Monthly Archives: February 2012

Annabelle

Someone that makes me very happy is my darling cat Annabelle. More than being my pet, she is my owner. She rules me with a steely glance. Like an indentured slave I do her bidding, but more than my life she rules my heart…rescued from a slum in Mumbai, she came to me as an emaciated little kitty. But by and by she gained strength and now she rules our home as if it were her singular fiefdom…here are some moods of Annabelle…

Annabelle as she came home for the first time

Annabelle doing what she does best - napping

The come hither look

Basking in the sun

I know I'm being photographed

Hunting mode

Paw Paws

Sleep

Darling!!!

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Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore – II

Here are a few more memories of my walk through Gandhi Bazaar…I just can’t get enough of this place. The smell of flowers intermingles with the smell of tulsi leaves, incense sticks and hot filter coffee. It smells like heaven and my childhood rolled into one… 😀

Doggy Nap

The dog and the flower seller

Banana Leaf seller

Doggy with a glass of tea

Fruit Market

Drishti Dolls

These dolls are called Drishti dolls and they are hung outside homes to keep away the evil eye.

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Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

Gandhi Bazaar is one of my favorite places to visit. Not only because it holds the superlative Vidhyarthi Bhavan but also because of its vibrant street market of fruit, vegetable and flower sellers. I don’t have anything else to say and would rather let the pictures do the talking.

Banana Leaf stall

Flower seller

Flower Market

Flower Seller

Multi colour roses

Red and green dyed roses

Papery Gomphrena flower Garlands for Shiva

Doggy nap time

Gandhi Bazaar

Lotus buds

Mango Mango Mango

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Delhi Belly – III

Trip to Jama Masjid

It was a cold cold night. One that set the mood for the kind of foodie debauchery I have seldom indulged in. But hey…it was fun!!!! The atmosphere was magical, the company was fantabulous and the food was great…so why complain.

This was the night we set out to Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi…Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1644 CE and completed in the year 1658 AD, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It lies at the origin of a very busy central street of Old Delhi, the Chawri Bazaar Road. And thats all the history I am going to indulge in…for I am more interested in the today where the cooks are busy and the food stalls are thronging with the hungry multitudes in search of some good food.

Sevaiyya and Rusk shop

Our first stop was a biriyani joint where the gentleman was selling Beef Dum Biriyani in huge metal vessels. To say that it was great is an understatement. There is something about hot, spicy biriyani and a cold night that warms the soul as nothing else does.

Bum Biriyani

Digging in

Next we stopped at a place selling fried chicken. The chicken was chopped, marinated and fried on the same table. The whole operation was carried out with surgical precision. Needless to say the results were drool worthy.

DFC

Delhi Fried Chicken - DFC!!!!

Digging in

Having eaten a good amount of spicy food we decided to cleanse our pallet with some sweet rabri. Basically a dish made of milk boiled till it thickens and flavoured with saffron and dried fruits. I do not exaggerate when I say it was the best rabri I had ever eaten.

Rabri @ Jama Masjid

Then we went along a labyrinth of narrow lanes in search of what people called Sutli (thread) Kebab. Finally, we located it in a narrow lane. We tried all the Kebabs on offer and had a moment of doubt as to the origins of the meat!!!! Sutli Kebab by the turned out to be a long kebab held together by a sutli and grilled.

Sutli Kebab

Then we went to the famous Karim’s and frankly I found the whole experience a bit disappointing. Perhaps having read so much about the wonder that was Karim, the reality of it could not live up to the hype.

Karim's

Food @ Karim's

After a meal at Karim’s we headed out onto the street to find a man selling Shahi Tukda. This a bread based desert made by frying slices of bread in ghee and then soaking it in sugar syrup and topped with a creamy custard, dried fruits and nuts. The Shahi Tukda was being served sizzling hot and is part of my list of most amazing food experiences ever.

Shahi Tukda

The trip to Jama Masjid that night was like something out of the Arabian Nights. Delhi is a very multi-faceted city with a blend of the modern and the traditional, the new and the old. To experience Old Delhi a trip to the Jama Masjid market is a must do.

Yellow Chicken Soup!!!

Fresh Naan from the Tandoor

One of the numerous meat shops

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The Biere Club

The Biere Club, Bangalore

On a holiday to Bangalore to visit my best friend Meena…and I was having a super great time. Great company, serpentine trips on nostalgia lane, giggle fests, shopping and some good natured bitching!!!!!  On one such day, a balmy afternoon we decided to do the Bangaluru thing and hit the pubs….

The Biere Club

First port of call was the Biere Club on Vittal Malayya Road. They call themselves Bangalores first craft brewery…craft brewery as in small brewery which produces quality beer in small quantities. I quote. They were established for the sole purpose of giving beer its due in our country…:-) They brew their own set of ale, lager, wheat and stout.

