Posted in Food, Review

The fanciness in the simplicity of Idly Dosa – iD

In the 80’s and early 90’s the meaning of restaurant for us as kids was to go to a simple “hotel” and have Dosa and Idli, may be end it with Badam milk or Rose milk. Puri, Chappathi were fancy. Biriyani meant only for non-veg days. Compare that to now, our generation is exposed with too much variety that Idly and Dosa have become too simple.

iD is a brand that used to sell readymade flour for Dosa and Idli, and may be chappathi and paratha ready to cook as well. I had less hope and fanciness for the brand, before I discovered their new outlet at Neelangarai, ECR. I was simply not expecting it to be this.

A fresh new clean looking space with rather good

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iD Restaurant, Neelangarai, ECR

interiors and a kitchen that stands in the middle of the dining hall.

For any restaurant before you get into the bells and whistles what really matters for all of us, is the food. iD ensures you have taste and variety of Idlis, Dosas, Appam, Uthappam, Paratha, desserts and beverages. We had Mushroom masala dosa, Pesarattu, Appam, Mini Idli and of course the Classic Idli. To put it simply, iD would join the list of frequently visited very soon for the great tasting food served in clean sterilised steel plates and cups.

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Kitchen in the middle of it all

The service was good as well as efficient. One person, in our case it was Karuppasamy who took and managed our order, but the service of ordered items were done by whoever was available to serve. This ensures efficiency by distributing the “servers” across tables and decentralizing them from serving only 1 table. Sorry to sound like an IT guy, hey that’s who I am !

I would have to say that this place would be worth a visit than the usual likes of Hot chips, Saravana Bhavan or Sangeetha. They have good Breakfast and Lunch options and timings as well. In fact, I may return later to try their dishes during breakfast and their advertised veg meals (Rs. 150/-) for lunch, may be some other day.

The price is on the higher side, but not by too much. You get what you pay for in terms of the cleanliness, friendly staff, quality service and tasty food. (You don’t get those fast cooked half white Dosas like the others). The interiors and ambience is pretty good, but it can get very noisy due to lack of sound absorbing elements. Wall paintings, sound absorbing boards/panels, playing music through good quality speakers will ensure quality ambient sound levels. The outlet also has ample parking space with Valet service.

If you live by the ECR areas or pass by that side, iD is a place to visit for your simple meal/tiffins.

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A First bill in my life that had this than the amount

Finally we were treated with a bill that first read the pleasantries and not just the food bill. They sure mean service as their strength and I with them luck, to stand by what they believe in. Because, restaurant business is a crowded space and differentiating in whatever aspects you can, makes you stand out and makes people come back over and over again.

There is fanciness in simplicity.

Reviewed in Zomato with a rating of 4.5

 

Posted in Food, Spirituality

Eat Right, but how?

We confuse ourselves when someone says Eat Right. The common misunderstanding is:

1. Be Vegetarian.

2. Count the calories of what you eat and burn the excess on treadmill. Some even use scale to exactly calculate the calories.

3. Eat less and less and less.

4. Eat whatever dish made out of healthy food items even though they don’t taste at all and look really obscure. Maintain this list of healthy food and be obsessed with only eating that, resulting in more paranoia.

And probably a lot more that I cannot think of right now.

The spirit of eating right is in the eating.

While what you eat is equally important, it is useless if you don’t know how well to eat it.

So let’s clear the misconception and let’s try to eat right, the right way.

1. Be a Vegetarian by choice and not by force. Vegetarianism is born out of compassion towards other living beings. Until you feel that naturally, do not be so.

2. Eat at the speed of the body and not hog at the speed of the mind. Chew nicely and when you do that, you will eat at the speed of the body. You will listen to the body and naturally eat less. No need to count calories, because the body will tell you what it needs now when you listen. You will notice, you will be filling your plate with less food as you go.

