F(e)asting during Ramzan: A Bohri meal experience 

img_2654Did you know you eat lesser when you sit on the floor cross-legged to eat versus sitting at a dining table? Did you know that roasted garlic and chillies help you digest mutton and other heavy meals? Did you know that no morsel of food goes waste at a Bohri wedding and that the thaal is considered sacred, treated with reverence? Did you know that Ramzan fasts at a Bohri home are broken with a pinch of salt and Gol paani? Did you know that every Bohri home has their own signature dish?

I came to know all of this and more in my first elaborate experience of Bohri Iftaar by Farida of The Big Spread and organised by Authenticook.

Community eating at a Bohri home is a concept. The thaal or thaala as they refer to, comes in various sizes to serve a minimum of three eaters to a maximum of eight. Organised by Authenticook, we diners got a taste of how eating at a Bohri home would be – where the food is served in a thaal, to be eaten while being seated on the floor and eaten like the family eats – literally together. Fun fact: The thaal has its own birthday – celebrated during the new year.

Farida Kutianawala and her daughter Fatima hosts for the evening welcomed us with Gol Paani. This is essentially chilled jaggery water with a dash of lime and soaked chia seeds (sabja) – this is first thing Bohris drink after breaking their fast with salt. And this year’s Ramzan is longer since it has come about is summer – longer days, hotter days. A sip of the water can refresh you in seconds.

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Refreshing Gol paani pic courtesy: @ninadism (instagram)

Most meals end with a sweet dish. Bohri meals start with a sweet dish, followed by the savoury, interspersed with sweet and then savoury again, ending with a sweet dish.

The first course started with sweet malpuas and jalebis accompanied by fresh cream with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits. The malpuas were just right – not too sweet and definitely not dripping with oil – this is where home cooking takes it away and takes this dining experience to a whole new level. Did you know it is traditional to make the youngest member among the diners to serve salt before a meal to the rest?

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Malpuas and jalebis gave way to a plate of starters – bheja (goat brain) cutlets, chicken baida (egg) roti and mutton bhuma egg rolls. The bheja cutlets were my favourite – they literally melted in my mouth and tasted best among the three starters when eaten with the mint chutney (with a hint of sweetness). Didn’t ask for more for fear of not being able to eat the dishes that were to follow.

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Bheja cutlets, mutton rolls and chicken baida roti

When we were just about finishing this off, we got the only remotely vegetarian dish on the menu i.e salad which was essentially boondi and crispy patra raita with a topping of what faintly looked like pumpkin. I have only a fleeting memory of tasting this – as you can see i don’t care much for vegetables..


Sweet followed savoury – mango phirni which wasn’t in the menu that was shared with us but was welcome anyway. Served in earthen matkas this cut down the spice in the starters and prepared us for the next item on the menu which was Raan (leg of lamb)!


And what a lovely lovely dish that was. It made me want to go to their kitchen to ask how they make this wonderfully delicious leg of lamb. Truly the star of the meal, it got polished off in less than five minutes. The leg of lamb is marinated overnight in smoked spice paste, grilled in an oven, roasted on an open flame, further spiced and then slow cooked on steam in another special thaal.

By this time most of us diners were sprawled on the floor, spreading themselves out to expand their tummies because this didn’t end just yet.


Bir Soda came soon after together with Nalli Nihari and khamiri roti. Bir soda is essentially masala soda which is manufactured by Sosyo – which makes the original Sosyo drink. Bir soda is marketed exclusively in Bohri Mohalla and the sole purpose of the drink is to take down the Nalli Nihari neatly into your already bursting tummy. Khamiri roti and pao usually is served with paya in Bohri mohalla as a standalone meal but was included in the meal to give the diners a taste of iftaar while actually having to walk the streets of Mohammed Ali road in the sweltering heat.

Most thaals end with a Daal Chawal Palidu (commonly known as DCP in Bohri parlance) on normal days which is essentially rice cooked with daal and accompanied with palidu made of gram flour. I ate this sometime back at my Bohri friends’ home who i stayed with last night. In this thaal however, we got some nice lightly spiced jeera rice which helped us polish the delicious Nalli Nihari. The nihari was outstanding, and despite bursting at the seams, all the diners asked for a second helping!

