The Tasty Relationship of Corn and Lucknow
The shades of seasons bring with them spells of gourmet delight so profound, that the freezing cold, or summer’s searing lash are all endured with perfect complacence and are reduced to nothing but affable accompaniments to those digs in mouth-watering divinity. All experience of food forms a special kind of memory log, where particular tastes conjure stories, people and places. In India, the streets represent a perfect catalogue of these seasonal blessings, where these enchanting aromasare waiting to bump into you at each turn. The chuski in summers, the Lucknow special naan kahatai in winters, andarse, pana, makkhan and the list goes on to become more and more delectably irresistible.
Rains are a time full of romance for the foodie. Monsoon is not a wind. Monsoon is not weather. It is a celebration. It is the sprinkles of tiny drops of rejoice that show on the faces of people, their words, in their way of life that gets drenched in the pure joy of showering refreshment. Bearing the banner of the commencement of this celebration are two distinct smells. The first is the petrichor of wet and cold soil; the other, the hot and juicy, desi bliss contained in corn cobs or Bhuttas!
Lucknow finds itself guilelessly indulging with gusto in this elongated oyster with rows of yellow pearls hidden in its fold. It has been a treasure indeed, for the street food lovers. Almost every nook and corner of the city, from the old parts to the new, has stationed a Bhuttawala.
The preparation of Bhutta may not be as mesmerising as other dishes, but its genius is the simplicity and ease of preparation only.The act of obtaining this prized little food item is full of a unique charm.
Bhuttawalas have a simple cart or thela or can be seen sitting on pavements with their ware in small wooden basket with a coal fire on a small stove of sorts. The hopefuls line along this thela or stand staring hungrily at the process. The husk hidden cobs with their silk threads on top exude their white green brilliance. The anticipation when the corn is roasted on red hot charcoal renders it a dramatic effect, especially when the peels hide what treat you are in for. Sometimes the heated charcoal ignites and the little fingers of these flames caress the expectation of the onlookers with intense passion! And just like an excited lover, a seed or two may not keep all that passion inside them and you hear them pop! The flames also char some corn seeds, thereby giving it a burnt and smoky flavour. Then comes the lime piece, which is dipped in a bowl of salt and red chilli powder mixture and rubbed on the kernels. If you are on the brave front and savour a little heat and spices, a bowl of chutney made of spicy green chillies ground with sea saltfeels makes for a spicy bliss.
Beware the shrivelled or dry looking husks or corns; they are not worthy of your indulgence. The seasoned eater knows the goodness of the ripe yet soft and sweet corn. This is affordability and flavour at its best. A bhutta costs as little as ten bucks! And it is satiating! The light sweet snack, with the scope for a possibly sizzling touch is perfect for savouring warmth while enjoying a heart quenching monsoon shower,( from a distance, shaded under a tree).
As you see the covers of the metaphorical oysters peeled off from them, your mouth waters to the point of flooding itself. Sinking your teeth into this solid, grained concoction of salty spicy and sweet, you just cannot help but ‘pop’ in delight yourself. And finally when you let the taste sink in, you realise, in fashion of a much famous line from a TV adaptation of a best-selling novel series- ‘Monsoon is coming!’ Indeed. And your quick bite into its essence is ready and hot to go.
Writer is a student. Reading and writing are his passion.
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 3 Issue 3,June 2016)