3. Time table eating can bore the heck out of you. Eat normally, what you wish, at the speed of the body, 3 times a day. Fasting can purify your body and senses, but don’t be obsessed with it, do it only if you can.

4. Do not drink water atleast 30 minutes before you eat, while you eat and atleast 30 minutes after you eat. Water douses the digestive fire and can affect digestion. But don’t forget to drink water the other times to flush out the toxins.

5. Eat what you feel is tasty. Because the digestive fire is induced more with tasty and nice aromatic food.

6. Do not eat/cook emotionally. You will attach all that emotions and thoughts to the food and affect your digestion. Not only that, but it can also affect your thoughts, character and personality. Don’t ask me how, but they do. So Eat/Cook the food in silence.

7. Eat Consciously. By this I mean, that watch what you are eating without judging the food or yourself. Because at some point we get carried away and do what everyone does, “Top up” with more food. If we watch then we will refrain from doing that. This will leave a gap in the stomach which is good as it will be easy to rotate and digest the food.

8. If you believe in God, then offer the food to God and eat it. Just do it mentally with a loving heart, don’t need to place the food at the altar every time. This particular point needs deeper understanding, beyond just the rules of dogmatic religion.

These are just simple guidelines for normal people who lead normal lives.

Food is the best medicine for your body. Eat less and you will be  sick, Eat more you will still be sick.

Posted in Food

All about Non-Curries

To an average westerner Indian food is made up of a magical substance called Curry. Anything liquid gravyish that smells great with dripping oil and vegetables and Paneer floating around is called Curry. I am a south Indian and my normal lunch is what many call it as “South Indian Food“. It is hard to term a South Indian Food as Curry based. So, I find it amusing that during my lunch at work, I microwave a box full of Sambar Rice and one of the passer by colleague would say “hmm … Curry smells great!” for yesterday’s left over Sambar.

The analogy that I can try to bring here is how Bollywood became the single known identity for Indian cinema to the outside world. Think about it, Bollywood is not the only cinema power house in India and yet people outside India only know about Bollywood. The highest paid actor in India is not even from Bollywood. A lot of Regional film industries are lost into the nomenculature of “Bollywood”, falling into an Identity crisis. (This topic needs its own post) Curry does this to other Indian food, as to what Bollywood does to other Indian Film Industries. Phew, I think I ended up advertising Bollywood a lot by adding the word “Bollywood” in every freaking Bollywood related sentence in this Bollywood related Paragraph.

Even the almighty Oprah Winfrey didn’t exactly know what Curry is. Dr. Oz had to explain the difference between a Curry powder and Curry. Now let me do the job of saving the identities of 3 popular South Indian dishes (not in any order) that have been more or less generalized as Curry or Soup.

Sambar:

This is perhaps the most popular liquid dish in South India. In the west, this is consumed in the name of Lentil Soup, but it is far from being a Soup. Yes it can be had as Soup but being a Soup is not Sambar’s primary purpose. Sambar is made from Lentils, Tamarind and a Mysterious powder called Sambar powder. A recipe of common form of Sambar is available at Wiki Cookbooks.

Sambar can be made in multiple flavours with different vegetables, but the base of all Sambars start from the all powerful Sambar Powder, the equivalent of Curry Powder.  Sambar is usually had with rice or South Indian Tiffin dishes like Dosa, Pongal, and Idli. With vegetables like Drumstick, Okra, Onions, Carrots, Tomatoes one can make variety of sambar that would taste entirely different from each other. For this reason Sambar has to be a category of its own and no you cannot have it as a Soup.

Kozhambu:

Kozhambu is a derivative of Sambar that is cooked without the lentils. But since it’s taste is very different from Sambar, it cannot be categorized as a Sambar. Kozhambu is made with Kozhambu (or Sambar) powder with vegetables or chicken or fish or Lamb meat. All Kozhambus are made by constantly heating the mixture of powder, water and ingredients until it becomes thick.

