I love to run. Running has been in my mind for ages. Every night I think that the next day would be the D day, but alas it remains just a thought. This running bug is not a new one. During my childhood, I used to get up at 4am and by 4:30 am I would be out jogging with my friends enjoying the cool pristine air of Gangtok. Now getting up at 6 am takes an effort!
It was just not jogging but I even participated in 15 kms amateur marathon and completed it on time. Phew! It is hard to believe now. I bet I have the certificate somewhere, will just check it out today to reassure myself that the marathon run is not a figment of my imagination.
We practiced almost a month for the marathon. I wouldn’t call it training as there were no trainers or technical knowledge imparted. We just ran, when the stretch was relatively flat, we would run with all our might and if it was uphill (which was mostly the case) we would trot along. However, it was fun!
After one such practice session, my friend took me to the canteen run by her family. Her elder sister was managing it and she invited me to join for breakfast. Out of politeness, I refused but she insisted, we do that a lot, refuse out of politeness, its ingrained in our DNA, I remember mum telling us “If someone offers anything, you politely decline, not grab it like you have never seen it”. I remember many occasions when I declined money from relatives, while secretly wishing I did not have to do so.
My friends sister was very happy to feed me, she said, “I will make a Shya phaley for you,” and the minute I heard it I was in a dilemma. Actually phaley is bread in Sikkimese and Shya means meat. So if somebody says shya phaley then it means the bread is stuffed with minced meat and fried.
We are Brahmins and Brahmins don’t eat either pork or beef and the canteens used to serve these two meat as they were relatively cheaper than say chicken or mutton. I couldn’t even ask didi which meat was she using, as I did not want to sound rude and a snob. Moreover the frying and the aroma had already made me salivate.
Now I was in a Dharam Sanket literally meaning religious dilemma. I was hungry and the same time I was scared to eat it. We were told, I guess right from the time we were born that “we don’t eat beef and pork and if we do we will be ostracized from our caste”. At that time I did not even know how one would be ostracized but mum had said God would know.
Having grown up watching Ramayana in Dordarshan, I was anticipating that as soon as I put that stuff into my mouth there would be a clap of thunder and somebody from up there would roar at me and say, “How dare you eat the uneatable from now on you will no longer be a Brahmin.” LOL, I bet at that time I did not even know the actual and true meaning of being a Brahmin.
However, despite all the dramatic fears going through my mind I wanted to eat the blasted stuff.
Ultimately despite all the turmoil within me, I did eat it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Till date I don’t know whether the mince was of beef, pork or chicken or some other stuff and I don’t even care now. I mean if I had to be reprimanded, it should have happened then and there. By the way, I was a bit hesitant in entering the space for offering puja for few days. I thought that maybe it would be easier for god to communicate with me in the puja room. However, thankfully God chose to ignore such trivial matter and today I can reminiscence about the silliness of the situation and grin like a fool.
Nowadays I make shya phaley stuffed with chicken mince quite often to go with tea in the evening. It is really easy, simple and tasty.
Shya phaley is fried bread stuffed with mince of your choice and served with hot achar (in Sikkim almost everything even chutneys are referred to as achar). It looks somewhat like a gujia but larger in shape and flat. During your visit to Sikkim or the adjoining hill stations make it a point to try out this delicious snack. If you are in Gangtok, there is a small fast food joint right at M.G.Marg called Let’s Eat which has good chicken shya phaley.
Remember I am no chef. Like every cook around the world I use eyes and fingers to measure. So use your discretion and intelligence while measuring the ingredients. This is just a broad outline on how to make shya phaley.
Mince (could be anything : pork, beef, chicken, mutton or even vegetable).
Finely chopped onions (Should be in equal quantity to the mince).
Ginger paste (As per taste).
Coriander leaves finely chopped.
Salt to taste.
For the dough
Refined flour (Maida, I bet one could use other flour but I have always used maida).
Oil for frying
Vegetable oil for frying (you have the option of either deep frying or shallow).
Fresh Red chillies to make a paste and serve along with Shya phaley.
Add the onions, ginger chilli paste, salt, and coriander leaves to the mince and mix it thoroughly. If you are using fat free mince then add a teaspoon of vegetable oil or a blob of butter. It will make the mince moist and juicy. Remember to use your judgment, the mince should not be dripping in oil or butter but just enough to keep it moist. Keep it aside for a minimum of half an hour or more.
Make dough out of the refined flour by adding water and keep it aside for an hour. The dough should be of medium consistency neither too soft nor too hard. Divide the dough into small balls the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Now roll out the dough one at a time into a disc much like a chapatti or a tortilla. Usually the size of the disc is not larger than 6-7 inches in diameter. The disc should not be thin as it might break.
Now on one half of the disc place a table spoon of the mince and cover it with the other half. Seal it and then fry it in vegetable oil.
Serve hot with fresh red chili paste or sauce of your choice and a cup, no not a cup but a mug of hot sweet Sikkim tea.
If you were brave enough to try our haphazardly written recipe, please let us know how it turned out to be.
Happy Cooking !!!