East Indian™ Bottle Masala
The most famous ingredient of the East Indian Lifestyle, Culture and Cuisine is none other than the "Bottle Masala". The "East Indian Bottle Masala" is something that has been passed down across generations, and it is made even till date. The " Bottle Masala" gets its name, for the simple reason that this masala is stored in a bottle. The East Indian Masala is normally pounded once a year, mostly during the summer season and then utilized the whole year round, hence it has to be stored in something that not only helps retain its taste, but colour too and also something that won't be easily affected by exterior environmental factors. It is a simple proven fact that anything stored in a glass bottle last longer and truer to its original taste compared to any other container. Another factor contributing to the Masala being stored in bottles is the simple fact that in olden days "glass" was most easily available as compared to other forms of storage. Before the "glass bottle storage" era, one would store it in a "Chenia Mati", which is a type of porcelain jar or Barni. This Barni was also used for storing Pickle.
What is this East Indian™ Masala ?
The East Indian Masala is made of many different ingredients. One will find difference in the ratios of these ingredients across various East Indian Villages. The commonest of the ingredients are Chillies, Dhania, Haldi, Jeera, Rai, Methi, Khuskhus, Til, Badi Shep, Black Pepper, Green Elaichi, Soonth, Cinnamon, Lavang, Black Elcha, Nagkesar,Jhavantri, Jhaifal, Malpatri, Badian, Trifal, Tejpatta, Dagadful, Kababchini, Shahzeera, Hing
Chilies being the main ingredient here, there is an option of making use of a mixture of different types of chilies or just one variety, depending on ones taste and the family recipe. Commonly Madrasi Chilies are used, which may get opted out to Berki Chilies when put as a mixture to Kashmiri Chilies and Reshampatti Chilies. The Madrasi Chilies and Berki Chilies are used for its spiciness and the Kashmiri Chilies and Reshampatti Chillies are used to get a good color and texture to the Masala
To begin with the preparation of the Famous East Indian Masala one of course has to buy the various ingredients mentioned above based on their particular ratio. Normally a Massala Vendor commonly known as the "Masalawala" comes around villages to sell all these ingredients. Selling these ingredients is a family business and hence the "Masalawala" is well acquainted with each and every family in the village who need these ingredients to pound into Masala. Some East Indians put the extra effort to go to Masjid Bandar to purchase the ingredients so that they will get an option of better quality and good value for money.
The next step is to make sure that the chilies are dried properly. It usually takes about two days of direct hot sun for the chilies to get nice and crisp.
From then on it is on to the "Masalawallis", the ladies who pound the Masala. Generically it is very rare that we ever see men helping out in this. The first they have to sit and "Denkha Moravla", break away the stems of the chilies.
The "Chul" or fireplace is set up at a convenient location in a shade of a tree, very rarely is the fireplace set up in a corner, as there has to be enough air for the fire to continue. Normally waste wood is gathered the previous day for burning.
The "Forma" is the most dependable vessel all through the generation for roasting the chilies and the ingredients. For stirring these the "Lakri Ulki" or wooden spoon is used. It should be noted that each and every ingredient is roasted separately.
The process of pounding is something worth watching. The Ladies take the "Mussal", the pounding stick with a metal base and hit the ingredients kept in the "Ukli"(a conical wooden vessel), the pounding vessel. This is done in such a fantastic rhythm, that it sounds like musical beats. The most fascinating thing is that no matter how many people are pounding, they adjust their rhythm every so slightly that any one coming in or going out gets incorporated, without their loss in step. They are smart not to tire one arm, hence they alternate the arms as well. The switching of the "Mussal" from one arm to the next is done without stopping or pausing and yet keeping the rhythm of the pounding going.
Normally the ingredients (besides the chilies) are pounded first and then the chilies are pounded. When it has been pounded enough the powder is taken out and sieved through the "Chalan". Whatever remains is called the "Datans". These "Datans" are once again pound along with the other ingredients. This process continues till there isn't enough material to be pounded.
As such it is quite obvious to note that the powders, post sieving, would not be mixed. Hence, the need there is an imminent need that this entire Masala be thoroughly mixed. Since the quantity of Masala is huge, one needs a big utensil like a "Tiez" or "Tizal" to hold all of it.
For preservation, this masala is filled in dark coloured bottles and sealed with wax, thus getting the name EAST INDIAN ™ BOTTLE MASALA
The East Indian Bottle Masala i.e the masala per se is coloquilly spoken as Khuddi Masala in East Indian. This is the key ingredient for Mutton Khudi, Chicken Kuddi, Kolbi baaji, phakat, Lonvas, Moile, and most Shell (Fish) curry,
"I've yet to come across a restaurant, that can match our dishes made with bottle masala."
Gladys Moraes - Director