Friday, July 14, 2017

Effortless Balachaung

Store-bought Balachaung
Less than half a mile from our home, a tiny grocery store opened its doors a couple of years ago. It's stuck at the end of the strip mall and beckons passersby with its flashing lights strung around the perimeter of its windows. It has a magical name - Alladin Spices & Groceries. From the name it's a good guess that it's an Indian store - in particular, a Bangladeshi store. When it first opened, Prasun & I ventured in, but we weren't terribly impressed because it was cramped and dingy and they were still stocking their shelves. Besides, the products didn't look too interesting. No kasundi available, for example, so not truly a Bengali store.

Two years later, I needed to buy red lentils, also known as masuri dal. I was reluctant to travel 5 miles to Patel Bros. and decided to pick it up at Alladin. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store appeared much bigger and brighter. The bag of lentils I needed was close enough to the entrance that I could have made a quick exit, but decided instead to give the store another look-over. Kasundi on the shelf (yay!) and even though I couldn't understand the lingo uttered by the stock boys, words like 'balti' and 'kumurehsah' makes me believe they were speaking chydgah, a dialect from Chittagong. The inventory was much more varied and as I walked around the back of the store, came across this gem.

Balachaung in a Package!

I opened the box as soon as I got home and found 3 vacuum-sealed bags inside: a package of dried shrimp pounded with red chilies, a package of deep-fried shallots and a package of deep-fried garlic. I dumped them all into a big stainless steel bowl and gave it a good stir. And that's all it took to have the best tasting balachaung which I readily admit is way better than mine. It's the dry kind of balachaung and is perfectly seasoned.

Contents of Balachaung Package
It makes 300 gms. (0.66 lbs.) of Balachaung which filled up an empty (cleaned) Planter's jar of peanuts, which lasted two weeks. After tasting this yummy treat, I returned to the store and stocked my shelves with five more boxes of the stuff.

Peanut Jar Full of Balachaung
So far, I've had balachaung on toasted & buttered English muffins, with hot rice & butter, with freshly made dal & rice, and last night was the best snack of all! A Pyrex pudding dish of spaghetti & meatballs, topped with a mound of balachaung. It's impossible to convey the deep satisfaction that one experiences, not only in consuming this umami-filled condiment, but also knowing it's readily available a hop, skip and a jump away! 



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