The menu

Anyway…after that little bit of general knowledge…let me get back to my introduction to the place. We went there as I said on a balmy afternoon…not being much of a beer drinker, I was not particularly enthusiastic about the plan, but Meena’s husband Raju’s (a beer aficionado if there ever was one) enthusiasm buoyed us all along.  So in we went into this tasteful done up joint and placed our order with a very pleasant and informative waiter. We choose to have a stout, a lager and a wheat (for the life of me I didn’t know that there was beer called wheat!!!!) Sorry for sounding like an ignoramus….we were told that they had herb flavoured wheat and being the adventurer I decided to try the Orange and coriander Belgium wheat. The bit of time between the order and the serve was spent looking over the brewery which is in full view right behind the bar!!! (which had me super excited!!!!).

Meena and Raju waiting

Our drinks arrived and my first sip had me hooked onto my wheat!!! can’t get over that!!! It was unlike any other beer I had tasted…though my repertoire is not very impressive. So we sipped our amazing beers in a casual yet stylish ambiance that set the tone for the rest of the evening….The Biere Club is a must visit joint for anyone in Bangalore.

The Special Mural

The good stuff

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Delhi Belly – II

The Delhi food orgy continued with further detailed explorations into the succulent nuances of street food. This time we went to the boisterous Chandni Chowk and had quite a gastronomic adventure.

Daulat ki Chaat

One of the most interesting dishes I tasted was the very famous “Daulat ki chaat ” . Available only in winters, though it is  rumored to be available in summers before 6 a.m. This is said to be a dish that originated from the Mughal kitchens. Made of light as air whipped cream and topped with caramelized nuts…it is easy to imagine some royal indulging in this delight.

Natraj @ Chandni Chowk

Aloo Tikki

We ate some amazing aloo tikki and Dahi Bhalla (the only  items on the menu) at the famous Natraj at Chandni Chowk. The food lived up to the reputation of the place with the crisp, tangy, hot Tikkis hitting the spot on a cold winter day. The luscious, creamy, soft dahi bhallas gave stiff competition to the tikkis.

Parathewalli Galli @ Chandni Chowk

Mirchi ka paratha

And how could one go to Chandni Chowk and not visit the famous Parathewalli galli. The place lived up to some of the hype. The crowd and the atmosphere definitely equaled my imagination, but the parathas themselves and the manner in which they were cooked was a big surprise. I had never imagined such a wide array of parathas cooked so fast and in a manner befitting a poori rather than a paratha. We had aloo, gobi, paneer and on recommendation – green chilly paratha’s. Having eaten our stomachs full we then proceeded to eat desert at a shop down the road. All in all the whole trip was tremendously successful.

Kulfi @ Chandni Chowk

The last thing we had a Chandni Chowk was the delightful Kulfi. Thickened milk laced with nuts, cardamom and saffron, frozen and served on a stick. I call it heaven on a stick. There is something that makes ice cream or in this case kulfi eaten in the dead of winter a very good experience. It surely was a great way to end a magical day of foodie exploration.

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Delhi Belly – I

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

After 11 years of visiting Delhi, I finally managed to take a tour of Delhi that I liked…A Foodie Tour… of all the roadside joints Delhi is famous for. And boy was it a tour…proof of how awesome it was can be found in the fact that it left me with a Delhi Belly…the literal rather than the connotative type.

Chole Bhatura at Bengal Sweets

Falooda Kulfi @ Bengal Sweets

The food comprised of all the possible goodies that one could imagine. From sweets, to samosas, from bhaturas to parathas. We ate them all. At Sarojini Nagar we had these amazing Moong Dal ke Pakodas. Its this crispy outside, soft inside pakoda which is served with grated radish and mint chutney. Truly great soul food.

Urad Dal Pakodas @ Sarojini Nagar

Urad Dal Pakodas

To top it off we stayed at my Sister in laws place and God bless her, she is a great cook. So if we got fed up of the Delhi type eats we came home to moist carrot cake with orange laced cream cheese icing, walnut cookies, dark, luscious brownies and Provencal stews.

Carrot cake with Orange Cream Cheese topping

Walnut cookies

The delights of Delhi were so many and so varied that to do it justice I have to spread it over a couple of posts…so look out for Part II of Delhi Belly

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Chai

Chai wallah

The chai-wallah (tea seller) is the most ubiquitous sight in India. You will find one in any part of the country. And the chai you get at the chai-wallah’s is like nothing you can conjure up at home. It could be the fact that they boil their chai much more than we do at home or the dust and the dirt combine to give the chai its taste. At any rate a potion of this strong cuppa can drive away the sleep and put a bounce back in the step.

Cutting Chai

Chai-wallah chai is usually made with anything between a 50-50 to a 25-75 proportion of milk to water. They use strong tea powder that is locally bought from the tea wholesaler. Most of them have their own individual blend of masalas that they put in their brew. These differ from ginger to cardamom and clove. Some even add tulsi (holy Basil) leaves. These masalas are ground fresh or stored in bottles and added when the tea reaches a boil.

fresh ginger and cardamom masala

The tea is served in small thick glasses with biscuits, rusk or khari. In bigger shops they may even have samosas, pakodas and pau. Other than the regional differences in chai, there is also chai that can be distinguished by the communities they belong to. So you have the Parsi tea which is eaten with brun-maska. Then you have Irani chai which is served in beautiful gold tipped glasses on dainty saucers. This is black tea with a dash of lemon straight from the samovar. Iranian tea of this kind is available in Mumbai and is served with a biscuit or a piece of cake. There is another Iranian tea which is popular in Andhra Pradesh. This is a water less tea or pani-kum-chai as it is called by the locals. A tea made purely out of milk and spiced with cardamom, this is a rich tea that is very popular, though quite unpalatable to a lactose intolerant stomach such as mine. Then you have cutting chai which is half a glass of tea and the one meter chai which is chai that is frothed by pouring it into the glass from a pot held a meter high.

