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Vikram

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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. Aren't you making a mistake here - or more correctly, the mistake is in the way others are using the 'fresh dates' term itself? What you describe does sound like fresh dates - the straight from the tree, bright red or yellow, really fresh fruit which, as you note, are pretty to look at, but way too astringent for my taste. What the others seem to be referring to are what I've seen described as 'soft dates' - dried and processed to some extent, but not the dead hard and chewy fruits we're most familiar with. 'Soft dates' are sensational - plump, soft and amazingly sweet. I haven't eaten the medjools and barhis that Mr.Steingarten describes, but here in India we get what are called kimia dates from Iran which sound similar, and are fantastic just served by themselves. Vikram
  2. Hallelujah! I loved your two books, read them lingeringly, limiting myself to as essay a day like really good pieces of chocolate (OK, so occasionally I binged and read five at a time), and I even conducted a long drawn out campaign to get my office - I write for a financial newspaper - to subscribe to Vogue, arguing that it was next to impossible to report accurately on international business trends without regular reference to Vogue. I got unexpected support from an editor who, I think, was more interested in the lingerie models, but I wasn't complaining. And the magazines arrived and it turned out they'd got us British Vogue.... But yes, sitting here in Bombay, it hurt bitterly to read your comments on Indian desserts, and I cried silently into my kulfi, wondering if there were Mexican fans somwhere choking down sobs along with their fried grasshoppers. I can't entirely blame you though. The very few times I've eaten in Indian restaurants out of India the desserts have been generally unspeakable - stale sugary barfis, kulfis that were more crystals that creamy, greasy halwas, and above all, really leaden heavy gulab jamuns, a dessert that is served everywhere, but VERY difficult to get right, even here in India. Added to that, there's the problem of the extra-sweetness and intense milk flavours, and here there's nothing much that can be done - either you're one of those people who go for it, and such people tend to really trip on Indian desserts, or just hope you get used to it. I note that when people do take to Indian desserts they tend to be things like phirni (rice pudding) or, as you mention, ras malai, which are somewhat less sweet & milky than the average. The biggest problem though is that food writers, particularly in the US, very rarely seem to try Indian at all, so the chances of them eating good Indian are pretty low (of course, with eGullet's own Suvir in action at Amma the odds for should be rising rapidly). Has Alan Richman ever eaten an Indian meal? After years of reading his stuff in GQ, I've never read of the merest morsel of tandoori chicken passing his lips. So too with many other food writers, which is why it was great to read you've done a trip here and April is too long to wait to read about it. I only hope for two things. One, you didn't just go to that awful city up north called Delhi and eat north Indian Punjabi-Mughlai food in the course of the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur quickie which is what too many Americans mean by visiting India. That food can be good enough - though not the debased form of it that's the staple of most Indian restaurants abroad - but there's lots more interesting stuff in the regions, so please tell me you went to the south, or came here to Bombay (even Indians don't go to the east, which is a pity, since Bengali food can be fabulous). And second, if you did get out to the regions, I hope you got out of your hotel room and ate around a bit. It amazes me how many food writers finally come all the way to India and then don't seem to have the guts to get out of their hotel room. A.A.Gill comes and nominates Kandahar at the Oberoi Hotel as the best Indian restaurant ever. R.W.Apple says the best Malayali (not Keralan, you can read my rant on this in the Indian room on this site) food is in the restaurant at, surprise surprise Brunton's Boatyard the hotel he just happens to be staying in. These aren't bad places, but honestly doesn't it seem to suggest a certain lack of motivation somewhere? I certainly wouldn't expect it of you.... remember, we have ways of reaching your rasmalai... Vikram
  3. After starting this topic, I read the book that more than any other date, answers my question. Madhur Jaffrey's The Ultimate Curry Bible (its got a different American title, Kebabs & Curries, or something like that) takes up this very issue of the cooking of the desi diaspora and deals it with in her usual style. Its an excellent book - lots of fascinating material, both culinary and cultural, and some really interesting recipes which, coming from her, you know they're reliable. I've already made some like the kheema with orange juice which the bf, never the easiest of audiences, has been raving about. I was so taken with the book that I did a loooong piece on it, including a telephone interview with her - many thanks to Someone for helping me set that up - and miracle of miracles my editor liked it enough to print it almost uncut this Sunday. You can read it here: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/344293.cms but to help persuade everyone on the India forum to read the book, here's the piece in its totality:
