Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food and Film

For a selection of great food moments on celluloid, see here.

At home in a five star?

Difficult to explain how I landed up at the Taj Mahal's Masala Kraft for lunch one day, but it was sheer lethargy that got me to agree with my companion and the waiter to opt for the vegetarian "Maharashtrian Tiffin" for a working lunch. I'm not Maharashtrian, but I've lived in the state for long enough to know what the food should taste like. So there we went.

I noticed the aesthetically done set up while I munched the complimentary papad assortment. Some time later, our meal was brought, little bowls hanging from a tree of sorts, and set up very painstakingly in front of us.
(Counterclockwise from bottom: rotis, varan, Bharili vangi, mix vegetably curry, batatachi bhaji)
The meal began with farsan (not in pic), which was actually part Gujarati - a piece each of dhokla (steamed cakes made with chickpea flour and tempered with mustard), aloowadi (layers of colocassia/arbi leaves alternated with a chickpea flour and spice paste, steamed, sliced and tempered) , Idada (similar to the dhokla, but white in colour, and made of urad dal), and kothimbir wadi (a cutlet made from chickpea flour, lots of spices and lots of corriander/kothimbir), which was the best of the lot.
The main course looked pretty small, but I was pretty full by the end of it. The Batatachi bhaji was simple, very similar to that which is found in maharashtrian households all over, and served usually with pooris. It's a simple enough dish to make - boiled potatoes tempered with turmeric powder and mustard seeds, and garnished with fresh coconut and corriander.
The mix vegetable curry (they had a name for it which is irrelevant) was quite odd, there was nothing maharashtrian about it, in fact, it tasted like a sour paneer butter masala with extra vegetables in it. Perhaps in another thali it would have been appealing (then again, maybe not), in a Maharashtrian tiffin, it was just an outsider. I could imagine a lot of Shiv Sainiks getting very upset about this inclusion.
The bharili vangi, one of my favourite dishes and made in several different ways all over Maharashtra, is a dish of little eggplants/brinjals which are slit till the stem and stuffed with a spice paste of corriander, cloves, chilli, and grated coconut or groundnut, and simmered in the same gravy. My companion, Lax, caught the goof up even though he's not an insider on Maharashtrian cuisine:
"Isn't there too much groundnut in this?"
Oh dear, yes. It tasted like an entire jar of Skippy's Chunky Peanut Butter had been emptied into the spice paste. I cringed.
My biggest grudge however was the bread accompaniment - we were served tandoori rotis, as opposed to the other options of a Maharashtrian meal - bhakris (rotis made of bajra/millet or jowar/sorghum flours), vade (pooris made of rice flour), or even poli (tava chapatis).
I ended my meal with the varan, which is toor dal cooked with very basic seasoning - cumin and asafoetida, and rice, and I was happy - the varan, topped with a teaspoon of ghee, was just the way it should be. A special mention also to the matka dahi which Lax insisted on.

For dessert, we were given the modak: a dumpling made from maida, which is filled with either chana dal or coconut and jaggery. The dumpling is then deep fried, or steamed. The modak came doused with ghee, but I was pained to find that the modak making had been obviously outsourced to the neighbouring chinese restaurant - the covering was thick and reminiscent of a steamed bun dim-sum. The coconut-jaggery stuffing was a little too dry. Lord Ganesha would not have been pleased at the Chef's interpretation of his favourite sweet dish.

At Rs. 1,100 plus taxes, it was certainly not worth it, except for learning that five star restaurants can really bungle up dishes which, ironically, a lot of staff members, and possibly the chef himself, must be eating at home every single day. I know a lot of people will ask me why the hell I went to a Taj Indian restaurant and not to the Chinese ones, which are much more preferred. Isn't there a reason why 5 star Indian cuisine, with the exception of maybe ITC's Bukhara, is looked down upon? Who exactly are we catering to?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Midnight Feast

I have walked around Chandni Chowk and Juma Masjid many times in my initial Dilli days. Captivated as a noodle-straps-and-khaki-shorts tourist. My romance-cells belching out loud in complete gratification. Over time, the sad decadence of Dalrymplesque Delhi became cliched.

