy cooking, one pot meals and food made with limited ingredients yet having a superior taste. Chal potol is one such recipe which works really well even when it is a potol recipe. It’s a pulao made with parwal and parwal is something that is easily found and most Indian kitchens have it during this time. Rest of the ingredients used are also pantry staples.
Few Point to note
Ma has a unique way of cutting a potol. She lightly scrapes the outer peel of the parwal and then using a bnoti, she makes these sharp angular ridges on two sides. When you fry the potol, it almost resembles a flower. On any other occasion, I would do the same. In fact, even for Chilekotha, that’s how we served. Having said that, you can choose to cut the potol in half lengthwise or even cut it in round shapes. Cut out the ends and the rest of the potol, cut them in cubes or angular way in three or four portions each. Scraping the outer peel is absolutely essential before cutting them. You will also need short grained fragrant rice for this. We use gobindobhog but in case you don’t have any short grained rice, use any basmati. The cooking time will change, rest all will be the same.
If you have a rice cooker, this is a no hassle dish, All you have to do is temper the spices, mix the ingredients as per the recipe and transfer to a rice cooker. In case you are making in the saucepan or kadai, it takes longer and needs patience. You have to add water slowly to the dish and keep a close watch. Frying of the rice thoroughly before cooking is essential, so that the rice doesn’t become sticky. Also, once you have added water, best is to not stir too often. Then the rice grains break and become a mush.
Basanti Pulao is the ultimate celebratory meal for almost all occasions
If there is one combination which goes with Chal Potol it should be Tomato Chutney
You can watch the video of Chal Potol making also here in our youtube channel –
Serving and storing suggestions
You can serve chal potol as it is or with some tomato chutney and a bhaja. You can serve it with raita as well. While reheating, remember to sprinkle some water and half cover and microwave it. You can store chal potol in the refrigerator for upto a week. It doesn’t have onion and garlic, so stays alright. You can portion freeze it for upto a month and thaw before reheating and serving. Add some ghee in the end to enhance the fragrance.
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- 300- 400 gms potol parwal in hindi and pointed gourd in english
- 1 1/2 cups gobindobhog rice or any short grained fragrant rice (see notes)
- 1/2 cup raisins or kishmish
- 2 nos dried bayleaf
- 3 nos green cardamom
- 4- 5 nos cloves
- 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 2 -3 nos green chilies slit them
- 1 no large tomato finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp Bengali garam masala powder
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 2 - 3 tbsp any vegetable oil You can replace it with ghee as well
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Wash the rice and keep it soaked in water for an hour. After an hour,drain the water and spread it on a collander for all the water to drip off andthe rice to dry.
- Wash the parwals and scrape the outer peels lightly. Then cut out the ends. Cut the parwals in cubes in angular way, 3 to 4 pieces per parwal.
- In a kadai or a heavy bottomed saucepan, take some vegetable oil and lightly fry the parwals till they are golden and little brown on the edges.Take the parwals out and keep them aside.
- In the same pan, add the dried rice and stir fry the rice till it becomes translucent in colour. Once the rice is fried, take it out and keep aside.
- Now, add mustard oil to the same kadai or saucepan and when the oil is almost hot, add dried bayleaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and green chilies. Stir fry till they release fragrance.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and lightly fry them under medium heat. Also add the ginger paste and fry. At the same time, in a separate bowl, take all the powder spices (except garam masala) and add some water to make a slurry.
- Add the slurry to the pan and keep stirring under medium heat for a couple of minutes.
- Add the raisins and fry them. And then add the rice. Coat the rice with the spices. Add the fried parwal.
- Then add Bengali garam masala and mix everything together. Finally add warm water, salt and sugar.
- I have added 2 cups of water in the beginning and approximately 1 cup through the course of the cooking. Add little more salt than what you taste since it is a pulao and when the rice is cooked, the salt needed will be more.
- The ratio of water to rice should be 2:1 and leave a little water aside to be used during the process of cooking.
- Once all that is done, give it a boil. Stir everything and cover and lower the temperature to a minimum.
- After 15 minutes, remove the cover and if you see that the water has almost dried up, sprinkle some warm water over the rice and around the edges. Very gently, with a spatula, toss the rice from the bottom to the top. Cover once again and cook.
- Every 5 to 6 minutes, remove the lid and repeat the process till the rice is cooked.
- When the rice has become soft, drizzle some ghee over the top and cover it and et it remain for a couple of minutes before serving.
- Serve chal potol as it is or with any side of your choice.
- If you cannot find gobindobhog rice, use any short grained fragrant rice. You can also use basmati, the only difference will be the cooking time.