Winter is just around and it reminds me of a particular foggy memory of my grandmother making 'Chita Roti' and duck curry on her little clay stove.
All the little kids would gather around her while she was cooking and it was a festival on its own.
I still remember the tender yet skilled hands moving swiftly to make the thin rotis while the aroma of spicy duck curry cooking on the other stove fills the air, making everyone salivate.
The name Chita Roti is pretty self-explanatory. In Bengali, it refers to a roti that has been made by swirling the batter all over the 'Tawa'. Chita Roti with spicy duck curry/duck Kalia is a very famous dish in our hometown, Jessore.
The ingredients for Chita Roti are rather simple. The magic is in the soul put in the act and the experience that makes it perfect and delicious every time.
Our grandmothers always eyeballed their ingredients, but since most of us these days rely on measurement cups, here is the recipe and process of making Chita Roti.
- 2 cups rice flour
- ½ cup flour
- Salt to taste
How to make it
Mix the dry ingredients first. Add room temperature water to it until the consistency was smooth and runny like blended yogurt.
In order to make Chita Rotis spicier, add a pinch of freshly ground turmeric and red chilli powder. My grandma used a spoon to combine the ingredients, but I found out that using a hand whisk is far more time-saving.
For best results, make the batter the night before and let it rest overnight.
Though the recipe of the batter is oversimplified, the challenging part is getting the hand movements right while making it.
In the chilly mornings, my grandmother would heat a Tawa (non-sticky pots work as well) on the clay pot and grease it with a bit of cooking oil.
She would then dip her fingers in the batter and swirl swiftly all over the Tawa so the final product would look as if the roti had many holes in it.
Cooking the duck curry can be the trickiest of the whole process. You need to be careful about removing the stench, maintaining moisture in the flesh and avoiding overcooking.
- 1 kg duck meat
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 5 cloves
- 4 cardamom
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 whole black peppers
- 3 dried red chili
- 5 green chilli
- 1 cup sliced onion sliced
- 2 tbsp garlic-ginger paste
- 1 tbsp cumin paste
- 1 tbsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp toasted cumin powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- Salt to taste
How to make it
Soak the diced meat in warm water for some time before cooking to get rid of the odour of the duck meat.
Heat up some oil in a pan and fry the whole spices. Once you smell an aroma, add the onions. Right after they turn golden brown, add the garlic-ginger and cumin pastes. Add a little bit of water to avoid the spices getting burnt.
After two to three minutes, add red chilli, coriander, and turmeric powder and simmer the curry on medium-low heat. The diced meat would go in when the curry thickens. Keep stirring every 10-15 minutes.
After half an hour, the duck's oil and water are usually released and it helps the spices to mix into the duck meat. Add a few cups of water and some green chilies to simmer the broth further.
Add half a tsp of roasted cumin powder and garam masala at the end and simmer for a few minutes before serving.
There is a Japanese term often used for describing delicious savory dishes, and that is "umami." It is one of the core tastes we can experience as humans.
My grandmother's Chita Roti with duck curry reminds me of this taste. It is easy to get hooked on its flavour because it makes a person feel content and pleased.
My grandmother is no more, but the warm memories she gave remain much alive in my heart. Reminiscing about those chilly, joyous mornings still makes me happy. It was a beautiful time in my life. No wonder that food always ties us to the people and the memories they give.