The Bohri Food Coma

One of my mother’s persistent concerns is that because me, my sister and indeed most of my friends and cousins show a minimum interest in learning to cook the traditional Indian recipes, passed on from mother to daughter over the ages, shall slowly wane into ignominy due to the pervasive influence of western dishes like pizza and pasta, fast food and ready to cook meals. She continually bemoans her staunch belief that my children shall never be able to taste the delicately spiced traditional Indian food her grandmother’s generation used to cook. Yet in his home-dining experience, Mr. Munaf Kapadia, addressed this very fear of my mother. Along with his mother, Ms. Nafisa Kapadia, a home cook par excellence, he introduced The Bohri Kitchen: a home dining experience where patrons can enjoy traditional Bohri dishes cooked at home, using the traditional methods.
The family belongs to the Bohri community among Muslims, and every weekend they throw open their doors to 16 guests who are then treated to authentic cuisine of the community. I, along with 15 friends, had the good fortune to recently be among the lucky diners to be invited to the Kapadia residence.
On arrival we were welcomed with chilled glasses of coconut water with blended malai – it doesn’t get more refreshing than that! Our host, Munaf Kapadia, explained to us how traditionally the Bohris eat their meals together, seated on the floor, from one communal thaal. Realizing that members from other communities may actually be uncomfortable in eating from a communal thaal, TBK introduced the concept of the ‘Scam-thaal’: the dishes are served on one communal thaal or plate but the patrons eat with individual plates and cutlery; kind of like an ersatz buffet. Soon after this a humongous plate showed up. Even as we gaped at it, our host informed us with a smile that this was “only the medium sized thaal”!

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The scaam thaal arranged with the different sauces and condiments

The meal began with a traditional ritual where the youngest member of our party served each guest a pinch of salt to be had as a palate cleanser. The size of the thaal had us all salivating in anticipation and soon after that the first course arrived: smoked chicken samosas and for the vegans, smoked daal Samosas served with green mint chutney, a beetroot chutney, a sweet dates chutney, pineapple bondi raita (my personal favorite) and the omnipresent tomato ketchup. In my life I have scarcely tasted a better appetizer than piping hot samosas with cold mint chutney! After that the non vegetarians got a second appetizer, just as delicious as the first, boneless chicken kebabs.
A unique Bohri tradition is that after every savory course, they have something sweet to cleanse their palates with. So after the warm and spicy kebabs we were served cold Doodhi Halwa packed with dry fruits and as delicious as a dessert gets. Now it’s my staunch belief that desserts are the best part of any meal and nothing can be better¬† than being served dessert bang middle of the meal!

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After our palates were thoroughly cleansed with double servings of the halwa it was time for the maincourse comprising of succulent raan (the thigh of a goat) marinated for more than a day and cooked in a special homemade masala. The style of eating this particular dish is rather “primitive”. The meat is so tender that it falls apart at touch making it nearly impossible to serve and thus you serve yourself with your hands by tearing out chunks of meat from the bones. It’s a rather messy and thus inevitably fun exercise.

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The Raan was complemented by slices of bread and glasses of rose sherbet. After the last of the sauce was polished off the plates there emerged from the kitchen a big bowl of spicy mutton biryani. We were also served the third beverage around this time: chilled Jaljeera soda. You would think after all the other dishes we would be full by now but the fragrant rice dish packed with spices and pieces of boiled potatoes would not be denied and between the 16 of us we actually managed to empty the bowl.
The conclusion to this wonderful meal arrived in the form of handspurn milk ice-cream. We were served four different flavors though my personal favorite was the mango ice-cream. Among the other three flavors one unique flavor that demands mention is the paan flavored ice-cream, and for those who would rather prefer the actual thing that was available too. It was quite a scrumptious lunch and I would highly recommend it to all.
To book your seat contact The Bohri Kitchen at 9819447438 or contact them on their Facebook page. They do deserve all the patronage they can get.

