Nimki, anyone?

 

There is a unique joy that I experience each time I am able to replicate a recipe that is synonymous with my childhood. I have grown up on some signature recipes of my grandmother and aunts. I still do not understand how they managed to churn out those dishes that tasted exactly the same over and over again. 

Along with the regular food, desserts and pickles,  Dadi was good with snacks that could be stored for a few weeks in air tight containers. One of my maternal aunts is the best cook that I have ever come across. I could let go of the fanciest meal just for the regular fare she makes at home everyday.  Sabudana kheer made by her has been my all time favourite and is still the first thing that I dig into whenever I step into her house at Patna. My father has been a sporadic cook, mostly experimenting with non vegetarian stuff. For me till date, the chicken curry cooked by him is the fastest and the tastiest way to eat chicken. My mother, unlike most mothers, never really fancied cooking though her whole wheat chapatis, parathas and sponge cake are to die for.

In the last seven months, ever since I’ve relocated to Panama all my favourite homemade dishes take turn and haunt me each day. Today, I was haunted by the snacks that dadi used to make. I just could not let go of the taste, texture, aroma that all her savories used to bring along. After a couple of phone calls home, I finally made up my mind and set out to make one my favourite snacks- Nimki. It is a deep fried north Indian snack made with slightly salted wheat flour dough with a pinch of carom seeds (ajwain) in it. It can be preserved for a few weeks and enjoyed with a hot cup of afternoon tea. It also comes as a huge rescue for those sudden hunger pangs when health is the last thing on your mind.

It was mostly in the afternoons that dadi and ma used to embark upon this marathon exercise of making  these snacks. The entire mood of the household used to change as they sat on the floor with newspapers spread around them, kneading the dough and rolling them out. This break in the monotony of a normal day used to elicit some interesting chit chat from the other members of the family. My grandfather(baba) used to start telling us stories of his childhood about how he filled his pockets with cashewnuts and raisins before going to school and kept snacking on them all day long. Sometimes one of the uncles used to join in and tease me about not helping dadi and ma.

The time did come when I voluntarily wanted to help. You know the time when suddenly little girls want to do all the grown up things. So there I was confidently suggesting dadi to try out some new shapes for the nimkis. She used to give me some dough to try out my shapes while she continued with her her favourite- long , thin strips. She used to fry them in batches and spread them out on a newspaper sheet on the dining table to cool off before putting them in air tight containers. This cool off period was the longest for me. I could never wait to pop them in my mouth and invariably ended up burning the tip of my tongue.

I burnt my tongue today again as I popped a few super hot nimkis in my mouth.  To my surprise, their taste was very close to the one I had with me. It made me remember the countless afternoons that my younger brother and I had spent with baba as we hogged on nimkis and he munched on his sliced apple or a couple of salted biscuits. He was not advised to have deep fried snacks due to some health concerns. I remember how he used to sneak a few nimkis from our plate when dadi was not looking.

I also remember all the other homemade snacks and how their aroma filled the entire household. The sonha aroma of sooji and khoya used to linger all around when pedakiyas (bihari term for gujhiya) were being made. Smell of melted jaggery when dadi made thekua (a sweet version of nimki) .The crunchy aroma of the fried poha and peanuts and then of course my favourite crisp smell of the nimkis.

My home was filled with that crisp smell this morning as I fried nimkis in batches. Almost felt dadi somewhere very close to me instructing me about how to knead the dough just right, how to take them out from the pan just when they begin to change colour, how to hold the spatula so that most of the oil drains out before I spread them on the newspaper. My four year old daughter Avi was busy making interesting shapes with her share of dough while I stuck to my favourite- long, thin strips. I could feel baba hovering around sneaking some nimkis when nobody was looking ..just that this time around it was from Avi’s plate!

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12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rajiv said,

    This is why inclination is so important. During our childhood I was only interested in eating the food; ways to prepare them, who cooks that better, and what names are given to them didn’t definately extract an inclination from me..so even after mulling over for a long time about the identity of our maternal art who possesses great culinary skills, I couldn’t reach any conclusion whatsoever.. and i never knew that the dotted things on nimki’s surface was ajwain..

    But yes you definately refershed my mental image of the nimki preparation at home.. you just want these images don’t die out.. reminiscence has a unique pleasuse associated with it..

    But that is the beauty of your writing.. you don’t just refresh mental images.. you fill in the missing parts as well so that i can play the entire video in my mind.. i can just see nimki being prepared.. mama has just put those in the kadai.
    infact your account has made me remember the evenings of our chilhood… the shaam ka nashta along with chai… baba is sitting in his room poring the chai in his chini mitti plate.. and then he will set forth towards his evening walk.. and issue a new book from the library…

  2. 2

    Saman said,

    Nostalgic and eye moistening as usual,,but this time its mouth watering as well…hey i am having cravings for ur home made nimki…will have to visit ur home for some when am at Gaya…

    n rajiv,,u r right about the inclination bit.. just the way we girls through out our lives are jus interested in having a car ride, without bothering as to how its actually done and thats why we have such a tough time learning it when we want to…Same is the case with most guys vis-a-vis cooking….

  3. 3

    Pooja Nair said,

    Hi!
    I could picture your home and your family so clearly…it was like watching a beautiful movie. You are a gifted writer!
    And congratulations on getting he nimkis right! 🙂

  4. 4

    lilmorethanamommy said,

    Hey Pooja, thanks for visiting my blog! Have heard quite a lot about you from Saman. Ever since I’ve moved to Panama, cooking has become kind of therapeutic for me. I keep surprising myself with my marathon initiatives in the kitchen! 🙂

  5. 5

    Namas said,

    Hey babal,thank me as i have been recommending ur blog to people coz i am really proud of my friends writing skills..n pooja u r right,,even i cud picture the entire household,,except for me it was far more easier as they were an integral part of my childhood as well!!

  6. 7

    Anonymous said,

    Dudee, Send some nimkis over to San Fran.. I am dying for nimkis after reading this !

  7. 9

    Joe Pinto said,

    My dear Aditi,

    Eye-moistening, mouth-watering, nimkis from Panama.
    Your writing gets better with every post.

    But just as the dough for nimkis cannot be too watery or else the crispness will be gone, so it is with words. The fewer the better, Aditi.

    My love to your daughter Avi and regards to your husband.

    May these words from lilmorethanamommy gush and flood the Panama Canal.

    Warm regards,
    – Joe.

  8. 11

    ma made nimkis during diwali. our version had – kala jeera, or kalonji. ma made them during afternoons when her brats went to sleep- we woke up to the fried aroma and went staright to the kitchen…ma ofcourse had hidden them, leaving a kotori full for us. The next adventure for my brother and me was to locate the hidden jar…sometimes we didn’t leave enough, which were made with a social purpose- to be distributed amongst neighbours…our festivals, rituals, little gestures are someting else altogether. I miss it so much here.

    • 12

      lilmorethanamommy said,

      KG..I think Bihari n Bengali cuisine have a lot in common. I think ajwain and kalonji are either same or very very similar variety of spice. I too remember how dadi n mom used to distribute puas to neighbours and friends on holi. Terribly miss all this out here!


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