And then in October last year, K and N took me on a midnight expedition in search of good food
and raat ki dilli. This was the time of ramzan, when Karim's serves nihari in the wee hours of the morning. Nihari is a beef/lamb/mutton stew cooked in tonnes of ghee, that forms the traditional food before the day's fast begins. Hence, three in the morning is the time that the Karim's begins
to serve it.

We got to the the Juma Masjid area at about twelve, and stopped at Moti Mahal in Daryaganj. Imagine an open-air mehfil setup from the Hindi movies of the 70s (where Amitabh breaks into song) and you would've pictured the outer gardens of Moti Mahal. Where Punjabi families
were still polishing dal makhni to the very Anup-Jalota-school rendition of Rafi numbers form the yesteryears. K suggested that we move inside to drown out
the mehfil and concentrate on food. And we seat ourselves inside, when K declares
that this is the place that first popularised the Great Dilli Butter Chicken.

So we order kababs, butter chicken and rotis. Besides the kababs melting in our mouths and the rotis and nans being delicious, we noticed crucially that the butter chicken tasted very very different from the familiar taste of butter chicken that we were used to. Other than being
superbly creamy and a quaint sweet-but-sour, I can't really explain how it tasted. So do try it when you get the opportunity.

We had two hours to kill between Moti Mahal and nihari. And butter chicken to push down our gullets to mete out appropriate welcome to nihari.

The walk to Juma Masjid around this time was to be a surprise. The galis flooded with people. Shopkeepers harking out wares. Multiple midnight markets. streamers running over our heads across the widths of galis. Women shopping for clothes. Young lads gorging at sweetshops.
Children looking around in complete bewilderment.

This was an overkill for my romance-tissues. High on the energies that brushed past me, I realised butter chicken had occupied considerable territory in my foodpipe when we entered Karim's. The hot stew arrived. Ghee dancing on top. This was no health food. And not for those that are wary
of heavy food. This was bravery food. And out of the world. Describing how food tastes is not my area of expertise. But will recommend it strongly to gallant foodies.

And the midnight markets abound in sweetmeat of all kinds. I not a hugely sweet person, but will recommend the pedas. The midnight walk completes the grub-expedition. Nourishing one with romance and extravanza of a fabled sort, over and above goat-brain, ghee, butter and chicken. An indulgence truly sinful.

Mera Pyar, Shalimar

Mutton (gosht) has always been the "special" food in our house. In my family, fish is a staple, and chicken, thanks to aggressive marketing and consumer friendly availability, is slowly becoming an everyday sort of thing. The elder generation of Saraswats, surprisingly, however, do not eat chicken but only eat mutton as an alternative to seafood. The rationale behind this is that while chickens peck at all sorts of unmentionable things on the ground, goats, who eat only grass and leaves, are a "purer" meat.

Good mutton, like all good food, is hard to find. Most meat connoisseurs will wholeheartedly endorse the joys of "Muslim" meat cuisine, and so, Bhendi Bazaar it is.
The excitement of the narrow lanes of Mohammad Ali Road and Bhendi Bazaar are completely missed thanks to the JJ flyover, which isn't such a bad thing considering the traffic situation in Mumbai. Still, a walk through the Mohammad Ali Road, especially during the late hours of a day during Ramzan, is a meat lover's delight. On Republic Day, the area was uncharacteristically subdued, except for the bustle around Shalimar Cold Drinks, a must visit for a carnivore in Mumbai.

Shalimar has very little to do with Cold Drinks. It's a mammoth three storey structure and is all about food, food and more food. We were made to wait for a table in a courtyard of sorts which had a water fountain surrounded by counters of sizzling meat it was quite like heaven.

Roomali rotis were being tossed, meat was being pounded on a tava into a thick gravy, and deeply marinated kebabs were being skewered. Finally, after much salivating, we were led to a table.

After the first few items we asked for were declared "khalaas" (including the Saturday special Dabba Gosht and a few kebabs), we managed to order seekh kebabs, bhuna gosht, gosht do piyaza and gosht masala. As you can see, we had a one point agenda. The Seekh Kebabs were well done with a generous helping of spices and pudina.

