Friday, November 25, 2016

Demonetization Strikes On My Birthday: Budget Eating In And Around Amigo Plaza, Colva, Goa

It was my birthday and we were in Goa for a day or two of lazing around.

November 8, 2016, will be outstanding in the memory of many Indians! That night, it was announced on TV that one could no longer use Rs. 500 or 1000 notes!

 As it is we were pretty broke and I needed to find budget places to eat and enjoy.

Fresh fish above all!

I had surfed loads of restaurant reviews to find where's best, which one would suit us. Amigo Plaza, where we were booked, had a lot of eateries very nearby, according to Google Maps.

It was afternoon when we reached. We first walked across the road to a little tea shop and had a decent chai for some Rs.10 each. Then, we set out to explore and it was very exciting to see all the places I had noted online! 

The famous Leda which was too expensive for us and many other such fancy places are to the left of the little road from Amigo Plaza. Most of these places cater to the Russians.

All over the place you see Russians of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and more, dedicatedly "enjoying"  a beach vacation. And I was much reminded of Soviet posters one saw as a child and of a hilarious comedy film I watched as a child.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Nibble At The Seagull, Mattancherry@F&B

Last year when I visited Mattancherry I was alone. It was something of an adventure for me as I went there alone by bus. I crossed the railway tracks from the Amrita Hospital and, asking around, I caught a bus to the Marina. It was unbelievably cheap and I was also told that there are more comfortable buses, also very reasonably priced. Alas, it's a little hard to ask around and get such relevant information.  
"The Orange Bus are low floored and air conditioned. They are comfortable and cost Rs 10 for first 5 km and then Rs 2 for every km. The Yellow Buses are non air conditioned low floor buses. They link almost all the suburbs to the city centre and are ideal for budget travellers. "
It was mainly to enjoy the ferry that day.

 I ate at a very humble place, a very reasonably priced meal. I can't say it was memorable but neither do I feel that I would get anything I would really like in a fancier place. That's just fussy old me!

However, this time, we were told about The Seagull

Monday, September 26, 2016

Satvic Food, Kochi, August 2016

Though I appreciate all kinds of world foods and have realised that tastes are formed early on and by many individual factors, I tend to most relish Indian vegetarian food, especially the South Indian variety. Even in this narrow definition there is diversity as the foods of Andhra or Karnataka are quite different from those of Tamil Nadu or Kerala. 

By and large the cuisine of Kerala is equated with seafood delicacies and, in the mood of the present times, with a particular kind of meat. And it is true that these preparations are often quite tasty, albeit with high chilli quotient. 

In contrast, it is rare to find samples of benign "home food" type meals in restaurants. Thus, I was lucky to get to eat at the Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, Kochi. The food is tasty, simple yet always diverse in content. The one steady factor is the superb amla pickle.

Compared to the 80s when I used to visit Kerala frequently, the variety and quantity and quality of vegetables has increased. The brown things in the foreground are called elephant-foot yam

Gourds of various kinds are also popularly used in the cuisine of Kerala. 

While, once upon a time, bananas were almost the only fruit served at the average home in Kerala, today fruit stalls line the roads and routinely offer exotic varieties such as the hairy red rambutan you see in the front row.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Breakfast and Coffee at Pune Airport, August 8, 2016

Most often I prefer to pack food for a travel, given my tummy woes. Those picnic meals have been delightful!

However, this time round, our gas cylinder ran out and the spare cylinder insisted on leaking.

I was quite grateful as it prevented me from embarking on a wild cooking spree. 

And so it was that the first thing we did on reaching Pune airport was to head for the new restaurant: Sugardough.

The place is quite nice but the food (idli, vada) was quite indifferent.

The decor is cheerful enough and it's quite relaxing to sit around there with a group of friends and chat the time of day away as some Air Asia staff were doing.

Service is slow though there seem to be enough people to handle the work. You can get all the very same stuff you see all over the airport - nothing new or unique to Sugardough.

