M for Madras Cafe #AtoZChallenge

You can never go wrong with South Indian breakfasts. American and English breakfasts have their own charm but South Indian breakfast ensure one thing – a full tummy and that too a healthy one. Am calling this post Madras Cafe not just because I love the cafe on Dadar East but also it signifies all things South India in breakfast.

Being a South Indian by birth predisposes you to have idli, dosas, neer dosas, upmas, puri bhaji etc. And this you will probably get at a Udupi restaurant. But what you do get is the stuff that South Indian households make. 

At my home spring hoppers or appams are quite popularly. While neer dosas are quite regularly made, we also make tuppa dosas which very few South Indian joints make. A lot of homes make ‘Mutlin’ which is basically tempered rice powder with shredded coconut and eaten with spicy chutney or with chicken curry! There was a similar version of these rice balls that I ate at Coorg. Called kodambattus these cute little balls of rice are served with sambar. If you are lucky you might even get to eat these with pork….for breakfast. 

JSome other interesting breakfast options are Bhakris which are rice pancakes roasted on iron tawas, on a naked flame sometimes too. Best eaten with piping hot tea for breakfast or for high tea! My mum spices this up with some mutton curry.  Just too divine to describe. 

My dad’s standard breakfast is ‘sajjike bajile’ which is upma topped with spiced beaten rice with a sprinkling of sugar at times. The beaten rice or poha is sometimes mixed with jaggery which then lends this dish a sweet salty flavour. 

When I had gone to Kerala I had rice noodles steamed and served with egg curry for non vegetarians and black gram curry. Heartiest breakfast ever. We also make something similar in mangalore called rice sev and serve it for breakfast with sweetened coconut milk. Kerala is also famous for rice puttus which is rice flour mixed with coconut.

What you might have noticed in most South Indian breakfasts is the strong presence of rice and coconut, against most popular diet recommendations. Rice is not considered as healthy and a lot of dieticians ask you to skip rice from your meals. But the people who live and work in the places where these breakfasts originate from are seldom overweight and unhealthy. Maybe it’s worth then to reconsider the way we city dewellers reconsider the way we lead the rest of out lives than skip healthy and wholesome breakfasts like these. 

I might have missed some of these rice based breakfasts while mentioning some of what I have experienced. Love to hear your favourites!

L for lime, lemons, lemonade and vodka lemonade #AtoZchallenge 

When life hands you lemons they say make lemonade. I say add a dash of vodka and salt and make yourself vodka lemonade. I also say seek out lemons because there is nothing quite as refreshing as lime, lemons, lemonade and vodka lemonade.  

Lemons from my mum’s garden

This tangy fruit in all its forms in one of my favourite seasoning to add to my food or drink. Lemons are very adaptable and change the most mundane of foods to something exotic (ok that’s exaggerating a bit but you get what i mean).  Lime reminds me of several dishes and thus several memories.

Lime works best when you want to marinate your meats especially white meats. It breaks down the fat in the meat a and lends it a tangy flavor without destroying the original flavor of the food. I love marinating prawns with lemon. Pomfret tastes best when you add a dash of lime to the chili and salt marinade before you fry it. It also works wonders with Surmai (kingfish) and mackerels but when you squeeze it on the fried fish after you have fried them. Marination for these two is better when it’s with vinegar or atleast that’s how it was passed on to me by my mum. 


I also marinate my chicken in lemon juice before fry it. But if I want chicken to be softer it’s always better to marinate in masalas and yogurt and squeeze lime on it after you have fried it.  Lime reminds me distinctly of the fried chicken my mum makes. Recipe for this can be found here. Meat tastes best especially the one that is roasted on coal when you add a dash of spice. Lime on mutton kebabs, chicken legs, and roasted papad with onions and tomatoes  literally makes my mouth water as I write this. 

My erstwhile mother in law used a lot of lime in her daal. Yes. And boy did I love it. Khatta daal. Like the Gujaratis used to make it. She used to add a generous portion of peanuts to it. Funny lime also reminds me of her 😜 Should anyone know the recipe for Khatta daal please send it to me or comment on this blog. Lime also reminds me of the mutton chops I used to hate, that she used to make. Well of course I couldn’t tell her that cos my ex husband loved it, so lime used to come to the rescue and used to redeem the dish for me. Everytime.

