Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chickpea season

Come December, the first sight of Chickpea aka "SoppinakaLLekaai" [ಸೊಪ್ಪಿನ ಕಡ್ಳೇ ಕಾಯಿ in Kannada] is provided by Ramanna.  We met two winters ago in front of our house.  We stopped him.  Ever since this, he has been 'instructed' to stop by frequently during the Chickpea season, which is the winter months, December to February.  And he has been faithfully providing us the supply.    

Chickpea is also known by names like Bengalgram and Garbanzo beans. Some botanical information and my pictures are here: [Dave's Garden] 
'Roasted gram' is an important ingredient in many a south Indian recipe. A bottle of it is earmarked in the kitchen just for this.

"The chickpea is a legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its seeds are very nutritious, high in protein and dietary fibre. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.", says Wiki.  Another reference says that India produces 70% of world's share.  

Entire plants are pulled out by farmers when the pods are green and the peas inside are green and tender, which is when it is best and sweetest. Many villagers earn their livelihood by selling the plants with pods.  It is a common sight in Mysore during these months.

Two seasons in 2008 and 2009 we used to buy from this man [left]. He never came frequently despite a guarantee to buy. So we missed chickpeas but bought small quantities during the market visits. It was not a satisfying thing because we got too little for a lot of money, compared to what we got from the street vendors.

How we missed our regular man Honnaiah who had stopped coming for some years on either of 1990! 

Around 2002, we caught and bought chickpeas from another vendor at our gate.  With Honnaiah 'absconding', I had started to inquire other vendors if they were from Chikkhalli.  I took a chance and inquired this chap about Honnaiah because he said he was also from Chikkhalli.  Lo, he knew him!  He said he was his ಮಾವ [uncle] and that he no longer sells items as before, but was fine.  This was a sweet piece of information, sweeter than the chickpeas he brought all those years!  We were worried and curious to know about his welfare as we waited only for him though others also used to pass our street selling chickpeas.  I had desired to meet him since long and asked his address.  He said 'Just go to Chikhalli and ask for Yajmaan Honnaiah".  "Yajmaan" is a title somewhat like a 'chieftan'. That itself spoke of his popularity in his village!

Honnaiah was a tall villager who regularly came with Chickpeas during the season and very occasionally groundnuts.  Chikkhalli is a small village, 10 kms east of Mysore.  Our house was in Devaparthiva Road in Chamarajapuram which was his regular route he took using his bicycle. We used to eagerly wait for his loud and familiar call "KaLLekaai.... SoppinkaLLekaai" [ಕಳ್ಳೆ ಕಾಯ್, ಸೊಪ್ಪಿನ್ ಕಳ್ಳೆ ಕಾಯ್ ].  He was a very familiar figure in our locality.

In April 2003, I decided to visit him.  So with with my wife and two kids we went on my scooter in search of Honnaiah.  On reaching the village, we were properly guided by someone to his house, which was very close to the main road.  When we went there, he was surprised and happy. He recognized me.

This was ten years ago.  It was a pleasing experience to visit his house and capture the moment on my film camera. I was so relieved to see that same smile, which now had a contented glow, after so many years. But it was strange without his customary towel wound round his head!  We had been so much conditioned to that typical look.  He had put on weight, perhaps resulting from not bicycling long distances like before. 

The bargaining fight between my paternal aunt and Honnaiah was adding charm into the transaction.  She used to fight with him to give that one extra plant after extra plant  It was a fight he too enjoyed, but never avoided giving.  He never gave one extra unhappily but as I now recollect he wore a sympathetic look, the same when he gives a child.  He did not forget to inquire about her and was sad to know about her death in 1989.  "Oh, how much she used to fight!" he recalled.  It was so kind of him.

The road to Chikkhalli is all the way 'ups and downs'. We realized then, how far and how tough it was for him to ride with that load on his bicycle and visit localities to sell from that far, for a small profit every day.   Each time he sat on the saddle or got down, he had to do it with his right leg crossing in front of him as the carrier behind was full.

 The one who guided us to Honnaiah's house never was spotted again. The present man also is from the same place. I showed Honnaiah's photo to Ramanna. "Oh, Honnappa!".  I asked how he was.  Ramanna informed that he died two years ago [most likely due to old age].

Eating it without messing!  See how!

Eating them raw is a great feeling, esp. fresh, opening from the pod and popping into the mouth. I learnt the clean technique from my paternal aunt.  There is no need for us to pluck the pod from the plant. There is need for a good thumbnail which I always sport - because of its great utility as a tool.  Here is my video demo!!  

Here are stills :

Hold it in the correct angle. Enjoy the baby pods too by pressing it to produce a pleasing little 'pop'! :)

Press it towards the top and it should open neatly along the 'line'.

Do not miss the good thumbnail tool. Push the cover aside and remove the pea/s. Pop them into the mouth, chew chew.... 

Be ready for a soft surprise as well.  Yikes!  Some will be busy eating the pea inside the cover having gone in by making a tiny hole.  
It is a larva of some host butterfly or moth.  
So keep an eye on the food you eat!! :)

Pods emptied, but still on the plant.  So no mess. That is why I call it as a "clean technique".

Ready for disposal outside the gate, where stray cows consume this delicacy.  Feeding the holy cows is divine, not counting the garbage bins they are fond of visiting, but out of necessity! 

Forgot to say that you need a good stance to start the programme.  
As soon as the lot is bought, I immerse the root portions into a bucket of water.  This keeps the plants from wilting.  It remains almost fresh the next day also.

Ramanna is a good replacement for Honnaiah, but this bargaining charm is missing.  We just tell for how much we want and he keeps the plants in the bucket, of course with a few small plants as a little 'bonus' [in Kannada we call it ಕೊಸರು] which is somewhat customary in many items also.  He also pushes his bicycle in upward gradients.  He has an attraction in my house. He can 're-wet' his greens with water I keep for my garden.  Hope you noticed that act in the beginning.


kasturi said...

Dear Dinu,

Excellent narration. I used to eat ಸೊಪ್ಪಿನ ಕಡ್ಳೇಕಾಯಿ in the same fashion. Also in addition to that, I used to prepare sweet and khara snacks from it. First collect all the ಸೊಪ್ಪಿನ ಕಡ್ಳೇಕಾಯಿ in a bowl and fry it with pure ghee. Then add sugar while it is hot for sweet snacks or rasam powder (ಸಾರಿನ ಪುಡಿ) and salt for khara snack. Similar snacks I used to prepare with sweet pumpkin seeds :)

Kumar Sharma said...

Dear Dinu,
Yeah, to be sure it is a favourite with us too - my Wife in particular. She also prepares 'UshLi' by adding some VoggarNay, Thengina Kayi Thuri, Kothamri Soppu, Uppu, Ingu, MeNsinkaayi etc.
As for the video, I wish we could see your smiling face as the kaayi was thrown into your mouth - as also some 'commentary' as you opened them one after the other.
Certainly would have made it more 'colourful' than the present.
Now, the viewer is left 'high & dry' with the mouth watering!

Susan Hirneise Moore said...

I've only ever eaten chick peas that are yellowish-white and plump. Love the video! I heard you eating, and heard your voice once!

Karen Coffelt said...

I've never actually eaten fresh chickpeas. I've eaten the cooked ones in salads, and of course made into hummus. Love them! Nice article.