(Clockwise from lower left corner: Gosht Do Piyaza, Gosht Tava Masala, Bhuna Gosht and Dahi Kachumber)

When everything was brought to our table, I was apprehensive that the Do Piyaza and Tava Masala looked too similar. I was pleased to find out that appearances can be deceptive. The Masala was loaded with cardamom and cloves, while the taste of the spiced browned onion paste gave the Do Piyaza a unique taste. The Bhuna Gosht was meat in a thick onion-tomato-garam masala paste that clung to the meat. In every dish the meat was well cooked, yet tender, slipping off the bone easily and quite often, melting in your mouth. Along with the meat we enjoyed some dahi kachumber and some fluffy naans which were just right when made the way Naans should be - with eggs and sugar.

We rounded off with a sample of their desserts - soaked shahi tukda with cream, caramel custard and the "yahan ka famous" shalimar falooda. But the star of the show was the creamy and cold firni.

Shalimar also does sizzlers, chinese and chaats. They also have a nice selection for the vegetarians. Just so you know.

The Gravy Train

I love my mother's cooking,but i have always refused to take a dinner tiffin to eat on the train to bombay.Ever since my mom was made to sample dinner a la konkan kanya,she stopped even offering the tiffin.
The pantry service of the konkan railway is a real revolution in railway catering.Good food,lots of food,and cheap.When you board the train at about 6,you can sip your tea with batatawadas or onion pakodas that smell like heaven.
Around dinner,the options increase with fries,veg methi kababs and (gasp!)chicken lolipops.The fries are soggy,the lolipops OD on batter but the methi kababs have quite a fan following-a british lady once ate 3 plates of the kababs for dinner.You also have the option of tomato soup with a dainty breadstick.
Keep space for dinner.Today i braved a grumbling tummy and bird flu fears for the chicken thali.The chicken is melt in your mouth,the gravy is spiced with lots of onion,garlic and ginger paste and good ol garam masala.Most importantly,they get the trick to a great gravy right-the chicken is cooked in the gravy,not just boiled and thrown in.T
he thali has 6 compartments-2 for the chicken,one for 2 tough chapatis,one for slightly undercooked rice,one for sour pickle and one for even more sour curd.Cut them some slack,its the railways!The veg biriyani is outstanding too-long grained rice cooked till just right with crisp but cooked vegetables and a delicious spice paste with fried onions.The whole spices are not to be missed!I find the chicken in the biriyani too tough though my dad loves it.The veg thali is usually good but today when i peeped at my neighbours thali it looked like a whole lot of dal to me...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Indian Coffee House

Wikipedia tells us:

The India Coffee Houses were started by the Coffee Board in early 1940s, during British rule. In the mid 1950s the Board closed down the Coffee Houses, due to a policy change. The thrown-out workers then took over the branches, under the leadership of the communist leader A. K. Gopalan and renamed the network as Indian Coffee House. The first Indian Coffee Workers Co-Operative Society was founded in Bangalore on August 19, 1957. The first Indian Coffee House was opened in New Delhi on October 27, 1957. Gradually, the Indian Coffee House chain expanded across the country.

And about ICH and Kerala:

Kerala has the largest number of Indian Coffee Houses. Advocate T. K. Krishnan, a Communist Leader of Thrissur and Nadakkal (N. S.) Parameswaran Pillai, or "Coffee House Pillai" the State Secretary of the India Coffee Board Labour Union and a thrown-out employee of ICH were the founders of ICHs in Kerala. The first Indian Coffee House of Kerala was started in Thrissur in 1958. It was also the fourth ICH in the country. It was inaugurated by A. K. Gopalan on March 8, 1958.There is also an alternative history book about the ICH movement, in Malayalam, the regional language of Kerala - Coffee Housinte Katha or History of Coffee House by Nadaakkal Parameswaran Pillai. This is the only published written history of ICH movement in any language.

Most Indian Coffee House's look the same in the late afternoons - dim, and visited only by the pilgrim. There is little debate about their efficient service and amazing coffee.

