Yakitori Gone Desi

[I didn’t plan on making this a series, but I think I have a handful of recipes now. So this is, what I’d like to believe, the second of a five part series on non-vegetarian Gujarati cuisine. In case you’ve missed the first part, it’s here.]


I was at Malaka Spice, in Pune, last week on a whim and got a taste of their summer menu. I was with a friend and we binge ate six different kinds of Yakitori:

  • Reba Gushi (レバー) – liver
  • Tebasaki (手羽先) – chicken wing
  • Negima (ねぎま) – chicken alternating with and spring onion/leek
  • Bonjiri (ぼんじり) – chicken tail
  • Tsukune (つくね) – chicken meatballs
  • Tori Kawa (とり)かわ) – chicken skin, grilled until crispy

Grilled cuts of chicken, marinated in spices and ginger-soy sauce.

So when I asked my mum for the recipe for Maamnaa later that week, a little light bulb went up, about how I could serve them – the way I’d been served Yakitori – on a stick.

Mutton Mince Meatballs - Maamnaa
Mutton Mince Meatballs – Maamnaa

 

Maamnaa are fried/grilled meatballs made with very fine lamb mince and spices, served with lots of fine sliced onions, lemon and green chutney.

My limited knowledge on Surati Khatri food comes from my mum’s conversations with the daughters-in-law of a certain Kadiwala family. The patriarch of the family, Ratibhai Kadiwala grew up with my grandfather in the bylanes of Surat in the 1930s. Over the years, the families grew apart, migrated to different cities and adopted new lifestyles altogether, but didn’t quite lose touch. Though Rati Kaka passed away over a decade ago and my grandfather’s mental health has deteriorated owing to dementia, there still are memories that come up in conversation every once in a while. And some recipes.

As if it were a coincidence, or some sort of sign, my mum gave me the news of Kanta Kaki’s passing the day I asked her for the maamnaa recipe. Kanta Kaki – Rati Kaka’s wife. Of late, my heart aches when I hear about the demise of people from my grandparents’ generation. I wonder if they’ve left behind notebooks in old trunks, scribbled with recipes… letters written to loved ones in an age when there was no internet or even an inexpensive phone call system… black and white photographs turned sepia and dog eared. I wonder if us grandchildren, or maybe generations after us might chance upon these some day, make sense of these little notes and preserve them for the future.

My great grandmother has left behind a notebook filled with recipes for mathiyas and nankhatais and other cookies and biscuits that I intend to digitize, sooner or later. While my grandmum was never much of an enthusiast in the kitchen, my mum’s gotten her hands dirty with recipes that have been passed down generations. She still makes mathiyas several times every year. And much to her displeasure, they make for some delicious chakhna – one of the countless varieties of nibbles that make cheap alcohol palatable.

And that’s where I pull the Khatris back into this story. As dry as state as Gujarat is, every other home I’ve visited in Gujarat has a full fledged bar cabinet. While alcohol consumption for most other communities might be a covert affair, the Khatris openly enjoy shating a batli (bottle) during social gatherings. And Surati Khatris are known to swear by the “Khaai, pee ne jalsa karo” (eat, drink and make merry) rule.

Men and women, alike, enjoy drinking alcohol, often out of steel glasses, with enough to grub going around – fried peanuts and cashews, deep fried daal mixed with onions, coriander, tomatoes & a dash of lime. And maamnaa.

Mutton Mince Meatballs - Maamnaa
Mutton Mince Meatballs – Maamnaa

Recipe

Ingredients:
Maamnaa Masala:
(each ingredient roasted individually and all ingredients then ground to a fine powder)

100g coriander seeds
30g cumin seeds
30g black peppercorn
30g sesame seeds

10g stone flower (dagad phool)
10g black cumin (shahi jeera)
10 g cinnamon stick
10 g cinnamon leaves
10 g bay leaves (tamaal patra)
10g black cardamom (badi elaichi)
10 g cloves
10 g star anise
10g mace

A pinch of grated nutmeg

For the kebabs/meatballs:
1 lb meat keema
2 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
2 tbsp garlic, freshly crushed
2 tbsp green chilli paste, fresh
3 tbsp maamnaa masala
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 egg
1 tbsp cornflour
Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Wash & drain the meat keema properly. The meat should be a very fine mince. If you think it’s chunky, you can pulse it in a mixer-grinder for a couple of minutes.
  2. To about a pound of the mince (450g or so), add ginger, garlic, chilli paste and masala and mix well. Let the meat marinate in the spices for 2-3 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to cook the maamnaa, heat some oil to shallow fry the meatballs. Alternately, you can fire up a grill or heat up a grill frying pan.
  4. Add an egg and some cornflour to the meat mixture, so that it binds easily and doesn’t fall apart in the oil (or off the skewers, when grilling).
  5. Make fist sized balls. Lower into oil. Cook uniformly for 4-5 minutes.
  6. For seekh kebabs, add a little more cornflour to bind, roll around skewers and grill over charcoal or on a grill pan.
  7. Serve with onions and mint chutney.

Next up: The many colours of Undhiyu

 

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