  4. Why do I always end up promoting my old pieces on eGullet. But so many of the subjects are close to my heart so its not surprising I've written on them before. This piece came in the Times of India a year or so back, before the Times stopped this excellent "In Search Of The Perfect..." column which many writers contributed to. BTW, can anyone confirm the bit about condensed milk being the secret ingredient in Kyani's Shrewsbury biscuits? I'm too lazy to go to Pune and try and coax the truth out of some probably cranky old Irani guy, Vikram
  5. Vikram

    Ramzaan

    Many apologies to all, especially Episure. After patiently taking me through the back lanes of Bohri Mohalla and introducing me to his favourite barahandiwallahs, the least he could have accepted was for me to have matched his speed in putting up the text to match his pictures. I can only plead extended chaos at work, though in reality its probably just my journalistic instinct to avoid deadlines kicking in. When I don't have any need to post on eGullet I am happy to write reams; the moment I have to, it becomes another assignment to be avoided! Anyway, I'm not even going to try estimating how late I am, I'm just thankful I'm getting to do it before Ramzaan ends. In the meantime though I've had plenty of time to refine the knowledge acquired from Episure in the course of several visits to Mohammed Ali Road. I credit him with having quite altered my position on barahandi. In the past I just dismissed it as tons and tons and tons of grease below which lurked inedible muck. Now I know its tons and tons and tons of grease below which, if you go to the right place, you can find something fantastic. At some point in the evening, as yet another plate of meaty stew embellished with fat was placed before us, and watching the guy behind the cooking pots dice gelationous masses of marrow to add as further garnishing, it occurred to me that this was the answer to Monica's question of some weeks back. Want to know how to do Atkins in India? Just get your catering from Mohammed Ali Road and hold the rotis. (OK, I know its not so easy because as Episure pointed out, these are classic 'poor man's stews' where a small quantity of meat is eked out by thickening the juices with flour or dhall, so there sneak in those carbs). I met Episure outside the police headquarters just facing Crawford Market. It was around 8.30 just as the market was shutting down for the night, but all around it the lanes that lead to Mohammed Ali Road and Pydhonie were just getting active. There strings of lights over the street leading to the main mosque, there were benches and tables laid out in the streets and everywhere there were people out for the night to have the iftaar. And not just Muslims - what striking about Ramzaan is how cosmopolitan this whole iftaar scene has become. Most of the year most people in the city don't go to the Mohammed Ali Road area, not because its dangerous (this is, thank god, still Bombay, not that horrible city up north), but because its really crowded and chaotic and now there's this major flyover, the longest in the city, that takes you from Crawford Market almost to Byculla so you zoom over this area. Its a pity, since its a fascinating area, with all the wholesale markets and lots of old buildings that are lovely or would be if someone cleaned them up. There are also some striking mosques too like the Zanzibari Masjid in Dongri which has beautiful painted tilework. But people outside this area rarely come here except maybe to go to Chor Bazaar (the so called Thieves Market, though the merchants there indignantly try and pretend its a corruption of Shor Bazaar or Shouting Market!) - and during Ramzaan. There was a time when bringing women friends here I'd advise them to wear a salwar-kameez and be ready to cover their heads. These days girls in jeans and strappy tops don't seem to have a problem walking through these lanes. Anyway, Episure and I first went to Nagdevi Street, a good place to start because its not as chaotic as the Minara Masjid road area, so you can get acclimatized so to speak. Nagdevi Street is a turning to the left just before you reach the main Mohammed Ali Road. If you want a culinary landmark, its the road that start a little in front of Arife's, the shop at the side of Crawford Market which is still the main place in this city for buying anything to do with baking - cake tins of all shapes, muffin pans, icing bags, tart tins, sweet moulds. Everyone comes to Arife from catering college students to old Catholic aunties from Bandra looking for marzipan moulds for Christmas. (As a sidelight, Christmas cake making