Some popular Varieties of Kozhambu are – Vatha Kozhambu, which tastes great with rice and Papad/Vadam/Vathal. Tomato Kozhambu, a famous dish from my community (Sourashtra), is awesome when had with Dosa or Idli. Fish Kozhambu, Cooked fish in Kozhambu, if you are a non vegetarian this is an awesome dish to try, it is best had with Rice. Urad/Coconut Kozhambu, which I had for lunch recently, made from boiled Urad and Coconut pieces. The list goes on. Kozhambu is indeed it’s own category and has to be had with rice. Don’t try to take it as soup for you will have a blast the next morning, if you know what I mean. Head on over here for some Kozhambu recipes.

Rasam:

Rasam is another of my favourite South Indian Dish made from Pepper, Tomato and spices. If you head on over to this Wikipedia entry you can find how varied Rasam is. There are various varieties like Lentil Rasam, Tomato Rasam, Pepper Rasam, Lemon Rasam and so on, which tastes great with Rice and had with Papad or Chips

Rasam in Tamil means “Essense” and that is just what it is. It is said that in the Mythological epic of Mahabharatha, the character of Bhima is a great cook of Rasam Varieties. From this you can know, how ancient the Rasam dish is. Rasam is one dish that I can approve of as a candidate for Soup as its primary purpose. It provides great relief for head aches and cold (yes, Grandma medicine we call it) when had as Soup.

You can find some South Indian Recipes here.

To summarize, It is hard to term these dishes as curries because it doesn’t taste or is not made like the dishes that deserve to be curries viz Paneer Makhani, Malai Kofta etc. Compared to these Paneer Makhani is just a curry of one kind and there is only 1 standard way of preparing it. So there it is, Sambar, Kozhambu and Rasam are really a category of their own and has nothing to do whatsoever with the term “Curry”. They have to treated individually with their identity and not even categorized as Soup, but just be called as Sambar, Kozhambu and Rasam. Perhaps I can allow all three to be called under one name – SamKoRas or any other innovative words.

PS: These days I am extremely busy being Lazy and hence I haven’t had a chance to write a new post, but I was glad to find an ancient post from my drafts that I forgot to post. I have a few of those and I will try to post them until I can properly get back to my style of blogging.

Posted in Family, Food

Zen and the art of Cooking

Is Cooking an art?

Cooking is just cooking. Cooking starts of as just a process to learn and then It becomes an art in the hands of an able master. A master chef would say that the best food is not made by its ingredients, but the way it is made with it. There is a lot of philosophy associated with Cooking than just following recipes. Recipes are mere guides. The universal truth about cooking is:

“The same dish cannot be made the same way, again!”

Even master chefs would agree to this. They would make it tasty every time, but it may not look or feel or even taste the same every time.

So what has Zen got to do with Cooking? Everything!

There may be a lot of aspects to cooking, but according to me there are 4 aspects that will make a particular food, the best product of art ever.

HOSPITALITY

Hospitality is not just about how you treat the guests. It is about how you bring your guests and set them free in the confines of your environment. The guest can be anyone – a new friend, or a relative or even the family in the house.

This is an aspect of cooking that happens before the chef even enters the kitchen. We can refer this to ambiance in a restaurant to an extent. We always have some anxiety in a new place. Hospitality is about letting that go away and making them comfortable. Only a relaxed mind, a mind that is free, a mind that is sure about its environment, will be able to taste the goodness in a good food. Even Wolfgang puck would need this for his food to taste good.

I know this is abstract, but a little prior knowledge about the guest will help you make this happen. This is where the non-cooking member plays an important role in cooking (see the paradox here?). They can make the person feel comfortable by talking things of their interest or indulging in simple activities of their interest that can free their mind.

This is what they call it as – ‘BE AT HOME’

COOKING SPACE

How would you like to have your food? In a Clean Plate or In a plate that is not washed?

