A plateful of ‘Ubhaaryal Phota’ or the boiled, whole (in pods) fresh garbanzo beans stirs memories in many a hearts, particularly if you belong to the ‘pre gizmo-freak generation’. The generation who never got bored despite of the absence of social media networks, 3GS, WiFi, smart phones, X-box, infinite TV channels and coffee shops to hang around with friends. Now when I hear my son complaining about how often he feels bored of his board games, Cartoon channels, baseball and unlimited access to books and computer games, I can’t help but sit and wonder; what was it, that kept us happily occupied, while we were kids?
There were no dedicated cartoon channels back in 70s and 80s and maybe that was the reason that a Sunday treat of ‘He-man’ or ‘Ducktales/Talespin ‘ excited us so much. The only board games that normal middle class family kids (proudly) owned were probably Chess and ‘Nayavyappar’ (Desi Monopoly game) and of course the best game to keep us involved on hot, lazy afternoons of summer vacations was Carrom (The ‘strike and pocket’ board game’). Unlike the outdoor games these days that demand truck loads of money to be spent on branded sport shoes, head gears, expensive sports clothes and stuff like that, our outdoor games were cheap and inexpensive. We seldom got bored of playing ‘Chuppa Chuppi (ice spice), ‘chor police’ (chase game), ‘khokho’ (Again, a ‘Run Chase’ game), ‘ Nadi kina pahad’ (river or mountain) ‘Sata Thikryunh‘ (the seven stones games), skipping and many more.
Now the coach demands branded cricket bats, fashionable sports caps, shorts, expensive foot ball, imported skates, high quality rackets etc etc, if we wish to send our kids for sports activities. And what did we used , back then? A ‘soti’ (dhobipatta) was used as a bat, and any ordinary rubber ball was used to enjoy a game of cricket. The abandoned flat pieces of asbestos sheets were used to play ‘seven stones’ games, the cheap marbles to play ‘Kanchey‘, any ordinary rope was used for skipping and majority of outdoor games required nothing but physical activity, team spirit, enthusiasm and ample open space.
As a kid from a middle class family, living in a small town, I never had access to a full fledged books library. Enid Blyton, Ruskin bond, Roald Dahl etc were unheard of, during that time. But we had array of local writers, some gems who knew how to weave in, simple day to day conversation and activities into lovely stories. The Panchtantra, Jakarta tales, Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha, Diamond comics, Tinkle, Champak and many such books and comics kept us entertained for decades or so. We had our local favorite characters like Chacha Chowdhary, Suppandi, Shikari Shambu etc, along with some ‘eemported’ ones like Spiderman etc.
Not that the situation is hopeless now, considering that the kids now are ‘well read’, gadget friendly and probably more smart than us but I often cringe at the amount of money spent on the kids, just to keep them occupied and physically active. Why the parents/societies/schools are hell bent on ‘constructive and planned’ playing schedule, with the emphasis on having proper sports gears? Is nonconstructive playing that bad?
I am often looked down upon, by the new age moms when I buy hindi comics for my kid. I cant understand how is it gonna shake the earth, if he reads a Tinkle along with tons of Geronimos and Famous Fives? Why can’t I tear off the remaining blank pages from his old notebooks and use them for making worksheets or for for his Math practice instead of purchasing reams of papers? Why do parting birthday gifts need to be stereotypical colours/tiffin boxes/water bottles and not some home made goodies ? Why is it so that a birthday party of kid means to have Pizza from a Pizzeria on the menu? Is it really the time crunch that we, the parents, rely on quick fix meals rather than home made stuff? While my own kid wanted to ‘treat’ his friends with Pizza at his birthday party, I made sure to serve kids at least few things that were healthy and home made. I have nothing against the changing pattern of the likes and dislikes of kids, or people in general, but what amuses me is their obsession to spend money and to value the happiness and satisfaction depending on the price tag !
Not wishing to continue the rants, I would quickly switch over to the boiled fresh garbanzo beans..well in our school days, all we looked forward to , was some nice ‘after-school’ snack once we hit our homes. And no, we never used to get a packaged health drink, or any so called, ‘sugar free natural’ tetra packed juice. The heat and serve packaged soups were unheard of, and so were the ‘healthy cornflakes’. Our after school snacks used to be the humble Upma, Poha, Cheela, Idli, Toasters, (Toasted stuffed sandwiches, often stuffed with spiced potatoes, or Onion and tomato stuffing), omelet sandwich . Once in a while, we got to indulge and so there would be Vada pao, Pani puri, Sevpuri, Bhelpuri, or Pakora sandwich (Fritters sandwiched in local dinner rolls) Then there were seasonal varieties too; the corn on the cob, roasted over charcoals, boiled Singharas (water chestnuts), Ber (Ziziphus mauritiana and many other varieties), Kunhey Ja Bhee (Steamed/ boiled lotus stem cooked in earthen pots, relished with mint coriander chutney) or even a plateful of boiled whole peanuts in the shell, ‘Dhadhree‘ (a tiny pea pod, not sure what it is known as, in other languages) and of course the boiled and spiced up fresh garbanzo beans, just locally produced and seasonal veggies and fruits !
One of our favorite past time used to be, was to search and pluck the pods amongst the bunch of leaves and stems of garbanzo. Once plucked, these were snapped between fingers and the vibrant green beans were a delight to munch upon, just like that…no rinsing, no cooking and no seasoning required. But it doesn’t mean that the boiled beans tasted any less..the juicy, mildly salty and spiced up beans were a delight to eat. Ah the pleasure of gently squeezing the whole boiled pod, and savoring the spiced up water, that gushes out from the pod, as you pop in the tender mildly seasoned fresh bean! Bliss!!!!! And the best part is, you get a zero oil, healthy snack !
Boiled Fresh Garbanzo Beans might remind you of Edamame, a famous Snack/appetizer from Japanese cuisine. These beans are called Phota in Sindhi, Cholia in Hindi and Harbhara in Marathi. You can boil these fresh beans intact, or steam, or boil it after shelling, roast the shelled pods with little oil and season well, add raw to salads, add steamed pods to cutlets or puree the steamed ones and knead a dough to make healthy parathas..innumerable ways to enjoy the little greens!
And the recipe..well, there is hardly any, but still for the heck of it, here we go…
- Plucked fresh garbanzo beans 150 gm
- Water for boiling 2 cups or more
- Salt ½ tsp (more or less, as per your choice)
- Turmeric powder ¼ tsp (optional )
- Red chilly powder
- Coriander powder
- Amchoor powder(Dry mango powder) /Chaat masala powder
- Rinse well with water, the plucked garbanzo beans
- Boil with enough water and salt, and add the turmeric (optional)
- If using pressure cooker, just cook till the pressure builds up and you can hear that hissing sound. Put off the gas before the pressure is released.
- If boiling in an open ban, just use water more than 2 cups and bring the water to a boil.Lower the flame, a bit, and add salt, turmeric and fresh beans and cook till the pods/beans are al dente (roughly, for 3-5 min, or so).
- You can also steam the beans using salted water.(Approx. 6-8 min.)
- Once boiled/steamed, drain the pods, well, and serve immediately, but not before seasoning it with coriander powder, red chilli powder and Amchoor powder