फिर निकल चला मैं।
फिर निकल चला मैं।
It was a morning of a date which is quite unclear in my memory. I woke up to the rising sound of traffic and the fluttering of pigeons eternally stuck in the window railings. I picked up my toothbrush, squeezed the last remains of the toothpaste, and tucked the brush into my mouth. I needed some company before sitting on the toilet seat, so I walked towards the door and pushed it open. Lying there was my roll of newspapers, with colorful bunch of pamphlets. But along with it was an envelope addressed for me.
It was strange as no courier guy or postman would have delivered it so early in the morning. It didn’t carry any seals or stamps, and who had sent it. Curious to know, I first tore it from the corner, and then ripped through the edge with a single slide of the finger.
Before I could open it, I could smell something. There was a pungency of garlic and mustardy feel of turmeric in the envelope. I was now almost sure of the contents of the envelope, this was a highly familiar smell.
I could not help but smile. Finally my beautiful friend from Hyderabad was about to marry one of my closest friend from Mumbai. Yes, the Sambhar from Chutneys was finally set to marry the Dal from Bhagat Tarachand.
I had known her (the Sambhar from Chutneys) since my trips to Hyderabad became frequent after 2010. I visited Chutneys on almost all my visits, skipped my rendezvous with 5-6 chutneys on offer, and always spent the most time with her. This sambhar had a smooth texture like none I had ever tasted. There were no obstructions of drumsticks or pumpkin pieces so pervasive in sambhars all across India. The flavor was rich with spices and a more than generous helpings of black pepper gave it the perfect zing. But what set it apart was its use of Garlic, something which I haven’t frequently encountered in sambhars across the country. Over the years the sambhar from Andhra had been my favorite (Andhra>Tamil>Kerala>Karnataka style sambhars, especially don’t like Manglorean/Udupi variety popular across many Mumbai eateries, which has a dash of sweetness from jaggery/sugar), but this one climbed to be top of my list.
I first met him (the Dal from Bhagat Tarachand) on of my countless trips across Mumbai in search of good food. I found him hiding in one of those countless Bhagat Tarachands (so many of them at Zaveri Bazaar), where my encounter with him offered peace in between the maddening crowds of Zaveri. I mostly met him with his best friends, Papad Churi and a Ghee laden Chapati, at either his Zaveri Bazar home, or his more suave R City adobe- Shvatra. Like the sambhar from Chutneys, the brilliant use of Garlic was its forte, but what set it apart was the use of Ghee-fried onions, similar to ones used frequently with Biriyanis (possibly a connect with the Hyderabadi Sambhar). We hit an instant friendship and both of us being in the same city (and him staying close by in Ghatkopar) meant countless encounters.
So when both of them agreed to come together, no one could have been happier, as I was the one who connected both of them. I can’t even imagine how awesome their kids would be. Surely healthy with so much of protein running in their veins.
I reached the wedding venue few hours prior to the wedding. As expected the environment was somber and lacking energy. Both of them have had a tendency of moving under the radar, when some of their other contemporaries have been involved in maximum showoff with minimal flavors. Gracing the occasion were the family members, friends from the spices community- with peppers dominating the group. The pandit was busy preparing the holy fire and doing other preparations.
The pandit seemed adept at handling both the mantras and kitchen equipment, as he placed a huge vessel over the fire. He started pouring in lots of ghee, and then crackled a bit of jeera (cumin seeds) in the vessel. As the crackling voice soaked the environment, the bride and groom entered the proceedings. Both of them wet, soaked in water and fresh and ready for the wedding.
The sambhar had a garland of curry leaves around it, and the dal looked composed with a pot of ghee in his hands. The background was infused with sounds of ceremony and usual wedding banter, and smells of spices and fresh coriander. As both the bride and groom settled down in the mandapam, the pandit started the fiery rounds mantras. With each swaha, he tossed a clove of garlic in the ghee-jeera mix. Pandit then took out a shining silver spice box, and started adding them one by one in the mix. As the ceremony proceeded, the attendees were handed ghee-fried onions for sprinkling at the bride and groom during the seven rounds across the fire. These onions were the ones which had set apart this dal from the rest for so many years, and it was a great way of welcoming the bride in this family.
After the rounds around the holy fire, there were the usual ceremonies of sindoor (made of red chilly powder) and a mangalsutra (made of raw mustard seeds).
The wedding ceremony ended with a feast with no parallels, with a mix of cuisines from west and south dominating the platters. I was as always indulged in the glory of the dishes and sat along with the rest cleaning my banana leaf and waiting for the servings. A little girl was going around with the gulaabjal sprinkler, used so often during weddings to welcome guests. The girl came towards me, gave me a smile and then sprinkled a bit on me. It was hot. I wiped the drop of my lips and tasted it. It was the sambhar, or was it the daal? It was sweet!
And I woke up to my wife trying to wake me up, sprinkling drops from her hot steamy-sugary cup of tea on my face. The dream was broken, and I had a smile on my face thinking about it.
There was a rising sound of traffic and the fluttering of pigeons eternally stuck in the window railings. I picked up my toothbrush, squeezed the last remains of the toothpaste, and tucked the brush into my mouth. I needed some company before sitting on the toilet seat, so I walked towards the door and pushed it open. Lying there was my roll of newspapers, with colorful bunch of pamphlets.
