Simple tea biscuits which have a long history and a wonderful legendary story.
The Dutch had left the shores of the West Port City of Surat, India in the 1700’s where a flourishing bakery was handed over to Faramji Dotivala. This baker continued to produce the breads for the local British community left behind. Once the Brits too lessened in numbers, the bread’s popularity diminished and the wasted bread was soon distributed to the local poor. Having the advantage of being fermented with an ingredient called Toddy, there was little chance of the bread ever catching fungus, prolonging the life of this staple yet making it harder to eat. One thing led to another and the local doctors suggested that this stale bread be given as a convalescent food to patients as it was easy to digest and filled their stomachs. Dotivala started producing smaller specially dried bread buns, and ‘ batasas’ were soon produced using the same toddy, flour and water! They were round balls of dough made to be eaten with a cup of sweet tea. They were hard enough to be dunked into the tea and not fall apart.
Years later, the Batasa was changed to a richer version with an addition of butter and or ghee/clarified butter. With alcohol prohibition taking place, Toddy was replaced with yeast or even completely omitted in the recipe.
Besides the cities of Surat, Navsari and Pune where Batasas are rivalled to be called their own, it was and still is a staple sold in Irani Tea Houses in Mumbai and until recently in Karachi. Sadly it is all dwindling down in numbers as many of the owners and bakers have moved to other pastures. Let’s hope we can soon walk through the doors of the first wonderful Chai House in North America!
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Courtesy : www.NiloufersKitchen.com