Water lily fritters - shapla miniature raft

Shaplar Velaa - Water lily raft recipe

By Barnali Dutta, published by Prasadam: September 7, 2014

The iron rich Bangladeshi national flower Shapla [ শাপলা ] the white water lily is easily available in the local market during the monsoons. Hence banana trunk rafts [ kolar velaa - কলার ভেলা ] are made to save the flooded people still now likewise in the earlier days. This shaplar velaa [ শাপলার ভেলা ] , a fritter recipe is a very old one created in one of the very Bengali kitchens by some unknown artist. I present:

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Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 20 minutes | Total time: 50 min | Yield: 20 fritters

Serving size: 4 to 5 fritters | Calories per serving: ---


  1. Wash the Shapla stem with running water to clear the mud . The good Shapla will be approximately 1 feet long.

  2. Take one stem, cut the flower, pinch off the fibers of the stem from one end and slowly remove from the whole stem. It will look like fiber thread. Discard all fibers from the stem. Cut them all in one inch size.

  3. Follow that step to remove fibers from all the stems and cut all in equal size.

  4. Take wooden toothpick, prick 5 to 6 pieces in the middle and arrange them like a small raft miniature.

  5. Mix flour, rice flour, salt, turmeric and chili powder, kalonji or onion seeds, baking soda, and sugar. Make batter adding just enough water.

  6. Roll the stem rafts in the batter and deep fry in the hot oil until crisp.

  7. Discard the toothpicks from the fritters. Serve hot water lily fritters - miniature raft "Shapla Velaa" with any hot chutney.


  • White water lily stems approximately 1 feet length: 5,

  • Purpose flour: 1 cups

  • Rice flour: 1/2 cup

  • Baking soda: 1/2 teaspoon

  • Turmeric and chili powder: 1 tsp each

  • Salt: as per taste

  • Sugar: one pinch

  • Kalonji: 1 tsp

  • Water: 1/4 cup

  • Cooking oil to deep fry the fritters 2 cups

Any recipe is nothing but the assimilation of ingredients and procedure required for the preparation of a particular dish. A recipe speaks mainly of the step by step adding and cooking of ingredients. There are some protocols for the selection of ingredients and their combination which is known as 'khata' [খাটা - works with] in the local language. For example, Echor-alu [green jackfruits with potato] works but Echor-kumro [green jackfruit with pumpkin] does not. Lau dhone pata [bottle gourd with coriander leaves] works but puishak-dhonepata [Basella alba with coriander] is unthinkable. Similarly which dish can be made into a curry and which dish can be fried or deep fried is predetermined from ancient observations in a generalised manner.

In the earlier days when printers were absent and illiteracy was widespread how did the people manage to remember the recipes accurately? There was this way which they devised that is by turning the recipes into aphorisms [local proverbs] and thus rendering them immortality. An important outcome of these recipes getting turned into aphorisms were that it got accepted as the ideal unchangeable alternative. I am holding one up as an example. Dak-prabachan or Dak-aphorism of Moimonshing is well-versed in that region.

Food Wisdom

Aphorism is the art of concisely communicating knowledge and developments related to science. Food aphorism even talks about the technique and gives ample references to the method of cooking and when and how to obtain the best tastes of the food. In Bengal there are various such folk sayings attributed to Khona, and also sayings known as Daker bachan or Dak Bhanita, which are science-based knowledge closer to the common man in a language that he understands. It comprises of much more than advice to the farmer as what should be cultivated in the different months of the year for good crops and how to save natural wealth.

The aphorism, maxims, ballads, proverbs of Dak, khonar prabachans are like Chanayka slokas, which gives the affluent mass a fair amount of information on those concepts and how well scientific information has been conveyed to general masses using mass media [preliterature in the form of poems on peoples mouth] in ancient and modern times, which describes the details related to farming and agriculture.

The earliest works include the Dak Tantra, popularly known as the Daker Bachan, a Buddhist Tantric work containing aphorisms and wise sayings in popular circles in Assam and old unified Bengal during the Xth Century very well depicted the practice of science and its acceptance and influence on the society attracting attention from quite a large audience.

The standard of diet was related to one’s class status. While the rich employed professional cooks to prepare varieties of items with the use of spices like pepper, clove, cardamom, and clarified butter, the poor peasants after the day's work could manage to prepare only their bare need. While describing the food preparations Dak gives a long list of delicious items with minimal effort.