But they don't look the same in a Barista/CCD/Costa sense. Most of them have associated with them, stories and myths of communists and writers and intellectuals and architects and stoners.

One of the stories, repeated but never really confirmed, concerns Booker winner Yann Martel who spent his time at the Napier Zoo in Thiruvananthapuram, watching animals while he researched the Life of Pi. Some parts of the book were apparently written in the Indian Coffee House located opposite the zoo.

The cheap food to munch with your coffee is a fringe benefit.

Something that I have never eaten in an ICH outside Kerala is the mutton omlette, quite simply an omlette that is rolled up to hide the filling of chopped fried mutton. It is by far my favourite food item at an ICH. But the one on M G Road in Bangalore is a great place to go for that slightly late Sunday breakfast when you want to eat scrambled eggs and mutton cutlets and dunk cold coffee till you burst.

If you intend to visit Thiruvantnhapuram, there a few of these Indian Coffee Houses to pick from. Twelve at the last count. One of them is located at the Thampanoor Bus Stand and is an architectural oddity. It is shaped like a spindle and a spiral runs inside, along the circumference of the building on which the tables await diners. Most people are sipping coffee at thirty degrees to the ground. As I said, quite odd.

Another spectacular one is located at Shangumugham Beach, and every table is sea-facing!

These photos are from a nondescript ICH near the University. In the basement of a shopping arcade where Pizza Corner occupies the prime spot.

When I am in Delhi and looking for cheap coffee and munchies, I recall the India Coffee House in Connaught Place, located on the roof of a tall building that overlooks Regal Cinema, and infested by monkeys. Sadly it has been shut down, and I do not think there is another that is quite the same in South Delhi.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pictures from a Goan Kitchen

I snuck up on my mom making lunch, and this is what I found:

An assortment of fried fish - the flat slices are Kingfish, Visvon or Surmai. The others are pieces of Kalli, a fih available in Mumbai as well - very bony but flavourful. The The Spice Paste used is deceptively simple - tumeric and chilli powder in equal quantities, and salt. After marinating the fish, they are dusted with Semolina and shallow fried.

Clams, or thisra, are one of the more popular shellfish in Goa. Here, they have been prepared with lightly fried onion, green chilli, freshly grated coconut and tamarind in sukke, which literally means "dry". The bigger brothers of the
clams, like mussels (shinanyo) and oysters (kalva) are also rava fried.

And the staple - fish curry rice, or sheeth humon. The base of a curry is coconut, ground to a paste with turmeric, pepppercorns, tamarind and chilli. Chopped onions are either fried or boiled till translucent, and then the paste is allowed to boil with the fish. This is prawn curry. Prawns in curry always come with sidekicks - raw mangoes, okra, starfruit - depending on the reason. Here, mom used drumsticks. Smaller prawns are supposed to lend a greater flavour to the curry.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

From the frying pan into the fire

My last installment on Goan restaurants, for now, and it's all about fried fish. Fried fish seems like the easiest thing to do, but its very tricky. You first have to get yourself a fresh fish, because even slightly stale fish stand out. The fish have to be cooked enough so that the crust is crunchy but the fish inside is not overdone. You can't overdo the spices also - because the taste of the fish should be discernible. Unless you are a true fish eater, it's difficult to understand that every fish has its own distinct taste and texture.

The quest for good fried fish brings me to two restaurants which should only be gone to for the fish. After all, this is not a blog about "ambience". :)

Kamalabai at Mapusa (left from the Hanuman Temple and a 5 minute drive, keep your eye out for the sign or ask any taxi driver) sees a good lunch crowd for the VFM Fish Curry Rice (Rs. 20). At night, it attracts a lot of drunkards. A good time is about 8pm. The owners of Kamalabai assure the freshest catch of the day - no surprise, as they themselves own a fishing trawler. It's a pilgrimage spot every time I come to Goa, this time, since it was already nearing 9, we chose to go to Alisha Bar and Restaurant. Alisha is closer to Panjim, located just across the Mandovi Bridge, opposite the Vidhan Sabha. Obviously, there are huge crowds during assembly time. But otherwise there is a flight of mud steps down and steps up to a verandah restaurant, from where there's is a beautiful view of Panjim.

