The author’s fam­i­ly pho­to with her great-grand­fa­ther, great-grand­moth­er, grand­fa­ther, grand­moth­er, and oth­ers. Cour­tesy of the author.

Every Hanukkah, I light my meno­rah and feast on fried samosas and veg­etable pat­ties. I look back at how my large fam­i­ly slow­ly dis­in­te­grat­ed, though we used to live togeth­er in an old house in the walled city of Ahmed­abad, India.

Over the years, my elder­ly rel­a­tives passed away, and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers immi­grat­ed to Israel, Cana­da, Eng­land, Aus­tralia, and the Unit­ed States. I also left Ahmed­abad, many times, but kept return­ing and became part of the com­mu­ni­ty of the last one hun­dred and forty Jews in the city. In a sense, we are like one fam­i­ly, meet­ing often and break­ing bread togeth­er at the Magen Abra­ham Synagogue.

My ances­tors lived in Ahmed­abad for almost five gen­er­a­tions. Lat­er in life, I was respon­si­ble for dis­pos­ing of their belong­ings. Giv­ing away our grind­ing stone was one of the hard­est moments of my life. It was pre­cious, even if it was a slab of stone; it had the touch of all the women of my fam­i­ly inscribed on it. About four­teen by ten inch­es, it was kept on the floor or on the large kitchen plat­form. It was more than a hun­dred years old and had chis­el marks on the sur­face so ingre­di­ents could be ground into a smooth paste. Over time, the marks had soft­ened, as stone arti­sans were not eas­i­ly avail­able to rough­en the sur­face. The pes­tle was also stone, cylin­dri­cal in shape, and just the right size for some­one to hold it in both hands in order to grind masalas and chutneys.

The pres­sure of the human hand on the ingre­di­ents was essen­tial; one need­ed to use strength and a con­tin­u­ous semi­cir­cu­lar move­ment to give the blend the right tex­ture. Gin­ger, gar­lic, fresh green chilies or dried red ones, grat­ed coconut, cumin seeds, and corian­der leaves were com­bined so that they could be sautéed with sliced onions and added to a casse­role. It took spe­cial skill to grind onions, gin­ger, gar­lic, and pep­per­corns togeth­er to make a paste for black pep­per curry.

This chore was assigned to the cook or her assis­tants, and if my female rel­a­tives were not sat­is­fied with the result, they would hitch up their saris, sit down on a wood­en stool, and grind the paste them­selves. As they made green or red masala paste for a cur­ry, they checked its con­sis­ten­cy by rub­bing a pinch between their fin­gers before it was cooked in coconut milk. Some­times it was mixed with tamarind extract or strands of fra­grant saf­fron dis­solved in a tiny bowl of water. Once the cur­ry casse­role was set on the stove, pieces of chick­en, fish, or meat were added, and a deli­cious aro­ma filled the house.

In a sense, we are like one fam­i­ly, meet­ing often and break­ing bread togeth­er at the Magen Abra­ham Synagogue.

When I moved to an apart­ment, I tried to find room for the grind­ing stone. For a time, I even used it as a pedestal for some of my pot­ted plants. Final­ly, I gave it to our for­mer dri­ver, whose wife need­ed one. Soon after, I bought an elec­tric mix­er-grinder that lets me process masalas in a few min­utes, but they nev­er seem to ful­ly release their flavor.

When I pol­ish my meno­rah, place it on a silk cer­e­mo­ni­al tex­tile, and return to the kitchen to fry veg­etable pat­ties, I am remind­ed of the green corian­der chut­ney we used to make on the grind­ing stone to serve with them. Some­times, even if I have not cooked chut­ney, the mem­o­ry of its fra­grance wafts toward me. This scent touch­es the inner chords of my being.


Below find a recipe for veg­etable pat­ties and green corian­der chut­ney. This chut­ney is often served with pat­ties and can be made on a grind­ing stone. Check out Esther David’s lat­est book, Bene Appétit: The Cui­sine of Indi­an Jews.


Can­dles are lit to cel­e­brate Hanukkah as pat­ties, cut­lets, pota­to pako­ras, pota­to rolls, or samosas are served along with a vari­ety of fried snacks.

Veg­etable Patties


6 pota­toes

½ cup green peas

1/4 tea­spoon red chilli powder

½ tea­spoon cumin powder

1 table­spoon chopped corian­der leaves

Salt to taste



Refined flour



Peel pota­toes and shell green peas, steam-cook till done; drain, trans­fer into a bowl, mash; add red chilli pow­der, cumin pow­der, fine­ly chopped corian­der leaves, salt to taste and mix with oiled palms. Divide this mix­ture into equal por­tions and shape into round pat­ties. Take anoth­er bowl, break eggs, whisk till frothy, dip each pat­ty in egg mix­ture, then roll in a plat­ter of bread­crumbs and refined flour and cov­er on both sides.

Heat oil in a pan; add pat­ties, fry till both sides are gold­en brown, drain and serve hot.

Option­al – Add 1 small grat­ed car­rot to the mix­ture of mashed pota­toes and peas.

Green Corian­der Chutney


1 small bou­quet fresh coriander

10 leaves fresh mint

1 (medi­um) green chilli

½ cup coconut (grat­ed)

¼ tea­spoon sugar



Corian­der and mint leaves with green chilis are cleaned, washed, fine­ly chopped, and mixed with grat­ed coconut, a lit­tle sug­ar, and salt to taste.

Make a chut­ney with these ingre­di­ents on a grind­ing stone with very lit­tle water. (Or process in a mixer.)

Vari­a­tion – Add a slice of green man­go or a squeeze of lime.

Esther David received the Sahitya Akade­mi award in 2010 for her nov­el Book of Rachel. She is also the author of The Walled City, By the Sabar­mati, Book of Esther, My Father’s Zoo, Shalom India Hous­ing Soci­ety and The Man with Enor­mous Wings. Her nov­els are based on the Jew­ish ethos in India, stud­ied by schol­ars, and some of them have been trans­lat­ed into French, Gujarati and Marathi. She is an art crit­ic and colum­nist for the Ahmed­abad edi­tion of the Times of India and has writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the city of her birth.