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WHAT IS ‘PANJA KHADA’ ??
‘Panja Khada’ is a term from the Bhatia Boli [a dialect of the Sindhi language and mother tongue of the Thathai Bhatia community], which literally means ‘Our Food’.
Panja Khada provides comprehensive food options, exclusive from the Thathai Bhatia gastronomy.
Originally from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, the Thathai Bhatia community migrated to the Thatta District in Sindh [a part of India in the pre-partition era], thus it derived its name Thathai from its geographical location. The Bhatias, formerly known as Bhattis, belong to the Rajput clan settled in India. During the time of partition the Bhatias had returned to India, some settled in different parts of India and others moved out to earn their living in to the Gulf countries.
Being lovers of good food, the Thathai Bhatias cooking follows distinct style that is simple yet has its own unique richness. Traditionally, followers of the Pushti Marg sect [the Path of Grace], the Thathai Bhatias are strictly vegetarian and have refrained using pungent flavored ingredients such as onion and garlic in their cuisine. Asafoetida (Hing) and Cumin (Jeera) are extensively used for tempering, as substitute flavor for onion and garlic in the Thathai Bhatia cuisine. Chopped coriander leaves is largely used to garnish majority of the main course and side dishes including vegetable, curries and many more.
Not just the food preparation style but food serving patterns and eating habits of the Thathai Bhatias also have its own individuality, which is not commonly found in any Indian community.
Lo Ji Kadai [Iron wok – as shown above] is used to impart color, flavor and iron to the food, especially while preparing vegetable dishes like Palka jo Saag [Spinach & Lentil vegetable], Methi Vanghar [Fenugreek leaves & Aubergine vegetable dish], Osan [a type of curry]
Red Rice Flour (pictured above), an ingredient is known for its high nutritional value, is popularly used to prepare a variety of scrumptious and healthy food options. These include Garay Chokay ji Chapri [an alternate or additional option for Phulko – wheat flour unleavened flatbread], Garay Chokay ji Puri [an alternate on addition to wheat flour Puris – an unleavened deep-fried bread], Garay Chokan jo Churmo [a famous sweet dish made of rice flour and jaggery, exclusively made by the Bhatias], just to name a few. Red rice flour is made from Red Rice, which is unhulled or partially hulled rice and has a nutty flavor, along with a high nutritional value, as the germ of the rice is left intact.
The meals are wholesome and balanced – lunch (image top left) comprises of Choka [Rice], Phulko [Indian Bread], and some form of Lentil Curry. In spite of being vegetarian, all required nutrients are provided to the body to ensure that a person is provided with proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, iron, calcium and fat.
For Dinner (top right image), rice is not consumed and Phulkos are consumed with Saag (Vegetable) and accompaniments.
A single vegetable is prepared in variety of ways to make different variety of dishes with differing tastes and flavours. For instance, Spinach is used for – Palka jo Saag [a simple Spinach dish], Palka jo Mitho Saag [a Spinach dish with nutritive addition of fenugreek leaves] or Turain jo Saag [a ridge gourd dish is made Mitho (sweet version)/ Tikho (spicy version)/ Taraylo (fried version)], Farayun [a dish made with Brinjal is made Mitho (sweet version) / Tikho (spicy version)
Even an everyday item like Puri [unleavened deep-fried Indian bread] can be made in a variety of styles (see images above). It is made with different types flours or taste is varied such as Regular Puri – made from whole wheat flour, the Gari Puri – made from Red Rice flour, Jeera Puri – a thicker version of regular puri that has cumin seeds in it, Methi Puri – whole wheat flour puri with dried fenugreek leaves in it, Karayle ji Kuttar ji Puri – whole wheat flour puri with grated Bitter gourd in it.
Unlike other Indian communities, Rice is consumed first in a meal followed by Phulko. Nearly all the communities consume Phulko first followed by Rice.
A unique vegetable like Bhey [Lotus Root / Stem – pictured above left] is extensively consumed in all forms – used in the preparation of vegetables, used in curry, pickle, sun-dried and fried as a snack and consumed as an accompaniment, fresh chopped and fried. Other exclusive preparation is Mogray jo Sherbet [pictured above – right]- a refreshing drink prepared from Jasmine flower, with acts as a body coolant during the harsh summer months.
Consuming the most nutritive Bhatia dish Kari [curry – pictured above] is an art in itself and may require some expert guidance since some ingredient are put to add flavor to the dish and should not be eaten. A diner must leave out Kadi patta [curry leaves], Kokum phool [Wild Mangosteen], Kelay jo Chilko [Banana skin or peel] when eating Kadi. Then there is Singhi [drumsticks] that needs to be sucked and other vegetable like Batata [Potatoes], Suran [Yam], Chara [Chickpeas], Kelo [Banana] are eaten. Another interesting fact about Kadi preparation is the spicier the Kari Vaghar [tempering], the more one sneezes, also some consider this as a sign that made will taste Kari yummy.
Thathai Bhatias follow the concept of Bhog Dharanu , which is offering the food to the Lord first to bless it and then serving this as a Prasad [Sanctified food] to all the members of the family (pictured above). Thathai Bhatias, traditionally, do not consume Masoor dal (Red Lentil) and Rajma (Red kidney beans) as these items are not considered Saatvik foods.
Thathai Bhatias observe Igyas (Ekadashi Fast) that comes every fortnight. It falls on the 11th lunar day of the Shukla (bright) or Krishna (dark) Paksha – every lunar month in the Hindu calendar (Panchang). A partial fast is observed whereby only one meal is consumed in the day and observers refrain from consuming beans and grains in any form. Special fast cuisine is prepared on this day called the Igyas Falhar (pictured above), which is consumed as the meal of the day, while observing the fast.