Posted in Biryanis, Pilafs and Rice based Dishes, Recipes

Tava Pulao – the next best thing to PavBhaji!

Juhu Beach style Tava Pulao of my favourite ways to jazz up dinners without a fuss. It’s just rice tossed with Pavbhaji style wet spice base. It is rustled up on huge iron Tavas which are used to make Pavbhaji by the street side sellers usually from leftover spice base of Pavbhaji. Now, i don’t have a humongous tava that is as wide as my arms spread out wide, but a little Jugaad here and there and we can infuse that clanking of metal spatulas and the smell of Amul Butter, ginger garlic, finely chopped coriander and Pavbhaji masala bubbling up steadily on the Tava into our meals. I haven’t eaten it at Juhu Beach a lot, but I have seen several maestros aka Pavbhaji Walas at work and believe me, watching them work their magic is nothing short of a conductor at an opera. It’s not easy to keep up. The Turkish Salt Bae guy has got nothing on these Thelawalas when it comes to dexterity. A quick swipe lands a large chunk of butter on the tava. A shake of a sprinkler drizzles some beautiful red orange spice mix into the melting golden pool of butter. Another quick grab and sprinkle movement means a ladle full of puree ( precooked tomato paste, I am guessing ) is ready to tango with the spices and butter. A handful of veggies go in next ( I have added a lot more than capsicum and onion, which are staples. Feel free to throw in a few chunks of paneer though). Finally, the most difficult arm movement to master in my opinion, using that steel masher to bring together everything into the centre and making a homogeneous mix of spices and vegetables where each of them still has an presence but they are no longer merely ingredients. They are the elixer that is Pavbhaji now! Add a handful of rice and chopped coriander and Voila! That’s chef-d’oeuvre I call Tava Pulao! Do yourself a favour and don’t adulterate it with a mountain of cheese. Not that it is a crime. But don’t forget to pair it with Raita or Buttermilk.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Daals/Lentils/Sides for Rice, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Gujarati Kadhi – Not soup, not a sauce, just pure, heart warming bowl of comfort!

Gujarati Kadhi is describe by different names, one of which is a tangy yogurt sauce or soup, served as an accompaniment to a multi-component Gujarati Thali, more often eaten with rice or pulaos or sipped on its own. How I see it, calling a Gujarati Thali or any Indian Regional Thali for that matter, a multi course meal is a bad fit. Because unlike a course wise meal, a thali is not bound by eating sequence or order of eating rules. Like our DNAs, our food combinations are pretty unique, taking a bite from here and there, a bit of heat here, a little tang there, punctuated by a morsel of the sweet of the day to satisfy every taste bud on the palette. And in the same way, every Gujarati enjoys Kadhi on their own special occasions and their own customised combinations and situations. Here are some of those tales, some personal, some fictional and some in between! It’s a long read, but some days I like pouring my heart out.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Appetisers, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Idadaa | Khatta Dhokla | White Dhokla !

Idadaa or Khatta Dhokla is a Gujarati savoury snack made by steaming an overnight fermented batter of Rice and Urad Daal. It is soft, savoury and delicious to say the least. To pronounce Idadaa correctly, the first da is pronounced softly and the second strongly, like Daa in Darwin. It is served on its own as a snack, or as a side as a part of the more varied Gujarati Thali/meal as a savoury side to sweet things like Aamras and often Doodhpak ( a kind of Kheer/Rice Pudding ).