Nalli Nihari was followed by Sheer Khurma. Warm and served in colourful jars this occupied even the tiniest portion that remained in our bursting tummies.

No Bohri meal is complete without Meetha paan. But most of the diners took it for the road. All of them needed a small walk to be able to even accommodate the paan in their stomachs. Those who had shoes with laces could barely bend over to tie them.  I needed a brisk walk to be able to clear my head – too much good food is like an intoxicant – you can’t think straight soon after.

Ambience: NA
Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5

Authenticook offers unique culinary experiences at the homes of its home-chefs. Experience India’s cultural diversity one meal at a time! The next meal in their schedule is a Kashmiri meal in Goregaon and a Parsi Bhonu in Bandra. Which one are you going to?

Food across neighbours

Scoutmytrip.com’s Co-founder Deepak Ananth‘s trip to Nepal was such an appetizing journey. Deepak recounts his experiences with food for us. Be part of this exciting journey and feast on this droolworthy food photos!

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Deepak Ananth, Founder, Scoutmytrip.com

Plenty has been written and talked about Indian food and its immediate neighbor, the quintessential Chinese cuisine. During my travel, I was made aware of a cuisine that is stuck bang in the middle of these 2 culinary giants. Nepal.

Ask the Nepali gentleman what they eat , the answer is pat- Daal Bhat and tarkari. What is there to write about this. The common dal, rice and steamed vegetables! So when we went to Kathmandu on a 9 day road trip from Delhi, we decided to experience as much food as we could along the way- in Lucknow and other parts of UP and Delhi. We didn’t expect too much of Nepal. Am I glad to be proved wrong.

The simplicity on the Nepali plate shouldn’t be mistaken for its lack of taste. The typical meal consists of a heap of rice, dal ( black and yellow variety) – extremely watery and a portion of saag. Either the spinach or a mix of various vegetables stewed in its own broth. What can be simpler? What sets the food apart are the accompaniments. The pickles.

Thali at Nepal

I am a spice junkie. So when the spicy tangy pickles came out, I was more than happy to sample mine and eat up my neighbours share. Lime, mixed veg, bamboo, mango, carrot, chillies, basically anything that can be fermented , will be fermented. Amazing stuff.

Then we were introduced to Chow Mein.  A simple fried rice or noodles, cooked in Chinese sauces, and vegetables. The non vegetarian has the option of having shredded chicken and egg liberally mixed into the dish. Topped with coriander or parsley to give the freshness that you generally don’t expect with this dish, A touch of the ‘Indianness’ that seems to permeate in Nepal.  Again, the red chilly chutney that accompanies the rice ( and strangely not the noodles) is the hero. Spicy and tangy, similar to the schezwan chutney you get in most places in India, but different in treatment.

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When you are this close to Tibet, the influence of the hearty food of this region cannot be amiss.  The thukpa bowl is delicious here. Plenty of veggies, carrots to cauliflowers to potatoes and onions simmered in a broth that is spicy and burns your throat when you take that first sip. Non veggies have shredded boiled chicken added into the bowl.

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Nepal is also famous for its Buff momos. Momos stuffed with buffalo meat. There are chicken and vegetarian options also. But for me the taste just falls a bit short of the authentic Tibetian fare or the completely Indianised version.

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Buff momos

One thing to look for is the rice or mullet wine that is made in most houses here. Called Raksi, this clear liquid is surprisingly close in taste to the Japanese Sake. With the same burning sensation when drunk and the lovely after taste , sort of a buttery , velvety taste in your mouth. This is a must try, if not for any thing else, try to see the traditional way of serving the raksi for its entertainment value. It is usually drunk in a small mud container, shaped like a diya or lamp that we use at home. The drink is poured from a great height with pinpoint accuracy into this small receptacle from a jug with a small spout. The accuracy of pouring accentuates the taste-  me thinks!