Also what would bhel – sukkha or geela be without lime?  I cannot tolerate chillies as you might know by now. So the only way i enjoy my bhel would be to add a dash of lime, with an extra sprinkling of peanuts and an extra puri of course. Lime is an essential component of all Indian chaat dishes I suppose – mostly of those that don’t involved yogurt (dahi). 

The best use of lime is in its original form. As juice. Lime juice with a dash of rock salt can quench even the unquenchable thirst you can have on a hot summer day. Beats any kind of aerated drink you can have in this. I tasted this lovely concoction of coconut water mixed with sweetened lime water in hot hot Mangalore. Tasted like nirvana. And it was chilled. Ooooh. And what is the simplest alcoholic drink you can have with lime? Gin and tonic with a dash of … you guessed it… a slice of lime! My favourite though is vodka with a squeeze of lime juice. 

What are your lime stories? What does that one tangy fruit (or is is a vegetable) remind you of? Tell me more! 

K for kids treats – #AtoZchallenge

Summer is upon us and summer holidays for most kids. Parents are subjected to kids at home, hungry more often than not. Food at the right times is soon replaced by food every two hours.

When we were kids, my mum used to stock varieties of biscuits and chips to assuage our appetites. High in salt and sugar we ate them without peadtricians and doctors crying foul that we were given too much sugar or too much salt and that we would get hyperactive or run around in circles. Probably we already had so much activity in our lives that we would burn off everything we ate without the food causing much behavioral change. We used to even sneak off two to three bars of chocolates (yes bars!) which a lot of peads and parents alike would frown on now. Yes our teeth would rot, fall, tummies would get upset, and also get sick. But hey we ate anyway without supervision and no one so much as batted an eyelid.

Try doing this to your kids today and you are a horrible parent with no sense of what to feed your kids – chocolate bars are replaced by fruit, chips are replaced by ‘Makhna’, biscuits are replaced by saltless crackers and porridge (bleh). I feel for today’s generation. They don’t have half as much fun as we had as kids – loading up on carbs and sugar.

I did a quick whatsapp survey with my foodie friends on their childhood snacks, of what reminds them of their childhood and i got some interesting responses – written in true whatsapp style.

Mirchi Bhajiya – Deep friend chillies in batter, stuffed with potatoes, ‘besan’, mix vegetables. Hot and piping to be eaten with tea. More fun to eat during the summers.

Masala Maggi with lots of butter, and if you are fairly unlucky – with vegetables you had rather avoid as a kid

Bread Bonda: Bread roll deep friend stuffed with potatoes

Bread and Jam: lots of sweet jam

Parle G biscuits by the kilo

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Fryums! – How can one forget fryums

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Or Uncle Chips – which make your fingers red, laced with spicy tomato powder

Or Binaca Chips – (what is that though?)

Roadside tripe schezwan – red saucy with a generous helping of egg (oh lets go right now and eat…)

Peppy

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Cadbury’s Double Decker chocolate  (someone bring this beautiful chocolate back!)

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Pickwick biscuits – all flavours. but the chocolate was the best.

Ravalgaon toffees

Kismi toffees

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Phantom cigars

Chatar matar

“Mere liye Rasna”

Frooti and Appy still live on!

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Kissan Jam

Melody hai chocolatey

Poppins – has made a comeback

Gold Spot!

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Nutties!

What are your favourite treats as kids? Am i missing something in the list?

J for Japanese food #AtoZChallenge catch-up 

When you say Japanese food you think sushi. As a foodie I think I discovered sushi rather late in my life. And how i regret it. Imagine the amount of glorious sushi I would have eaten before I discovered it some 8 years back! So much was missed out considering the main ingredient of sushi is fish! 

I tasted sushi when I stopped over at Singapore on my way to Australia and I have the option of getting out into the city. My friend’s family took me to eat sushi in a fancy restaurants complete with miso soup and sake. And ever since I need to have my fix of sushi and sashimi once every few months. 

