Sougri kangsoi is a simple dish…. simple to make with only a few ingredients. But I have to confess that I was never satisfied with, what I thought was, my preparation of sougri kangsoi. It never managed to match the balance of flavours that my mom’s sougri kangsoi had achieved… or for that matter, those made by other seasoned and experienced ladies… (men rarely indulge in preparing kangsoi… RARELY, though not never).
After getting married I was cooking more of the traditional dishes and I was determined to get them right. That’s when I started observing my mother-in-law’s cooking. I was using the same ingredients as she was but her kangsoi had the balance while mine was always a little off. The lack of balance was subtle, and it bothered me more because it was so. It is fairly easy to catch a mistake in the recipe if the thing that is off, is significant… but it takes an amount of concentration and observation to pin a mistake if it is so subtle. Almost like trying to cut a very thin slice of cake… bad analogy, is it?
Now, I have got it right and I am excited to share the trick to making sougri kangsoi with the right balance of flavours.
Sougri, also known as deccan hemp or kenaf, is of the malvaceae family. The leaves are the only part of the plant consumed in the meitei cuisine except for the silhot sougri variety (roselle) of sougri, in which case, the sepals are also consumed. The leaves and sepals are sour to taste. The sourness and its availability make it a summer vegetable which is light and easy to digest.
I always thought that sougri leaves look a lot like marijuana leaves… anyone with me on this?
Almost every household in Imphal has a few of these plants growing somewhere in the vicinity… and by “somewhere”, I mean “anywhere”. These plants are very hardy and they will grow almost anywhere… I had seen two of them growing on an abandoned terrace where a small pile of sand had been left standing for some time.
A few of them are growing in our kitchen garden too and Korou had suggested that I started my post from the garden itself where the ingredients are fresh and alive!
I know that the way to harvest them must be common sense to most of us but some of us have lost touch with our traditional cooking so much so that it can be quite confusing when someone asks us to go to the garden and pick some vegetables. And in our ignorance, we often harm the plant while trying to harvest them. Sougri is a tall plant and could reach several feet if it gets the required nutrition. That is why we pick only the leaves that grow out on the stem and never the bud at the top end of the stem in order to keep them standing tall and healthy.
And while we are at it, I should touch on how to harvest maroi napaakpi too as it is one of the ingredients in this recipe . Unlike maroi nakuppi, which is cut whole and left to sprout again from the stub, napaakpi is harvested one leave at a time working from the outermost layer.
Now getting to the recipe….
For this kangsoi, you will need:
The kidney beans I got for this recipe are locally grown. The vendors were selling them fresh off the pod. I love how they have those markings on them. The store bought dry ones don’t have them… at least the ones that we get in Imphal don’t.
Remove the stalks off of the leaves.
Chop the maroi nakuppi and crush them with your hands. Crushing them helps release the flavour more effectively.
Cut the green chillies into halves.
Slice the potatoes… not too thick not too thin. Slicing it up so will help the potato to cook faster. Peeling the potato is not necessary if you wash it thoroughly.
Roast the ngari on an open flame. This helps remove any impurities like occasional jute fibres as the flame burns them away. It also enhances its flavour by adding a smokiness to it.
We don’t need to char the ngari. Just softening it a little will do.
Throw in the potato, kidney beans, ngari, smoked fish, maroi napaakpi, some water and salt in a pot. Now this is the step where I was going wrong. I would always save the maroi napaakpi for later. I thought that adding it later and leaving it half cooked preserved it’s fresh colour and made the dish look pretty. But that tipped the balance in the flavour. Adding the ngari and the maroi napaakpi at the same time helped fuse the two flavours. The maroi napaakpi negated the pungent fishy smell of ngari while the ngari balanced the garlicky smell of raw maroi napaakpi. And adding the maroi napaakpi later somehow prevented the two flavours to mix together and hence produced a dish with the two unpleasant flavours managing to stay separately and noticeably.
Put the pot on a flame and keep the lid covered to get it to a boil fast.
Once it starts boiling, put in the chillies. Put the lid back on and let it boil a little more.
Check if the potato is done.
Once the potato and beans are done, throw in the sougri leaves. Notice how fast the leaves are cooked. They turn olive green as soon as they touch boiling water.
Cover and boil for about 30 seconds to one minute to allow the leaves to lend its sourness into the liquid.
Now put off the flame and it is done.
Look at how the roasted fish gives a nice milky texture to the liquid.
Sougri kangsoi tastes best with brown rice… should try that!
Yes, we have started brewing our own kombucha at home and this one is purple! And it came out nice and fizzy too. Bye bye COCA COLA!
Hello… I am sorry for replying late… it’s been quite long since I checked my messages. I am not certain about the number of amlas that make a spoon of the powder. But I can assume that a pill must have 2-3 dry amla powder in it.
It is only today, when I have finally got myself to blog after a long span of procrastination, that I realised that it has been over a year since I last posted. A lot has happened since then, the grandest among them being Korou and I getting married. With all the wedding work over, we started focusing on joint projects such as a short film we are currently working on. And so, the blog got ignored for a while. But not anymore! I plan to make up for all those days… yes!
I had hoped to come back with an elaborate recipe but I guess this will have to do for now. I didn’t know what to name it but I wanted “autumn” to feature in the name. Pumpkins always spell Autumn to me. My father had given me a big pumpkin the last time I visited and I was determined to cook it in 101 ways… well maybe not that many ways but many just the same.
It’s been a long time that I have been planning to do this recipe for the blog. This is the first time that I am making it. It was quite hard to find someone who knew how to make Chagem Ooti. I had always thought that it would be a difficult recipe since no one around me seemed to know how to prepare this dish. Mama doesn’t know. My Aunts don’t know. And of course, the boys and men in the house don’t know it either. I wonder if it is the same with other families. I have always thought of Chagem Ooti as a kind of gourmet variety of Ooti with only a few people knowing how to make it.
Well, here’s another original one from me. I have cooked beef only a few times and I wasn’t sure how this would turn out. I had got a beef request long long… long time back and I had been trying to come up with a nice recipe.
The only beef recipe I knew was the one with mint leaves and I didn’t want to repeat it from my sister’s blog. But I am happy to announce that
I was in a coma!….. Nah! I am just fooling around.
I don’t know what was holding me back from blogging all these months. But I just couldn’t get myself to start. Life in Manipur is delightfully distracting. I had so much to do outside the internet. But the fear that I might become one of those who abandon their blogs midway got me crawling back to my blogging. And yeah, now I remember how much fun it is. And I am back!
I had always imagined that my comeback recipe would be something grand and elaborate. But I ended up settling for something simple. Besides, there were some food wishes in my message box that I had not checked for months. And it was only fair that I start with them first. So someone requested for Ooti. And the request seems to be extended to other bloggers too.
Ooti is a Manipuri (meitei) dish made, most of the time but not exclusively, with pulses.
I am not familiar with Bangalore but I asked my sister and she says that she usually gets it from Foodworld gourmet, MG road or Nilgiri’s, Brigade.