“FOOD” A small four-letter word, but it holds such an important place in our lives. Food is not just a mere means of survival, no not at all! What we eat reminds us of our roots, our rich heritage, which we are proud of. It is not for nothing so many of us toil hard for that morsel of food that everyone deserves. Not only that! If you think about it on a broader scheme of things, you will realize how it connects people, generations, cultures, and thus plays a magnificent role each time. We learn more through food about people than through anything else.
It enables a bond between different cultures everywhere. It broadens our thinking and enables unity in diversity through it as well. And when it is a country like India where food and culture change every 5 km, it is very touching to know ancient and inspiring stories that fill our hearts with awe. It is riveting to know that some food secrets are so well reserved, and yet, they inspire millions and bring happiness! Similarly, there is a food secret that you may not be aware of, buried deep in the land of Rosogollas! Surprised? The Gondhoraj lemon/lebu! For every Bengali who knows, this name evokes long-buried stories foretold by their grandparents and older generations.
While this oblong-shaped lemon looks like Kaafir lime, it has a distinct personality and story of its own. The aroma of this lemon is enough to make a bland meal unforgettable. As foretold by grandparents, this lemon, when squeezed on a dollop of ghee with plain rice, makes for a fulfilling meal. Ahh! So aromatic is the Gondhoraj lemon that even the thick exterior after squeezing this lemon was mixed with the rice. As many stories go, many attempts to grow this lemon outside West Bengal, but the Gondhoraj kind of wanted to go nowhere other than its native soil. Many families even grow this esteemed plant in the backyard and are filled with pride at the mention. And why not? It is supposed to be a heritage coming down from generation to generation!
Over the years, this rich experience of a meal with this lemon remained in traditional Bengali households. Yet, this amazing lemon has a lot of potentials. Thanks to Bengali restaurateurs reviving it by using it in their meals, the aroma of the cultural roots of this lemon will forever waft through the air! This ingredient is no longer just a condiment. It has become an essential ingredient in many dishes. Traditional Bengali recipes are now celebrating the essence of this lemon. From recipes where this ingredient is the queen to restaurants wanting to keep this tradition alive, you will see Gondhoraj Pulao, Gondhoraj Doi, Gondhoraj Icecream, and many innovative ones! The most popular one made in all Bengali households is the Gondhoraj lemon daal.
No other ingredient can rule a dish with its mere flavor like this!