season is clearly on us now. CNBC was just running a snip on hotel chefs stirring up their cakes and walking through Crawford Market just before meeting Episure I saw a group of nuns buying candied peel from one of the only shops that still stocks it, a Goan grocery shop called Vincent's. All the younger nuns were laden with bags full of broken nut pieces and raisins, as they waited for their ancient superior to carefully open her purse and count out the notes). OK, enough detours, we're finally in Nagdevi Street and there's only one game here, which is Barahandi - and only guy dishing it out, Faroque Surati Barahandiwala, the guy who made Episure and me promise we would mention that he has absolutely no branches. You want Faroque Surati Barahandiwala's barahandi, you've got to come to Nagdevi Street (he's there year round, though on a more modest scale). His shop is called Tawakkal, the blessings of Allah, he tells us, and its turnover during Ramzaan is clearly pretty big, though he sidesteps answering exactly how much. He shows us the barahandi - there's an example in the third picture Episure posted (though that's not from this shop). Its a large steel box that contains the coals and has circular openings on top into which the pots can be placed to cook. Despite the "12 pots" promised in its name, most places seem to have only nine, but I think the other three refer to some of the other stuff bubbling on the side - usually a pot of paya (trotter) soup and some other stuff like that. (Episure, I've just remember, did this guy tell us that one of the pots which had something creamy in it, was haleem - the big Hyderabad ramzaan speciality?) Faroque Surati Barahandiwala shows us the different dishes - which one is paya, which one is pichota (tail curry), which ones are "bade-ka" or "chote-ka" (from the big one or the small one, meaning beef and mutton). And he tells us that if we want to try it all, he'll give us a plate of 'bhel' - using the term for Bombay's favourite mixed-up snack, for his muxed up meats! I can just imagine what my Gujarati vegetarian friends would feel about this! Apart from this he's got a big chicken grilling and frying operation going on - pix four and five from the ones Episure posted. Its tempting to eat here, but we're just at the start of our walking, so we tell this to Faroque Surati Barahandiwala, who takes it with good grace. Come some other time this month, or even other times of the year, he tells us. From there we walk on to Mohammed Ali Road and take a shortcut that takes us into the heart of the Minara Masjid Road area. That helped us circumvent most of the chaos there which I'd posted about earlier, and took us straight into the main area where the mutton dishes are made. Its interesting seeing the way people specialise at this time. For example, the barahandiwallahs have tandoors for making bread, but they don't operate them at this time, just focusing on the bara handi. If you want bread you have to go to the bread shop which is only making the big tandoor cooked rotis that Episure has photgraphed, or another type of twisted leavened bread if you want something to really soak up the gravy. Similarly here in the middle of Minara Masjid, its all specialised - one guy does the mutton tawa items, another cooks the organ meats, another the chicken, another the kebabs and if you want khichada - wonderful creamy dhal and mutton cooked together - there's yet another guy who'd got a big pot he'd doling it out from. Not that you need to go to them yourself. You just plonk yourself at one table and tell the guy what you want and if he doesn't make it, he sends one of his army of boys to fetch it. How they keep accounts in the middle of all this chaos is beyond me, but it seems to work. I usually prefer to sit near the mutton tawa guy since I think his bhuna ghosht, quick tawa fried lamb is the best thing to eat here - hot, tender and tasty with coriander and chillies fried in. The khichada is very good here too, not unbearably rich as it can be in other places, but just creamy enough. The chicken is NOT good here, the sikh kebabs can be OK, if you insist that they get good ones (the boys seem to know when you really want the good kebabs). The organ meats can be excellent, though the real reason to eat them is the rich gravy they cook in, and not the slightly rubbery meat itself. The one thing I can't eat here is the quails - I love quail, but its distinctly offputting eating them when there's a cage of live ones above you looking on miserably as they wait for their turn. Episure and I were really in search of barahandi so we gave this place a miss and walked to the beginning of the road. This took us past the sweet shops where the huge yellow malpua pancakes were bring fried - Episure's last picture. They look amazing, but taste, I think, rather gross. Another sweet only found in this area is sandals - a sweet only made by the muslim Memon community (Minara Masjid is in Memonwadi) that is like a sanna (fermented rice batter cake) topped with sweet cream and tastes very odd. There are hundreds of other sweets on offer here particularly