Citizens, the New Year approaches with rapidity and the Sultan of Spice – YOUR TFD! – is seeking to ring in 2020 with some truly outstanding recipes, including this unique one for spiced watermelon known as ‘tarbooz wali chaat’ in Urdu, the language of Pakistan! This cooling yet flavorful appetizer will become a go-to for you and your family, I promise – and there is no need to wait for Summer to enjoy it!
Westerners tend to lack an understanding of how modern-day Pakistan came to be – so the Sagacious One will educate you accordingly before proceeding to the recipe of the day.
Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures and is intertwined with the history of the broader Indian subcontinent. The ancient history involves the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans and Sikhs.
The name Pakistan literally means “land of the pure” in Urdu and Persian. It alludes to the word پاک (pāk), meaning “pure” in Persian and Pashto. The suffix ـستان (-stān) is a Persian suffix meaning the place of, and also recalls the synonymous (and cognate) Sanskrit word स्थान (sthāna).
The name of the country was coined in 1933 as Pakstan by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan Movement activist, who published it in his pamphlet Now or Never, using it as an acronym (“thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN”) referring to the names of the five northern regions of British India: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan. The letter i was incorporated to ease pronunciation.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the English East India Company had established control over the area and British military protection led the Company to increasingly flex its military muscle, allowing the Company to gain control over the subcontinent by 1765 and sideline European competitors.
Expanding access beyond Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of region by the 1820s. Many historians see this as the start of the region’s colonial period.
The perceived neglect of Muslim interests by the British provincial governments during the period of 1937–39 convinced Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan to espouse the two-nation theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940.
The British government announced its intention to end the British Rule in 1946–47. As the United Kingdom agreed to the partitioning of India in 1947, the modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27th of Ramadan in 1366 of the Islamic Calendar), amalgamating the Muslim-majority eastern and northwestern regions of British India. It comprised the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab, and Sindh.
Around 6.5 million Muslims moved from India to West Pakistan and 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from West Pakistan to India. It was the largest mass migration in human history. Pakistan is the only country to have been created in the name of Islam. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic.
An ethnic civil war and Indian military intervention in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh. In 1973, Pakistan adopted a new constitution which stipulated that all laws are to conform to the injunctions of Islam (Sharia Law) as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.
Now to the issue at hand – surprisingly, there is no old recipe for watermelon chaat in the history books, despite the fact that India (and much later) Pakistan have been enjoying watermelon for thousands of years!
As noted on theindianvegan.blogspot.com:
Africa is the original home of watermelon, and the fruit has likely existed since pre-historic times in the regions known today as Namibia and Bostwana. Indeed, it’s an ancient fruit with deep roots in history—according to the book, “High-Tech Micropropagation,” remnants of the fruit were found as hieroglyphs on Egyptian tombs over 4,000 years ago.
Watermelon seeds were also found in a cave in Hang-Zhou, China circa 3,000 BC. When and how watermelon arrived to India is not precisely known, though the fruit likely existed there since ancient times, even before it migrated to China.
Check if the watermelon is ripe by employing the practical “thud” test: raise the fruit to your ear, and give a vigorous tap. The best of watermelons have a thudding, hollow sound to indicate juicy, dense flesh. Always pair the “thud” tap with its heaviness—the best watermelons should feel heavy for their size. Heavy fruits signal water-rich flesh as opposed to unappealing stringy, desiccated innards.
Ripe watermelons vary in exterior colors, but all should have a lustrous sheen. The fruit should be firm with no obvious, large indentations. A few scratches marring the watermelon are acceptable, but bruises and pock marks are not.
Check the bottom of the fruit: Most watermelons have a discolored “ground spot,” which indicates where it rested in the soil before picking. The best fruits have a creamy yellow color—if it’s white, the fruit may have been cut prematurely from the vine.
Watermelons may also undergo the “stem test.” Find the small circle near the end of the fruit where it’s been snipped from the vine. If it’s brownish in color, it’s ripe. If it’s green, consider passing on the fruit.
Citizens, my recipe for watermelon chaat is supremely delicious and I hope you enjoy it at your earliest convenience! 🙂 Enjoy it with any Pakistani main course, I especially like this one. You can buy amchur powder here and ajwain seeds here.
Battle on – the Generalissimo
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