If you answered Clean plate, then why should you start cooking in a dirty kitchen? Space is precious. According to Zen, Space and the Material world go together. They are different entities, yet they cannot be separated and hence they are one. Would you know how to define space if there was nothing but space in this world and vice versa?

So it is very important to start cooking in a space that is clean, that is devoid of anything from your previous stint of cooking. Just like how the universe appeared from the void or singularity, your cooking should also start from nothing or Shoonya (Zero) or empty space.

A Clean space will indicate a clean mind, a clean mind with no prejudices and hence the cooking will start with no silly assumptions from before. You will be creative each time. Why do you think programmers like to write the code from Scratch? Why do you think Mothers clean the kitchen space before hitting the bed every night?

Start with a Clean Slate everyday!

SPONTANEOUS

When Arjuna was learning to shoot the arrow, he was asked what he saw through his eyes, as he aimed. He said he saw the eyes of a bird. When he shot the arrow after that, he didn’t think even for a second. He just shot it.

So if you know what to do and figured out how to do, just do it. The moment you think as you do, you will likely be derailed from the original plan. You may end up spoiling the dish. But at the same time, if you think you can add a pinch of salt more than what the recipe says, then just add it without thinking. That will be spontaneous. Your alterations to the recipe should also happen in a spontaneous way. Also, the alterations you did today, may not work the same way the next day, so don’t bother to take notes of those alterations.

Just feel the flow, and be spontaneous. Why do you think a Mother’s food tastes the best in the world. It is because she knows you more than you think she does and she cooks the food in a spontaneous way which will make you love it! That is why it is called the Mother’s touch. It is her spontaneous alterations that suits the needs of the family, makes it taste the best in the world.

COOKING MIND

What is on your mind today? Happiness or Sorrow or Jealousy or any kind of emotions? Your food that you cook will reflect what is in your mind. So what is the best emotion that should be on your mind when you cook? Is it Happiness or should we not have any emotion at all?

It is Love that you should have in your mind when you cook. When you mind is full of love for your family and yourself , your food will taste fantastic. You can’t hate yourself and still love others, only when you love yourself (which is not the same as self centered) you will be able to love others. It flows from the inside to outside.

A Mother’s food tastes the best because of the love she radiates from within herself to the whole family. We fail to see that in her most of the times, but we sure enough love the food that she cooks. What we like is not just the tasty food, but we indirectly feel that love. And when you tell her that you enjoyed the food very much, that is all the acknowledgment she needs, to know that her love has reached you.

Cook like a mother, with all the love in your mind.

Here is an Imaginary Conversation with the Wife:

Wife: “You don’t cook much or often. All you did was a silly Rasam when you were a Bachelor! How can you even write an article on the art of cooking?”

Me: “Why not! Did Vatsayana, before writing his book, ever …” (Wife Interrupts).

Wife: “Enough, I got the point. Now, Let’s keep your blog at PG!”

Posted in Anecdotes, Food

Rasam-a-Touille

“Why do we have to eat in a Random Restaurant everyday?” asked my friend S.

“Yes, I agree. Why don’t we cook?” I said, as I set out a stream of hysterical laughter around my room mates.

When you come out to live on your own and when there is no Hostel mess to feed you everyday as you had in College, it is hard to believe that you will be able to cook. It is actually hard to even consider cooking, never mind being able to. So the natural reaction among the gang for cooking was a simple no. Other than me and S there was no one in the crowd, who were excited about the idea of cooking.

We made a few random jokes about the new Woman training staff and made abusive remarks on the male training staff and went back to sleep.

“Anyone can cook Anyway!” said my Grandmother.

“Grandma … What are you doing here?” I tried to whisper hoping not to wake up the roomies.

Grandma: “You were talking about cooking and I thought I might help you”

Me: “But how will you? Hey wait … How do you speak English? I thought you didn’t know English!”

