Ukad Handi is a mix vegetable dish relished in this particular cold season when vegetables look, smell and taste their best. This is a traditional cuisine that is so much fun cooking outdoors, a perfect combo of picnic and feast.
The Sabzi Mandi in this weather is overflowing with an array of vegetables. Not only are they comparatively cheapest in this season but also a pleasant sight to watch as they are glowing freshness and the diversity in colors soothe your eyes.
That is how our ancestors must have invented Ukad Handi, to make most of the vegetables of this season that were available in plenty. Though Ukad Handi is a traditional recipe of Vasai-Virar-Dahanu region, with a little variation in cooking methods and different names this dish is savored all over Maharashtra and in nearby states. For example, the famous Gujarati dish ‘Matla Undhiyu’ has almost same ingredients and cooked in a similar way.
A mix of vegetables are cut into medium pieces and cooked together in an earthen pot on a fireplace. Season’s best vegetables goes into an Ukad Handi and the range is varied – Eggplant, Potatoes, Sweet Potato, Drumsticks, Vaal Beans, Yam, Raw Banana, carrot, radish, peas, peanuts etc. To add taste – other than vegetables, goes in chili powder, ground Garam Masala, salt, jaggery, grated coconut and powdered roasted peanuts. A generous amount of oil is added to the mixture. Water is added in a very small quantity to moist vegetables a little. To add a special flavor the pot is covered with banana leaves or ‘bhendiche paan’. Bhendi, is a big tree that is commonly found in this area. Though locally it is called as a bhendi tree it should not be confused with the plant of Lady’s Finger or Okra which is tiny one compared to this tree. These leaves add a very earthy and smoky flavor to the dish.
If you have a garden or a backyard, you can build a fireplace. Though fireplaces are the last things you can have in a residential accommodation in cities. That is why Ukad Handi is an opportunity to plan a weekend outing with family to a nearby farmhouse or a house with traditional chulha. In cold winter nights, the dish becomes a memory for the rest of the year as everybody join hands in the preparation before cooking, enjoy the warmth of fireplace and chit-chat along.