I love to cook with exotic Bengali ingredients: one of them being what we call as Kochur Loti in Bengali, which is actually young stolons of colocasia (Arbi in Hindi) or taro. Kochur Loti is a delicious vegetable. Bengalis relate to this dish as this brings back the memories of the food that was cooked by their mothers and grandmothers. I love eating Loti since my childhood, and my grandma cooked it often in different ways. I felt the need to add this recipe of Kochur Loti aar Chingri Maacher Paturi in my blog as I feel that traditional Bengali recipes like these are somehow losing their charm in this fast-paced world. Recently, I came across a Probashi Bengali (a Probashi Bengali the ones who have always stayed outside West Bengal) who had no clue whether colocasia stolons are edible. In general, a good number of Bengalis are reluctant to cook this vegetable in their kitchen, while others don’t know exactly how to cook Kochur Loti!
Colocasia is called Kochu in Bengali. There is a bit of preparation that the stolons of colocasia need. Peeling the Loti stolons is a task, but you can do it one day before you plan to cook these. Some people feel a bit of itchiness in their throat after they consume Loti, and this is because Loti is rich in calcium oxalate crystals. But Loti is harmless and damn flavourful, if cooked in the right way. Let these rustic Bengali dishes not lose their identity, especially in the traditional Bengali kitchens.
Note: Please don’t eat Loti if you are allergic to Colocasia or Taro.
Loti is available in Mumbai too, although it is not a common sight. I got these veggies from a local vegetable vendor in Kandivali (E). I hope that there are many other places in Mumbai where you can get this vegetable. In Kolkata, it is available everywhere. In the US, many Asian stores keep chopped, peeled and frozen Loti too! However, in Mumbai, buy Loti with care. Do not buy too thin sticks of loti, as they will not have much flesh in them and will itch your throat. Thicker and heavier Lotis are more flavourful. The greener the Loti on peeling, the better it is! But remember, the Lotis which are darker from outside (before the peeling) and don’t look dry, are the best!
Have a look at these lovely veggies in the above picture! These are typical Bengali vegetables that I bought recently. Can you spot the Loti here in my shopping bag? And oh, did I ever tell you how much do I love vegetable shopping? Call me weird, but yes, I almost never order vegetables online or over the phone. I find it extremely exciting and de-stressing to go to the vegetable vendors and hand-pick the freshest veggies and fruits myself. That’s me!
It is funny that some people still believe the age-old saying that only those people who are quarrelsome by nature, feel itchy throat after eating Kochur Loti!
Kochur Loti is actually a Bangal food. Bengalis are divided into ghoti (those who are originally from West Bengal) and bati (they are also called Bangal: those whose roots are in East Bengal), and they do have different food preferences. The Ghoti and Bati speak different dialects. While the Bangal cuisine raves about dishes like shutki, the Ghoti population loves to gorge on posto dishes. While the Bati Bengalis love Hilsa or Ilish fish, the Ghotis are fond of prawns. The Ghoti vs. Bati cold war has no end, and this war includes proving whose cuisine is the best and why.
Some people blanch the peeled and chopped Loti for 10 min in boiling water, in which salt and turmeric powder is added. This is done to remove the “itchy” factor. I did the same here in this recipe. Also, I chose thick Loti stolons and cooked it for a long time over slow fire. The trick is to either cook the Loti on high heat or use an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or tamarind paste while marinating or while cooking. I used lemon juice to marinate my Loti pieces, and so, inspite of cooking on slow fire, it didn’t itch the throat.
There are so many ways to cook Loti. Whichever way you cook, add extra chillies for sure. Here are some of my favourite Loti dishes:
- Ilish Macher Matha Diye Lotir Chocchori (Hilsa heads cooked with taro stolons)
- Shorshe Diye Loti (Taro stolon cooked with mustard paste)
- Chingri Loti (Taro stolons cooked with prawns)
- Lau Diye Loti (Taro stolons cooked with bottle gourd)
- Mug Daal Diye Loti (Taro stolons cooked with Moong pulses)
- Lotir Paturi (Taro stolons cooked in banana leaves)
- Narkel Diye Loti (Taro stolons cooked with coconut paste).