Grandma: “Well this is your dream and I am the figment of your imagination. So that’s how I know English. But anyway, tomorrow being a weekend why don’t you try and make Rasam and Rice. It is very simple!”

I heard Grandma talk some weird Rasam Recipe – Mix a Chameleon Juice in a Glass jar and then slice a pumpkin peel into 10 exact pieces, then cut a cactus into exactly two halves and put them all in a container. After that you pee on it.

“What! Pee on it???” That’s when I woke up and realized it was 7:30 AM and I really had to pee. We lazed around the morning reading the paper and munching some bread with Amul butter and Kissan fruit jam for breakfast. I hit the conversation with S.

Me: “So what do you think about cooking? Do you think we can really do it?”

S: “Yes definitely, I think Anyone can cook Anyway he/she wants”

It was the same words from Grandma from last night’s dream. Am I halucinating? Is the bread gone bad? I pinched myself and it pained. It wasn’t a dream.

Me: “So what are you waiting for then, let’s cook something for lunch. What do you think of Rasam and Rice?”

We set out to buy a single burner portable gas stove. It was something we could quickly buy to experiment what we were going to do. The rest of the gang spent the morning completely disinterested having no idea of what we were doing. It was like we were invisible to them. Even AS, who was food lover, wasn’t caring even a little bit about what was going on. AS can taste food very well and can be a harsh critic of food. In one bite he can quickly write off the restaurant, and so we were daring to give our food to him for feedback.

It was risky. Rasam and Rice was a very ordinary dish. He can easily reject it. But we wanted to try our best.

S: “So where shall we start first!”

Me: “We need chameleon juice”

S: “What?”

Me: “Sorry, I think I need to pee, I feel nervous about doing this. Let me relieve myself of some tension and come back in a few min”

After few minutes we were off to chop the Tomatoes, Onions and using a vessel we mixed tamarind paste, Rasam powder and added Tomatoes to it. We realized Onion is not an ingredient of Rasam and had to keep it aside, perhaps use it as a side dish. The ready made Rasam powder that we had bought smelled very good so we kept stirring the contents for a while and then let it boil. We then added Cilantro as the final touch and let it simmer for a bit and took it off the stove finally.

Making Rice is a piece of Rice Cake. Yet we managed to over cook it a little bit and made it softer. Overall, the meal wasn’t anything brilliant. Rice and Rasam was ready. We put a small serving in a plate and gave it to AS for his review. Our limbs were trembling out of fear. This time S had to pee, we waited for him.

Here came the moment. AS took the plate from us and grabbed a nice big amounts of Rasam Rice in his right hand. He then put it in his mouth with a slurping noise and sat there stunned. The camera zoomed into his face and went through his eyes into a flash back, in which Young Boy AS was having a plate full of Rasam Rice and Chips in his home.

Young Boy AS said “I love Mom’s Rasam Rice!”

The Camera came back to the Young Man AS who said “Super da! Sign me up, I am joining the Cooking club”.

We smelled our victory in the form of a great Rasam. We won, we started cooking our own food and we never turned back. We loved the food, whatever we cooked. It was a very satisfying meal everytime.

Grandma appeared in my dream again “See I told you, Anyone can cook Anyway”

Posted in Food, Humour

Dragon fire chat

On a Friday party evening, we had a snack called Channa Masala chat before the main course. I was involved in the following portion of the dish’s life cycle;

1. Take a Close up photograph.

2. Eat one spoon of the dish.

3. Run around the living room, emitting fire like a Dragon.

4. Mix some more curd and eat.

5. Still Do step 3.

6. Finish the dish without giving up.

7. Name it as “Dragon fire chat” and post it in my blog.

The chat was very tasty but too spicy for me to handle. I loved it though. Unfortunately I do not have the recipe for it. If you really really need it, then you should reverse engineer it from the picture below (Tamil: உத்து பார்த்து நீங்களே கண்டுபிடிங்க). May be A-kay can do the recipe or Apar in her secret food blog.