I'm always tempted to buy something out of the above kind of offerings but am worried that I'll be paying more.

After breakfast, we checked in and then it was time for some coffee. Not too bad but how delightful it would be to be able to have some Indian filter coffee. Why can't we have an Indian Coffee House at every airport in India?

So far, Pune airport has not proved itself much in terms of F&B.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Bit Of Neither Here Nor There about Food Films From Here And There

At one time, folks used to say that eating scenes characterised Bengali films. We explained it away with the infamous famines. This was in the Seventies.

In the Eighties, I observed some very prominent focus on eating in Tamil films - including songs that highlighted food somehow.
This is a song about leftover rice and some fish curry. At one point, the heroine, in fact, mimes the gestures of grinding the masalas. 

Yet, for all the food related names, even Bollywood, with its Cheeni Kum and Lunch Box, has not given us a food centric film. 
There are several Hollywood names on lists. But I can't remember one where food is the real star. 

Whereas French cinema has plenty. Do try and get your hands on L'aile Ou La Cuisse for I can only give you a teaser of things to come 

However, it was only when I found the Korean Let's Eat - you can watch a trailer here -  and Fermentation Family that I could claim that there really existed films where food hogged the limelight. The Koreans have a host of films and dramas revolving around food.

But it's only when I ventured into Japanese that I found food a star! I've already drooled over Tampopo but almost every Japanese film or drama I've seen, especially of late, has a thing with food, from the cutest Bento Boxes to an almost obligatory scene involving talking with your mouth full. 

Quite a few of them are exquisite experiences and I recommend Little Forest: Summer and Autumn but in the meantime here's a music video from Little Forest: Winter and Spring

I would really like to know if you have any favourite food film, especially if it's from a region I have not covered here - please do let me know in the comments section.

I leave you with a trailer for one of my all time favourite food films from Japan.

And, of course, there are bound to be books on the subject!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cafe Maroo, Aundh, Pune

Long ago, when I was a girl, the most exotic one could find, in a restaurant in India, was Indian Chinese or some dubious example of Western cuisine. 

Now, Indians  throng to Thai, Iranian and Korean restaurants as a matter of course.

Much before I first tasted Korean I was in love with Korean dramas. However my first visit to Cafe Maroo was much before I came across the Korean food genre dramas. 

The wonderful person who took me there was not much into K drama either.

Thus I don't remember what I ate and it did not leave a great impression on me.

Somewhere around the time I was watching Let's Eat 

I was blessed with the friendship of three Korean ladies and that was how I visited Cafe Maroo again.

A decor designed to make you want to linger, a serene place to sit alone or with friends and savour some Maroo Kimbab or Bulgogi!

I'm planning to try to make some Korean at home one of these days, going for something simple to begin with like a Pajeon.

Or I should just plan another trip to Cafe Maroo...

A bit on the pricey side, Cafe Maroo has its regulars and is a must visit Korean eatery nicely placed in Aundh.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Kubera Garden Restaurant, Pune - A For Ambience

At one time, my son was ever eager to visit cheap bars/pubs... And I had the opportunity to visit at least some in our early days in Pune. The most "atmospheric" of these was one at Parihar Chowk!

Having often seen the place, I was quite excited when we visited Kubera Garden one afternoon for some beer and a late lunch.

I have no particular memories of the place and I'm posting this entry because, when we passed it recently, it looked a bit refurbished - at least on the outside.

The inside is quite quaint. "Art Work" decorates some walls.

Booze Posters adorn the rest of the view while sundry cats wander desultory in search of scraps.

I can't say much about the cost as Pune is anyway expensive so far as booze goes.

The place was not crowded but that might have been because it was not the right time.

The food was not so bad but not memorable.

Looks like we had Masala Pappad and Banjara Kebabs.