at Sulaiman Usman Mithaiwala, the most famous sweet shop in this area (also negatively famous for being where during the 1993 riots the police shot dead a bunch of their employees apparently thinking they were rioters, but who wants to think about that now, right?) There are flaky flour pastries, aflatoon which is like sweet ghee mixed with dried fruits, surprisingly good Bengali sweets, milk sweets of all kinds, flavoured with different fruits and covered with silver vark. In a belated nod towards health concerns they have now started making sugar free sweets from dry fruits only - an anjeer (fig) barfi is particularly good. The real reason to stop here though is the phirni, the rice pudding made in clay containers that leach out water from it, leaving the phirni even creamier. This year Sulaiman Usman has gone ever fancier - the phirni still comes in clay pots, but it now has snazzy clear plastic covers with the Sumailan Usman name printed on top. A lot of people clearly like the food here, but prefer to take it home to eat and all the shops are prepared for this. We don't stop here, but I buy several phirnis, both the yellow kesari (saffron) ones and the plain white ones. There are all the fruit flavoured ones - the guy tries to get me to try a blackcurrant phirni, but I'm sticking to the traditional ones! Finally we leave Minara Masjid and cross the road and walk into the quieter bylanes that lead to Bohri Mohalla. This is where Episure's favourite barahandi walla Vallibhai Barahandiwalla has his shop. Before going there though we stop at the bread shop in the photographs below to take pictures. Its very tempting to eat the rotis hot from the tandoor, but Vallibhai is just up ahead and we know he'll be getting the rotis from this place. When we reach it, the shop is oddly empty - these barahandi places have strange rhythms of their own. There'll be times when they are packed to the gills, and then equally suddeny empty, like there are fixed servings. But this suits us, since we can talk to the owner and eat in peace. He says he'll give us 'sukhe mutton' first and at Episure's request he does go easy on layering on the grease at the end. The dish is certainly not 'sukhe' (dry), but comes with a thick gravy and is totally delicious. This is basic, stick to your ribs sort of food and not, as in the barahandis I remeber, essentially unspiced - there's a subtle spicing here, not too hot, more just to complement the creamy mutton taste. We demolish this and move on to paya - more grease this time, but the gravy below it is really good. After that there are several other to try, but we want to eat something grilled now, so we stop at that. The grill stall is a few streets away, close to Chor Bazaar. Its a smaller place than Faroque's, but we've had enough of the walking now and just want to eat. The first thing we order is a speciality of this area - khiri, or chopped up and grilled cows udders. OK, I can just hear the barfing at that - even seasoned organ meat eaters find the idea of eating udders a bit offputting. But first, it doesn't look like udders - these are just bite sized pieces of meat. And second, they are really denying themselves something special because udder have a totally disinctive texture. Its hard to describe - not the fibrous texture of muscles, or the soft texture of some organ meats. There is something chewy about them, but not rubbery, easy to eat, but with a mouthfeel entirely of their own. Some people might dislike it, but then some of the people I have introduced them to have really tripped on it. A writer friend I took the other day was in ecstacies, saying it was the best thing he'd eaten that night. (This was in Minara Masjid, where its distinctly better than in the Bohri Mohalla place Episure and I ate in, though that wasn't bad). Episure and I polished off a plate of khiri and then tried one of pasanda, which Episure explained to me is a cut of the meat, but I've forgotten the term he used. Whatever it is, this wasn't it - as Episure said in disgust, what we got was just grilled fat. That sort of put the lid on our eating (and remember the barahandi stuff is HEAVY). So we called it for the night then and staggered to a taxi. Episure went hom to his website where he responsibly uploaded the pictures quickly and I went to my computer where I prevaricated on writing this until now! Apologies again for that, Vikram
  6. I agree, I've been beating the drum for drinking Belgian beer with Indian food, for longer than I can remember. Hoegaarden seems to be the easiest to find though not, alas, here in India, Vikram
