Ok. You’re still figuring how you should pronounce that right? Let me help you.
The ‘aun’ is just the way it is in paunch.
The ‘k’ is, well, k.
The ‘p’, that’s the tricky bit. It’s not just the ‘p’ sound but an added hint of ‘h’ with it. But then, it’s not ‘f’ like it is in ‘ph’ either. It’s difficult. And Gujarati.
Come to think of it, it’s more Surati, than anything. Surati – from Surat. That’s where most of my extended family is.
Paunk is essentially fresh (tender) jowar served with a variety of sev, some lasoon chutney and sugar balls. The paunk-eating experience can be heightened by sipping chilled chhaas while you eat. And it is a meal in itself.
I will explain the finer aspects of this traditional and extremely weird dish in the paragraphs that follow.
Jowat, jwar, jwari, sorghum. They’re all the same. Typically grown in arid and semi-arid regions of the country, jowar and bajra (collectively, millets) find an important part in Indian cooking, especially among the agriculturally inclined masses, usually as flour to make rotis/bhakris.
Gram (chick pea) flour mixed with water, turmeric and a pinch of asafoetida is deep fried into thin string like thingies (for lack of a better word). That’s sev. It is an essential ingredient in most chaat preparations. The regular kind is usually a bright yellow. Funner varieties include a red sev which has chilli/masala and a black/brown sev which tastes very strongly of crushed black pepper.
Lasoon (garlic) chutney:
A few cloves of garlic
About four times as much roughly chopped coriander
Salt to taste
Green chillies, to taste
Grind the ingredients to a fine paste using water as needed. Just make sure it’s a thick paste (chunky will do too) and not runny.
It’s not granular sugar. It’s more like powdered sugar, recrystallized into jagged, round(ish) chunks. The picture should help.
These are the basic components. You just take a handful of the grain, mix in sev to your liking, add some chutney and some sugar. And it’s ready to eat.
And here’s the accompaniment:
1 part yoghurt
2 parts water
Some crushed garlic (Assuming you’ve used a cup of yoghurt and 2 cups of water, you’d need about half a teaspoon of garlic)
Crushed green chilli (about a third as much as the garlic)
Finely chopped coriander (about twice as much as the garlic)
Jeera (cumin seeds) (about as much as the garlic)
Curry Leaves (about as many cloves of garlic that you used)
Salt to taste
A few drops of oil
Mix the yoghurt and the water to uniformity.
Heat the oil in a really tiny vessel (we have weird things like that in the kitchen). When the oil is hot turn the heat off. Throw in the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for a few seconds. Add the curry leaves. And the garlic. Add this mixture to the yoghurt + water mixture.
Garnish with chopped coriander.
Of course, like lassi, you can make your chhaas sweet and without the added flavours. Chhaas is a lot thinner than lassi. I like chhaas over lassi. But that’s only because I’m Gujju.
On whether or not you will enjoy eating paunk, I’ve come to realize it’s an acquired taste. I took some for my uncle and aunt in Goa last week (straight from my trip to Surat). My uncle, who is French, didn’t dislike it but then, he didn’t/couldn’t enjoy it as much as the true Hoortis (teehee) did.