Brun Maska

One meter chai

I have had road side chai at a variety of places…I have had South Indian sea side chai, and Kumaon mountain tea and Mumbai city tea and Marathwada goats milk tea. They all tasted different, but the thing they had in common was the warm, smiling chai wallah who doled out the glasses of tea with his own inimitable brand of wit blended with wisdom.

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Ingesting Insects

Thai Insect Snack Seller

When the family planned a trip to Thailand, I had two things on my agenda. Eat every thing no matter how exotic and pet a tiger. I managed the first and the second…well, it will have to wait for my next trip. Thai food by and large was fantastic. Spicy, coconut-y and fishy. All the things I like in food. But there are some memories about thai food that are more intense than others.

On our way out of the Walking Street in Pattaya, I came across a street vendor selling fried insects. On the menu were crickets (Jing Leed), silk worms, water bugs (Maeng Da), scorpions, grass hoppers (Tak Ga Tan), wood worms (Non Mai) and bamboo insects (Non Pai). It was a truly gut churning display. But I had decided to try everything and so try it I did. I took a plate with an assortment of crickets, scorpions, grass hoppers, silk worms and wood worms. The stall owner fried them in a wok and presented them to me after dusting them with some spices. And though I would like to say just how horrible it was to eat these critters, I must admit that they tasted quite nice. I would even have a bag of crickets on the go if I had another shot at it. The only insect that presented a challenge was the scorpion. Despite removing the tail and head, it was still a bit too crunchy and insect-y for ones liking.

The Eaten Scorpion

Further investigation revealed that the insects are cooked in a mix of Golden Mountain Sauce (Soya bean sauce, water, sugar and salt) and Thai pepper powder. I also found out that eating insects is not as weird as I thought it was. It seems it is quite a common snack in Africa as well as Central and South America – where they greatly prize edible flies and ant eggs. Insects are said to be very healthy being low in fat (Do I see a new celebrity diet fad coming ;-)), and high on protiens, iron and calcium. Also in the future insects maybe a viable food option as the cost of meats is going to increase hugely. There are plenty of people who encourage the eating of insects and an interesting article by Vincent M. Holt (1885) can be found at http://bugsandbeasts.com/whynoteatinsects/.

So I say, let go of your inhibitions and the next time you see a roach…don’t squish it – cook it!!!!!

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A Haat in Tuljapur

The crazy thing  about village markets is the amazing stuff you get there, and the absolutely mind boggling meld of smells, colours and textures that assail you. Its a 360 degree sensual experience. In my time I have been to my fair share of these markets. They are called Santha in some parts of South India and Haat in other parts of India. These markets happen on one or two particular days of the week and can be a delightful experience if you don’t mind sharing you space with a huge throng of humanity plus cattle, dogs, goats and chickens. One of the best haat’s I visited was in Tuljapur, Maharashtra. It had all the makings of brilliant market experience. Interesting people attired in bright clothing, a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains on sale along with an assortment of other things that were deemed important in the scheme of rural life.

A farmer at the Haat

 

The people were dressed in their traditional attire. There were men in Dhotis and bright pink turbans and women in navvari (nine yard) sarees.

Onion Sellers

The market sold a variety of things but a few of them were particularly interesting. for instance I came across an interesting arrangement of what initially looked like hand fans. On closer inspection I realized that they were actually brooms.

Brooms

And then there was the absolutely mouth watering bread lane. Here they were selling khari,  rusk, biscuits and a variety of other stuff. Most of these, especially the khari and the rusk are eaten dipped in hot tea. The whole lane was shaded by a yellow tarpaulin that cast the most beautiful light over all the brown and golden bread.

Bread Market

One of the more interesting things I came across was the ladies selling dried fish. Dried fish is very popular in the coastal areas of India and can be cooked in a variety of ways. To start with the fish has to be thoroughly washed to remove any trace of the sand and stones that get attached to it during its preparation period (fish is often salted and dried on road sides and sea shores). So washing the dried fish is essential. Not only does this clean the fish, but it also removes the excessive salt used in preserving the fish. Once the fish is washed it can been cooked in one of two ways. Either made into a spicy curry of tamarind juice, red chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds or fried along with a whole lot of onions and curry leaves as an accompaniment to a dal or rasam and rice.

Dried Fish

Dried fish as the name suggests is not only fish, but also shrimp and prawns. Usually sardines and mackerel as well as Bombay Duck lend themselves to being dried.

The haat at Tuljapur was delightful. It left me with so many memories of food and people.

Vegetable cart

 

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