Ragda: The Final Chapter

Mealtime in Madurai

My last time eating ragda patties was a delicious and miserable affair. It was a Friday night in November 2012 and Tamil Nadu state was in the grip of its worst mosquito season in decades. Dengue Fever was setting new fatality records. I had just been denied bowling and alcohol privileges at Vishal de Mall, a shopping mall in Madurai. I am from Milwaukee, where bowling and beer are birthright. To be denied either at the age of 34 is a shock, a wound. A minor identity crisis. To say nothing of the fact that I was not served an irish coffee because, as the clerk explained, “we don’t serve ladies.” Now I am a lot of things, but ladylike has never been one of them.


Vishal de Mall, where things started to get weird.

With these defeats and 63 mosquito bites fresh on the mind and body, I arrived for family dinner at 8 p.m. Ragda Patties were on the menu and the scheduled blackout would dim the lights by 9. No time to waste.

At this point, I knew that India had invaded my GI tract, but not before I had enjoyed dietary riches beyond anything you’ve read about here at Chutney Challenged: meen pollichathu and lobster curry in Kerala; veggie sandwiches with paper-thin cucumbers, shaved tomatoes and deep-emerald chutney at Cafe Mysore on King’s Circle; steaming steel cups of strong sweet coffee at Cafe Madras.


Veggie sandwich at Cafe Mysore.

I knew that the 48-hour flu was coming for me whether I ate the ragda patties or I did not. So I went for it. Reluctantly, I ate the ragda, savoring its thick potato patties. I could still appreciate how the thin crispy sev perched atop the pea curry crackles in your mouth gently, like paper. The zip of tamarind chutney! I suffered through every bite of this deliciousness, and vowed I would soon experience a ragda re-do.

Two hours later I was in the depths of 48-hour illness. If that’s the kind of thing you want to read about, head over to Al Roker’s blog. Immediately. And do not come back to Chutney Challenged.

Mealtime in Milwaukee

Do-over time began Dec. 30, 2012. I headed to Best Foods on 13th St. for vatana, whole mustard seeds, curry leaves and chilies. There were no chilies. The fresh produce is stocked in plastic tupperware bins and baskets, like what you keep stage makeup in for the big fall musical. I combed through the dregs of chiles with another woman – our nails scratching the plastic. No chili was too small, but many were too moldy. I grabbed two bottles of tamarind chutney and put them both in my reusable tote bag, except for the one that landed all over the floor. Silently a gentleman who had tired of me on my first visit to the store began mopping the sweet brown slop-pile. I remember our first interaction. I asked him, “Where are the spices located?” He responded: “So many spices. Everywhere.” We would need to work on our relationship. In the meantime, Ragda do-over day was off to an inauspicious start.

At Target I bought the last remaining pressure cooker, one that had been ripped open and its pieces exposed. Everything seemed to be there. I brusquely negotiated a thirty percent discount for the inconvenience, then lost the essential tiny metal valve trekking back to my minivan. There were three pressure cookers left at the Target in Waukesha but none in Milwaukee. Time was running out. I desperately googled and recipe-checked “making vatana” and “no pressure cooker.” No way; not even possible. My husband called Best Foods and confirmed, in his most proper Gujarati, that several pressure cookers were on their shelves. I stopped the weeping and futile googling. Ragda do-over 2012 was back on, bitches.

The Reviews

The ragda got made, just in time for a 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve party. Folks seemed to like it, but here’s the thing: no one requested seconds.No matter how many good friends tell you they like your culinary offerings, nothing proves their approval like a second serving. Perhaps it wasn’t served hot enough. Maybe the red-hot chilies I used to fill in for the missing greenies were too hot. Did they all have the stomach flu, now? I was having fun, I was proud of my radga patties, but I was confused.


Ragda patties om corningware, an aerial view.

The next day I texted a neighbor and old friend of the family from university. He is a middle-school principal, so if anyone was going to break it to me straight about my ragda, it was Principal M. Also, he had been part of my December bhel puri party. He had perspective.

Hours later my husband and Principal M. were seated on my couch watching the Rose Bowl. Our kids were crunching legos in the playroom. I was anxiously reheating left over patties on the waffle griddle. More onions were diced, more cilantro was chopped. I made sure the ragda and patties were piping hot. Cold corona was served. Then out came the ragda.

They liked it. They had seconds. Photos were taken and comparisons were made. Principal M. said I am now on his list of “Top Three Friends Who Can Cook,” just on the strength of my ragda do-over. And the guy in his first place can make dinner for 200 bikers at 7 a.m. of a 24-hour urban bike race. I’ll take it.


Mr. Chutney Challenged, man of the hour.

Oh, and my husband liked it. He said it’s as good as his mom’s ragda patties, or maybe he said mine were better? Really mom, I can’t remember what he exactly said. So he’s the star of this blog post for 1. Getting me a new, functional pressure cooker just hours before show time 2. Giving me my best compliment yet as the blogstress of Chutney Challenged.


sweet valley high in a nerd-shell

Brew Beat

Covering Brewers greats from Hank Aaron to Eddie Zosky with beat writer Adam McCalvy.

Vampire Cupcakes

Bite it before it bites you.

the other fork in the road

navigating life via acute corners, wrong turns and dead ends.

The Rants of a Stay-at-Home Dad

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

Frat House Fridays

Writing, Teaching and Tearing Down the House with a Toddler

Just A Small Town Girl...

Just your average 27 year old diagnosed with E.W.S. at birth... AKA Excessive Writing Syndrome :)


four states in four years


1 woman's journey through cancer treatment

The Creative Trust Milwaukee

fostering life-long learning through the arts

Chutney Challenged

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.


Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

still in sirsasana

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

Everything Everywhere All of the Time

New and improved obsolete irrelevance.

Namita's Kitchen


Crappy Pictures

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

Foodie Brooklyn Mom

My obsession with food, living in Brooklyn, and being a mom