But along with it was an envelope addressed for me. From Hyderabad…
I wrote this sometime back in October, and posting it now. There are striking similarities to two of my friends who got married just a few days back! Wishing them and the pulses loads of luck
For an outsider flipping guidebooks (swiping in our case) and capturing countless images, the Andalucían city of Seville is a perfect destination. It offers the visitor traditional grammar of conflicts, chronicles of rise and fall, and images of an eventful past. A city which balances romanticism with rationalization, it has the frantic pace of a Flamenco performance, and the soothing influence of a symphony orchestra. But above all it has some of Spain’s most innovative tapas, served with a distinctive Sevillan flair.
Seville offers its visitors a delightful array of Iberian ham and sausages, seafood, and vegetables, with preparations aligned to most aspects of Mediterranean cuisine. Some bars experiment with fusion , while others stick to the basics of home-cooking. And with almost 3000 tapas bars, finding the right place to eat at Seville might end up being an experiment in chaos. Although one can be safely assured, that the outcome will not be disappointing.
Over the duration of our stay, our experiments were guided by conversations, guidebooks, blogs, the Queen of Tapas herself (more on her later), and my own distinct sense of intuition.
Chance encounter with Bodega Santa Cruz
While walking down the narrow lanes circling the cathedral, we came across Bodega Santa Cruz. A small crowded place with little space for seating was hardly welcoming, but we entered looking for a quick drink. The bar looked in need for some repair, and definitely a thorough cleanup. I ordered 3 cañas (small servings of beer, mostly Estrella Damm or Mahou) along with a plate of Jamón and Patatas Alioli. I had my struggles with Jamón throughout the trip and this place was no different. But the Patatas Alioli was perfect and a welcome break from its fried cousin Patatas Bravas. A simple recipe of boiled potatoes, garlic mayonnaise, and few simple herbs did its trick. A simple place with simple food, and complex conversations, Bodega Santa Cruz is something one shouldn’t miss at Seville.
Lonely Planet suckers visit Vineria San Telmo
Vineria San Telmo shows up as one of the top places on Lonely Planet. Given we were so engrossed in swiping pages, we finally thought of giving Lonely Planet’s food recommendations a chance.
The first dish was their famous skyscraper tapas- Tomatoes, Aubergine, Goat Cheese, and Smoked Salmon. The seasoning was minimal and the Goat cheese slightly tangy. The salmon was fresh, tomatoes juicy and the aubergines mildly cooked. I loved this preparation. In fact I realized during my trip that Aubergines featured heavily in cooking across Spain. They would have possibly arrived here in the age of the Moors, as it was introduced by Arabs to most of the world.
Another dish which we ordered at Vineria was this tapas of fried mushrooms with caramelized onions. This reminded me of the Mushrooms Amrita prepares with caramelized onions, although in a different format. These were mildly spiced and the mushrooms were crunchier. A lovely dish.
We also had creamy bulgur wheat with wild mushrooms & truffle oil and a cheese cake to top it all. At the end of the meal, I felt that buying the Lonely Planet and believing in its recommendation was totally worth it.
Lunch with The Queen of Tapas
I first came to know about Shawn (@sevillatapas) on Kalyan’s blog . I checked her blog and loved the amazing details she had shared on the Tapas bars of Seville. So I contacted her on Twitter and we decided to meetup for Lunch at La Azotea.
Shawn is from Canada but has made Seville her home. She conducts food walks for tourists and is also an English teacher. After hardly 10 minutes of meeting her, I could recognize her unconditional love for tapas and the city of Seville, all this along with a warm and friendly smile.
La Azotea was our first closed door meal after sometime, as we had mostly enjoyed our meals sitting outside (with sprinklers providing relief in the really hot summer). Although on a hot afternoon, sitting in A/C was much relaxing. Given I was travelling with two vegetarians, it was finally good to have Shawn for company. And the first dish we ordered was Tuna.
Two large fillets of Tuna (we ordered Ración- double the tapas serving) were neatly cooked with soy sauce and plated with a refreshing salad.
Both my friends ordered couple of huge servings of vegetarian dishes which I didn’t bother tasting, but they looked really good.
And then came the desserts, out of which the Ginger and Orange Custard with mint ice cream was one of the best ones we had during our trip.
La Azotea was a good experience but talking to Shawn was even better. She gave us an insight into the eating habits of locals and tourists, her preferences of the best tapas bars, and finally a set of recommendations on where to go next.
And the best place of them all
Our visit to Catalina was accidental. We had planned to visit the Vineria San Telmo and when we reached there in afternoon, it was closed. But Catalina next door was open. We sat and as usual first ordered our three glasses of beer.
At the bar was a young lady, with noticeable spectacles, tightly pulled back hair, and a firm demeanour. She walked us through the menu and we ordered quite a few gems.
Our first meal here comprised of the Aubergine, Cheese, Paprika special; Rice with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Oil, and Crema Catalina. The first one was something which we got used to during our stay at Seville, but this aubergine was better cooked and suited my taste. Rice with wild mushrooms had a risotto like texture and was my favourite rice dish on the trip (beating the most famous rice dish in Spain- Paella by quite some distance). Crema Catalina tasted brilliant in its simplicity and later influenced me to pick up a liquor with the same flavours.
Our second meal at Catalina consisted of quite a few of Mojitos. Of what I remember later was the taste of nice Chorizo sausage. And yes we tried their version on the tower dish (aubergine, goat cheese, veggie combo), again different from two earlier preparations, with a strong sweet sour taste.
