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Kanhole: Diwali Treat from the Forgotten Past

A culinary masterpiece so rare a find today that even google doesn’t have its mention, says Chef Kedar Bobde, Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Mumbai.

As told to Madhulika Dash; Pictures courtesy Hyatt Regency Mumbai

Dudhatli Poli.

If the word didn’t make much sense to you instantly then take heart, you are not the first to gawk in disbelief. The first time when I heard about this Vidharbha speciality from Chef Kedar Bobde, Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Mumbai, I too was in a same state of excitement and confusion. The reason behind was that even though I had never heard of a dish, it sounded eerily familiar, thanks to the word ‘Poli’ in the end. So it was a given that when Chef Bobde, one of the finest culinary custodians of Vidharbha food culture, decided to unearth this ancient delicacy for me, it was an opportunity that I would never let pass. After all, when it comes to Diwali and sweets, there are only a few dishes that were specifically made exclusively for the festival of lights, and fewer that came with the aces of Dudhatli Poli.

To begin with the dish is a culinary legacy of the house of Bobde’s. “Even though my mother knows how to make this labour intensive sweetmeat, it was my grandmother who excelled in the art of making this rather simple but culinarily complicate delicacy. But what makes the poli, a legacy in our family, is the fact that we were the first ones to take a dish that was originally meant for Nag Panchami and made it regularly for generations for Diwali” says the chef, who counts it amongst his few favourite childhood dishes that he stull craves for.

Second is its ancestry. Old timers, continues Chef Bobde,” believe that it was one of the first few dishes that hark back to the time when Diwali was a harvest festival, and the food prepared was a showcase of a good crop season.” Finally, the rarity. Very little is known of Dudhatli Poli, which is also called Kanhole locally. At best, adds the chef, “Kanhole is described as a delicacy that is enjoyed with the family and is made only on occasions when the extended family comes together. And yet, it is one of the few recipes that you would not find on Google, even today.”

Part of the reason for this is the complicated process of making Kanhole, and the kind of deftness and skill it requires. Traditionally, the dish is made on the cloth that is tied over the wide mouth of an earthen pot (matka). The process of making it, continues Chef Bobde, “begins by filling half of the pot with milk and then tying a cloth tight enough so it can work as a griddle. Onto this cloth, a ladle of liquid batter made of rice flour, water, hint of nutmeg and cardamom is poured, spread like a crepe and then removed once done.”

Getting the cloth onto the pot and then securing it tight enough to work as a pliable griddle in itself is a challenge. Once that is done, the game of patience begins as one waits for the milk to roll and the steam to cook the crepe before repeating the process again, says Chef Bobde, who finds the process extremely tedious as all the crepes have to be of the same size and thinness.

Once the crepes are ready, says the culinary head, “the process of stacking the polis begins with greasing the pan with milk. This is important so that the crepe doesn’t stick to each other or the pan. With the stack of polis completed, the crepes are served with the condensed milk, which takes on a velvety, cardamom and nutmeg flavoured sweet pudding character. The right way to enjoy the kanhole is to have it like a pancake – stack one poli over the other and then smother it with fragrant condensed milk, says Chef Bobde who loves to have the Kanhole as a finger food where the Basundi-like milk is placed in the crepe and rolled.”

Eating of course, says  Chef Bobde, “is easier than making Kanhole that takes about  3-4 hours for a large family of 20-25 people.”