For the people from Himalayan regions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim, titaura is one of those foods that takes us right back to our childhood and school time. Even now, it is a large part of children and mothers alike.
A fond titaura memory from high school
I remember when we were studying in high school, we’d get about 20-30 Rs as lunch money and some of our friends did not bring any money at all, so what we did was, the one who had the money would buy titaura that was sold at Rs per packet at that time and some varieties of this snack came in 2 rupees packets as well. There would be 5-6 pieces of this snack inside a single packet and so we should buy four of these packets and share it among a group of 10 friends and each would get one or two of these candies.
For us titaura was the kick of excitement and flavour while attending classes that bored us to death. We would sneakily pull the packet without making a noise and slowly pop one in our mouths. In a class of 30-40 people 10 of us would be enjoying the illicit snack without being caught and laugh about it later at lunch time.
After school was over, we had to walk back home which was a 6-7 km long walk and amidst the loud chattering, our mouths would be accompanied by the exciting flavours of different kinds of titaura feeling our talks. Sometimes, one of us would forget an open titaura packets in the pocket of our skirts and the sweet and sour sauce would flow right out of the packet messing with our skirts and we still remember when our mothers gave us the spanking of our lives when she found out how dirty the skirt was because of the mess from the titaura. The next day, our friend would come to school wearing an older skirt that was faded and a swollen face from all the spanking she’d received that day and that’d just be so hilarious.
But these are the little memories that we’d bond over even now. Titaura is basically belongingness, and memories and nostalgia in a packet. Nirmal if you’re reading this by any chance, I hope you buy a packet of titaura and you eat it and try not to mess your pants this time because it’ll be you washing that off and not your mother.
But what is a titaura really?
Titaura is an invention that originally happened in Nepal but has ever since been a part of the Nepali diaspora living everywhere. In India, it is made in the regions of Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
Titaura is a food item that is a popular snack made from many kinds of fruits. These are tangy, sweet, sour, and spicy, come in two varieties, wet and dry and are an awesome treat to have at any time of the day. Because of its sour and tangy flavours, titaura is mostly consumed by girls and women of the region and it is also mostly assumed to be a women’s food. If a young boy bought some of these for a young girl, it would mean that he liked her, which is just the sweetest trend of our times (mostly because it was the friends of the girl more than the girl herself who ate all the titauras).
What goes into the making of a titaura?
Titaura is mostly made from fruits such as Lapsi (hog plum), aap (mango), amala (gooseberry), imli (tamarind). Three of the most popular varieties are made using mango, tamarind and the hog plum. These make the perfect titaura. Along with the tempting flavours of the snack at the sound of which people’s mouths start watering, it is also the texture that these titauras come in that add dimension to the snack. Some varieties of titaura are sticky, saucy, hard gel like, as thin as paper, curry like and absolutely dry covered with crunchy sugar crystals.
The process of making titaura:
There are 10 steps to making titaura at a large scale. Let’s go through these steps one by one.
Picking fresh fruits:
In this step, fresh fruits that are ripe or half ripe are plucked from the trees and stored in large cylinders. Later they are washed thoroughly before its time to boil them.
The fruit is ten boiled for hours at a stretch till they become pulpy and soft.
Half way through the process salt is added to the boiling cauldron full of fruits to help it get softer.
After the fruit shave become soft because of boiling, it is time to extract seeds. The seeds in this case can be extracted pretty easily because of the soft fruit.
Pulp is strained in a ditch like structure:
The pulp is then strained in a ditch like structure to get rid of excess water in the mix.
Grinding of pulp:
After the water is strained it’s time to grind the pulp to make a uniform paste.
Drying of pulp:
Now on a plank made of wood or metal, the pulp is applied like paint of thin coating. The plank is then left in the sun to dry to form a sheet of the paste.
After the sheet has dried enough to easily peel off of the plank of wood, it is collected and then tried on a thread like we dry clothes. This drying process concentrates all the flavours, makes a more solid structure and enhances the sour in the titaura.
After the titaura has dried thoroughly, it is collected and kept in a shaded area.
Processing and packaging of titaura:
The sheets of titaura are then cut into ling stripes or the desired shape. It is seasoned with salt, red chillies, sugar crystals or other sauces according to the variety being made and then packed into plastics to be sold in the markets.
These packaged titaura packets reach the small shops and stores that fall near the school where little children buy this snack and forget an opened packet of titaura lying in their pockets. The kid then goes home to an angry mother and some good old fashioned spanking and in the morning that child’s friends all laugh on him for this whole incident. This incident becomes etched in history and comes up every time the friends meet and they have a nice laugh remembering the good old times filled with nostalgia and then one of them decides to write about the incident in an article about the one snack that brought them close; and you are reading it right now.
We hope you will make it a point to try titaura when in the North East and let us know how you liked it. Buy a few packets as souvenirs for your friends back home.