Train journeys were an integral part of my growing up years. Since my father was transferred to a new place every couple of years on account of his job, and both his and my mother’s parents lived in Cuttack, we traveled very frequently to meet them. One such place was Balasore, situated in the northern part of the state, sharing its borders with West Bengal. We lived there for around three years and both me and my sister started our school there. Balasore was connected to Cuttack by the East Coast Railways and it took approximately three hours to reach Cuttack from there. We usually took a train around noon (I think), and were at Cuttack by late afternoon. Now, if you have traveled around India courtesy the Indian Railways as much as I have, you would definitely have a culinary map of all the routes you have traveled on. My four year old sister already knew the various stations and the food one could expect to find there. If you are travelling around coastal Orissa, one quick snack that you will definitely encounter on the train is masala mudhi (a spicy puffed rice mixture). This was the first thing our parents bought for us, thanks to my sister. The next thing on her list used to be guguni (mushy yellow peas). These were available only at Bhadrak, where the train halted for no more than five minutes. My father would get down quickly and be back with two servings of guguni. These came in bowls made of dried leaves, stiched together, and were called daana. Each bowl was topped with a thin slice of fresh coconut, and came with a disposable wooden spoon. We even knew the guy who sold the best guguni by name and didn’t buy it from anyone other than him! So on days when we didn’t find him, or when his wares were sold out, my parents promised my crestfallen sister a treat on our way back.
Guguni is used in a number of ways in Orissa. It is used as an accompaniment to most tea time snacks, like Piaji, Bara, and Alu Chop. It is also an integral part of the quintessential Cuttacki snack called Dahi-Bara-Alu-Dam-Guguni (DBADG). A whole maidan in front of Barbati stadium is filled with carts selling just this! But this is not the best place to go searching for a fill of this massively popular street food, if you ask me. The really good ones have their carts in specific sahis and are known only to locals. DBADG is assembled on the spot for customers. First the dahi baras (urad dal dumplings soaked in buttermilk) are placed at the bottom of the leaf bowl. This is followed by a helping of alu-dam (spicy potatoes in a gravy) and guguni (yellow peas). The vendor then drizzles some yogurt, adds some chopped onions, and finally sprinkles some very fine sev on top before handing you a (by now) very heavy bowl of DBADG. The dahi baras, that are used for these are unlike the dahi vada that you find else where. They are really small, usually the size of a Piaji (that I had made before). They are first soaked in water and then soaked in a very thin yogurt mixture. Most vendors selling DBADG also add a mitha dahi bara to every bowl.
In Bhubaneswar there aren’t many places that sell DBADG. But what you find is Guguni being sold as a snack in itself. So around 4 pm you’ll find men setting up temporary stalls selling this. The stalls really comprise of two stools, the smaller one balancing a huge vat of Guguni, and the other used by the vendor to sit. These are sold very cheap, around two rupees a bowl. The vendor spoons some of the mixture in a leaf bowl, sprinkles some black salt, and then drizzles some tamarind water (out of an old bottle of coconut hair oil) on top.
The Guguni that is sold on the street is different from the one that is made at home (which is usually served for breakfast with puris). For one, it tends to be more spicy. Also, it is kept really simple, because it is used more like an accompaniment. The one that is made at home is more of a curry, cooked with tomatoes and onions (and a host of other things). I prefer the street version. Even though the recipe that I have used below is based entirely on what my taste buds thought they could detect, these do taste like the real thing!
Dried yellow peas
Dried Red Chilli