Often ramen, baos and dumplings are mistaken for Japanese food – because a lot of food in this cuisine has influence from China. Seafood and vegetable with sticky rice is staple but a lot of Japanese food now has meat – pork primarily. However in comparison to other cuisines worldwide Japanese uses the least amount of meat, oil and spice. Which is good news for me. 


The last time I encountered some really good sushi was at Shiro at Lower Parel. Fatty Bao comes a close second. Shiro has a sushi platter which I don’t know if any other mainstream restaurant offers. Sure the five star hotel restaurants do but this pricing is five star as well. When you do go to eat the Shiro sushi platter either go with a good appetite or go in larger numbers. 


Fatty Bao on the other hand has a limited variety of sushi but are also quite well made. Fatty Bao is the place I first tried the chasu ramen. More details about this soul food can be read here. When you are there do try their baos which are exceptional and their Japanese cheese cake. The only other place I had sashimi apart from what I had in Singapore was at Global Fusion at Bandra but was quite average in taste. It was a buffet and I don’t really trust sushi at buffets, kind of doubt the sushi’s freshness. 

What makes sushi enjoyable for me is the wasabi and the soy sauce mix. Someone taught me to mix the wasabi with the soy sauce so the wasabi heat doesn’t kill you. Apparently the pickled ginger slices also add flavor but I personally don’t like ginger. 

My favourite kind of sushi? Crabmeat sushi. Where do you find it? At Shiro of course. Any new places to eat sushi? Suggestions welcome!

I for Iranian Cafes #AtoZchallenge catch up 

Mumbai boasts of some of the most unusual and fancy restaurants in India. But no other city can probably beat the charm of Mumbai’s Iranian Cafes that dot the city from Bandra southwards. I have had some of my best breakfast moments at these cafes right from the time in encountered Bastani and Kayani on my way to St Xaviers college.

What sets these cafes apart are they are such an integral part of the city’s history – with little or no changes since the time they probably started shop. No nonsense attitude and house rules set them apart from other cafes and  that also lends them a charm of their own.

If I have to count some Iranian cafes and restaurants that I have gone to I can barely count them on my fingers. Maybe i haven’t been to all of them and someday i will. Here are some of them that i went to, all my favourites:

  • Koolar & Co: Located at Mumbai’s South India – Matunga East, this place is probably the only Parsi/ Iranian restaurant this side of town. Make sure you order the ‘rasberry’ and double egg. 12002248_10152980368601890_4433953007400303700_n
  • Stadium restaurant: This restaurant in Churchgate has a special place in my heart. It has memories linked to my day at college for post graduation.  They used to also have a cyber cafe attached to it which shut down a year after we graduated. So we used to go to the restaurant for print outs, followed by dinner or a snack. Their kheema pao is legendary and so is their caramel custard.1779244_10151861548511890_2142102602_n
  • Military Cafe: What do you when you have a meeting at Fort, and just 500 Rs in your pocket? Go to Military Cafe and treat yourself to a feast. This is one restaurant that serves you beer in the afternoon and is frequented by lawyers and business men in their expensive suits, all sitting on their rickety chairs and gorging on their salli boti. When at Military cafe, you need to book your caramel custard in advance.  The best things to eat here? Salli boti, kheema par eedu, chicken dhansak on days specified and of course chicken liver masala.1656363_10151861549246890_1956534391_n
  • Cafe Excelsior: Bang opposite New Excelsior, the cafe hasn’t changed in decades. The cinema hall has been revamped from what i have heard but not the cafe save for maybe a few additions of ‘Indian’ Chinese in the menu and some wall graffiti. What do you eat when you are here? Bun maska is staple but do indulge in their chicken cutlets.

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  • Kyani and Bastani: Why i am i calling out these two competing Iranian cafe’s in Marine Lines together? Because they are the first brush i had with Iranian cafes when at graduation college. While Kyani was more welcoming, it has its set of weird rules. Bastani only had rules. I never went there. Kyani was my go to place for chicken puffs, pound cakes and bun maska while going to college or back home. I think Bastani eventually shut shop. Kyani still lives on.