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Delighting My Taste Buds on the Streets of Bangalore

For our industrial visit this year, our college brought us to Bangalore. One of our classmates is from Bangalore, and so in the evening, with a pretty smile, some threats and lots of coaxing, we got her to take us on a food-tasting spree on the streets of the IT city. First we had some chicken (paneer for the vegetarians – this city caters to all tastebuds) shawarma. This isn’t really local cuisine, but this is the first time I had shawarma, and so in my mind Shwarma and Bangalore are inextricably linked now. Sorry Lebanon ūüėõ But this also further highlights my point that Bangalore has food for everyone and from everywhere. The restaurants also had chicken dosas, which we vowed to go back to try.

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A stone throw away we found the Sri Surya Bakery on Gandhinagar. We spent a delightful forty minutes in there, sampling cookies, mawa cake, Kara buns (soft buns packed with spices), sweet buns, and a really yummy baked delicacy called ‘Dilpasand’ which would literally translate into ‘Your Heart’s Preference’. They are round croissant type of flat buns (the size of a small piza base) packed with Tutti-Frutti. It was probably my favorite viand. I even bought some to take back home (*Conditions apply. If the said product mysteriously disappears in transit, this writer takes no responsibility).
Last but not the least, we had a Bangalore special chaat called ‘Masala Puri’. Our friend told us that it was only available in this city. I can’t really dispute – I have never tasted anything as good in Mumbai chaat shops definitely.
I would have shifted to Bangalore for the food and weather, but the traffic snarls otherwise. I will definitly visit again, if only for the food.

Things You See On Mumbai Locals #5: The Hand of the Modern Indian Woman – The Best Of Two Worlds

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From in between the half a dozen Nike and Adidas armbands, the symbol Oum tentatively peeks out

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– this is the arm of the modern Indian woman. The red tikka or vermilion mark contrast sharply with her GreenDay t-shirt. She is just as punctual for the first day, first show of the latest Tom Cruise thriller, as she is for every puja or religious ceremony in the temple. She revels in her culture and is unapologetic of her bold sexuality.
The way the young girls in Indian metropolitan cities have assimilated the modern day trends with the traditions of the past is admirable and worthy of being written about.
In my college, for instance, girls have the option of choosing between two ways of dress – ethnic or western. A girl can, if she so chooses dress in tight figure-hugging jeans and a tee or a short black dress, but she would look just as attractive in an azure blue salwar suit with silver lace on the duppata and dangling silver earrings, with a tiny diamante bindi to finish the look. You could also, and many do, combine both forms and mix ‘n’ match – an ethnic kurti over jeans, a duppata thrown casually with a dress, or something as insidious as a traditional block printed dress or a tie and dye shirt….options abound, and the modern Indian woman is determined to make best of all of them.
If you move from her wardrobe to her food habits a similar fusion prevails. For instance, today on the train it was the birthday of a passenger. She is in her early 40s and travels regularly to work with a group of her middle-aged friends, who all wished her with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday!’ today. She distributed packed chocolates and wafers among them, and they gifted her a packed red box that contained coconut barfi. Or the other day, I overhead a 30-something woman tell her friend that the manchurIan balls she prepared for her son’s birthday party had been praised by all, as had been the rice payasam she had cooked.
Just like the sacred thread which hides underneath the more modern accessories, underneath the modern exterior, the Indian woman has preserved her heritage and culture. Over the years, instead of discarding one for another, we have chosen to learn from all that’s new and modern while not forgetting the wisdom of the ages. Be it in her wardrobe or her kitchen – the modern Indian woman has skillfully fused the best of both worlds.

4 Fusion Foods – My Style

1. Fruit Custard with Gulab Jamuns and Vanilla Ice-cream: Every Sunday, after lunch, my dad will look at my mom and go “what’s for dessert?” She in turn will shrug and tell him that she isn’t cooking anything more, and if he wants dessert, he has to arrange for it himself….and my dad will. Usually it’s just ice-cream or some delicious concoction of our local sweet shop; sometimes cookies, but one Sunday he outdid himself.