 

One different and new learning for me in Nepal was the Jimbu or jamboo (wasn’t able to get the name exactly right). From the onion family, the jimbu doesn’t taste as pungent as the onion , but has the same flavor palate and the leaves are used to give a similar flavor to the broth and the thukpa. The Jimbu is generally dried and served as a condiment along with the meal. I loved its subtle taste.

We were also asked to try the Sekuwa – a kind of kabab, in Nepal. But weren’t able to find places to get this authentically prepared. Made from pork, mutton, chicken and many a times a mixture of all of them and liberally spiced with herbs, this skewer is then roasted over an open flame of charcoals to get a rich and aromatic flavor. Like I said, our loss!

The sweets and desserts of Nepal are very similar to its indian cousins. The jerry is similar to the south Indian Jhangri, chocolate burfi and rosogolla is served everywhere. The other sweet that is saw being served at every meal was the pedha. Again very similar to the Indian version.

All in all, the simplicity of the ingredients in a land that is not known for its agricultural or culinary prowess surprised me no end. I will love to go back and see how different provinces have twisted the recipes to make it their own. Hopefully , I will get a chance to do this again. Till then —ramrari khanu hola” – Bon appetit!

 

E for eggs #AtoZChallenge catch-up 


Breakfast for me isn’t complete without eggs. I love eggs for breakfast and if there are eggs on the menu I would have breakfast for lunch and dinner too. Especially when I am at a restaurant that serves all day breakfast I make sure I either order eggs benedict or a frittata no matter what meal I am eating. 


I don’t know how to whip up good hollandaise sauce but my cousin Jason makes some great Eggs Benedict and this is how they turned out to be. Not a great pic but great hollandaise sauce which actually is the hallmark of a good eggs benedict. 


Home made frittata or a one dish dinner

Jason also taught me how to make a great version of a frittata. Baked egg is more like it. You whip up four eggs with milk, season with some salt and pepper and keep aside. 

In a warm deep pan, add cut vegetables and meat – the could well we left overs from the night before too. Add a bit of salt and pepper there too. Pour the egg and milk mixture into this and layer it with cheese slices. Cover and bake this / cook t over  a slow flame. Serve frittata with sauce. You can make a fancier version of this by not using left over veggies and meat and substituting it with broccoli, mushrooms, pepperoni and the like and layer it with Parmesan and mozarella as well -if you want this one dish to be the hero of your party. You could also add pre cooked elbow pasta to this and make it into a one pot dinner. Anyway you make it the eggs will complete your meal. 

Egg muffins


Another quick and easy dish that I make for breakfast is egg muffins. This I learnt from a video by Tasty on Facebook. This is quite a hit with my son too.

Beat six eggs and add salt and pepper to it . Keep aside. 

In a cupcake baking tray lined with oil or butter add baby tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, broccoli, ham, pepperoni, cheese in whichever combination you prefer. 

Pour the egg into the tray compartments covering the egg stuffings evenly. Bake at 200 deg celcius for 20 mins. 

Take the muffins out and eat hot with tomato ketchup or store it  to reheat and eat. This makes of excellent breakfast when you don’t have time to whip yourself an elaborate one every weekday. Very satisfying and healthy. 

Another egg dish that is worth a mention in this post is the Eggs Kejriwal. I have tried this at two mumbai restaurants (Soda bottle Openerwala and Bombay canteen) and no they aren’t named after Arvind Kejriwal but a certain General Kejriwal and are served in the manner he liked to eat his eggs. I leave it to you to decide which one is better. I have my favourite and it is for you to guess. 

Not so iconic anymore…

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An excellent bowl of hummus and pita bread at German Bakery, KP, Pune

Visited German bakery after almost a decade. From being an iconic location in Pune that you visited right after Osho ashram, this place has lost its charm, it’s service and some of its signature foods – like its multigrain breads, its savories..

What you get instead is an array of continental food and breakfast options. The food i agree continues to be excellent.