By the way I also tried Gazpacho at Seville for the first time. I had never tried it earlier so I ordered some fried squids as backup. After the first few sips I started paying more attention to the squids. This cold soup didn’t cut any ice with me.
Of all the places I visited in Spain, Seville was the place I loved the most, and I will always recall Seville as a place where we had our first good meals in Spain.
We walked towards one of our favourite pubs in Bangalore, belting past the street vendors, groups of Bangalore college students, and recognizable bunches of software workers. Crossing Brigade Road was a routine affair on weekends, often accompanied by meeting a long lost friend, an unwanted encounter, or an unusual one (like meeting a person and not remembering his/her name). The lane on the right (while turning in from MG Road) was crowded as always, and the place had usual business sense one can associate with a Sunday afternoon.
My friend carried a puzzled look, quite surprised by my plan of action on this special day. I asked him to switch off his phone and just walk with me. He followed me to the end of road and then turned right with me.
We reached the doorsteps soon and entered the place. The purple hues and the dim lighting were on expected lines, the kind of lighting which makes even a dull-looking strangers attractive. Isn’t it strange how darkness can light people up?
The place was half empty, but given it was still afternoon it I considered it to be half full. We took a small side table, ordered some draught, peanuts, and some spicy close cousin of Gobhi Manchurian.
There were two rather simple rules to this day:
Pubs in Bangalore had a certain charm associated with them. Pecos served popcorn with beer, Legends of Rock had a decent ambience, Styx was loud with people screaming lyrics as if they had written it, and going to Nasa always raised a few eyebrows. All these places had certain common traits- abundance of software workers, scarcity of women (except Purple Haze), heavy Indo-Chinese influences in most of the finger food served, and fresh unadulterated draught beer (which I referred to as शुद्ध दानेदार ताज़ी beer).
Purple Haze had always been my favourite, for reasons unknown to me. Probably because it was the first pub I visited in Bangalore, with my first drink being a glass of Apple Juice!
As always one of the conversation topics between me and my friend was this quick analysis of Bangalore Pubs. It was followed with some usual discussions around girls, a debate on the best idlis in Bangalore, and sharing concerns around the amount of colour being added to Gobhi Manchurian.
A pitcher and few conversations later I finally got sometime to looked around. There was a beautiful, curly-haired girl in the seat opposite, her body stiff yet apparently moving with music. There were shades of purple rhythmically moving over her white top, with the dim light strangely complementing her dusky appearance. I asked my friend for his opinion. He sheepishly turned back to ogle at her, and then acting double smart to look around and suggest that this was just a routine turning around looking at the world act. Sometimes I wonder how all men (including me), can be that stupid?
He said he didn’t like her, which was perfectly fine. Over the years I have got used to people not agreeing to my opinions, and it probably gave me more of an impetus to walk up to her and talk. Talk, if it comes to that, I mostly end up on the winning side.
But then there was the guy. The guy who is always around whenever one thinks of approaching a girl. He is a protector, a taaweez (or Shani Suraksha Kawach) against evil eye, a brother or a boyfriend, and more often than not, just a friend. I thought this one belonged to the last category. It was quite evident. Difficult to prove, but evident.
I got up from my seat, walked pass her table to get a good look at the situation around, and walked towards the toilet. This was not a mere act, as drinking beer does put the bladder through decent level of exercise. I noticed something on their table, which was both disturbing and sad. They were carrying pencils and a paper.
I walked back to my seat where my friend had just gulped down the second pitcher. The freshness of draught beer had slowly started turning into stale burps and an increasing future probability of acidity. I sat down and recollected my thoughts.
I thought, what is more important- the rules or the girl? I knew my answer.
I left behind my somewhat sleepy friend, walked to her table and asked for her permission to join them. She smiled and agreed. Things were proceeding well and the guy was hardly visible or audible, probably lost in these purple shades.
We settled down with hardly any words being spoken. And before we could start the conversation, the girl says- “ So, how did your CAT go?”.
The rule had been broken. The first rule was not to discuss the special day. I felt disappointed. I got up and moved back to my table. She was talking, probably calling me, but I could hardly hear a word. Jim Morrison’s “The End” played in the background, and she was lost in the loud music, and in the purple shades.
This is a semi-fictionalized account of the events which transpired on Nov 18th, 2007. Someone has said that temptation is woman’s weapon and man’s excuse, and men are used to making excuses and breaking rules. Just a case in point.
I have learned over the years that when I make up my mind on something, it is very difficult to change it. It is extremely tough for me to displace deep rooted perceptions, especially when it comes to things I am enthusiastic about, such as politics, people, cricket, and food. But I know it is not impossible.
Consider bananas. As a kid I detested them. I remember having them once, and then getting into the vicious circle of vomiting everytime I consumed bananas. The fear of bananas would dominate the rest of my childhood and teenage years, with me skipping the coconut oil smelling wafers from Kerala, or the refreshing banana milk shakes made at home.
A couple of years back during my post-jaundice recovery cycles, I came across banana again. Used to spending significant time outside home over weekends, I faced the challenge of not eating anything outside home. Fruits in this case turned out to be my savior. Bored of apple, papaya, and pomegranate, and frustrated at the prospect of not eating mangoes for a complete season, I met banana again. But this time our encounter was pleasantly different. The mushiness of the fruit, its sweet starchiness reminiscent of a gooey aloo sheera (sweet prepared from mashed potatoes), and its distinct smell oozed flavors rather than the earlier nausea-inducing fumes.