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That delicious little bowl contains custard, succulent slices of bananas, apples and mangoes, some peeled litchis, luscious black grapes, two scoops of vanilla ice-cream, and is topped with tiny cherry-sized Gulab Jamuns. It is by far, the best dessert I have ever had in my life!! It’s happiness in a bowl!
2. Roti with Manchurian Balls: This is a recent innovation – a couple of days ago, me and my friend were having lunch together at our college canteen. I had a plate of fried rice and manchurian, while she had roti-sabzi. For some reason, neither of us much fancied the manchurian balls, and they remained on the plate, forlorn and lonely, long after we had finished the rice and gravy. Experimentally, I tried some of her rotis with a little bit of a manchurian. Lo and behold, it tasted really nice!
3. Sev Puri with Rotis – This is something I discovered during my school days. Roll up the crushed sev puri chaat in a roti, and be amazed at the surprisingly delicious taste.
4. Schezwan Vada Pav: This is actually available on the menu of Jumbo King outlets across Mumbai. I was a little skeptical when I first tried it, but now it’s my favorite item on the menu.

Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt

10 Indian Foods You Must Eat Before You Die

(This was a creative writing assignment in class).

1. Chicken roll from Kolkata
2. Qurbani ka Meetha from Hyderabad
3. Tender Coconut Ice-cream from Naturals, Mumbai (It’s not technically a traditional Indian food, but you will miss out on a lot, if you restrict yourself to technicalities in life).
4. Indian Hakka Noodles and Chilli Chicken – These may be termed under ‘Chinese’ food, but its the Indian inputs that make them a street speciality every where around India.
5. Prawns in Coconut Milk or prawn malaikari from Bengal
6. Spicy Pani Puri from Mumbai
7. Vada Pav from Mumbai
8.  B.B.C (Boneless Butter Chicken) with Biryani rice and raita
9. Malpua – a kind of fried sweet jn syrup that will definitely leave your tastebuds asking for more.
10. Shrikhand from Gujarat – a dessert made out of curd.

( Update: In retrospect, this post is a little too oriented towards non-veg cuisine. For more vegetarian options I would request you to check out this post by Priyanshipandey).

Chocolate – The Ultimate Sin

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A bowl of chocolate ice-cream beside me, and a nearly fully-charged laptop, and I am ready to write this post….

11506_guinness_milk_chocolate_ice_cream_3_620Now at the risk of sounding like the label behind a cereal box, this product (the blog post) is best enjoyed with a cup of chocolate ice-cream or milkshake or any form of chocolate really. Now take a spoon of chocolate, close your eyes and slide it into your mouth – can you feel the silky smoothness of the texture, the heavenly taste as the chocolate melts onto your tongue. If you are having an ice-cream like me, the cool pleasant images (1)almost erotic sensation of the cold, melting dollop that spreads across your tongue to your entire body. You will see gorgeous splashes of colour in the dark, and…..well this is bordering a little too much on food porn now and so I will stop – but seriously this is what makes chocolate a sin. I mean, it would probably have been prohibited by some religious leader or other at some point of time, except that they too were probably bribed by its lustful taste. I read on a T-shirt, once,¬†If there is no chocolate in heaven, I ain’t going.¬†Now I don’t know who the author of these words are but I have a feeling that we would get along well. You can keep all your manna, honey and dew – just give me chocolates.

cupcakeAs you would know if you have read my earlier posts (which I hope you have) I am trying to lose weight, and thus on a diet. And now I must confess that I have been cheating on my diet…with chocolate. I am completely helpless next to its sensuous appeal; and now am seriously considering a divorce from my diet. But chocolate is an old mistress of mine. It is my first love.

I remember the long summer days at school when everything went wrong, when I had been used and thrown away by those I thought were my friends, when I had been trampled on, lost and confused, or just merely sad, chocolate was my only saviour. It was a ritual among me and my friends  Рafter a bad day at school, we would go and have a chocolate ice-cream. And, just like that, by magic, all would be right in the world again.