  7. I've got it, just bought it last week (and at a discount too, three cheers for Strand Book Stall). Its pretty good - all that you might expect of a Madhur Jaffrey production and with the benefit of being focussed on Indian food (am I the only one who felt she was getting increasingly flaky, the more she ranged into southeast asian and world vegetarian food?). Its a nice solid looking book, good notes on food in different parts of the diaspora, all clearly based on personal experience and the recipes are well written and, most important of all, make you want to run out and start cooking at once. As the title indicates she's rather oddly passed on the opportunity to write The Big Desi Diaspora Cookbook, limiting herself to curries, meaning wet and spicy dishes and the starch and accompaniments that go with them (long piece on roti canai BTW), but that does cover a lot of ground. (The main losses are, I think, with the ways in which sweets and snacks have evolved in the diaspora). Its also not comprehensive since some regions aren't really covered like Fiji and, most surprisingly, Mauritius. Still, as I said, this is as close as we're getting to The Big Desi Diaspora Cookbook unless there's some unknown genius toiling at it out there, Vikram
  8. I think he'd find Khau-gullis easier to deal with that certain Indian wines... jjread, for your sake, I hope you haven't been conned here by certain unmentionable Indian winemakers to give your professional opinion on their products.... Vikram
  9. What are you planning Episure-dada? Take his wine and dump him in a khau-galli off Mohammed Ali Road for casting aspersions on eating out in Bombay? Vikram
  10. There's an excellent piece on the evolution of eating out habits in Bombay in 'Consuming Modernity' a collection of essays on Indian popular culture edited by Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge. I can't remember who the author is and some evil person has stolen my copy so I can't supply the information at once, but if you cant get your hands on the book, I can look around for the information. As I remember it the piece deals largely with Irani restaurants, as the original cosmopolitan eating places in Bombay, but I think there's some info on other places as well. I remember seeing a map of the Fort area in the 1920s sometime back and Wayside Inn is marked over there. Of course, really really really tragically, this wonderfully characterful place disappeared sometime back to be replaced by a southeast asian eating place of astounding characterlessness. I suppose the real tragedy is that this change seems to have been inevitable, since for all its character, Wayside Inn didn't have much by way of clientele towards the end. I can't really blame the owners, since I know they resisted the change for as long as they could and the standards of its old, British style cooking - fish and chips, cutlets, fry-ups, etc - didn't change much, but people just weren't going, and finally they had to change to survive. Since you seem to be from Cal you might appreciate - enjoy would be the wrong word since the essential subject is sad - a good piece by Jug Suraiya last Sunday on the end of a similar Calcutta institution. I ate there a couple of times and can confirm that the food was excellent, in a sort of heavy, cheesy sauce sort of way. And I realise its odd asking this on an India list, but does anyone have a recipe for chicken tetrazzini? Vikram
  11. I was about to send off an explosive reply to this when it occurred to me that I've actually written something similar on this list at some point. I think what I was saying is that relative to certain other cities like Hyderabad in the south, Calcutta in the east, Lucknow in the north and Ahmedabad in the west, Bombay is not as insanely food obsessed, since who has the time here. But that's not to say you can't eat very well here - in fact, you can probably eat a greater variety and better in Bombay than anywhere else in India. Partly because of that lack of time, the restaurant culture is very well established here and it being a business city means that people have the money to pay for it. Above all, I think Bombay scores in variety because of the number of different communities who have come to make up the city. As a result, almost uniquely for an Indian city, there is no dominant community like the Punjabis in Delhi or Tamilians in Madras or Bengalis in Calcutta. So the cooking for Bombay really is an amalgam of all the communities that have made up the city. A friend of mine from the Asian Wall Street Jounral, Stan Sesser, was in Bombay earlier this year to write a fairly rapturous piece on the city as a part of a series he was co-authoring on the best places to eat out in Asia. He came to Bombay, he said, with no great expectations, but it turned out to be one of the really pleasant surprises of his survey. I can mail you Stan's full piece directly if you like, but for now I'll post a very rough list of different restaurants, divided up by region, that I'd sent him to give him a basis for his piece, Vikram
  12. Vikram

    Ramzaan

    For those who want to get a flavour of Ramzaan in India I have - of course! - an article which I did along with a colleague last year. (I should note that Episure is probably going to pour complete scorn on the eating places I've listed, but that's why he's taking me on an iftaar jaunt soon). The one really interesting point in this article is the interview I did with Ummi Abdulla, the doyenne of Moplah (Kerala Muslim) cooking, who cast some light on the lesser known south Indian Ramzaan traditions. Can others on these forums supplement this with other memories, descriptions, recipes of Ramzaans/Ramadan feasting they have enjoyed? Vikram