I had embraced bananas.
And I realized that it is not that difficult to change your mind.
Consider brinjals or eggplants. I absolutely hated brinjals. Be it in curried form, roasted and mashed form (bharta), or the fried form (baigun bhaja). I didn’t know many kids around who loved it either. I would pick on the potatoes in the preparation and completely neglect the bhaja served with the durga pujo bhog.
But then a few years back on my visit to Anandvan (Baba Amte’s ashram near Chandrapaur), I was served a brownish-red curry of potatoes and brinjal. There was strong whiff of chilly in the air and one could have simply guessed the burning aftertaste of the dish. My love for chilies made me accept brinjals that day, and the relationship blossomed with plates of dohi-baigun, baigun bhaja, aloo-baingan, bharwa baingan, bharta, and baba ghanoush being consumed over the coming years. And yes I loved its flavors combining with a tangy, slightly ripened goat cheese on my recent trip to Spain.
I accepted brinjals too.
But can I ever accept pigs? I don’t think so.
As kids I always thought of pigs as the epitome of uncleanliness. There huge families walked in a neat file, often in not so neat surroundings. The grunts were unbearable, and so was there mere presence in the surrounding. I remember playing cricket during my summer vacations at either Jabalpur or Devas, some of our best shots hitting the pigs, resulting in weird noises and bonus runs. But the person who had hit the ball was always supposed to bring it back. Sometimes intelligent mammals (as told to us in Biology classes), sometimes cute (in movies such as Babe), and occasionally susceptible to human-like behavior (In the Orwellian world of Animal Farm), pigs were still nothing more than dirty creatures to me.
I always thought, for a moment I can probably leave aside my religious belief and eat beef, but I will never ever eat pig’s meat.
But I was wrong, at least for sometime.
I first tried bacon with eggs. The saltiness didn’t work for me. I tried some sausages. They were tasty, but still I couldn’t get the thought of pigs out of my head. I was hesitant in trying pork chops, goan sausages, and other piggy delicacies, as it was very difficult to get rid of those images of pigs rolling in filth.
On my trip to Spain I came across Jamón- dry cured ham from Spain. Given it is one of Spain’s most famous food items, I had to give it shot. I tried everything, from the regular cured ham coming from white pigs (serrano) to the acorn fed ibérico. Nothing ever worked. Be it with crackers, montaditos (Spanish mini sandwiches), or with eggs, it was a difficult barrier for me to overcome. The waxy shiny surface of Jamón strips, bubbling with droplets of fat were inviting, but then a bite through its chewy structure was always followed by a certain set of images. Although there were moments of affection spent in the company of chorizo sausages, I still didn’t feel any pleasure in eating pigs.
So will I ever embrace it? Might give it another chance. But will I learn to stop worrying? Never.
In addition to the ticket price one of the key factors which made me book a Turkish Airlines flight to Spain was the Tour Istanbul– a free day tour offered by the airlines to all its transit passengers (subject to some conditions related to transit time). And I can happily say, it was the right decision. I don’t think there could have been a better way of experiencing Istanbul, in such limited time.
After landing at the Istanbul airport, we were guided towards Passport Control, where after a simple police verification of Passport we were granted a Tourist Visa (USD 20 or EURO 15). All Indian citizens having an active Schengen / US visa can apply for a visa on arrival. We then walked towards the meeting point, where the Airlines staff wrote down our names and asked us to wait for the tour start time.
Our tour guide, Yaprak welcomed us and explained us the itinerary and plan for the next 6 hours. Elegantly dressed in a white top, she had the charm of a young student and the authority of a knowledgeable history teacher. Unable to pronounce her name, I kept calling her leaf (meaning of her name in Turkish). She provided us with stories and insights, which were both informative as well as enjoyable.
As I left airport on my first ride in Europe, the perfectly manicured roads, lack of people and abundance of discipline, and sparkling blue sea reminded me of my distance from Mumbai, both literally and hygienically.
Our first stop was the the Sultan Ahmed Mosque famously known as the Blue Mosque. The mosque was closed for prayers so we decided to grab some lunch. At this point on the trip we met Naresh, a fellow Indian on his way to Romania and a Kolkata-based family, an encounter which triggered a series of conversations praising Istanbul and wishing if things could have been better back home.
At lunch came the most heartbreaking part of the trip. They served us Köfte (Turkish meatballs, or simply beef kebabs). The last bits of Hinduism left in me denied me any indulgences, and I had to contend with a fava bean based veggie salad (which was very fresh) and some lightly cooked mushrooms and carrots. At this point I had already started missing masala back home. Dessert was Helva, a Turkish version of our sooji halwa, cooked in olive oil and garnished with pinenuts. I was talking to the staff, one of whom tried to act oversmart, walked towards me and whispered in my ear, this is Helva, Turkish Viagra. Boss if this is Viagara, then Pfizer should be Natthu Halwai!
After the meal we walked towards the Blue Mosque, considered a masterpiece of Ottoman style architecture. Although the shades of blue are not dominant till you enter, the countless numbers of tiles and beautifully arranged sequence of lamps inside the mosque tend to dominate the vision once you enter.
The blue mosque was followed by a visit to Hippodrome Square. The Hippodrome of Constantinople was built as a chariot-racing track when the Romans ruled Constantinople. As Yaprak narrated the tales of chariot races and the details of track layout, I couldn’t help but start imagining the classic chariot sequence of Ben Hur.