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images (2)I haven’t lost that practice till date. Even today when I have a bad day at college or at work, or am just generally depressed, I go and have something chocolate – a gooey chocolate brownie, a soft chocolate¬†pastry that falls apart at one touch, a cold chocolate ice-cream, a slurpy delicious chocolate milkshake, a chocolate doughnut with a molten gooey centre (yum!), and if nothing else, then at the least a measly chocolate bar, or a cookie at least. Just a few days ago, I had an intense desire to meet the love of my life, and entered this really expensive patisserie. If I had been in my senses, I should have walked away. If I ever tell my parents the cost of a single item there, they would faint with shock. It was way images (3)beyond my usual expenditure, and my course of action should have been an immediate tactical retreat, and then maybe fulfilling my craving from a cheaper bakery. But have I recently mentioned that chocolates are my undoing? Well they are. As if a magnet was pulling me I went to the counter and ordered their most expensive pastry – a hazelnut crunchy pastry. It was minuscule when it arrived on a little paper plate, with a folded napkin. My heart was already in pieces by guilt. Guilt was hollowing a pit in the depths of my stomach. Mournfully I lifted the spoon, cut a piece, and put it in my mouth. Immediately I forgot all my guilt. It would have been a sin for me to walk away from that patisserie without tasting this divine piece of pastry. It was loaded with nuts and chocolates – and it was my most expensive edible purchase in history.

download (3)But I was past caring now. Each bite was an explosion of fireworks in my mouth. I savoured each morsel like there was no tomorrow. As I walked out of the pastry, I threw out all my concerns about cheating on my diet (and my pocket). Life is too short to deny yourself such pleasures. I am done feeling guilty about my love affair with chocolate. She has been beside me through thick and thin, and only always given me joy. I no longer feel guilty about spending exorbitant amounts for that tiny piece of exquisiteness.

24th February 2014 – Confessions of a Rookie Weight Watcher

Last week, my best friend somehow managed to lure me to a gym. I honestly feel that she used hypnotism or maybe the imperius curse on me, because there is no other way on Earth that anyone could have dragged me, the lazy foodie (a bad combination anyways you look at it) to a gym. Maybe she told me I would find cute guys there – at least that part was true (you don’t know how much more bearable a stiff workout can be if you have a good body to stare at). Anyway somehow she managed to convince (read brainwash) me, and so here I am – five days into the training program and yet to lose a gram. Of course I lose around half a kg everyday, immediately after the workout, but somehow I manage to gain it all back by the next day, sometimes a gram or two more. My gym workout as you can see is pretty much going nowhere, kind of like a car going at top speed in a circle, and never really reaching anywhere. But what has changed is now, all of a sudden and completely out of the blue, I am starting to care about my appearance. Till date I was an ultra-modern feminist who just believed in wearing comfortable clothes, no makeup and eat anything I want – a guy who loves me will have to love me for me, I believed, for what lies in the interior and not for any polished exterior. But now I care about how I look!!¬†When dressing up for college, I mentally debate on which dress does a better job of hiding my love handles. And food – suddenly, me the lover of all types of exotic and tasty dishes, is now suddenly reading the nutritional levels behind tins and boxes. Suddenly a packet of crisps is not a tasty snack for the train, but 34 extra calories I will have to lose!! Out of the blue my kitchen is filled with low fat milk, cheese, sugar and butter – all of which taste awful, and burn a nice round hole¬†in my pocket.

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Now, in all earnestness, my dear friends, I am going to tell you that gyms are only brainwashing centers run by supernatural beings that take over your brain and lifestyle. It robs you of the happiness of eating in bliss, without wondering how many calories you are gaining, or dreaming about how many kilos you are going to lose in how many days (and how then finally THAT guy will ask you to the prom). But its also true that it boosts your self-esteem. The euphoria of losing a few grams is quite unparalleled. Yet, just remember to ask yourself Рis it worth it ?