This recipe of Kochur Loti aar Chingri Maacher Paturi (Bengali Paturi Dish with Taro Stolons and Prawns) has been cooked over a thick-bottomed, non-stick pan. Make sure that the Loti is covered with five layers of banana leaves on the either side (top and bottom). As said earlier, I have steamed the Loti before making the Paturi (banana-leaf parcel).
Kochur Loti aar Chingri Maacher Paturi (Bengali Paturi Dish with Taro Stolons and Prawns)
- Kochur Loti taro stolons / colocasia stolons: 1 kg
- Prawns deveined and de-skinned: ½ kg
- Salt: according to taste
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Freshly ground black-mustard-seed paste ground with three chillies and ½ tsp salt: 1.5 cups
- Lemon juice: 2 tbsp
- Onion paste: 2 tbsp
- Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
- Nigella seeds _Kalonji_ in Hindi and Kalo Jeere in Bengali: ¼ tsp
- Coconut paste: 2 tbsp
- Green chillies finely chopped; optional: 1 tsp
- Banana leaves: 5 cut into two pieces breadthwise
- Strong mustard oil for cooking: 3 tbsp
- Strong mustard oil for sprinkling/garnishing: 2 tsp (optional)
- Two thick-bottomed non-stick pans
- Peel the taro stolons the previous day. The brown covering has to come out totally. Chop the stolons into index-finger sized pieces. Wash properly and marinate with 2 tsp salt and lemon juice, for about 20 min. Blanch these in salted boiling water (with a little turmeric powder) for 10 min, or until the Loti are partially softened, but hold their shape firmly. Drain the liquid completely and reserve the Loti. Store in the refrigerator.
- The next day, take out the Loti and let it come to room temperature.
- Wash thoroughly and wipe the banana leaves (now a total of 10 leaves). From the middle, slit away the thick portion, so that each leaf is straight. Keep aside.
- Marinate the prawns for around 20 min with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder.
- In a deep bowl, add the marinated prawns (minus the marinade), the onion, garlic and the coconut pastes, mustard oil, green chillies, nigella seeds, mustard seed paste and salt (according to taste). While adding salt, please note that the mustard paste, Loti and the marinated prawns already have salt in them. Add the salt accordingly.
- With the help of a kitchen spoon, mix the above Paturi mixture very well. Now add the partially cooked Loti. Mix very carefully, so that the Loti pieces don’t lose their shape.
- Take a non-stick pan (Pan No. 1). Brush oil over it. Put five banana leaves over it, one over the other. Make sure that the glossy sides of the banana leaves are facing up. Now spread the whole Paturi mixture over the topmost banana leaf.
- Now cover this mixture from the top with an inverted banana leaf (glossy side down). Place the rest of the four banana leaves one over the other over this inverted banana leaf. All these leaves on the top must face down.
- Cover the Paturi setup with a heavy pan (Pan No. 2) inverted over the topmost banana leaf.
- Heat the Pan No. 1 on a medium flame. After 20 min, very carefully, invert the whole setup, so that Pan No. 2 is down and Pan No. 1 is on the top.
- Heat Pan No. 2 for 20 min on a medium flame.
- After 20 min, invert the setup again so that Pan No. 1 is down again. Slow-cook/simmer for about 10 more minutes. Open a corner of the wrap and taste one piece of cooked Loti. It should have softened completely by now (but should retain the shape).
- Switch off the gas give the Paturi a standing time for 10 more minutes. Remove the pan on the top. Remove the top five banana leaves. Serve the Paturi with steamed rice. (I love to add around 2 tsp of raw mustard oil over the Paturi just before I serve this with rice.)
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