The next place we entered was the Basilica Cistern, a huge ancient water tank, one of many such in Istanbul. On this hot day, this place provided us a refreshing coolness and a sudden chill after watching the flipped head of Medusa. But it also gave us an opportunity to appreciate the utmost care taken by authorities to maintain and restore these ancient buildings.
We then walked towards Hagia Sophia Museum- a church, then a mosque, and then a museum. I had some bits of appreciation for Kemal Ataturk for resolving a disputed issue with such ease. But can reason triumph over religion so easily? Certainly not possible back home.
The structure wasn’t as brilliant as I had thought of. My expectations were heightened by the visuals of Skyfall (which my friends were hearing as Nightfall as I described the sequence, side effects of the sad Viagra joke I guess). Although it was a precursor of my trip to Spain, as I later came across similar structures which were inspired from both Christianity and Islam, triggering vivid imaginations of the Holy Wars, complicated definitions of secularism, and questions of religious coexistence.
Although we wanted to visit the Grand Bazaar to taste a few kebabs and do some shopping, we had to get back to airports. Before we boarded the bus we enjoyed some Ayran (Turkish variant of chaas, slightly thick buttermilk) and refreshing apple tea.
On the way back to airport in an open bus, I enjoyed the sparkling view of the sea, and promised myself that I will be back here. For the thoughts, for understanding this country better, for visiting the bazaars, and quite certainly for the kebabs.
The airlines offers two tour options (9 AM-6 PM) and (12 noon – 6 PM). The itinerary changes on a daily basis. You can reach out to Turkish Airlines for further details. All expenses related to museum entry, transport, and meal are covered.
Also if you are flying Turkish Airlines flight, do ask for Peynir during the meal (Turkish Cottage cheese), you will surely fall in love with it.
Pics from the camera of Nishant Dolia
I often come across people who hate cooking. I believe that cooking is a life skill, something as important as cleaning your wardrobes every week, maintaining personal hygiene, and ability to keep your home neat and clean. One of my life’s mission is to ensure that people overcome the mental barriers they have with respect to cooking, and start preparing some simple dishes.
This post is meant for all those people who never think twice before ordering a pizza on a day maid doesn’t arrive, or worst still boil a Maggi to break their hunger (I am a firm believer in having Maggi, only when I feel like having Maggi, not because of the lack of options).
Ok enough of lecturing, sharing a short and simple recipe of how to get your Poha (Flattened Rice) right, one of the easiest things one can start with. And yes, will start posting recipes of some simple dishes soon.
Step 1: Buying the right Poha
This is the most important step for getting your Poha right, don’t buy the very thick one (popular in Maharashtrian Poha, fried chiwda, or Avlakki Bhath in Karnataka), or the very thin one (used for making chiwda in Maharashtra). Buy something in between, but more towards the thinner side. Touch, feel and compare poha while buying, might help in judging the thickness.
Step 2: Soaking Poha
If buying the right Poha is 50% of the job, soaking it right makes your task 95% complete. In the picture I use a large strainer to soak it. Wash it nicely under running water, and drain out excess water. Another way is you wash it in a vessel, drain the water, and then place it over a clean cotton cloth (to help soak out excess moisture). Remember to drain out the excess moisture, otherwise you will get a mashy consistency.
Add some Red Chilli and Turmeric powder, some salt, and a pinch of sugar and keep it on the sides.
Step 3: Preparing Poha
Chop a large onion and some green chillies. You can add potatoes too but that will increase the cooking time. I anyway like my Poha to be Potato-Free. Keep some onion for garnish later.
I love adding peanuts to my Poha. The problem with peanuts is that if you add it in the normal cooking process, they tend to either under or overcook, which kills the fun while eating. I start with putting some oil in a pan and first frying the peanuts in it. Ensure that take out the peanuts at the right time (deep reddish brown in color). Add those peanuts to the same plate/strainer with soaked poha in it (to ensure that oil is not wasted).
Now add some jeera (cumin seeds) to oil and let it crack. Add onion and chillies and fry it for sometime on on low flame. Add a bit of salt as it helps release moisture out of onion and will facilitate its cooking. Lesser the oil, more the time and stirring required. But salt does help in quickening the process.
Once the onions change their colour, add the soaked poha and peanuts and mix it nicely. Use soft hands (as Dravid) to ensure minimal damage to the consistency of poha. More power you use, more the damage to the poha, and more the risk of it losing its shape and consistency.
Add some chopped coriander leaves, squeeze a bit of lemon juice, sprinkle a few drops of water, mix, and then cover it for 2 mins or so.
Step 4: Serving Poha
Once its done serve it with Sev (I use an Indori Double Laung, which is a thick spicy sev with lots of clove in it) and chopped onions. I also sprinkle a bit of Jeeravan (a much spicier version of chaat masala minus the sourness) over it.
Enjoy Poha, goes well with Jalebi and a hot cup of chai.
If you want to know more about Poha, Indore, and the things which make it so special read A Day in the life of Indori Jalebi.
Featured image from Google Images, other inline images from the cooking process in my kitchen.
It was the first week of monsoons in Kerala. The distinctive muddy scent of first rain had faded and given way to an imagery of vivid greens all around, which had started dominating my tired senses. Already 20 days into my travel, I was exhausted and a bit disappointed. But I ended up jaunting across the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. I was a bit frugal, a bit naughty, and a bit too easy on time. But in the end I was refreshed and ready for what lay ahead.