Ingredients:

  • 3 measures rice ( if you can use, parboiled rice / idli rice in combination with a fragrant variety such as Basmati/Krushna Kamod. In a hurry, regular raw, polished rice will work just fine too), see notes ( any measure is fine, as long as you use the same measuring vessel for both daal and rice ),
  • 1 measure gota urad dal (skinned whole black lentils), ( if you cannot find Gota or whole skinless variety, use split, skinless variety ), see notes ( for a snack or a side accompaniment for 2 adults, using 1/2 measuring cup of Urad Daal and (1/2×3 = one and a half [1.5] measuring cups of rice will be more than enough ), ( you can use a small glass or cup from your kitchen too, just keep this approximate amount in mind while soaking to avoid accidentally making an unnecessarily large amount of batter ),
  • 1 handful or 1/4th of a measuring cup of Poha/parched rice ( completely optional, feel free to skip this if you live in a warm place), soaked for 10 minutes, see notes,
  • 2 tbsp ( or more, if you live in a cold place ) sour curd, ( by sour, I mean curd with active culture. The Greek varieties are creamy and thick but they often don’t kickstart or aid fermentation, so use one with live culture ),
  • 1/4th tsp of asafoetida/hing,
  • 1 tsp of sugar, ( no, it won’t make your Idadaa / Dhokla taste sweet. Believe us, it won’t. But skip if you absolutely insist. )
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp ( or to taste) ginger green chilli paste,
  • 2 tbsp, + more as needed, of Peanut oil, ( 2 tbsp to mix into the batter, and more as needed to grease the steamer plates + to serve and temper ( tempering is optional )),
  • Freshly cracked or ground, pepper, to sprinkle before steaming ( optional ),
  • Gujarati pickle spice mix | Methiya Masalo ( a Gujarati spice mix made of split mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, salt, asafoetida and red chillies, if you cannot find it, you can replace it with plain medium to mildly hot red chilli powder) to sprinkle before steaming ( optional, but recommended),
  • Toasted sesame seeds, to sprinkle before steaming, ( optional),
  • Finely chopped coriander leaves, to garnish ( optional).

Notes:

  1. Typically, Gujarati Dhokla are made using Kanki, tiny broken bits of rice, left over after winnowing and sifting the husked and polished rice. In olden days, the broken bits of a fragrant variety of rice like Krushna Kamod or Basmati, were utilised to make these, or turn it into an Idadaa flour for longer shelf life ( more about the flour in point below ). It used up broken and aesthetically not so pleasing bits into delicious and nutritious food. You can use any variety of rice for this. You can use raw rice / polished rice or parboiled rice, if you are soaking Daal and rice to make the batter. If you are making flour for Idadaa, to store for later use, preferably use raw rice for longer shelf life instead of parboiled rice. If you want the aroma of store bought Idadaa flour, in every 1 measuring cup of rice you use, take out & replace 1/4th measuring cup from it with a fragrant variety like basmati and use.
  2. Gota Urad Daal is whole bean of Urad but with its skin removed. In my observation , using Gota Urad results in better fermentation than when one uses split Urad Daal with its skin removed. But, overall, both work, so use whatever you have at hand. But do try Gota Urad sometime, if you can find it in your local store.
  3. The purpose of Poha is to provide simple, easily broken down sugar to feed the bacteria that enable fermentation. It is especially useful in cold climates, when batters take longer to ferment. Just a small handful is enough, once the fermentation starts happening properly, the carbohydrates from rice will sustain it. And in hot weather, you can easily skip it. But if you are facing trouble with fermentation, try adding a handful of poha. It also lends extra softness to the Idadaa.
  4. Idadaa flour: Some homes also keep a stash of Idada flour which is nothing but lightly toasted ingredients ( rice and daal / millets as per the variants described earlier mentioned above, that are ground to a slight coarsely flour at their favourite flour mill | ઘંટી and used as needed. Some flour mills and Kirana stores also sell the flour pre-ground and packaged. This is an extremely convenient option if you live in Gujarat. For more details, please check out the section on Idadaa Flour that I have added at the very end of the blog post. It will most certainly be helpful.
  5. Using baking soda/Fruit salt (Eno): While the traditional Dhokla are always made from overnight fermented batter, under unusual circumstances, it is completely okay to add half a tsp or so of Eno/baking soda to the batter. Preferably only use it only if regular fermentation doesn’t happen due to cold weather or you want to make it in a hurry for unexpected guests. It is completely okay to use it once in a while, but naturally fermented batter is always more nutritious and flavourful. Used sparingly in small amounts, baking soda and Eno are not harmful to health. Add baking soda / Eno to the portion of the batter you are steaming just before you pour it into the steamer plate. Mix the batter well. Do not let the mixed batter sit/rest for a lot of time after you have mixed the soda or else the bubbles will escape and the Idadaa will fall flat. So add it just before steaming and only to the portion you intend to steam immediately.
  6. You can also use other grains in place of rice. They are not traditional varieties but you can be creative. I have used brown rice and millets instead of rice so far. For that, you can either replace all of the rice OR use 1 part rice + 2 part brown rice/ millet/quinoa. Using all whole grains will lead to a more dense texture of dhokla so it is best not to replace all of rice with unpolished whole grain, keep a small amount of polished rice in the batter for softness. You can also make a version suitable for consumption while fasting using Amaranth flour ( Rajgira Atta ) or other suitable/allowed flours. You might not be able to use Urad Daal for fasting versions, so you will need to add cooking soda/Eno as mentioned above. Even grains like Ragi can be used after soaking.