  13. Vikram

    Ramzaan

    The gods really have it in for those of us trying to follow diets. No sooner are we recovering from Diwali's flood of sweets, then Ramzaan (Ramadan, outside India) starts today. And as anyone who's seen it - or read Sara Suleri's wonderful description of it in Meatless Days - for most people the day long fasting just seems like a way of whetting the appetite for the night feasting to come. I'm not a Muslim and I don't keep the roza, the day fast, but that certainly doesn't stop me going after sunset to Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai's main Muslim area, to enjoy the chaos and crowds in the night, the whole area lit up like a carnival and, of course, the ultra rich food. Its death to diets, but who can resist it? Every year I go there several times and take friends who have never been before. This year though there's going to be an e-Gullet twist to the iftar (the evening meal. Episure has promised to take me to even better, lesser known places way in the depths of Mohammed Ali Road, and I;m already salivating at the prospect. Are there any other e-Gulleteers in Mumbai, or likely to be here in the course of this month, who would like to join us? Khiri, khapura, kheema, here we come! Vikram
  14. A nice enough article I guess, and certainly as a long time proponent for South Indian food I'm happy to see it. Nevertheless, being irredeemably contrary, I have some bones to pick with it. Like did he have to go to Cochin and stay at Brunton's Boatyard (one of those places that certainly looks very imposing, out there on the waterfront, but is rather less so up close. Especially when the Malabar House Hotel, which is truly something, is close by) AND eat there? Like there's no better place in Cochin? Like the Grand in Ernakulam, which is by almost universal consensus the best place to eat fish in Cochin if not Kerala, doesn't exist? And like eating in the hotel you're staying in doesn't seem a bit lazy? I had some other small cribs, but can't remember, so maybe they're not important. Except for this one BIG crib: where has everyone suddenly got these words 'Keralan' and 'Keralite'? I have very occasionally heard Keralite, but NEVER Keralan. Its always Malayali. I think 'Keralan' sounds awful, and the presumed thinking behind it is worse. Its like its too much effort to explain to Americans that the adjective for people and things from Kerala is Malayali, form the language they speak, Malayalam, so lets just simplify it for them by making the place name into an adjective. I have only this thing to say to people who think that way: so are you OK with us calling you USAns and USAites?????? Vikram
  15. Suvir's highlighted a lot of interesting old threads which I've been going through (the fact that I've a deadline probably explains why I'm so happy to spend my time doing this!). I feel embarassed at the way I keep posting old articles of mine, but the Ayurveda thread reminded me of a couple of articles I'd investigated and written on the subject recently. Its an interesting subject and possible quite healthy. My only problem is - sorry Suvir - when people start going on about Ancient Indian Traditions of Spirituality and how ayurveda fits in, I always get a strong craving for steak tartare. Irredeemably tamasic I guess. Anyway, the places I describe below are very well worth eating in if you come to Bombay. Pinakin's Cafe Sattva in particular is really beautiful, Vikram
  16. I recently went to a big function at the Oberoi in Bombay which had an interesting buffet dinner. The people organising the function had decreed the buffet was to be vegetarian only, and in a somewhat desperate attempt to add some interest here the Oberoi chefs had come up with the idea of having one dish from every state in India in the buffet. I thought the idea was amusing, especially given how desperate they got when they came to those perenially overlooked Northeastern states (patriotically inclined desis can stop right now and do a test by seeing if they can name them all). Since these places aren't exactly noted for their vegetarian dishes the chefs ended up with some pretty weird variations on bamboo shoots - except for poor Tripura where they gave up completely and just put the boiled rice in its name. I'm putting the menu below. Can anyone suggest what more appropriate dishes for each state might have been? (Like I don't agree with the Kerala dish. Curd-rice is something I associate more with Tamil Nadu, and I'd have chosen something like kalan or olan rather than this). Ot what a non-veg version of this buffet might have looked like? I'll post vague translations for the non-desis. - Andhra Pradesh - Pappu Dasaki (Curried bottlegourd. This is one of those veggies I think just shouldn't exist) - Arunachal Pradesh - Laija (leafy greens boiled. Tasted like spinach only) - Assam - Potato Oambal (tasted like indifferently made alu posto) - Bihar - Baingan ka Salan (aubergine curry) - Delhi - Aloo Papdi chaat (spicy potato chaat) - Goa - Bibinca (a dessert