This Dhingri-Aloo recipe was supposed to be my post for Diwali, but events happening in life left little time or inclination for blogging. Hopefully now things will settle down to their usual rhythm. It’s only when things go topsy-turvy that you appreciate how comforting routine actually is!
Dhingri is a generic Sindhi term for mushrooms, but what makes this dish distinctive is the use of dry wild white mushrooms, which are expensive and not easy to get. These flavorful mushrooms are generally sourced from Delhi and Kashmir as they only grow at high altitudes.
Dried oyster mushrooms, which are cheaper, can be used instead, but the meaty taste and aroma of white mushrooms is difficult to replicate.
This is typically prepared on Diwali, Holi and in honor of a visiting son-in-law :-). It is also part of a special lunch sent to a newly married daughter’s house.
I am a Sindhi who has visited Sindh only through the eyes of others. All I know about Sindh, is what I have heard from my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles.
Like many other Sindhis, my parent’s families too moved to India during partition. My mother’s father had anticipated the need to move back and had shifted his family and most of his business to Mumbai much earlier.
My father was not so lucky. He, his mother and younger brother moved to divided India after partition. My paternal grandfather came to India from Pakistan almost 5 years later. Probably hoping that when things settled down, he could call his family back to Sindh.
I can only imagine what it must have been like for my dad. Setting sail as an 18 year old boy, leaving behind all things familiar. He stayed in a refugee camp in a suburb of Mumbai before joining an engineering college. His family moved to Rajahmundry, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where some relatives helped his brother set up business.
His story is not unique and holds true for many Sindhis of that generation.
Resilience is a characteristic of Sindhis and the way they managed to rebuild their lives from scratch is commendable.
Scattered all over India, with no one place to call home, they have adapted and assimilated into the native culture of whichever part of the country they settled in, happily adopting the local language, food and practices. Which is not to say that they have abandoned their cultural roots. It is alive in the Sindhi language, the celebration of traditional Sindhi festivals and more so in Sindhi cuisine.
Sindhis are foodies and this is reflected in the variety of food that we prepare. Some of the well known dishes are Sai bhaji (a medley of vegetables, greens and lentils), Sindhi curry (a soupy lentil or tomato based curry which also has vegetables), Aloo Tuk (double fried potatoes), Koki (spicy flatbread), Mitha Lola (sweet flatbread) and Khoya, to name a few. And of course, not to forget, Dhingri Aloo!
The mushrooms (dhingri) are first re-hydrated by soaking them overnight in water. Since these mushrooms contain a lot of dirt, it is important to thoroughly clean them before using. But please don’t throw away the water they are soaked in. This retains flavor from the mushrooms and can be used as the liquid for the gravy. What you do need to do is strain it multiple times through a muslin cloth to completely get rid of the dirt.
The mushrooms are chopped into small pieces (I use my chopper for this) and then cooked with onions, tomatoes, yogurt and dry spices.
The potatoes are chopped into big pieces and then deep fried on low heat so that they are cooked through but not crisp, and then simmered with the rest of the ingredients.
The ideal accompaniment to this dish is Bhuga Chawal (rice cooked with browned onions).