It’s hard to translate Zhunka. It has its origins as peasant food – the Indian equivalent of a ploughman’s lunch. It is and has been a very popular and quick meal option, usually served with Bajrichi bhakri (millet chapati). Bajra is a warming grain ideal for winter meals.
The Zhunka-Bhakar combination always brings back memories that make me chuckle.
As kids, my sister and I indulged, as most kids do, in a great amount of pretend play. One of our favourites was to play act being peasants and we would squat on the kitchen floor (our field). Mum, to give her credit, played along and served us our lunch of zhunka bhakar with great enthusiasm and carried on a conversation as if there was nothing unusual about the event.
I can see that the pretend play genes have been passed on to the next generation. I hope the love for zhunka-bhakar has been passed on as well.
1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon PP sambhar
1/2 teaspoon coriander-cumin powder
salt to taste
a pinch of asafoetida
2 tablespoons oil
1 large green chilli, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander, chopped fine
1. In a bowl, combine the besan, spices and salt. Add water and whisk until smooth and any lumps have dissolved.
2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the asafoetida, chopped chilli and onions. Saute until onions are translucent and slightly softened.
3. Add the besan and spices mixture to the pan. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. (A whisk works best.)
4. Once the mixture starts cooking it will thicken to a consistency of potato mash. At this stage, add the kokum pieces and coriander. Take the pan off the heat.
5. Serve hot with a bajra bhakri and a generous dollop of ghee.
If you are a spice buff, you can up the ante on the heat and serve this with a fresh green chilli as an accompaniment. (as is seen in the picture) That’s the traditional way of eating this dish.