Margosa leaf in mustard pickle, pour a little oil

Rohu fish with parwal leaf a treat will satiate each and all,

Catfish cut in small pieces mixed ginger, salt and asafetida,

Also turmeric, pickle a bit, Dak says, I agreed to it

Young fish in lemon juice with mustard pickle insights with kindle your eagerness to eat,

eat, and eat ; devour it to satisfy, It is both man and god’s delight

Shrimp fried in oil with lemon juice a little,

make a lovely curry with asafetida and dry chili,

Take one part of rice, put three part of water while boils

turn with spoon it is way to have good rice, Oh! very nice

Big prawn cut to big pieces fry it with asafetida in oil,

turn side when brown, eat it to see a mile [with smile]

Sowing rice in blazing sunshine devour nicety

Aman rice 'ah!!' with mustard sauce truly delighting.

Burned fish lot of salt over, do not look for other items ever

Ripe tamarind with matured boal, cook longer to burn it all,

soak it in lot of curry, no time to look hiter, no time to hurry

Like Oriya, Assamese is a sister, not a daughter of Bengali. It comes from Bihar, through North Bengal, not through Bengal proper. the language is not, as many suppose a corrupt dialect of Bengali, but a distinct and coordinate tongue, having with Bengali a common source of current vocabulary [the culinary delights] from Dak prabachan of Assam.

ৰন্ধন প্ৰকৰণ

চিত জেৰোৱা চলি কাতি | বতা হেঙ্গেৰা খাগৰা মুঠি ||

স্বাস দীৰ্ঘ কৰি দিবা ফু | তেহে দেখিবা জুইৰ মু ||

সোকোতাৰ পাত বেসুয়াৰৰ ঝোল | তৈলৰ ওপৰে দিয়া তোল ||

পোৰোলা শাক ৰোহিত মাছ | ডাকে বোলে সেই ব্যঞ্জন সাচ ||

মাগুৰ মাছক কচি কুটিয়া | হালধী মৰিচ হিঙ্গক দিয়া ||

তৈল লোণ দি কৰিবা পাক | এই ব্যঞ্জন সাৰ বোলে ডাক ||

কায়ৈ মাছক কচি কুটিয়া | হালধী মৰিচ হিঙ্গক দিয়া ||

ওলোট পালট কৰিবা পিঠি | খাই পাইবা তেবে দৄষ্টি ||

( উলট পালট কৰিয়া পিঠ, খায়া পাবা ভোজন মিষ্ঠ )

চেঙ্গা চেঙ্গলী জামিৰৰ ৰসে | কাহুদি দিয়া জেবে পৰিসে ||

মুখৰ অৰুচি দূৰক যায় | আচোক নৰ দেবো মোহ পাই ||

ইলিহ মাছক কচি কুটিয়া | ত্ৰিকুট দিয়া তৈল ভাজিয়া ||

এই বেঞ্জন যি জনে খাই | আম্ৰৰ সদৄশ মুখ গন্ধাই ||

কচ বচ চিতলৰ আদ খান | নেমু লোণ দি বুঝি পৰিমাণ ||

আকে খাই পাই সন্তোষ প্ৰচুৰ | আন বেঞ্জঁনক ক ৰিব দূৰ ||

চাউল দিবা যতেক | পানী দিবা ততেক ||

পাগ আহিলে দিবা কাঠি | তেবে কৰিবা জুই ভাঠি ||

জেবে নিসিজে চাউল | তেবে বুলিবা ডাকক বাউল ||

পকা তেতেলী বুঢ়া বৰালী | বিস্তৰ কৰি দিবাহা জালি ||

বাঢ়ি দিবা টেঙাৰ ঝোল | খাবৰ বেলা মুণ্ড নোতোল ||

The brief example given below is from a body of highly popular Bengali proverbs and aphorisms from the 10th century, known as Wisdom of Daka.

Seasonal best foods are

In the month of Kartika - eat the root of ol,

In Magha [Agrahayana] - the fruit of bel ,

In Paus - Kanif, in Phalgun - take ginger,

In Chaitra - all that is bitter,

In Vaisakh - neem and nalita leaves,

In Jaisthya - drink buttermilk,

in Asadha - curds, in Sravan - popped rice,

In Bhadra - the fruit of tal, in Asvin - eat cucumbers,

says Daka all this is my Baramasa

Any dish can be best in taste when leaves are young, fishes are mature,

says Daka choose and collect the good ones before cook and savour.