And yes, some fancy looking prawns. These are with the shells and legs intact. I prefer it that way, though I'm sure you can get yours cleaned up. The prawns turned out a little tough.

I am told that red snapper (tamuso) isn't really high up on the priority list of most Goans. It's an uneconomical fish to buy wholesale, as it has a huge unusable abdominal portion. I am a great fan of its meaty taste. It tends to get very tough when fried but the guys at Alisha did a good job.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chicken Cafreal at Florentine

Chicken Cafreal, originated as Galinha (Frango) Piri-piri, a grilled bush dish from Mozambique. When the Portuguese came into contact with this, several changes were made to the dish when it was brought to another Portuguese colony, Goa. Galinha Cafreal had incorporated several Portuguese herbs, like Cilantro (coriander), and was no longer grilled but fried.

The best Cafreal in Goa can be found at a small restaurant called Florentine. Just keep driving down the CHOGM road, after Porvorim, just off NH 17, until you will see a large arch with the name "Villa Saligao". For years, this arch and resort have meant nothing but a landmark for Florentine, which is in a lane just to the left of Villa Saligao. Florentine is very basic, very local, and to get a table you actually have to go and tell the occupants of a table that you're next. Notwithstanding the care-a-damn attitude of the management, if you fancy an early dinner, get your table, ask for a beer and a half of their Chicken Cafreal.

(The pic in this plate is a quarter. I know it's messy but the waiter was in a hurry)

So what's so great about it? Everything. Cafreal is a mix of herbs and spices which produces a taste unlike any other flavour in Indian cuisine - it seems like a coriander chutney but it isn't. The Chicken in Florentine is shallow fried after intensive marination, and is cooked with the skin on, which contributes to the moistness of the chicken. The chicken has no gravy,just a hint of a sauce. Best eaten with Poli, if you really need it.

As an accompaniment, Dad loves the fried Bombil, or Bombay Duck. The Bombay Duck is actually a fish, and is actually a fish very high on water retention. When cut and drained (many people place heavy stones on the fish after salting it) and fried, it turns out nice and crispy, with fine, soft bones that you can swallow with ease. Am more a fan of the Bombil at Gajalee, though. But that's for another post.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cookbook Watch: Madhur Jaffrey

I have learnt the basics of cooking from my mother, by just watching her. But an autographed copy of the First edition of Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking is what introduced me to a world outside Goan Cooking. It's the real "dummies" guide, written basically for cooks who don't know much beyond Pot Roast, Pasta and Meat loaf. From the description of basic Indian spices, to basic techniques, to small details and helpful hints. I guess the best cookbook writers are not experts in themselves, but people who understand how complicated cooking seems arnd tries their best to simplify things for the reader. Wonderful stuff. My mom thinks that as Indians we should double the chilli content of each of her dishes, and I tend to agree. But if you asked me to choose only one recipie to follow, I'd keep her garam masala recipie.It's better than any packed stuff you can find. I grind the ingredients together and keep it in a air tight container and guard it with my heart and soul. A sprinkle makes even a bland dish wonderfully aromatic.
Here's the recipie:

1 tbsp Cardamom Seeds
1 2 inch stick Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Black Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Whole Cloves
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
1/4 th of a whole Nutmeg
Grind together, or use a mortar and pestle. But make sure you don't let any moisture near it. Steal a tupperware container from your mom to store it. It makes about 3-4 tbsp of powder.
Recently I chanced upon "Eastern Vegetarian Cooking" at a bookstore. When a Goan girl dates a Tam Brahm boy, she needs to know food beyond fish. I bought it solely on the great admiration I have for Madhur Jaffrey's style. And I was not disappointed!
This book gives you the best of regional Indian vegetarian cuisine, along with some fantastic veggie recipes from all over Asia. She's used a huge variety of vegetables - like Lotus Stems, Karela, Courgettes and asparagus, besides good ol' potato, eggplant, cauliflower and okra. The food's good enough for you to understand why some people choose to be vegetarian... kind of.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

At Live

At Live in Connaught Place is fast becoming a popular place in Delhi to have that expensive drink. A Long Island Iced Tea is priced close to Rs 400 and a pitcher of Kingfisher comes for close to Rs 500. And there is a good band playing most nights in an environment that is all about dim lights, bare walls, comfy couches, stainless steel ashtrays, and Godfather 3.