Such places are fun if one goes in a large group and is not fussy but otherwise one wonders how and why they exist.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An Iftar Dinner at Imdadi, Pune

I was introduced to some exquisite Indian Muslim cuisine in Delhi in the late eighties. We sometimes got some lovely fluffy rotis and fiery curries from a place in Malviya Nagar. Everything was ridiculously cheap. Unfortunately, when we visited that gully, in 2010, the taste factor had dipped considerably and this is probably due to the many people from other countries in that locality. 

I've also had the good fortune to have once tasted some divine Iftar fare, home cooked, brought over to our place in South Delhi all the way from Old Delhi by a friend of my husband.  I think there was brain and, while I'm normally loathe to eat anything but legs or ribs at the most, I found it utterly delicious. We also got a taste of the famous and fabulous Nehari sometime in those days.

It was thus a major thrill for me when my daughter-in-law invited me to dinner out at Imdadi

Even the fact that the rain had decided to grace Pune properly that evening could not dampen our enthusiasm, especially as it was highly rated on Pune Eats Out.

It seemed fairly easy to locate on a smartphone as we wended our way wetly via traffic and past the most delightful old buildings.

We reached there in time.

Humble exterior but cheerfully bedecked
 Even before we entered I spotted goodies, various snacks, to the left. Inside, also, to the left, were more tempting eats. 

I'm really not sure what the red stuff is
A man sitting on a low table to our right was selling plastic coupons. It is using these that one orders. We found us a table after gawking at the yummy sheekh kebab set up to our left.

Sadly, even with the three of us sharing dishes, we had no space left for these
Straight ahead lay the promise of yummy desserts. Firnis and Faloodas and more...

I noticed, later, some who just went there and ate cut fruit - which is the way quite a few Muslims break the fast
We sat ourselves down and browsed the menu which I sadly forgot to photograph! You can see a selection of what was on offer on the banners in the picture below.

Small though the menu, it's tough to choose out of the yummy choices
We finally settled on a Korma, a dry meat dish, a biryani and some rotis.

Fiery fare and sinfully greasy but the meat was melt in your mouth tender and the flavours blissful
We also ordered a mince stuffed roti which went nicely, dipped into the hot gravy.

Flaky and crisp and generously stuffed with keema
And then there was just enough room in our tummies to share the sweet dishes.

Firni and Falooda
The firni was light on sweetness and a gentle end to rich food while the falooda had generous chunks of melon.

It was exquisite and absolute torture to walk out past all that we had not tasted.

Samosas and wicked whatnots
I wish all my Muslim friends in India and elsewhere and all Muslims around the world a most wonderful and blessed fasting period and a Very Happy Id in advance! I cherish fond memories of good Muslim friends in Malaysia especially as India is, sadly, still rather segregated though that this, thankfully, rapidly changing with the young. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

F&B@Dona Paula, Panjim, Goa

    We were on a short 4 day trip and I look forwards to a longer visit to Dona Paula.

     At Ocean Suite, the free breakfast comprises bread, butter, jam, honey, tea (first class elaichi chai!), coffee and juice besides three other things made to order. The lounge cum dining area overlooks the sea from one window/balcony and the swimming pool from the other. There are more than enough fans and it's mostly nice and airy.

The made-to-order breakfasts comprise: poha, which we did not get around to having, given our upma day

The Upma is good but the Aloo Paratha is divine!
which was not too bad at all except that the Aloo Paratha we chose to have on the first day smelled so good while it was being made and tasted so good when it finally arrived to grace our table and was so exquisitely light that we over ate to the tune of some 2-3 each. Very unheard of for us and yet they digested easy, the darlings!

With the achardahi and a good cup of chai, it was bliss!

Fatima, the wonderful lady who runs Ocean Suite, offered omelets and, if my partner and I had better appetites, we'd surely have tried one of those.

At Ocean Suite you can order in and your meal will be served to you at the dining table. a very sensible arrangement which helps keep your room clean and I loathe seeing dirty dishes outside hotel rooms.