Method:

  1. Soak the Urad Daal + methi in a vessel and the rice in another for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain all the water from the daal + fenugreek/methi. Grind in the wet grinder or the grinding attachment of your food processor about 1/2 cup at a time. Do not crowd the grinder jar with all the daal at once. Initially, do not add any water. Once it is coarsely ground add a couple of tbsp of water at a time and grind till its a smooth and fluffy paste. Tip: To check if the Urad Daal is ground properly, drop a small amount of ground daal into a bowl of water, if it sinks, it is not enough light/fluffy, you need to add a tiny amount of water and grind more. You can utilise your wet grinder to do this too.
  3. Transfer into a deep vessel.
  4. In the same grinder jar, add rice 1 cup at a time, and grind in the same way as daal. If you are using poha, grind it now along with the rice. You do not need to rinse the jar. Any daal that sticks to the walls of the jar will be mixed with the rice and that is fine since we are going to mix them later anyway. Do not add too much of water else the batter will be too watery. A bit of grainy texture to the rice is completely fine. The Idadaa flour from the mill is a little coarse too.
  5. Transfer this to the vessel containing the ground urad dal.
  6. Once everything is ground, add curd, asafoetida(hing), sugar, and mix well with clean hands or a spoon. The urad dal will tend to settle down at the bottom of the vessel, so mix really well.
  7. Cover with a lid and leave it in a warm place for about 12 hours or overnight to ferment. In cold climates, it might take up slightly longer.
  8. Once it has fermented well, you can see small bubbles under the surface, even if it hasn’t doubled in size, it is fine, add salt and ginger chilli paste.
  9. If you plan to use later, do not mix the salt but store refrigerated in an airtight container for later use. When you intend to make Idadaa, take the necessary quantity of batter in a vessel from the refrigerated container, put the rest of it back into the refrigerator immediately and let the amount of batter you intend to use, stand on the counter for a short while or so till it comes to room temperature. Add salt and 2 tbsp of oil just before using. If you want to add Eno/baking soda, you can it at this step. I usually don’t, especially if my batter has fermented decently.
  10. If you are planning to serve it guests later, your can safely store the batter ( without adding the oil, salt and the baking soda ) in the refrigerator section ( not freezer ) for a day. I have not tried to store it longer, so cannot comment if you can store it for longer. But it will behave the same way as idli dosa batter, getting more sour on storage. Add salt, oil and baking soda just before you intend to steam.