I was hosted at Kochi by my friend from college. After an evening which involved engaging conversations on Krishnadevraya and Southern dynasties over a few beers and banana wafers, I packed my bags and accompanied him next morning on his sales field visit to Kottayam. I had tweaked my itinerary a bit, as I had a sudden urge to revisit the backwaters of Kumarakom and Alleppy.
We stopped on the way and stuffed ourselves with some lovely appam and stew. I told to myself for the nth time, the vegetarian food in Kerala is so underrated.
My friend dropped me around 11 AM at the main square of Kottayam. The streets were busy, but still carried a eerie sense of calm, something so omnipresent in Kerala. Men jostled around wrapping their mundus almost flawlessly, women moved around hurriedly in semi-crisp saris with their long hair, oiled, slightly frizzled, and clawed perfectly in middle. People had a strong sheen on their body and face. Probably it was the high humidity levels, or it was the excess coconut oil dripping, or perhaps being in the literary capital of Kerala, the seat of Malayama Manorama and the first city with 100% literacy, it was the shine of knowledge.
I walked towards a bakery. A bakery is Kerala is much more than a mere bakery. Although one can’t beat their puffs or Sharjah milk shakes, bakeries represent much more than selling baked goods and a joint for leisure-time snacking. It’s a place for breakfast, for buying household items and groceries, a strong PoS for multinational consumer goods companies, a place which a working father visits every evening post work to buy sweets for his kids, and a place where retired folks execute their Kerala version of a Bengali adda.
I couldn’t resist having an egg puff and a Sharjah. The former a beautiful combination of boiled egg with caramelized onions inside a layered pastry, the latter a banana, dates, Horlicks-infused milkshake which will make you forget even our worst losses to Pakistan at Sharjah. Ok, probably not the Miandad sixer one.
I inquired about the bus to Kumarakom village and was immediately directed towards one across the road. I took the bus and got a comfortable seat. While I was busy clearing the small flaky remains of a thoroughly enjoyed egg puff of my t-shirt, I was shrugged off by a set of ladies to vacate the seat. I got up politely and then got lost in a series of nonsensical thoughts for rest of the 10-12 km journey.
I got down at Kumarakom town, just another one in the rather continuous series of never ending cities and towns in Kerala. Being densely populated, the state has evolved as series of habitations, in sharp contrast to the open agricultural spaces one is used to seeing across other parts of India. I strolled towards another bakery, sipped a tea, inquired a bit about the locality, and started walking.
The road towards Vemabanad lake slowly unravelled itself, the scenery evolved from a small residential town to a leading holiday destination, as the resorts grew in both number as well as size. Being a tourist-lean season one couldn’t see much activity around. I was now in desperate need of a conversation to drive my day forward, and so I entered one resort. And what followed was never planned for, it just happened.
I got a salute from the security guard, and a lot of steps later, a smile from the receptionist. I introduced myself as a HR of famous IT company, in search for good resort for my middle management outbound of around 150 people. Smile changed into happiness, it was like this rainfall after a tough hot summer, like a weekend after a tough week of work, or quite simply, the feeling of selling some rooms in the off-peak season.
Suddenly I saw activity all around me, staff started moving around, a Manager was called for, I was asked what would I like to drink, to which I quite egoistically replied, something alcoholic. I was handed over quite a neat menu, of which I happily picked up a Pinacolada.
In the mean time the manager came up, quite visibly just up from sleep. He started asking for my requirements which I kept generating on the fly. He then gave me tour of the resort, from the spa and pool, to the gardens and business centres. What caught my eye was the beautiful Vemabanad, what caught my ears the sound of raindrops plopping on the lake, what caught my nose was smell of freshness. Sorry, but the manager was just pure noise.
I spent sometime and then bid goodbye with the promise of sending them the plan. I had been a bit naughty today, but given the long trip, I think I deserved some pampering.
As soon as I left the resort and started walking towards the jetty, there was a sudden gush of rainfall. Initially I couldn’t find any shelter, but then a small home cum kirana store in between a sort of a plantation came to rescue. Aunty running the store offered me a cigarette, but I pleaded for a tea. Semi-wet and slightly shivery, I cupped the warm steel glass of tea tightly. There were a few duplicate Parle-G’s to dip, beautiful sound of the rainfall hitting the banana trees in the their plantation, and some sweet noise of the aunty chattering in Malayalam.
I thanked aunty for the tea, made payments which she refused to take. I offered to buy out her entire stock of cream biscuits (10-12 packs), to which she gleefully agreed. I got a pat on the back, some sweet chatter, and oodles of smile as a farewell gift.
I walked towards the Jetty, the sun had come out again, but clouds still lingered on waiting for the right moment to strike. I boarded the ferry to Muhamma Jetty. More than a year back I had paid INR 12,000 for browsing this lake on a houseboat, today I paid INR 12!
I distributed few biscuits on board. There were school kids, office goers, men and women on just another journey. Water transport is so unique for an outsider, so normal for a Keralaite, and its effective too. Infact the public transport system in Kerala is one of the best in the country. The journey went for around 35-40 mins. It was peaceful, with Vemabanad silently playing with clouds, people on board mostly in an afternoon siesta mode, broken by the clicking sound of my camera, and the persistent buzz of the boat. As soon as I reached Muhamma, it started raining again. I rushed for the bus stop and caught a bus to Alleppy.