Fatima offers you menus of nearby eateries and recommends places. So we chose to try one. We had a prawn curry and rice for a reasonable cost but the place was not as good as the one we ended up ordering from most nights at about a little over Rs. 200 - we basically ordered for one as we're small eaters.

On the 8th we rode out on a little Pleasure bike we'd rented and found a cute little bar.

  Unfortunately, I can't decide which road it was on. On the same road there is a church which might be on the Dr Jack de Sequeira Road. We had a fine time at this place, enjoying two small fenis with soda and the fine company (humble but warm hearted people). One of them pointed us down the road for a good fish thali.

It's really sad that my photo does not have the name of the place! 

We also had a lunch at the fairly famous Kismoor - oysters and beer and Goan bread.

We had a couple of fenis at George where we went to have Vindaloo but as fate would have it that will remain pending till we take another trip there.

We also had a marvellous dinner with some young friends and that was perhaps the best experience of all!

Having been in Palolem too, I feel that Panjim is the better place for things gastronomic. 

Even saying Au Revoir to Goa was satisfying in a culinary manner of speaking as the Madgaon Railway Station has a fairly good restaurant.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sambar - For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner

My mother being North Indian, the sambar we had at home was probably not the real thing. But what is real sambar

It's a dish made with a dal, some vegetables and some tamarind pulp. When everything is cooked, the dish is tempered with some mustard seeds, a couple of dried red chillies and some curry leaves. 
A sambar is served at breakfast with idlis, dosas or vadas.  
The sambar is the brown soupy thing in the bowls.
For lunch, in most South Indian States, a sambar is an almost must with rice, a dry vegetable dish, some pappadums, pickles and some dahi
Can you spot the sambar?
I've learned that sambar and other sour dishes are avoided at dinner but that might just be in Kerala or, perhaps, only practised in some households. 

Whilst travelling in the South, we discovered that restaurants rarely serve "meals" at night. Folks there now seem to prefer snack food for dinner. 

Traditionally, in Kerala, for example, kanji was popular.  

For a long time, I'd assumed that sambar was only ever made with arhar dal, although I've often used masoor dal. Masoor dal sambar is faster to cook and, perhaps, more nutritious and easier to digest. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Don't Cry Over Split Milk - Part II

Sweet Tooth India is notorious for it's desserts. The humble Rasgulla is my personal favourite. It's a spongy white ball which has soaked up some syrup. Given my preference for it, I've tried to make it over the years and always failed. Everyone told me it's easy but it was not - everything went wrong.
They were divine!
The Internet Saves The Day The other day, a batch of milk I'd boiled the day before and kept in the fridge, split. Undaunted by previous failures, I surfed the Net and found two recipes I could work with: TIPS AND TRICKS TO MAKE FABULOUS ROSHOGOLLA/RASGULLA and Rasgulla recipe (Homemade rasgulla recipe).
This batch didn't split so good but, even then, the rasgullas came out fine! 
I think washing the paneer did some good. Although it's mentioned that it's used to remove the taste of the lime used to split it, it also works to soften the paneer and to remove any unwanted tastes or odours.
The other tip that was worthwhile was about the syrup and time of boiling.
Making my rasgullas was way easier than shown in the video but the young man is very cute! I'm so proud of myself and that's one more thing off my bucket list.
Keep visiting for more recipes, cookery tips, restaurant reviews and more!
Coming soon: Rasmalai!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Don't Cry Over Split Milk - Part I

In India, many of us still boil milk, even when it's delivered to us in plastic packets labelled 'Pasteurised'. Since most regions of India are pretty hot for most of the year, milk tends to turn. Once boiled, it is safe for most of the day but needs to be refrigerated if kept for a longer period. Come summer, vile curses erupt from sundry Indian kitchens as folks discover the milk has split.

I've had so much "Waste not, want not" dinned into me that I tend to try and make use of all leftovers and such. Thus I've had a long struggle to find a way with whey. For, when milk curdles, it leaves whey. 