Food is generally okay, but can surprise you with excellence. Like that burger I ate.

Above is the Garlic Oriental Fish.

And here is that thing which has a name that is impossible to remember.

But the Thai red curry has to be praised.

A taste of Portugal

Post drinks at Ernesto's. head out to 31st January Road, behind the District Court, close to the Goa Tourism Complex. Hospedaria Venite has wooden balconies and quaint tables for two in each one, and it is THE most romantic restaurant in Panjim. The interiors are made up of wood, and the candles against the lantern lights make for a pretty dining experience. In the inner room, there’s graffiti on the walls right from the year 1974. If you look closely, you can find something I wrote. If you do, please inform me because I was drunk and I don’t remember where I wrote!
At Venite, order some wine, and have some of the wonderful Portuguese fare they have on offer. It is one of Goa’s few authentic Portuguese restaurants. They also have one of the best wine selections (outside of five stars, of course), not to mention fresh feni. You can enjoy a roast chicken, or a steak. They also have wonderful pan fried sea food – again, ask the waiter for his recommendations. Venite has some vegetarian fare as well, though to review that I think I’ll have to make a trip there again.
Unfortunately I’ve never had a romantic dinner at Venite, but a girl can still hope. Till then, I can only wish, and go back to Venite for the wine, the food and my lost graffiti.
Tip: Except for the Christmas-New Year period, Venite is closed on Sundays, as I found out day before yesterday.

The Goan Pub Hop

Another evening in Panjim? Enjoy your sunset at Dona Paula, and get to Panjim Square, near the Church. Make your way to Club Vasco Da Gama (ask around, people are very helpful) and to Ernesto’s, the closest Panjim has to a Pub. Ernesto is a young entrepreneur who is living the Goan dream – he is running this club and bringing a young face to Goan hospitality. Ernesto has wild headgear and snazzy dressing but other than that, he’s all business. It’s the best place for beer and good music. Ernesto has a great collection of 70’s and 80’s music and loves requests. If you are lucky to get a table in the window, you can enjoy the view of Panjim garden. Or, you could play foosball. No sophisticated drinks, but they have tonic water. I love Ernesto, but I don’t share the sentiment for the food there. If you want a nibble, the goan sausages (chorizo) are a good option. You can walk in any time of the day, and sometimes you can find people discussing everything from the stock market to football to law here. I've been guilty of the latter!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Viva Viva Panjim!