These are the following ways to confirm if it can be named as a Dragon fire chat:

1. A burnt dining table. Due to the fire emitted from the mouth.

2. A burnt dining table chair. Due to the fire emitted from ahem … you know where.

3. There will be absolutely no side effect from the dish, but there will definitely be a back effect and it will be felt at the most by next morning.

masala-chat1

 

Posted in Anecdotes, Family, Food, Humour

Delicious Diwali

Diwali in US happens in a very simple way. Usually the closest weekend is taken up as Diwali and a party happens at someone’s place. The party involves some food, and more food and then a lot more food. So the Diwali party on Sunday at my friend’s place went by the same way.

There was a huge lineup of sweets – Bread Halwa, Wheat Halwa, Motichur Laddu, Jamun. Of all the sweets, the significant one was Halwa. Yes, this Diwali we were all given Halwa. The term “To give Halwa” is well known in Tamil Nadu for a different reason. Let me illustrate the second meaning of the phrase with a few examples.

1. When the gas prices shot up like the SLV rocket, the brilliant business minds put forward a deal to customers buying cars in US. You buy their car and they will give you guaranteed $3 Gas Price even if the prices go up. So the customers thinking that very soon the gas prices will go up to $10 per gallon, signed the deal for $3 gas and bought the cars. Unfortunately, gas prices have fallen down to about $2.15 now which means their $3 gas deal is worth nothing. In other terms these customers were given Halwa by the car dealers. I pity them really.

2. You go to a much promising multi starrer Bollywood movie – Hrithik, Abishek, Aish expecting it to be exactly like Dhoom. But it turns out to be a disaster and you come out with the same old comment “Sequels are not always good”. In this case, the Movie producers/directors have given Halwa to the Audience.

3. The classic case of giving Halwa is from the “Boy loving Girl, Girl loving another Boy” Love story. In fact, this is where the term Halwa is used a lot. Girl tells the Boy that she likes him very much. Boy replaces the word ‘like’ with ‘Love’ and dreams about her, makes love to her, marries her, has 10 kids and 38 grand kids all in one dream sequence. The next day the girl insists I like you very much, but I am in love with your hot hunky friend, can you help me get to him? In an audible distance, the bursting of a transformer sound is heard and the boy’s heart is broken into 1000 pieces. The Girl has successfully given Halwa to the Boy.

The following are the laws of Halwa:

1. If a person is vulnerable to be given Halwa, then he/she will definitely be given Halwa at some point of time.

2. For every Halwa given, there is no equal and opposite Halwa unfortunately. So there is no possibility of the affected, being able to give back the same Halwa to the Source. You can try a different one.

3. The system of Halwa giving and receiving is unaltered unless acted upon by an external force, which has to be another Halwa giver or receiver.

If you do not understand the above laws, then you are vulnerable to be given Halwa at some point of time, So please read carefully and mug up!

The main dish had a lot Chicken. Sorry, there were a lot chicken which had main dish in them. Chicken Biryani, Chicken Kuruma, Chicken Fry you name the dish it was there with Chicken. By the end of the party, I am sure the entire Chicken race should have been extinct. If you are still having chicken it is either the last batch or a new breed of teenage mutated ninja Chickens.

Finally, we were desserted with a new innovative way of turning you ‘over’overweight – Fried Banana Icecream. It was delicious and I couldn’t help myself having it the second time. It was basically Banana, fried with some flour and topped with a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream. Fried Banana Icecream Rocks! But it turned my (Relatively) Rock Hard (Six pack) abs into Flowery soft round Michelin tyre. Hence the following comic:

Picture of Surya – http://www.chennai365.com , Michelin Man – http://www.berrimilla.com

It will now take me a full year to go back to Six Pack Surya. But then there will be another Diwali and I will be back to Michelin Muniyandi in 1 day.

Diwali is always Delicious!