There was a practice in Bengal during the early nineteen-hundreds (and was also prevalent in the eastern parts of India) wherein a wife would never eat before her husband and till the other male members of the household had eaten. The wife would usually have the food that was left over after the men had finished. Sadly, there were times when the men had gobbled up all the food – leaving nothing for the wives.
These hungry (and justifiably irritated) wives came up with a dish which they could whip up quickly – one that didn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. The dish was colloquially known as Bahu Khuda. Bahu means ‘wife’ and Khuda means ‘hunger’. These women were accomplished cooks in their own right – so they didn’t compromise on taste. And do you know what the main taste agent was in their “fast food” recipe? It was Mustard Oil!
Over the years, there have been many variations of Bahu Khuda across regions and generations. One of the best known recipes was shared by Basanti Devi, wife of the famous freedom fighter, Chittaranjan Das. She actively participated in the Non Cooperation Movement in 1921. During those times they had to host and feed many freedom fighters who sought refuge in the couple’s ancestral home in Calcutta. Naturally, Bahu Khuda was the easiest and quickest way to give them a wholesome and filling meal.
So let’s prepare the famous, ever-popular Bahu Khuda. The ingredients that you will require are:
Rice: 500 gram
Mustard Oil: 250 millilitre
Onions: 5, large
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Green Chillies (Hari Mirch): 12
Salt: to taste
In Bengal, Bahu Khuda was not made with Basmati. Usually, a small grained variety of rice known as Gobindo Bhog was used.
Wash the rice, drain off the excess water and keep the rice aside.
Wash, peel and slice the onions.
Take 6 of the green chillies and finely chop them.
Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on Medium heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Add the onion slices and fry for a minute or so. Remove the onion slices from the pan and divide them into two halves. Keep aside.
Add the rice to the pan and fry for around three minutes. Add half the onion slices that you fried earlier. Continue frying for another minute or so.
Now add the rest of the fried onions along with the sliced green chillies, the whole green chillies, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well.
Next, add 1 litre of water, cover the pan and let the contents cook. At regular intervals, remove the cover and stir the contents.
When all the water is absorbed, take a few grains of rice on a teaspoon and check to ensure that the rice has been cooked properly.
Your traditional Bengali-style Bahu Khuda is now ready to be served. Serve it hot. It’s so delicious, it can be eaten plain without any accompaniments – and you don’t have to be a hungry wife to enjoy it!