When it’s dinner time, one of the best restaurants to get the Goan experience is the heritage home of Linda Aunty. Linda D’Souza is the proprietor of Viva Panjim, behind the Mary Immaculate School, on 31st January Road. Its slightly off the road, a small lane off 31st January Road takes you to the cheery venue. A board on the main road will help you find your way. Linda Aunty is always smiling, and the waiters are always helpful. The service can sometimes be painfully slow, but if you’re in a hurry, there’s no point going there anyway. Avoid sitting in the AC room, the best place to sit is outside, under the stars. Order your drink, ask what’s the catch of the day and order it rava fried. Ask the waiter for a bowl of red chutney on the side, which is the rechado masala paste (pronounced reshaad). Rechado masala can also be smeared on your fish and then fried, which is also good, but I tend to think it ruins the taste of the fish. If you want to try rechado fry, ask for mackerels rechado. Mackerels, being oily fish, have a bit of an odour of their own which is masked quite well with the masala. If you aren’t used to eating fish, however, be wary about the mackerel because it’s a bit of an acquired taste.
When I’m at Viva Panjim, there’s nothing I like better than a vodka lime cordial and some fresh red snapper (tamuso) rava fried. You can also have the calamari (squid), white snapper (morso) and crabs. Fried crabs always seem to absorb too much oil and so I’m not a big fan. I prefer crab masala in a thick coconut-onion gravy.
This is usually enough for me, but if you want the whole hog, as a main course the Chicken Xacuti (pronounced Shakoothi) is spicy and delicious. Xacuti is the most popular of Goan gravies – roasted onion and coconut is pasted along with a generous helping of garlic, cloves, peppercorns and coriander seeds. The meat is then cooked in the paste – upon cooking, the paste becomes a darkish brown and acquires a thick, creamy texture on account of the coconut. Xacuti is made with Chicken, Mutton and in its vegetarian avatar with kabuli chana, masoor, or (my favourite) monsoon mushrooms (almi) is called Thonak. The best accompaniment to Xacuti is Unno or Pao, which are brought piping hot to your table at Viva Panjim, almost straight out of the oven. The meat doesn’t seem to have been cooked in the Xacuti paste and that’s my only grouse against it, really.
For the people with cast iron stomachs, you can try a Vindaloo. Vindaloo is traditionally made from a paste of red chilies and vinegar – the red chilies are set to soak in the vinegar overnight and are then pasted on a stone. Spicy is an understatement. Ask for less gravy because there’s no way you’re going to eat that spice paste anyway. Vindaloo is best had with rice and lots and lots of water.
There’s never any rush at Viva Panjim, it opens real early (about 6pm) for dinner and it’s a great place to chatter away with old friends or sip a beer while reading a book.

Fontainhas feedings

Fontainhas, Panjim, is one of my favourite spaces in Goa. Small roads go through a sleepy collection of houses, painted in deep bright colours. As you walk around the lanes and admire the Portuguese architecture, you can enjoy the breeze and even the sounds of violin and piano from the windows of diligent children doing their afternoon practice. You can stroll around for hours, enjoying the heritage and stopping at the church, and going up the hill to the Maruti temple.
On your way, near the Mary Immaculate School, you can have a choriz pao as a small snack. Chorizo, or the Goan sausage, is pork spiced with chilli, vinegar and garlic, and served with Goan crusty bread. As you walk around Goa, you might just have to make way for the Poder, or bread vendor, who rides around on a cycle and uses his horn to attract potential customers, stopping only at the sound of “hey, poder!” from the window. The Poder has three types of bread, largely – Pao, the bigger brother of the bread that’s used in Vada Paos, Unno, or the crusty buns, and Polis, which are thick Pita breads. The Choriz are fried and chopped into small pieces and the spicy tangy meat is stuffed into the Unno. The Choriz-pao guy sells his goods from what looks like a bhelpuri stall, so keep your eye out.
You can have a cup of coffee at Panjim Inn, at the balcony eatery on its first floor. The wooden floor, cane furniture and the shade provided by the surrounding trees lull you into a sense of absolute comfort. Order a pot of tea, or maybe a beer, curl up with a book and while away your time. It's also a great place for a late breakfast.

A star is born

The Food Watch Blog is proud to announce a new author on its roll. Ruma mostly divides her time between Bombay and Goa and like all of us, loves good food.

A taste of Goa

I am asked to write this blog when I am reclining in Goa, on holiday with my wisdom tooth. What better place to start writing a blog on food?

When in Goa, stick to Goan food and you shall never be disappointed. There are several places where you can get fare which is closer to home – whatever is home for you. There’s good Gujarati fare at Shravan and at Hotel Fidalgo in Panaji, both on 18th June Road, and Delhi Darbar in the heart of Panaji City cooks up mean kababs and butter chicken. If these look like appetizing options to you, don’t waste more time on this blog post.

Yes, Goa is all about sea food. And meat. The vegetarian food options are many, contrary to most notions. But to start with, my city – Panjim. I'll profile a few restaurants close to my heart - both for the memories and the great food. So Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Food fit for an emperor

I keep going back to Karim for a taste of the food whose secrets have been passed down for generations in a family that cooked for the Mughal emperors. After Bahadur Shah Zafar was deposed, the great grandfather of the current managing generation took to feeding the public outside the Jama Masjid, not very far away from where the restaurant is located today.
Alight the Metro at Chawri Bazaar Station and ask any rickshaw guy to take you there. You will pass through this tunnel, and at the other end is Wonderland.
Please do not come back from Karim without having tasted the sheekh kebabs.

