Mother's Day 2023: Exploring Diversity In ‘Maa Ke Hath Ka Khana’
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In Rajasthani culture, there's a popular saying that emphasizes the importance of a mother's cooking, and it loosely translates to: "The hands of a mother hold the power to turn any ingredient into a delectable meal, even if it is poison." And since almost everybody loves food that is made by their mother's hands, let’s just agree that we cannot deny it.  

On that note, the importance of "Ma ke hath ka khana (food cooked by a mother's hands)" is mostly realised by those who perhaps live away from their mothers. While residing away from home offers the allure of freedom, a lack of curfews, and valuable lessons in independence that endure a lifetime, it also signifies the absence of dear mommy's presence to artfully craft an array of unique and delectable delights, reminding us not to take the gastronomic treasures for granted. 

As we celebrate the cherished occasion of Mother's Day this year, we reached out to people from across the nation, urging them to share their personal rendition of "Maa ke hath ka khana," that one dish that evokes memories of their beloved mothers, what makes it truly extraordinary, and why no other culinary creation can replicate the magic of her cooking. And, oh, were we delighted! Read on.  

Transporting us to the picturesque land of Jammu is Tavishi, who holds a special place in her heart for the enchanting 'sund panjiri'. This delectable dessert not only fills her with nostalgia but also embodies the essence of home-cooked meals. 

Sund panjiri, a nourishing and wholesome treat, has a distinctive touch with its added hint of dry ginger powder, setting it apart from traditional panjiri recipes. For Tavishi, a media professional who hardly gets time to sit and relish the same dish anymore, it has been the magical touch of that extra pinch of ginger, lovingly incorporated by her mother, that has forever imprinted itself upon her taste buds and captured her fondest memories.  

Image: Tavishi Dogra

For Rajasthan’s Tanvi, an IT consultant, it is the quintessential Dal baati churma, lovingly prepared by her Amma in Alwar city, that does the trick. From her childhood to the present day, this traditional Rajasthani delight continues to captivate her senses. However, is it the generous drizzle of ghee adorning her dal or the unparalleled pyaar infused into the crispy baatis that she cherishes the most? That she still hasn’t figured it out.  

Image: Tanvi

Resonating with a similar sentiment of yearning and nostalgia, Bhavika, hailing from the same land of grand forts and delectable spices, pines for the comforting taste of methi ke parathe and aloo ki sabzi. As a child, she despised finding this wholesome meal in her school tiffin, often swapping it with friends. However, today, nestled miles away from home in the bustling IT hub of the nation, as she meticulously plans her lunch and dinner, there's only one desire that consumes her—the unwavering longing for her mother to recreate that delightful combination every day.  

Image: Bhavika Gupta

If Rajasthan has aloo ki sabzi and dal baati choorma hitting hard on nostalgia, Harshada, a product manager from Pune has her Aai’s bharli vangi, a quintessential Maharashtrian dish that is unmatched by even the fanciest of delicacies. "My Aai’s cooking brings back memories and emotions of comfort and love that I feel at home. No other food can truly replicate that unique taste and feeling," she says. Bharli vangi is a tantalising recipe featuring spicy eggplants. This regional delight boasts a unique twist, as it incorporates a special goda masala.  

Crafted by grinding a harmonious medley of cumin, black cumin, white sesame, black sesame, dry coconut, coriander seeds, cinnamon, and asafoetida, this coarse and aromatic spice blend lends its flavours to numerous Maharashtrian dishes. Getting the fresh, homemade goda masala right is the hardest task for Harshada, as she keeps trying to perfect her version of bharli vangi.  

Image: Harshada

Moving to the land of five rivers, Punjab, "Maa ke hath ke gobi ke paranthe" is the prompt response for Jasleen, who yearns for the wholesome, ghee-laden stuffed parathas from home, while striving to cook the same across the globe, working as a marketing specialist in Canada. For her, those parathas are full of care, love, and the surety that there’s someone to look after, be it right in the morning while rushing for work or at the end of the day. Now, while cooking the same parathas herself, she often wonders if it is the amount of time to roast the parathas or the amount of filling inside that does the trick for her mother, but she’s sure she will ace it one day!  

