Thursday, January 31, 2008
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
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.
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 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.The 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
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
I snuck up on my mom making lunch, and this is what I found:
Sunday, January 27, 2008
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.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
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
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
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
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
Thursday, January 17, 2008
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
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
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
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.
Friday, January 4, 2008
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.