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Friday, July 29, 2011

Steaming hot Idlis

Today is the day when I have to do some banking work. I know this will take several hours and I might not have the energy to come back and cook. But I can’t decide as yet what I plan to make for lunch. I walk downstairs and wait at the gate for auto-rickshaw and I am distracted by the aroma of the steaming idlis. There is a large crowd around the cycle hawker who is churning out freshly steamed idlis in a jiffy. His make-shift-bicycle has one big container of Sambar hooked at the handles, and another one of Chutneys. A big steamer is kept on the stove at the back-seat of the bicycle. He washes the serving plates from a bucket of water and throws away the dirty water on the unused side of the footpath, then rinses with more clean water from another bucket. It is unhygienic but people don’t seem to mind. They wait patiently as he arranges the steamed Idlis in the small steel plates, pours a ladle full of hot Sambar on it and add coconut chutney. At Rs12 a plate, it makes a complete nourishing breakfast.

I make a mental note of ordering that for lunch when I return back home. Living in Mumbai, eating road-side food doesn’t bother me, even though I am aware its unhygenic, unlike my NRI cousins who always report sick if they try such stuff. When I come back I enjoy my lunch at Rs 24 of two plates of Idli-Vada-Sambar-Chutney. The Idlis and Vadas are very tiny hence my plate had 8 Idlis and 8 Vadas, each the size of a walnut..
 That is the comfort of living in India.

I have known this Idliwallah as long as I can remember. He arrives at 10a.m on his cycle which serves as his mobile restaurant. Many times I just buy Idlis from him and make Chinese veggies and this makes a perfect combinations. Steamed Idlis and stewed Chinese veggies…howzatt? Yumicious!!
Back then, when I lived in Spain, this was the luxury that I used to miss the most. If I wished to eat Idli, sambars then I need to make it. We had to plan it one day ahead. Early morning I would soak rice and lentil for few hours.  After few hours of soaking, I would grind these separately, mix it and keep it for fermentation for more than 16 hours. In Spain, the fluffiness of the idli depended on the weather. In cold weather, we wrapped the bowls with large towels and kept them in oven for fermenting, but most of the time it didn't ferment well, the idlis were sticky and hard. But still we relished it and even invited friends over for this treat. Chutney and Sambar was cooked too and this would last for two days. We made enough batter, to make Dosas and Uttappas too.
For people who live abroad, fermenting of the batter is the experiment they have to try again and again to reach to certain level of perfection.  “Switching on the oven and turning it off, then hoping for the batter to ferment does nothing either, at least in this house. Well it does, but it’s more complicated than that.” Says Jugalbandi, a food blogger, who uses ‘Eno Fruit salt’ to make his batter light and foamy, (Strange, but I have never thought of that)
The best Idli will always be made by a South Indian friend and all my life, at different stages, I have always befriended one south Indian friend who will be kind enough to steam some Idlis for me and this fetish dates back to my childhood days when after school hours, I used to follow my friend to enjoy the meals at her home. . it’s a regular food that is made in every South Indian home. “The smell of savory sponges of heaven, fresh out of the cooker as soon, as I got up is what I grew up with, just like many of my south Indian friends.” Says another food blogger DK and she explains the method of making best fluffy Idlis in her recipes.

Back in India, I have never made Idlis ever again even though there are ready-made fermented batters available at food stores in Mumbai. Going to the restaurant is an easy option. Moreover, we have this Idli and Dosa hawkers at every street corner, so why make a big fuss…..?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Romance with Eggs


During my growing up days, every holidays Mom took me to her brother’s house in Pune. That used to be her favorite destination. She enjoyed meeting her relatives and travelling around the city. I accompanied mom only to Pune city, but once there at my mamma’s house, I was left at home with my cousins.
I was very close to my cousins and we used to play together all day and sometimes late nights. Many times, when the elder went off to sleep, we would sneak out and go eat egg burji during late nights as late as 1am. There was one such hawker near the Pune railway station who made very tasty burji. He use to make on a large tava, stir frying onions, tomatoes, green chilies and coriander leaves in spoonful of butter. After a minute of stir frying he would break open the eggs on the top of masala and harshly mash up and mix. He would serve with buttered pav. It used to be great treat.
Surprisingly, we used to be hungry at all times of the day, and with our limited pocket money, egg used to the cheapest non-vegetarian dish.
Sometimes during evenings we used to go for half-fried eggs with sunny side up. With salt and black pepper, we would relish this with hot cup of cutting chai.


The romance with egg has been deep rooted and when I migrated to Spain, I discovered tortilla. In Spain, tortilla is very common and can be had cold (many people even take it for picnics) and it is also served in Spanish bar as accompaniment with drinks. Tortilla is the egg omelets that is made of the deep fried potatoes, mixed vegetables and also include olives, fish and meat. I had learnt to make Spanish omelet from my maid and this is my favorite must-have egg dish which I serve when I have guests. The whites of the eggs are beaten till fluffy before adding the other ingredients. It is made in a big pan and it is flipped at least three times to enable to cook from inside. I have a special cover, which is slightly larger than the pan, and makes the flipping and sliding it back into the pan easier.
Even the simple egg dish with just salt, if fried like a pan-cake and stuffed between the toasted bread, tastes delicious. I still remember the egg sandwiches that I used to feast on at the arrival lounge of Santacruz airport.

During my national tours, whenever we stay in the hotels, I always look forward to egg omelets that are served during break-fast. There will be variety of food that will include cakes, croissants, and Indian spicy breakfast like Idli-Sambar, Puri-Bhaji, but I always head towards the live-egg-preparation-desk where I choose the ingredients while the chef prepares a perfect omelet for me.
Except for Spanish omelet, I have never really learnt to make an egg dish, I just fried it without any experience and it turned out fine, but there are many people out there who still don't know how to fry an egg. How do I know that? Well, why else would there be tutorials on egg recipes? huh!

Okay I am hungry again…maybe I should go for boiled egg salad……

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yet Another blog...this time on Food

It’s been months since I have been contemplating on starting a food blog where I could share my thoughts on cooking, my own and my friends, where we could talk just food. I do talk sometimes on food at my other blogs but it gets lost between my other posts, for me blogging on various subject in separate section is much better than mixing my topics.
I already have 6 regular blogs and two private and it sometimes becomes difficult to update them regularly, but food topic is very close to my heart and I decided why not…so here I am with yet one more blog, this time on Food……..
Hope to have fun!!!
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