Steaming the Dhoklas :

  1. There is a special apparatus/ plates available for steaming all kinds of Dhoklas. If you don’t have it, do not worry, you can steam it in a regular steel thali, with rims/sides that are 1 inch or more, basically a deep dish/thali. Heat a large pot, large enough to hold the thali you intend to use and 1-2 inches of water, not touching the bottom of the thali. Use this setup to steam. The Dhokla steamer lets you steam 2 thalis at a time, that’s all, no other advantage.
  2. Oil the thalis/steamer plates and spoon the prepared batter filling, to about 1 cm thickness. Thinner the better, thinner is fine. Idadaa/Khatta Dhokla are spread thinner than Khaman. Also, the thicker the layer of batter, the more time it will take to steam and get cooked thoroughly.
  3. Tap gently settling the batter evenly.
  4. Sprinkle some sesame seeds ( popular but optional ) or freshly cracked pepper or some red Chilli powder or Gujarati methiya masalo ( use either pepper or chilli powder or spice mix but not all together , it will be too spicy) on top all over. I sometimes make a tempering of sesame seeds and mustard seeds in oil and pour it over the thalis after steaming. It makes Idadaa really soft.
  5. Once the water is steaming, gently lower the plate/plates into the pan, cover and let them steam for about 8-10 mins.
  6. Remove the plates from the pan and let it cool on the counter for another couple of mins. Once slightly cool, cut it into squares or rectangle using a knife or a spatula.
  7. If you let it cool slightly, the squares will come out neat. If it is too hot, you might turn it into a mush. A good temperature range is not vigorously steaming ( like when you just brought it out if the steamer ) but still warm.
  8. Sprinkle chopped coriander ( completely optional ) to garnish. Serve hot drizzled with peanut oil, or drizzled with the tempering mentioned in step 4, or with a chutney or condiment of your choice. A classic summer accompaniment is Aamras ( fresh, ripe mango pulp ). Scoop Aamras with Idadaa! 💕

How to Make Idadaa Flour for Idada at home and how to use it:

  1. Idadaa flour is not the same as Idadaa premixes. The premixes are instant and therefore they contain baking soda by default. Flour is just flour of the ingredients. Source it from a reliable place to ensure the freshness of the flour. To make your own Idadaa flour, lightly toast the rice and the Urad Daal as mentioned in the ingredients. Keep the proportions same as above – 1 part Urad and 3 parts Rice. You don’t need to brown them, just lightly roast to remove moisture. Then you can grind it at home and store. Leave it slightly grainy, do not grind it into a very fine powder basically. Or if you are scaling up with large quantities of Daal and Rice, say a few kilos of the mix, then get it milled at a local flour mill. It is common practice for traditional households to do so several kilos at a time. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place. It will stay good atleast for several months if not longer.
  2. If you are using the Idadaa flour I mentioned above, take 2 measuring cups of flour ( around 300-350 gms in weight ). Add 2 or more tablespoons of sour curd ( depending on the weather), 1/2 tsp of asafoetida and 1 tsp of sugar. Then add lukewarm water, little by little, and make a thick batter of dropping consistency. Keep the batter thick now because it will loosen up a bit on fermentation. If not, you can always adjust it with more water before steaming. Then follow the rest of the steps from step 7 onwards of the method section mentioned below. Even the steaming process remains the same.
Posted in Indian Curries, Kitchen 101, Recipes

Paneer Bhurji – Soft creamy paneer scrambled with spices!