since everyone knows the only vegetable they eat in Goa is coconuts! These are incredibly rich and rather rubbery textured stacked coconut pancakes) - Gujarat - Patra and Dhokla (Patra is spiced, fried and rolled colocassia leaves, dhoklas are steamed rice batter cakes) - Haryana - Rajma Masala (spicy kidney beans) - Himachal Pradesh - Longia Bhutta, Dhingri Subzi (curried, dryish corn and mushrooms) - Jammu & Kashmir - Khatti Bindi (meaning sour okra, it was okra cooked in a yoghurt sauce) - Jharkand - Dum Ki Arbi (someone in F&B was thinking tribals = tubers! What is arbi in English, BTW?) - Karnataka - Bisibelebath (spicy rice, thank god for this dish which is what most people ended up eating) - Kerala - Curd Rice (ridiculous, which self respecting Malayali has ever eaten this willingly?) - Madhya Pradesh - Makai ka halwa (no, thank god that wasn't a sweetcorn pudding, but a corn curry) - Maharashtra - Koshimbir (coriander leaves in chickpea flour, pretty good - or pretty hard to screw up) - Manipur - UTI, black lentils (well, at least no bamboo shoots) - Meghalaya - Wak Bizak (Bamboo shoots with chilli and ginger) - Mizoram - Bai (boiled bamboo shoots and spinach, not exactly likely to increase gastronomic tourism to Mizoram) - Nagaland - Vegetable Stew (bamboo shoots again, this time with tomatoes) - Orissa - Chana Dhalna (never reached Orissa either) - Tamil Nadu - Dhal Payasam (of all the things in Tamil cooking, they have to give us sweet lentils!) - Tripura - Boiled rice (my heart bleeds for Tripura!) - Uttaranchal - Dhal Wada (forgot what this was, don't think I made it to Uttaranchal!) - Uttar Pradesh - Subz Dum Ki Biriani (meant to be from Lucknow I guess. I don't eat biriani, so can't comment) - West Bengal - Rassagulla (a no brainer I guess, for the dessert) Just realised that I've got nothing listed for Chhatisgarh or Punjab! Or the union territories. Must have missed out some, unless the bread rolls were meant to be from Pondicherry! Vikram
  17. Reading this thread on Indians and pickling reminds me of this story I wrote recently which is somewhat rude on the subject.... I hope a certain San Francisco based writer isn't on eGullet, but honestly has anyone READ her work?! Have people read Monsoon Diary? Any comments? Vikram
  18. With no modesty or regard for eGullet storage concerns, an article I'd written on this subject sometime back. It might provide some fodder for discussion. The Appadurai essay I refer to is well worth reading, if you can get your hands on it: ends
  19. Rasachandrika is excellent for all the Saraswat dishes. Its now exactly 60 years since the Saraswat Mahila Samaj (Saraswat Women's Association) in Mumbai first came out with it, and it is still a standard presence in every Saraswat kitchen, however stained and tattered with use it may be. I'd put it up there with Samaithu Par as one of the bases for Indian cookbook writing. What are the other such books that people would nominate in other regional Indian categories? I'm lifting this out of the Konkani cuisine thread since it might make for a good new topic. Which were the first Indian cookbooks that people encountered? Did your mothers and grandmothers (if they were Indian) use any? Did your mothers and grandmothers pick up recipes from anywhere else? Which cookbooks have you found the most useful? Any particularly interesting or unusual ones? Which of the new Indian cookbooks do you like best (we'll take it as a given that Monica's and Suvir's forthcoming one will feature on your list!)? Vikram
  20. Rasachandrika is excellent for all the Saraswat dishes. Its now exactly 60 years since the Saraswat Mahila Samaj (Saraswat Women's Association) in Mumbai first came out with it, and it is still a standard presence in every Saraswat kitchen, however stained and tattered with use it may be. I'd put it up there with Samaithu Par as one of the bases for Indian cookbook writing. What are the other such books that people would nominate in other regional Indian categories? Vikram
  21. As always, I'm a fervent advocate of south Indian breads. Its not just because they are lesser known compared to the north Indian ones, as because some of them are really outstandingly delicious. So apart from the dosas, iddlies, appams that most people are familiar with, why not go for flaky Kerala parottas, or ultra-delicate pathiri, or spongy starfish shaped ney-patal, or light steamed neer dosas, or thick and hearty adais, or thick tasty puri-like Konkani vades, or healthy mung-dal pancakes (pudla), or hard crisp thalipith which a food writer friend from the Asian Wall Street Journal dubbed one of the best new things he'd eaten in Asia? Some of these, I think, like pathiri and parottas are really quite difficult to make since a lot of the secret is in the technique which only comes with practice. But others like pudlas and thalipith and adais should be easier, Vikram
