Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bangalore, eating out in Sixties

When I was a little girl, in Bangalore, in the Sixties, my father often took us out to eat, mostly at Koshy's where I rejoiced in the high chairs onto which I was hoisted, the Malayalee waiters who addressed me as Geeda, the Chicken Mayonnaise which I ordered and remains unmatched in my memory for it’s yellow mustard tang. My sister rejoiced in her Russian Salad - when she was not being a total vegetarian and I somehow remember that we had to drive past a Christian graveyard. But what is for sure is that it was Koshy's that left us a family joke of waiters who clear away tables before you finish eating.

I do not remember where in Bangalore my mother was eating Rogan Josh when my father’s friend joked that she (who was very pregnant with me at that time) was surely going to have twins who would be named: Rogan and Josh. I do not know what Rogan means but I certainly can boast of having more than my share of Josh (liveliness) and, if I rightly recall, the famous Woodlands came into our lives towards the end of our stay in Bangalore - at least the celebrated paper dosa

It is interesting to see that Indian food came into my life later with the normal family meals being fried eggs, thick finger chips, canned fish, cheese toasts and the like - although I think that was basically it. I wonder if it is small wonder I always ran away from food at that age. 

I had not, you see, unlike my parents and sister, just returned from England and, thus, the charms of delicacies such as mashed potatoes or caramel custard still elude me. And Western food would have to be the Malayalee Chicken Mayonnaise or nothing. 

For all the honest efforts of my well meaning parents to convert me to what they must have considered “civilized” foods, I mainly cherish the memory of kesari bhath and another dish of rice that was savoury instead, from my childhood in Bangalore. Let me sweeten my sour words from above by recalling the amazing sweets of Bluebells, a sweet shop which was next to an antique shop at which my dad bought many beautiful Hindu curios – a bear which I have inherited (I hope I did not confiscate it) which represents Jambuvan
to me. 

Jambuvan was important to me as my dad used to allay my childish fears by telling me that Jambuvan was standing in the bushes outside in the garden to protect me. 

At the same shop he must have bought a little stone Hanuman which lay in the glove compartment of our Humber Hawk until the car was sold when we left for Pondicherry. 

There was also a kind of brass mini temple which housed a few of the gods who graced our make shift puja rooms. This one often caused cuts on the hands of whoever was saddled with the task of cleaning it. 

I seem to have digressed from pet pooja (tummy worship) to matters of which I shall write more elsewhere, namely what Hinduism means to me. But ramblings often lead to the right roads and so I shall end today’s pilgrimage to the past with an elegy to my mother’s prasadam for Satyanarayana Puja:
Suji(Semolina) - any decent amount such as a small cupful
Ghee (clarified butter) - since any amount is indecent, use sparingly as in, maybe a Tbsp? Or two
Sugar – to taste (ranging from half a cup or more to a couple of tsps) 
Raisins – ¼ cup
Chopped nuts (Cashew or almond) ¼ cup
Bananas – 1
Roast the suji in ghee until the aroma makes you faint. When you return from the hospital or to your senses, cool it a bit after you have also cooled down yourself. Add sugar and raisins and chopped nuts and bananas. If religious and conversant with rituals, perform the puja.

If not instantly perform the stomach worship ritual by eating it up. The recipes on-line seem to add milk which is not what mom did –so there!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going Bananas

The other day I gave in to the desire to eat pisang goreng (Malaysian banana fritters). There is a little stall opposite the Jusco side of Pearl Point where a lady, who looks like an illustration from a Russian fairy tale in her long sleeved long gown and scarf, sells various fritters (sweet potato too). The stall is decorated with several kinds of bananas.

However she is not per se a banana seller and so she was rather taken aback when I asked to buy one large banana.

After I had sufficiently wooed her and overcome her horror at my request, I also made so bold as to ask for 1RM worth of the sweetest variety.

The batch of pisang goreng that I bought was pretty good -sweet which is rather the exception here as I suppose the real sweet tooth lives only in India and the rest of the world can be wimpish when it comes to the sugar quotient of a dessert.

Now I must tell you that we have such a dish in India (Kerala) where it is called pazham pori (The recipes given online all contain sugar but that is not the way my sister-in-law made it so far as I remember. It was her preparation that I first tasted).

Growing up in South India, especially in Pondicherry, I was exposed to so many varieties of bananas. Alas! We were not so well off and I was too small to make my desires well known and so I did not, then, get the chance to taste the amazing range that I could see being sold on the roadsides.

And then I grew up and married a man from Kerala, the real place for going bananas in India. It is thus that I encountered the custom of having steamed banana for breakfast. The type of banana used for this is gigantic. This is chopped into large pieces and steamed in its skin and then eaten with Kerala poppadoms.

It is an amazing dish and, in our case, we added some carrot chutney as side dish to spice up things.

Below, a cute look at how it's made!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indian Vegetarian Chow Mein

Way back, when we were in Malaysia for some years, though we thoroughly enjoyed the food there, nostalgia sometimes dictated a meal of Indian Chinese.

My first taste of Chinese was in Hyderabad, way back in the Seventies. I recall some truly yummy Sweet and Sour.

Later, in Delhi, we had some delicious dishes at the Golden Dragon

So here's my recipe for Indian style Chinese noodles or Chow-Mein.


One packet Ching's Secret Hakka Veg Noodles.
About one cup each of vegetables like french beans and carrots, thinly sliced.
A couple of cloves of garlic and a small piece of fresh ginger, also thinly sliced.
Some dried red chillies (optional)
4 Tbsp Oil (or less!)
Salt to taste


Boil 8 -10 cups of water. Drop in the noodles and boil them for only 2 minutes.
The noodles should be al dente (slightly "kachcha").

Drain the noodles and run cold water over them in the strainer.
Keep them aside to cool and rub in 1 teaspoon of oil to prevent sticking.

Heat oil on a high flame. Add the chillies.
Add the vegetables and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
Take this out and add some more oil and lightly fry the noodles.
Combine them with the veggies and a dash of soy sauce and vinegar or be adventurous like me and use Chinese cooking wine and oyster sauce.
Add salt if you must.

A How To from YouTube:

Serve with Chilli Chicken (Featured in tomorrow's blog post!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Baingan ka Bhartha (Roasted eggplant dish)

1 round eggplant
2 medium sized onions
1 small tomato or half a large one
Green chillies to taste

A couple of cloves of garlic

Half the amount of fresh ginger
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp or less red chili powder
Salt to taste (Start with about 1/2 a teaspoon)
A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves

Take one medium eggplant and rub oil all over the skin. Roast it.

Dunk it in water 
to remove the burnt skin.
Finely chop onions.
Chop the tomato, ginger, garlic, green chillies 
and coriander leaves.
Heat about one tablespoon of oil in a pan
Splutter some cumin seeds. 
Add the onions and saute till translucent. 
Add the tomato, ginger, garlic... 
Add the green chillies and the turmeric and red chilli powder
Add the roasted and peeled eggplant. 
Mix well and cook for a second or two, mashing the eggplant well with the ladle.
Garnish with the fresh coriander leaves.
Serving suggestions:
With hot rice, chapatis, bread... My son used it to make a turkey breast sandwich!