Alleppy or Alappuzha is often compared to Venice, the entire area is a well connected network of canals leading to backwaters. The city was preparing for the upcoming Nehru Cup (Annual Snakeboat racing event), and there were 100s of posters all over the place. From politicians, to film stars, to jewelry brands. Vijay’s Jos Alukkas looked like a clear winner in terms of promotion, beating Mohan Lal’s Malabar Gold by a significant margin. I landed at Mullackal Road which seemed like the city center. Markets were busy selling bright and colorful stuff, things looked pretty chaotic. I had a sudden realization that I was still to have a full meal since morning. I consulted the traffic police guy, and suggested me KreamKorner.
I opted for a Sadya, and asked for additional egg curry on the side. The usual suspects- boiled rice, sambhar, rasam, and avial were present. The Kaalan (kadhi like preparation) and payasam were perfect. Egg curry was a bit of a disappointment, but combined with the papad and some lovely sun-dried stuffed chilies I washed down couple of heaps of rice. I walked out of the place- content, happy, and full.
A short walk, followed by a bus ride brought me back to Muhamma. In between I had picked up a couple of cans of beer for company, both poking out of my pockets, demanding attention. As I waited for the ferry at Muhamma (which it seems was delayed quite a bit) an uncle pointed out that the can was about to fall. I asked him whether he would like to have one? His agreement to this suggestion was reflected by a toothless smile. Both of us turned our backs towards other people, sat down and enjoyed our beers. I was looking at this:
Did I feel better now? Certainly. Will I do something like this again? Definitely.
Ok, probably no more of that HR roleplay.
Tried out Tripline, pretty good tool to animate maps. Here is a summary of my trip
Over the years Bill Woodfull’s famous expression from the Adelaide test of the now infamous 1933 Bodyline series has stood for everything unsportsmanlike. A game built on the traditions of British Raj, Cricket originated to represent everything true and honest. Incidents such as Bodyline in 30s, the underarm bowling incident orchestrated by Chappell brothers in 80s, or the match fixing episode of the late 90s tarnished this reputation. But this latest IPL fixing-betting scandal doesn’t fall in the same bracket, simply because IPL is not cricket.
As a cricket fan I was excited at the prospects of IPL starting. I still recall the image which appeared in newspapers on the launch day- Sharad Pawar and Lalit Modi revealing a neatly arranged assembly of iconic players (guess it was Sachin, Dada, Dravid, Kumble, Glenn McGrath, and Shane Warne). It had started as a knee-jerk reaction to ICL, which although being cornered to some dark corners of a Gurgaon stadium (Tau Devilal I presume) was generating enough excitement as a television product. My excitement was propelled by the prospects of watching some exciting Cricket, and yes T20 was still Cricket post that amazing 2007 World Cup victory.
I went for the IPL opener in Bangalore, and what a night it was. From the opening ceremony to McCullum’s amazing knock, Dravid leaving the ball outside the offstump (even in T20) to the eventual KKR victory. I was sold. At least for the first two seasons, and a good part of third. But then my relationship with IPL started souring.
My first issue with the IPL emerged due to pure cricketing reasons. Instead of bat and ball this more a show of strength, brain had been taken over by brawn, beauty by brashness. Logic was quickly becoming a tradable commodity, and the constant shuffling of players meant that emotions never cultivated their own space. Ross Taylor who had become more Banglorean than any of city’s IT imports moved franchise, Chennai and Mumbai always seemed to have their way, Shahrukh’s arrogant presence was getting irritating, everyone had forgotten the initial $9 mn salary cap, and as Guha mentions in his piece which appeared few days back on Cricinfo, the league never covered most of India. It was an affair dominated by the South and the West, and by the rich urban spaces.
In between all this, I stopped watching it after season 3, just to glance through the updates as there was enough of it all around me.
Through all this time I was always confused about why fans were spending so much of their time, energy, and money on this. Was I cynical, a bit arrogant, or was I right to ignore this?
Events which have transpired over the last few days make me a happy man, primarily because I am not sad at all. I am not attached to this. This is not Cricket, it can never be.
Can IPL ever replicate the tension of India’s 2011 World Cup Final; the thrill of Steyn bowling to Tendulkar during the Durban test; the heartbreak of the Klusner-Donald mix up; the insult of the Miandad sixer; the joy of West Indies winning the T20 World Cup; the disgust of the Cronje revelations; the generation-changing impact of Kapil Dev’s victory; the sheer domination of West Indies in 70s-80s and Australia in 90s-00s; the pure excitement of the 2005 Ashes series; the image of Imran Khan lifting the Crystal Trophy; the stomach churn experienced listening to Tony Grieg during the Desert Storm matches; the nonchalance of Benaud; the accidental humor of Inzamam; the righteousness of men like Woodfull, Gilchrist, and Dravid; the pain of watching Tendulkar in pain during the Chennai test against Pakistan; the political manoeuvring of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to get the India Pakistan series on track; the pleasure of reading Guha, CLR James, or modern works such as Rahul Bhattacharya’s Pundits from Pakistan; the delight of watching Pakistani Fast bowlers and the confusion over their actual age; the mystery over Bob Woolmer’s death; the legend of Don Bradman, Len Hutton, and Frank Worrell; the insights of Mihir Bose or Harsha Bhogle; the grace of a Gower or Ganguly stroke; the guile of Warne; the accuracy of McGrath; the fear of facing the West Indian pace attack; the purity of Lords or the certain suspicion of playing at Sharjah; the persistence of Vettori; and the pure joy of watching Cricket in stadiums.