Now, if you don't catch the split milk soon, it tends to smell disgusting and is no longer fit for experiments. Ways with whey that I'm going to reveal are best undertaken if you catch the milk in time, when it's just turned or begun to. 

Alternatively, and that is much wiser, curdle your milk on purpose to be on the safe side. 
Anyway, once the milk is split and you've boiled it for a bit, you'll see that the solids have separated out from the whey. While the solids can be used for all sorts of dishes, not everyone might care for the taste of the whey. 

There are a number of ways to use up the whey, but I finally found what suits me. I turned it into soup. 
Well, my soup was more or less made that way. 
Whey Tomato Carrot Soup
1-2 tomatoes
1 carrot
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic or less
1 green chili pepper
A few pepper corns
A small bunch of coriander leaves
1 bay leaf or tejpatta
11/2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 Tbsp refined flour
About half a litre of whey

Lightly saute the chopped vegetables, pepper and bay leaf in one tablespoon of butter/oil. Bring them to a boil and cook until soft in the whey. Alternatively pressure cook them in a container in a pressure cooker, without water (of course you have to add water in the body of the cooker and stand your container with vegetables in it). I'd say just give them a couple of whistles or cook for 5 minutes or less after the cooker hisses.

When cool, blend the solids in a blender. Add to the whey and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly so that it doesn't curdle. 

Add salt somewhere along the way. It's better to add with caution.

Heat the rest of the butter/oil gently and add the flour.  Saute lightly for about a minute. Pour in the soup, little by little, stirring frequently to blend well.

Serve with a dash of cream and garnish with a leaf of mint. 

I presume you know how to make your croutons!
I just heat up a batch of oil in a deep pan and deep fry cubes of bread. 

Stay tuned for Part II where I show you how to make my favourite sweet, rasagulla, with the solids left over from splitting the milk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Discovering Maharashtrian Cuisine in Pune

No, Maharashtrian cuisine is not that exotic as the above snap suggests. The poster has since been removed. Someone must have seen me click it. But, jokes and snakes apart, it lists at least some of the popular snacks this side of India: Sabudana Wada, Sabudana Khichdi, Poha, Vada Pav, and Misal Pav.

I was lucky to have Vaishali whom I inherited from my landlady when I first moved to Pune. 
Vaishali makes methi parathas
Vaishali pampered me with all manner of Maharashtrian delicacies. We feasted on her bharli vangi or stuffed brinjals. For those who live outside India, Spices of India has a recipe that might be easier to try.

We also drooled over her methi parathas with which she always served a satanic red chutney, dry in texture and crunchy. 

Of course, we can't all have Vaishali at our beck and call and so God created 96K for those who with carnivorous cravings and Shreyas for those of a more herbivorous persuasion.  

A small sample of the 96 K spread

I'm afraid I can't really rave about either place but that's mostly because I have a tiny appetite and bad digestion. With a group of hearty eaters, both places are ideal to introduce an outsider to Maharashtrian cuisine.

However, none of the restaurants provided half the wonders that Vaishali could whip up and I salute that excellent being, the Maharashtrian Bai!

Bai is a marvellous term for woman. All women are Bai. Some Bais can work as maid/cook for other Bais.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Thrissur@10 Restaurants

 If I stay at a hotel, I look forwards to the free breakfast but, sometimes, it's not such a memorable experience. In fact, our research on the Internet, prior to our visit, had warned us that this would be the case at Elite Hotel. Nevertheless, we had at least one breakfast and one dinner there.

The ambience is not bad at all but, somehow, Syamantak does not attract too many diners.

I chose a Poori Bhaji and I'm pretty sure I wasted more than half of it.

The South Indian Poori Bhaji can be delightful. This one was not.

My husband had a plate of idli-vada. And he, too, was not inclined to rave about it.

