Lahore, beloved. My adopted city. 25th largest in the world. Steeped in history. The food and cultural capital of the country, a city of crowded tree-lined roads and pulsating bazaars. Lahore gets under your skin, makes you fall in love with its faded elegance; winding, bumpy, messy streets, its shady gardens and even the noisy hum of its bazaars.
Walking through the narrow, colorful alleys of dupatta gali in winter, your senses are constantly teased by the wafting, pungent aromas of samosas and masala chips frying or saccharine-sweet tea brewing as your ears adjust to the sounds of women chatting with their companions or bargaining with vendors over the loud and incessant sounds of electricity generators humming, filmi music blaring, and dozens of sewing machines buzzing in unison. As you stroll, stopping to glance at a fabric or a sample of embroidery, a vendor will call after you, "Would you look at this? Touch and feel how smooth it is .. it came in just yesterday .. I have the best price .. but wait! At least look! You won't find this anywhere .. O Baji! (sister) Stop!". He may jog a short distance behind you, fabric in hand, convincing you to stop and consider. Or his pleas will be taken up by his competitors, "You want a Pashmina shawl? Is it winter fabric you want? I have this new Marina fabric ... just look!". You might stop, after all, curiosity getting the better of you. Or, if you are like me, you will want to get away from the dizzying bright displays of sequins and bangles, glittering embroidery and all that noise and step out to the street - wind your way between impatiently honking, stalled traffic and head over to where the smoke is rising from a thela (push-cart) displaying baked sweet potatoes and clementines decorated around a heap of hot charcoal.
|Photo Credit: www.dawn.com|
For me, Shakarkandi is synonymous with freezing, foggy winters in Lahore when the sun doesn't shine for days and days: this simple little snack chases all the blues away.
One quiet morning, as I moved around my kitchen in silent nostalgia while I prepared vegetables to steam for the baby's meals that day, it hit me: It's so easy to make Shakarkandi at home. Why had I never done this before in all these years? There is no long list of ingredients. All you need is: sweet potatoes, clementines, chaat masala. The latter is not a fancy ingredient, it's a simple spice blend that you might easily find at your local South Asian store. If not, here's a recipe to make your own.