Food talk
A combo dish with a difference
Pushpesh Pant

We have a very strong weakness for lotus stems — kamal kakadi, bhain or nadru, call it by any other name. We love the Kashmiri yakhani prepared with saunf and saunth powders in sublime yogurt gravy, relish it unabashedly in its Punjabi besani avatar, have found it absolutely delicious in a kebab and never miss an opportunity to order it in its crispy "honey-laced" version in a Chinese restaurant. At times, we wonder how would it pair with another partner? Only partly prompted by the natural desire to "stretch" a more expensive ingredient and largely inspired by the spirit of improvisation. Beloved son Indrajit beat us to the punch. He treated us to a delightfully different bhain-bhindi combo in a very thick dahi-based sauce. The beauty of this recipe is that both the lotus stems and the okra retain their distinct charm but make great music together. We can’t resist adding that this recipe too dispenses with the killing onions.

Bhain-Bhindi Dahiwali


Lotus stems/kamal kakadi/bhain 500 g
(ensure that these aren't the tough old kind)

Okra/lady's finger (small tender ones) 200g

Curds (thick and sweet dahi) 200 ml

Oil 50 ml

Garlic-ginger paste 1 tsp

Jeera seeds ½ tsp

Kashmiri lal mirch ½ tsp

Dhaniya powder 1 tsp

Salt to taste


Wash well the lotus stems and scrape carefully. Cut into ¼-inch thick slices. Pressure cook till one whistle no more and remove pressure. Don't over cook. Wipe clean the bhindi with a moist cloth. Whisk the dahi. Heat oil in a pan and when it reaches smoking point, reduce flame and put in the jeera seeds. When these begin to crackle, add the garlic-ginger paste and stir-fry briskly for 30 seconds. Add bhindi and stir-fry for a minute then remove with slotted spoon and place on an absorbent paper for use later. Now remove the pan from stove, cool a little and add dahi in a slow steady stream stirring briskly constantly. Replace the pan on stove, raise the flame to high keep stirring till dahi is cooked. Let it bubble and let the fat separate. Next, put in the lotus stems along with powdered spices and salt, stir well to blend, add the bhindi cook covered for a couple of minutes on medium flame. Adjust seasoning and serve hot. (tastes fine at room temperature and is better after a night in the fridge. Of course, heated before serving!)