  22. I am sort of sceptical of this whole idea of "contemporary Indian cuisine" as a new and - the underlying premise - improved form of Indian food because it seems to me to be applying a conceptual framework that isn't really applicable to Indian food. That conceptual framework seems to take its definition mainly from French food, which evolved a grand and highly codified tradition, practiced by specialists (though in reality many may have taken their inspiration from peasant food), against which a tradition of lighter and more modern contempory food was able to define itself. But other forms of cooking do not always have such grand traditions. It requires the long term support of an affluent aristocratic class which wasn't always the case in India, however much people like Jiggs Kalra go on about the 'royal cuisines of India', a term that I'd say have more to do with the imperatives of five star restaurants trying to flatter customers into coming, rather than any real history. Of course there were pockets of royalty which evolved their own styles - Hyderabad, Mughlai - but I think their influence was pretty limited and the results were never codified as they were in the West (the cooks would never share their recipes outside their families). So is there really a classical style to differentiate a contemporary one from? There's also the point that in India at least no one would talk about any one thing called 'Indian food', but defining the debate in that terms could possibly indicate what 'contemporary' means in this context - an opposition to the sort of standardised menu evolved by 12 to the paise Tandoori joints that pass themselves off as 'Indian'. Even then I'd say the succesful examples of contemporary Indian restaurants are more 'regional' than 'contemporary' and if they do things that don't feature in regional menus, like Das Sreedharan's recipe for broccoli thoran from his book New Flavours of India (nice book, but misnomer in title again, it should be New Flavours of Kerala), then its simply pre-empting the sort of development that would have happened naturally enough when that regional cuisine encountered the broccoli at home. After all, the ubiquity of tomatoes, potatoes and chillies in India shows how the cooking could take as its own even New World vegetables like this. So I think rather than trying to force Indian food into categories of classical vs contemporary, we should perhaps acknowledge that its essence has always been ethnic/regional and that within this general framework there's plenty of scope for change and renewal. As Carlovski says this would save us from people doing the same as they always did, except with added coriander, and calling it contemporary Indian! Or another way of looking at it would be to look at the one part of Indian cooking where techniques, traditions and ingredients have been mixing up together very happily - in street food. Which takes us back to another long running thread.... Vikram
  23. There's a garlic-methi (fenugreek) version of this which is my standard solution to boring food. Its dry and keeps very well, so I always have a jar in office and have even travelled with it, to use when things are getting too bland. Don't have a recipe for it though, since its so readily available here in Bombay, Vikram
  24. I don't usually drink beer, but wheat beers (does witbier translate as white beer or wheat beer?) like Hoegaarden, I adore. On the India forum I recently recklessly dismissed all attempts to match wine and Indian food, a pointless pairing especially when there really was a good pairing in white beer. Its the lightness and the spiciness and the coolness, that all balance out Indian food brilliantly. Why don't more people make them? Are they hard or expensive to make? Vikram
  25. Its an odd dish, the point of which seems to be the soggy texture that the koris (think quite hard snapping rice papads) take after you dump the chicken curry over it. You get it in some of the Udipi restaurants in Bombay if you ask them for it specially. Its usually not on the menu, but I think the workers cook it for themselves once a week. Rajsuman, a question, how are you defining Konkani cuisine? Judging from the recipes you post you're mostly referring to Mangalorean style cooking, but isn't Konkani - since it has a geographical sense - a wider term? I would think it would cover any cooking on the Konkan coast from South Gujarat till south of Mangalore, after which point the Kerala influence becomes stronger? If that's the case then it would cover quite a range of cooking styles, from East Indian near Bombay, Malvani (or Gomantak) further south on the Maharashtra coast, Goan (Christian and Hindu) and then Mangalorean, with possibly links to other styles like the Parsi ways of cooking fish from their settlements in south Gujarat, and all the variations of coastal Maharashtrian cooking - CKP, Saraswat, Pathare Prabhu, etc. That's the sense with which Konkani is used in Ananda Solomon's excellent Konkan Cafe at the President Hotel. There are many similarities, of course, across these styles, like the use of coconut milk, kokam and the fish of course are mostly the same, but there are enough distinctions between areas for, I think, Konkani to be used more as an larger, catch-all term. Any thoughts? Vikram
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