No it can’t.
Englishmen laid the foundation of some great institutions like railways, civil services, and cricket, and Indians have taken control of all of them and driven them towards mistrust, lack of governance, and rampant corruption. Even the in days of Lord Harris administrators were strong, individualistic, and arrogant creatures, but they were never against the spirit of cricket and against the true values of this game. But the blame doesn’t lie with administrators and players alone, the cricket watching public is equally responsible for this moral rot.
When did we start celebrating the objectification of women over the insights of women writers like Sharda Ugra or Firdos Moonda, or TV journalists like Meha Bhardwaj or Sonal Chander? When did we start calling a sixer as a <<bank>> maximum? When did we start appreciating vulgarity over purity? When did we start appreciating paid, make-believe commentary box view over independent opinion? When did we start believing that this was cricket?
I think I was lost in this translation. I better be lost forever than be part of this cheap imitation of cricket.
As for administrators, players, and IPL fans they can begin by asking themselves what CLR James’s famous question from Beyond a Boundary–
What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?
Onto some real Cricket starting with Champions Trophy and then Ashes.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia
Over the past year or so nothing as intrigued me more than the appearance, sudden rise, and equally sudden demise of certain eateries in Mumbai. Places like the western suburbs of Bandra and Andheri have seen a sudden surge in the number of places opening up, with one of the key growth segments being that of stores specializing in desserts and confectioneries. As Antonie Lewis points out in his brilliant piece Mumbai’s extreme restaurants which appeared in HT Brunch few days back,
The sweetest section of the city
It’s 400050 or Bandra West.Burrp.com lists 86 eateries that either specialise in desserts, confectioneries, cakes or devote a substantial part of their menu to sweet affairs. From mithai to muffins, cookies to cupcakes, Bandra’s got most places to take care of your sugar fix.
I am assuming atleast of these 86 would have appeared in the year or two. Among these the most prominent category which is attracting equal attention of entrepreneurs, consumers, an investors alike is that of Frozen Yoghurt. According to Burrp there 9 exclusive Frozen Yoghurt shops in Bandra (with others such as Ci Gusta, Quiznos Sub, and Cuppa Joe also serving Frozen Yoghurt)*.
To be honest, I am not a big fan of the category. This frozen dessert with a pleasantly sharper flavour than ice-cream is usually served in berry or fruity flavors. The tart in the dessert is complimented with toppings ranging from crunchy nuts to fresh and canned fruits. It is obviously a healthier option than ice-cream with its lower fat content, but I am still to acquire a taste for it.
Personally I have been a big fan of yoghurt since my childhood. While as a kid the thick Kesar-infused Shrikhand or the aamrakhand (Mango Pulp mixed with Hung Yoghurt) captured my taste buds, I discovered the slightly softer matho with a variety of flavors and toppings in Gujarat. I have had the best matho at Surat but as one of my friend insists, nothing beats Rajkot in matho. One of my favorite flavors of matho back in Gujarat is the American Dry Fruit- a unique mix of chocolate chips, nuts and jelly whisked with a hung yoghurt (I feel matho has a slightly thinner consistency than Shrikhand, which means it has a relatively higher water content).
And then there is Mishti Doi, malaidar curd which is at its best when sweetened using Date Jaggary, a product popular from those earthen kulhads in Durga Pujas to Mother Dairy plastic cups on the Delhi University campus.
To understand the difference between these two distinct usages of yoghurt (eastern and western) one needs to understand the differences in culinary cultures. We as Indians (and lot of parts of Asia including the middle east) have been consuming yoghurt for a long time. But for the western world, Yoghurt was an alien concept. People hardly appreciated its sour flavors and it was difficult to get it. It first gained popularity during the hippie movement as simpler food habits were being encouraged as part of their communes. Later on some genius added sugar and fruits to the sour yoghurt and started marketing what we call “Flavored Yoghurt”. They sold it on promise of health and taste. With the growing consciousness towards healthier foods and emergence of functional foods, brands like Yakult and Danone became household names, and LactoBacillus, a bacteria which makes yoghurt what it is, was embraced for its perceived health benefits by millions around the world.
You can watch a detailed documentary on the emergence of this category (presented from the perspective of UK markets) and others here:
I haven’t got to read and watch much about Frozen Yoghurt’s origins, but the Wikipedia entry traces it to New England region in North East U.S.A.
Frozen yogurt was introduced in New England, north-east USA, in the 1970s as a soft serve dessert by H. P. Hood under the name Frogurt
So while the western world had to go through a series of manufacturing and marketing innovations to make yoghurt mainstream, we have always had it as part of our natural diet. And hence the opening of Frozen Yoghurt shops (and the stocking of Flavored Yoghurts pods in supermarkets) is slightly confusing.
Are companies trying to sell us a fancy concept, a new experience, a differentiated dessert or a functional food item?
I have been looking for answers myself. So when earlier this year I was at B-School in Mumbai helping a batch of students with their placement preparation, I thought of throwing the question to them. Here is a summary of the case study, with a structure to approach the problem, and few ideas from my end:
I don’t know if I have been able to solve the problem or make it simpler. All I know is that I will always prefer an American Dry Fruit Matho or a Kesar Shrikhand or a Mishti Doi over frozen yoghurt.
So FroYo makers, do you have anything better to offer?
*Specific input from Anuja Deora