Foods You Must Try (India): Jhinge Aaloo Posto

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This is called Jhinge Aaloo Posto – a popular Bengali vegetarian delicacy served as a staple diet in most Bengali households along with steaming hot rice and masoor/moong Dal. Jhinge is basically Ridge Gourd cooked with potatoes and Posto – a clingy creamy poppy seed paste along with some slit green chillies building up the heat. I recently came across a very interesting article that stated how the love for Posto existed amidst a torturous backdrop of the British Raj in Colonial India. With Opium trade fetching bountiful of money, huge tracts of agricultural land in the Bengal Presidency were being transformed into rolling poppy fields. While the native farmer lamented the death of golden harvests, the British raked in the beneficial booty, bleeding a once-thriving agricultural economy dry. Robbed of the produce that fed the family the farmer’s wife looked for ways to supplement the meagre meals put together by foraging in forests, ponds and groves. The article quotes “The enormous amounts of dried out poppy seed, left as waste by the colonial masters, suddenly took on an important role. She experimented with it and found much to her delight that the seeds when ground to a paste exuded a nutty flavour, blended well with mustard oil and enhanced the frugal meals of panta bhaat (soaked leftover rice), or boiled potatoes. In the intense dry heat of the area, it also cooled the body. Thus was born the Bengali’s cherished posto.” A definite FOOD for your thoughts.

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