For me, there are two kinds of Paneer, the one I make routinely, dryish not so spicy or indulgent. And then there is another Bhurji which is a rare phenomenon, once in a while Bhurji Pav occasion of celebration. I know that most people associate rainy nights with Fried food, Bhajiya and Bajjis and the sorts. But on the kind of nights when it rains as if there will be no tomorrow, when the pitter…patter…drippp…droop.. glupp symphony is accompanied by an occasional thunder, something reminds of this Paneer Bhurji. When street creatures huddle – half wet, half dry and fully miserable – under whatever they can find, I crave this. Those souls, for whom the streets are both their workplace and the place they crash in after a long day, use tarp to shelter themselves, the kind ones cuddle their street pets with them. The unlucky strays crouch under whatever dry shelter they can manage. On nights like these, you groan at your smartphone because, either the Ola Uber and their ilk have very few cabs running on the roads. Or because Swiggy tells you that due to bad weather conditions, their executives cannot service your area. But if you go back to times before Ola, Uber and Swiggy made us to painfully dependent and stripped us of the small joys of life, every street corner in the Metros had a Bhurji cart dimg brisk business. It was mostly Egg Bhurji, but one particular cart I knew also served Paneer Bhurji, as concession to those who are “Vegetarian in Tuesdays and Fridays” and their kin. In any case, the assembly, apparatus and ambience remained the same. A huge iron tava perched atop a kerosene stove, continously heating, has almost hypnotic powers. The troika of sight, smell and sound work harmoniously to warm your insides and draw you closer to the cart. Pretty much every Bhurji that takes birth on that Tava looks similar. Beautiful ruby red colour, a free flowing smooth consistency and the broth speckled with scrambled eggs, or scambled paneer. It is deftly swiped with a flat spatula on a plate, two fluffy pav are swirled around in some butter and leftover masala and placed next to the pooled Bhurji, almost taking a dip into the pool. Some sliced onions, a miserable wedge of a lemon but who is complaining. I am already won over by the aroma. Recipe for the Bhurji is now up on the blog! 💕

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Short Stories

{ Book Review } – All The Names They Used For God by Anjali Sachdeva!

All the Names They Used for GodAll the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All The Names They Used For God is a motley of tales that has everything from tragedy to mythology to science to human despair tied together to discuss the known and the unknown in this world. It is a collection of short stories, quite eclectic in nature and not one bit preachy or sermon-like to be honest. I have to make this clarification because that is the impression the name would give you. But the stories are more human than religious and a nice mix of subjects and themes.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Food and Drink, My Bibliothèque, Non Fiction

{ Book Review } – In Defence of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a pill sized summary, the book tells us to ” Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It opens with this and it is also all that it has to offer to us. But it ends up winding 200 pages filled with small portions of excellent food wisdom, some of which is pretty common today, and large portions of extremely boring, number crunching information, which I found so exhausting that I ended up not even bothering to fact check them: I just speed read them and moved on. I felt that what was 20, may be 40 page manifesto about eating in moderation, mostly local and vegetarian was stuffed with two beanbag worth of fillers to make it sound impactful. But those 20 pages are something that I found to a really interesting perspective on food. So hang in there for those, it was worth it.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Sev Tameta nu Shaak!

Sev Tameta nu Shaak ( Sev added to a cooked gravy of tomatoes, a dab of jaggery and a few basic spices ) for the evening when you lose track of time panicking about something and realise that you are “cannot-afford-to-spend-more-than-10-minutes-on-fixing-dinner” kind of desperately hungry! Sev Tameta nu Shaak is quite popular in Gujarati, specifically Kathiyawadi, restaurants. Tangy, garlicky curry of 🍅, trailing ruby red oil with crispy Sev added to it makes for a beautiful sensory experience when eaten out doors, sitting on a ખાટલો | charpoy, on a chilly winters nights with fresh off the stove રોટલા | hand crafted millet rotis smeared with ghee. Bite into a fried green chilli ( mild ) or a hand smashed onion on the side, and all five senses feel an indescribable bliss. But the origins of the curry remain a classic “chicken or egg” conundrum to me. Whether it was a quick-witted and impromptu invention by a quick thinking lady of the house on a day when the guests arrived unannounced and then it made its way to restaurant menus because of the popularity. Or if it made a bold, sensational entry in home kitchens at the demands of clamouring kids and husband who wanted to eat out, I cannot say. All I can say is that the combination is 🔥!

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Posted in Dips, Raitas and Sides, Kitchen 101, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Ghee Gaud / Ghee Gol – and some happy memories of a Gujarati childhood!