Image: Jasleen Kaur Vaid

Going down south, in Bangalore, Ahaan amidst working as a Data Scientist, often gets nostalgic as he reminisces about maa ke hath ka khaana and is transported to the aroma and flavours of paddu or ponganalu. He shares that he grew up with his grandparents, and his grandmother would cook paddu for him; since then, it has been his favourite. 

He further revealed, "When my mom got me back to Bangalore, she would make this for me every day whenever I would be sad, just so that I didn’t feel the drastic change. Hence, till date, whenever I think or have paddu, I'm reminded of my mom and how I'd share anecdotes with her in the kitchen while she's making them!" Isn’t it adorable how food works like a time machine for our minds?   

Image: Ahaan

The same is the case with Harshit, a content producer, who longs for besan wale aloo and kaju paneer—two things that spell ‘maa ke hath ka khana’ for him. Hailing from Ujjain, his mom-cooked aloo sauteed with besan and aromatic spices makes him slurp every time he thinks of it while living far away in Delhi. However, despite multiple attempts, he has never been able to replicate the exact same flavour in his own kitchen. Now, whether it is due to the proportion of ingredients or the extra dose of love she puts in, he never knows!   

Image: Harshit Joshi

While the food that our mothers cook will never cease to tickle our taste buds, if you ever ask for the recipe, it would be hard for them to provide one with the exact proportions of ingredients!" echoes Shweta Raina Kaul, who along with her mother Nimmi Raina, runs a home kitchen called Kashmiriyatt in Gurugram. Serving authentic delicacies from the valley, the one-of-a-kind home kitchen brings forth the lesser-known delicacies of Kashmiri Pandits.  

"Maa ke hath mein barkhath hai (My mother’s cooking has abundance)," says Shweta as she explains how even two potatoes have been enough to feed a large gathering at her home. She goes on to talk about how her favourite dishes to nosh upon when visiting her mother are palak mutton and kadhai mutton; however, she agrees she has never been able to recreate the exact flavour of the dishes as her mother. 

Even though she agrees that patience and dedication are the keys to her mother's cooking, "It is perhaps the proportion of ingredients that makes all the difference," Shweta says, adding that even though she has all the steps and ingredients noted down to the T in her diary, her mother could not help her with the exact amount of ingredients as she has always cooked with an ‘andaaza’ which our generation of cookbooks and YouTube videos would never be able to grasp. No wonder that even the simplest of dishes like tamatar baingan or phool gobhi, prepared by her mother, have managed to give Shweta a sense of solace! 

Image: Shweta Raina Kaul

If Kashmir has palak mutton, Himachal has 'neembu saan', which is Chef Ashutosh Bisht’s go-to dish when life gives him lemons! This local Kumaoni dish takes him back on a nostalgic joyride to his childhood, bringing back a vivid flashback of sunny afternoons in the hills in the winter. "My mom used to make this local delicacy with huge hill lemons, where the pulp was mashed together and marinated in yoghurt, grounded hemp seeds, and jaggery. Further, it was mixed well with 'pisa hua koon' (homemade ground salt) and dressed in coriander and Himalayan radish," the chef remembers as he recalled the tangy-sweet-fiery explosion of flavours. 

Interestingly, this preparation had to be consumed immediately to avoid the lemon getting sour, revealed the chef, who has curated a Mother's Day special buffet at Edesia inspired by such beautiful throwback stories where 40+ chefs have curated their mom's signature dish as a special ode. 

Isn't it fascinating how Indians, regardless of their regional backgrounds, all yearn for the comforting taste of "Maa ke hath ka khana" in the same way? The specific dish may vary, but the sentiment remains unchanged for everyone. It is safe to say that in a diverse land like India, it is the mother and her food that unify us all. 

It's a testament to the fact that no matter how convenient life becomes with everything just a tap away, nothing can ever surpass the unparalleled perfection of the food prepared by our mothers in the comfort of our homes. While we have mentioned only a few regions here, we are sure each person has their own unique dish and story to share. If you have any, let us know!