The best naans in India? I don't know, but certainly the best ones I ever ate.

The chicken jehangiri.

And more stashed away delights.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More pictures from Angels in my Kitchen

Edit: Caramel cookies on the foreground and chocolate-chip ones behind. All cookies are priced lower than Rs. 20 each, and so it is something anyone can walk in and consume without thinking about it too much. When hot, they are all spectacular.

Moets Sizzler

Conti food does not excite me a lot, and it was no surprise when Moets Sizzler in Defence Colony left me unsatisified. I had their Special Sizzler.

The fish-and-chips (above) were no more than adequate for me, but my friend Chow seemed to enjoy it immensely.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Strawberries and Cream

Corner House is a Bangalore institution that grew roots and then grew branches. One of them is located inside the premises of the Airlines Hotel near Lavelle Road. Always worth heading there. Strawberries and Cream, during the winter months and Death by Chocolate at any other time. There is also a really, really thick chocolate milkshake, whose name I forget now. All wonderful.

Keema Meat

How I love the Amritsari Meatwalla.

Mr Narender's keema meat is spicy, soft and guaranteed to put you to sleep for you just cannot stop eating.

Very nondescript, you will find this place once you turn left after you pass under the Defence Colony flyover.

There is not a lot of things that you can eat here. The several printouts plastered all over the walls indicate four items - the Keema meat, Keema kaleji, Keema egg curry and Chicken biriyani - all priced between fifty and eighty rupees. Each roti comes at two rupees. The first three items have a generic keema-based gravy that comes out of this large bubbling pot.

The only problem is that you cannot set your watch by the timings. If you take his word for it, you can expect to be served lunch at half past one. I waited from two to three before I was served.

But pure desi ghee, Mr Narender claims. More photos of this place soon.

Edit: Mehra compared Mr Narender to the beloved soup Nazi on Seinfeld, the "guy who lays
down the law when he gives you soup". I had to agree. At 9:15 p.m., there were a few frayed nerves around that bubbling pot.

Seemed to be some kind of system in place, but whatever it was, its collapse was painfully evident. People wanted food. And they were being made to wait in a haze of the most amazing aroma of mutton being spiced. Several plates of keema kaleji and keema meat and stacks of rotis were being sent to what can best be described as an "eating area", but it was never enough. A Sardar feigned familiarity, another person threatened to get angry, but nothing worked. One just had to wait.

We had decided to get the food packed, and despite the chaos, we did not have to wait more than 25 minutes. At home, we attacked the keema meat and rotis. Not surprisingly, it was well worth it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The simple puttu

If you have never had puttu, make sure you do so before you die. It is a simple and common Malayali breakfast preparation, made from rice and coconut.

The puttu demands the same simplicity from the gravy dish that will go along with it. It can be served with kadalakkari, which is a spicy curry made from gram, and the kind of gram may vary. For a slightly "more special" breakfast, a chicken or mutton stew is more appropriate. For less special occasions, a banana and some sugar will do.

Both pictures feature the simple chicken and potatoes stew.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bennai Masala Dosa

The letters C.T.R are written in tiny script, next to the large Kannada lettering over the nondescript door. I cannot read the language but I have been told that the letters expand into Chennai Tiffin Rooms. It is another Malleswaram institution, serving up some unique breakfast. The crisp bennai (butter) masala dosa is very popular.
For all the ghee and butter involved, both Raghavendra Stores and CTR attract a fair number of morning exercisers.

Raghavendra Stores

Raghavendra Stores is located just outside Malleswaram Railway Station in Bangalore.

A favourite among morning walkers and others on their way to work, and some people without work, this place dishes up a mean idli-vada combo. Drenched in an excellent chutney, the consistency of which has been determined to precise perfection, there is even a dollop of butter on top if you like. The coffee too, as one might expect in Bangalore, is perfect for a day with a nip to the air.

There is no place to sit, but the boundary walls of the station will do.