ઘી ગોળ | Ghee Gol or Ghee Gaud is Jaggery mashed with Ghee until smooth, shiny and silky. Since the last time I shared it in one of my meals, it has had quite a few requests. So I decided to get it up on the blog asap.
If I were to be absolutely candid, I am a tad bit hesitant and awkward as I type this. Because never in my mind ( or in any true blue Gujarati’s mind ) does it occur that Ghee Gol needs a separate post. It is like making instant noodles , it is easier than making instant noodles. It is a no brainer that it is more wholesome than instant noodles / ramen bowls. But for us Gujarati kids, ( ‘kids’ part is purely metaphorical, I am old 🤣) , it is more close to our hearts than one can imagine because it is one of those very very early solid foods we eat. Mostly used variety is the Desi variety, deep brown to amber in colour. But sometimes the light, honey coloured beauty called Kolhapuri jaggery / Chikki wala Gud would appear too. Once our milk teeth sprout, our primary introduction to sweetness other than fruits is jaggery. As we grew older, it became our energy / granola bar when rolled into a fulka/chapati/rotlo leftover from lunch, just before we skip out of our homes to play. After that, Ghee Gol blends into the cacophony of adulthood. Never quite disappearing out of our diets, but never do our minds acknowledge it. It makes guest appearances at Uttarayan in Chikkis or in Golpapdi when we are traveling. It doesn’t matter if the travel is 2 days long or 20. Most Gujaratis have a dabba of Golpapdi stashed somewhere. We exhibit our Theplas in full glory but hoard our Golpapdi surreptitiously, rationing the supplies to make it last longer! And then when we grow older, we indulge in nostalgia like I am doing. I could go on without making any more sense so I will stop. There is a richness in jaggery’s sweetness that makes one feel warm, fuzzy & cosy. The recipe starts & ends in the name itself. But then I felt may be, it is uncharted waters for people who are unfamiliar with Gujarati food. So here it is. Adding the process below.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Science Fiction

{ Book Review} – The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu!

The Paper Menagerie and Other StoriesThe Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It would be extremely easy for me to club The Paper Menagerie into Science Fiction genre. And technically, it would not be so wrong either. It is an anthology of 15 stories each of which picks one thread from a varied range of human frailties or whims and then takes you on a story telling trip where the reader would easily want to believe the supernatural and otherwise unbelievable. In my humble opinion, Liu dabs a few strokes of sci-fi, fantasy and dystopia on a predominantly chromatically dull backdrop of human values & thought process for a few bursts of colour. Or may be to he does it to make his stories more believable because humans do behave strangely more often than not and without much rationality too. There is a smattering of historical fiction too which makes us introspect if we, as a race, have evolved at all. I found many readers describing it as speculative fiction and the word intrigues me. Because yes, the book did cause me to speculate, in a healthily curious way. The author has put together a collection of his works and once you have read it, it is no surprise to you that the stories have been finalists/shortlisted or won several prestigious literary prizes.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes

Shahi Paneer – Rich, Luscious but Easy restaurant style gravy!

Today, Shahi Paneer isn’t a big deal or a speciality for dinner for me but as a kid, I was so so fascinated by it. Creamy, silky orange gravy a little on the sweeter side than the paneer Butter Masala with fat Paneer chunks floating around. Paneer was such a rarity then that I remember mom making sure one of us didn’t monopolised or took more than our share of pieces 😆. So, before YouTube and Blogs came out, we used to buy those small satchets of spice mixes ( often from small brands like Suhana and Rasoi Magic ) hoping to recreate some of that magic in our kitchens. Dissolve the mix in milk, simmer, add cream and viola!!! The Shaahi Paneer would appear magically on the dinner table making dinner an eagerly anticipated affair. Not too different from Open Sesame for a middle class Indian kid, no? 😁 To be honest, those satchets were pretty ordinary, but it was still had an enigma around them from the minute they were put into the shopping bag and until it was made into curry. Good ol days! 💕 Sigh! Now ofcourse I make it frequently, and it is no longer a novelty and make it more frequently. But those portioned pieces of my childhood have brought me more joy than the today’s unlimited portions at the restaurant buffets. I have made this recipe several times now and it comes out perfect every single time. Hope you like it! ☺️💕

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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