Both the Idli and the Vada are very popular dishes. Yet they're both very hard to make to perfection.

I noticed that some Thrissur restaurants and, in fact, many restaurants around India, tend to have a decorative placemat. This one has some activities to keep the little ones busy.

This placemat has some info about tourist places in Kerala, a food scrabble, a join the dots and a find the words game, as well.

Syamantak was dolled up for Christmas but, even then, there were few fellow diners. 

Wondering what to do for lunch, one day, I asked at a fancy place: where do I go nearby for a proper vegetarian lunch? Prasada, they said. I soon found it and the ambience is quite alright but the food is nothing special.

The oil in which the poppadom was fried was stale and the dessert and other dishes were just so so.

Luckily, there were many restaurants in the vicinity. Right across from Elite Hotel is a small eatery which seems to specialise in Puttu. 

I think it was called Akshaya Palace and you can see the Puttu making gadget in the foreground.

Besides Puttu, the place also dished out a halfway decent coffee but with the Indian Coffee House just a few yards away, I only used it off and on.

Akshaya Palace gets pretty full at times and is a fairly decent place to sit around and chat.

Another restaurant, just across the road from Elite Hotel, is Pathans. I kept reading it as one would the synonym for the word for the Pashtun people.  Until it was explained to me that it's a Kerala name!

At mealtimes it was quite crowded with many families sharing food and bonding. There was one scene, in particular, which was very memorable to me. A father was dining with his two children: a little girl and a little boy. He was really spending quality time with them, passing them choice bites from his plate, attending to an occasional fuss with as much love and care as any mother.  

The podi served with the idlis was quite nice. On the whole tasty but not the winner.

The place is quite old fashioned and, thus, cute in a quaint sort of way. Dressed up for Xmas with all the popular Chinese made decorations.

I didn't notice anyone heading into the Air Conditioned part of the restaurant.

Turning to our smartphones for help, we came up with some more places to eat at.

A very unassuming little place!

I tried to get something of interest from the manager who was amused. I wonder if he'll get to see his photo online!

We had what seems to be the regular thing to ask for in such places: a biryani and a parotta with meat fry.

I never got around to having a proper meal at my beloved Indian Coffee House but I frequently went there for coffee and, sometimes, toast and butter. However, at mealtimes, it gets really full and the service is brisk and caring.

Always quite low cost and quite tasty!

There are at least two outlets in Thrissur. One was pretty near Elite Hotel. 

The other was larger and as lively. It's elating to see so many people from all walks of life satisfying hunger, alone or with friends or family.

We also visited Ambady, going by its online reputation but, alas, they were about to close up for the day. However, to go by the chutney, this is a place for foodies to visit! 

Tucked away at the end of a small dark lane!

For some reason there is a large mirror on the wall of the school opposite the entrance to the restaurant. 

My most cherished memory of eating out in Thrissur is this place: Hotel Kudumbashree. It's a kind of women's cooperative run eatery and, apparently, has branches all over Thrissur and other places in Kerala. 

One of the fine ladies at the helm!

Last but not least come the runners-up in my book: Hotel Bharath! Always full, with brisk service and tasty fare, it's little wonder that locals flock in to feast. 

Just next door to Elite Hotel!

I even had a meal there and can safely assure you that it was value for the money (Rs. 80). But it's mostly eat and run as there's always another hungry soul waiting for you to finish.

Most meal places in Kerala have a jug of sambharam and one of rasam at each table.

We also had a breakfast or two there and even a chole dish which was fiery! Most people were going for North Indian dishes. 

People in Thrissur seem to prefer a light meal for dinner. This lot was very tasty!

And the winner is Sulaimani 168. This restaurant has to be on the Must Visit List of any traveler to Thrissur. 

A Taste of the Traditional, a Feast for the senses, an encounter with Vaikom Muhammad Basheer  

There are, of course, a great many places I have not visited and I look forwards to input from readers about places to eat at in Thrissur.