The service is so bad you want to leave immediately. Waiters are smug, not co-operative, don’t attend to you and don’t have a good understanding of the menu.A couple of times the waiter said nothing comes soon – pastas take 20 mins, mac and cheese also will take 20 mins…when i ordered hummus and pita that itself too 15 mins!

In fact it almost feels like they are waiting for you to leave. Sad to see an excellent place like this being run down by shoddy service. #sosad #terribleservice #goodfood #whatawaste

Dessert..

There are very few desserts that i actually love and this wonderful piece of ‘sondesh’ from Kolkata covered with dark chocolate literally lifted my spirits.  This marvellous piece of heaven is something very few people don’t know of. I have eaten sondesh which is a delicacy of Kolkata sitting here in Mumbai and never once visiting Kolkata. I have had numerous friends from West Bengal but none actually introduced me to the sweet. I don’t know where i learnt of ‘sondesh’ but i definitely know that it is a milk sweet. Eating this covered with dark chocolate and deceptively looking like a home made chocolate is one of the best ‘sweet’ memories i have.

And getting this on a particularly shitty work day…that is like experiencing sunshine after the rain!

 

Its about time!

Its about time i restarted my blog with a good food experience that i had after a very long time. It was awesome enough for me to document it in a post, albeit a racy, pacey and small one.

This one was at Palladium Social. My friend and me were out for our usual ‘detox lunch’ – detox from stress actually and lunch usually does the trick. We wanted to go to PaPaYa – too full and bustling with people and we had  no time to wait. So we quickly went next door to Palladium Social. Finding the door to the place was a challenge of sorts, you will know what i mean when you get there.

The ambiance as usual was quirky. Friendly staff took us to a table with a wobble first but quickly the menu had just changed to another. What intrigues me are the aluminium plates – so cute i always want to sneak one into my back.

We opted for what seemed safe and light on the tummy. Social never fails to please my tastebuds. This time i was floored with what we ordered – Kheema pao, BBQ chicken house fries (not light at all by any measure of the word but what the heck!) and the Nam noodle broth. The Nam Noodle Broth was what i liked best. The quantity was a bit much for us since we also had the Kheema Pao and BBQ Chicken…so i got the Nam Noodle Broth back home in a doggy bag. 

Must say that the Broth was filling enough for me at night since i had a long evening that left me famished. The Broth was a generous mix of chicken, vegetables, sprouts and noodles, perfect rejuvenation for a hot day. I bet it would taste better chilled.

Service was quick and easy, no ‘how was your meal madam?’ in the middle of our meal.

Must go back to Palladium Social to try out their Thai Thali and all day breakfast when I have some more time at hand.

 

 

Quick lunch at Borivali Biryani Centre (BBC)

Meera and i had a very quick lunch at the BBC today….Image

No not the British Broadcasting Centre but Borivali Biryani Centre. Actually no one would really think twice about eating in this place because it is known for its biryani. But frankly i don’t care much for their biryani because it is very spicy and has too much oil. But it is somehow famous for that so it kind of is the main item on their menu and people order just for that.

Now the quantity they give you is too much for one person to eat and taking a doggy bag of biryani isn’t quite appealing to me, for reasons stated about – it is too spicy. So thanks to Meera i tried their kheema ghotala with naan.

Now why thanks to Meera? Meera is vegetarian with a unique taste for food…she wanted to eat lachcha paratha and kulcha with raita. Being at BBC, surrounded by meats, i chose kheema ghotala over the limited choice of vegetarian food they had on menu – consisting mostly of mixed vegetables and paneer.

The ghotala was very well prepared actually. I was pleasantly surprised to find their naan very delicious too. There was too much oil in the ghotala (which i guess you cant escape) but really i liked how it tasted. And i did not mind doggy bagging it either. In fact the taste of the ghotala negated any negative comments that i want to actually make about the ambiance (including the crowd) and the service at the outlet. One other thing that probably will make me go there is the price – a meal for two cost us …wait for it…only Rs 400 🙂

So i have a new menu now when i am forced to eat at the BBC. Kheema Ghotala with Naan for the win!