Apart from the quintessential Papad, pickle, Kadhi and Saibhaji, Sindhis are well known for their love for the lotus stem and they are the most avid eaters of this slightly nutty, mildly sweet, crunchy stem. Their insatiable appetite for Bhee is the reason that lotus stems are particularly found in markets in and around Sindhi populated areas. Bhee (Lotus stem), dhodhee/Pabhora (lotus seeds) and Lohr (corm) are the parts of Lotus plant that Sindhis eat with great relish.
While our Bhee paalak is bit similar to Kashmiri Nadru paalak (Paalak nadir) and our gravy based bhee curries are similar to Punjabi curries, Sindhis use lotus stem in many unique ways too. For example; Bhee is added in potato tikkis or is stuffed, batter-coated and fried to make signature Bhee tikki (pakora). Bhee jyun kachryun i.e sun-dried lotus stems are very popular in our cuisine and the flash fried Kachryun can turn the humble dal chaawal into a satiating meal. Lotus stem is also pickled in a typical Sindhi pickle base of chili powder and vinegar.
Suanhjro Ain bhee (drumstick flowers with lotus stem) and Suandhro bhee (dried tender drumsticks with lotus stem) are some lesser known but delicious and highly nutritious recipes of Sindhi cuisine. The fresh seeds of lotus pods are snacked upon (raw) while the corm of lotus, known as Lohr is boiled, peeled, pepped up with salt and freshly ground black pepper powder and is served with tangy mint coriander chutney.
Lohr or Lotus corm
The most traditional way of cooking lotus stem is in a clay pot, till soft and starchy, served with a dash of spicy mint coriander chutney. This chaat, known as Kuneh ja bhee (Kunoh means the clay or earthen pot ), the pride of Sindhi cuisine, is now almost a lost recipe. The lotus stem is cleaned thoroughly, cut in pieces, salted and steamed (not boiled) in an inverted clay pot, for hours, till the stem is soft and stringy.
Kuneh Ja Bhee
The above mentioned method of cooking ensures a great texture and the clay pot enhances the earthy flavors of bhee. Since this method requires cooking for long hours, I tried a different way to steam lotus stem, which is explained in the recipe section. If you have a better way to do this, please do share your method in the comments section 🙂
This is one of the most famous chaat from pre partition era and I remember eating this few decades ago. Around Diwali, a person carrying a huge matka containing lotus stem and a small steel container filled with chutney, along with the pouches filled with various spices like rock salt, black pepper powder and red chilli powder along with amchoor powder that would fit in the neck of the clay pot, used to move around streets. Halting wherever he got some customers, he used to pull out the snugly fitted container and spice pouches from the pot and would pick out some perfectly cooked kuneh ja bhee, plonk on a piece of newspaper, on which he would sprinkle the spices like the magical pixie dust, in varying proportions, as per the customer’s demand. Few spoons of spicy green chutney would provide the required kick and a very nutritious chaat would warm our souls on those early winter days.
- Lotus stem 250 gm
- Rock salt (powdered) a pinch or so
- Amchoor powder
- Black pepper powder
- Red chili powder
- Mint coriander chutney
- Clean lotus stem and cut into 2 inch long pieces.
- Place the pieces in an airtight steel box that can easily be put inside pressure cooker. Add salt to the lotus stem and cover it with a cling film. Place the lid of the container and immerse it in pressure cooker that is filled with water till ¾ of its capacity.
- Close the lid of pressure cooker and cook the bhee till really soft and stringy. It took 30 whistles of pressure cooker (or around 40 minutes or so of cooking under pressure on low flame) for the bhee to cook to perfection. Ideally it should be more stringy but I was running out of the time so couldn't let it cook for more time.
- Take the bhee out from the container and add rock salt, some salt, pepper, chili powder and toss it well.
- Put the spiced up bhee in the hot clay pot, cover it with a lid and place the pot on a hot griddle. Cook on low flame for 5-10 minutes to let the clay infuse some earthiness in the lotus stem. You can keep pouring some water on griddle to ensure that the lotus stem stays moist and does not stick to the bottom of clay pot. Skip this whole process (cooking in clay pot) if you wish so.
- Serve hot with a sprinkle of amchoor powder and a dash of spicy green mint coriander chutney.