What are some of your favourites and where should i go next? No the new age Iranian  / pseudo-Iranian restaurants don’t count, only authentic ones will do. Let me know!

H for hot sauces and spices  #AtoZchallenge catch up 

Hot spices and sauces aren’t my best friends. I have a very low tolerance to chilies and hot spices in general, and so I end up avoiding them at most times.

There are however some instances where I give into the taste and flavor that they add to particular dish. And I swear that even though it is tough I brave my way through tears and eat every bit of the spicy food on offer.

One of the spiciest dishes I have eaten so far and stop short of calling a fire brigade to douse the fire in my mouth is at Pune where my cousin ordered chicken curry which was made Ratnagiri-style. I could taste no meat, I could taste no flavor just chilies all the way. And a truck load of them. Definitely did not enjoy it.

But then there are other dishes like the pandi curry in Coorg. The spice quotient is very high but it add such a personality to that dish, so much flavor – you will be sweating yourself out but you won’t stop eating the dish. That’s how delicious that is. Why do they make pork so spicy in Coorg? Their simple explanation is that it should not be eaten in large quantities because people have issues digesting it. Spice prevent people from over eating it. Traditionally that is the only meat dish that is spicy, the others don’t burn your taste buds as much as this one does.

I would say that this rule applies to a lot of meat dishes across cultures. The only place I have probably not eaten pork that is spicy is assamese cuisine. Mangalore and Goan food also has a fair amount of spice that is used in meat dishes. As against that their vegetables are cooked with minimal spice and a lot of coconut to probably offset be spice of the meat, when served as meal together.

Another spicy favourite of several spice lovers I know is goan chorizo. Steeped in vinegar the spices get more profoundly sharp and is best eaten with pao. You can then save your burning palate and stomach with King’s beer. And where is the best place to feast on this? Right next to a beach in Goa when the sun is setting at a distance into ocean. 🌴

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My favourite spicy dish though is fiery red Mangalore pork curry or better known as pork bafat. It tastes best when the masalas are ground at home. It is just spicy enough not to call a fire brigade and enough to give you a pleasant heartburn as you sleep soundly for three hours after a meal of pork and rice. Here is the recipe of the dish I love ❤️ and no you cannot take my papa to help you make it.

G for Gelato #AtoZchallenge catch-up 

Gelato is probably not a new craze anymore but there is a time where we used to go out for ice cream a lot but now we go to eat gelato 🙄. For all practical purposes and from the point of view of my 4 year old son, gelato is ice cream. It is cold, it is creamy and it is sweet so sorry gelato we are back to calling you ice cream. 

Even wiki says “Gelato is an English term for ice cream made in an Italian style. Gelato is made with a base of milk, cream, and sugar, and flavored with fruit and nut purees and other flavorings.”

Gelato has lesser air and less fat churned into it during the freezing process. All ice cream is more water and less milk while gelato is more milk, less water and less fat.

I tasted gelato over 7 years back when Gelato Italiano launched in India, roughly around 2011. Till then we had to make do with Vadilal who made ( and still does make) the creamiest vanilla ice cream and with Kwality Walls for their exotic cornettos. There were other favourite too like Naturals which made different exotic flavors like coconut and papaya which were unheard of then. 

One of the gelato brands – Mimi’s gourmet gelatos – handmade by Shubhi Goel, based in Mumbai, and I reviewed is here

Gelato however holds a special place for me this summer, because my son never quite enjoyed ice cream like he enjoyed his vanilla bean gelato at Bali. 

Gelato helped me create a lasting pleasant memory of time I spent with my little boy. He demanded that it be given to him in a waffle cone and not a cup. We sat in the hotel lobby and dedicated half an hour to savoring the gelato bit by bit. He didn’t want to share it with me but I ate it when he wasn’t looking 😜I had to save the ice cream from melting away right before he took the next bite! The gelato store owner too wasn’t to confident that we would be able to eat this piece of goodness between us, kept checking if we needed a cup to salvage the gelato from dripping and falling to the floor. But we did just fine. 

Here is a pic that will always remind me of my gelato memory with Aiden.