San Francisco’s Clam Chowder Soup in a Sourdough Bowl

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This tongue-twister recipe is unique to the city of Golden Gate. While visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf area in San Francisco, I was bemused to see the live sea food being served to order by the food connoisseurs. I too stopped with my camera and clicked few pics before being drawn to one unique local recipe named above. It is presented as full round and well puffed bread scooped from inside and filled with the delicious soup. The hot soup is a thick mix of fresh vegetables and very fresh seafood and tastes best when it’s a foggy cold weather at the San Franciaco bay. The taste of the sour dough bread bowl with the hot thick soup is unlike any other delicacy, I had never eaten in any part of the world. The thick soup gradually moistens the bread from inside and you can eat it with your spoon.

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Live Crab

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I tried it twice. Once at a street shop and afterwards at the iconic and most popular Boudin restaurant. In fact French baker Isidore Boudin who migrated to USA in 1849 is credited with the creation of sourdough bowl. It was a really a treat, I can still roll my tongue inside my mouth and feel the taste of the sour bread and soup served at Boudin. If you are really hungry you can finish the whole bread bowl. I polished off the full serve with some chilled beer and had to gulp a lot of water subsequently to make it easy for bread to be dissolved inside me.

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Boudin’s Clam Chowder Soup in a Sour Dough Bowl

I think it’s a must try for everyone, if you don’t want to make the mistake of missing this unique gastronomical delicacy of San Francisco.

The Egg-blast at Orlando

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While Europeans and Americans do have it cold, Indians love it hot only. I am talking about food only and that too about boiled eggs for the breakfast. So in New York when I had the option of only eating boiled and peeled eggs placed over ice cubes, I decided to look the other way. My wife however compromised against her will to eat them cold as that would have taken care of  vital energy needs for the rest of the day. I settled for scrambled eggs which fortunately were served hot.

However, I continued to yearn for hot boiled eggs, my usually favorite breakfast item. I could not eat any eggs during my New York stay and moved on to a hotel in Orlando. Much to our chagrin, this stay had the same style of breakfast food. No hot boiled eggs. I therefore resigned to my fate in USA and thought of having them only when I get back to India.

Then one fine day, when I was eating my breakfast, I noticed a microwave oven in one corner of the breakfast lobby. An idea crossed my mind that why the hell I did not notice that great help earlier as I could easily warm up ice-cold boiled eggs in minutes and would have had them hot in Indian style. After all, all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast!. I looked at my wife sitting beside me and said to her in a voice full of newly gained confidence that, I finally had the solution to her woes and it was as simple as heating the ice cold eggs in a micro wave oven. She looked towards me in a rare sight of appreciation and nodded at my discovery. I straightened my neck even further.

In a sort of ‘March to Victory’, I dashed to pick four boiled ice cold eggs and placed them inside the microwave for heating. I sat the timer for sixty seconds and decided to wait there to get my prized catch of hot boiled eggs in a relatively cold USA. I could see that eggs were almost ready to be eaten and I was just waiting for the timer to stop. But suddenly there was a sort of mini blast right inside the microwave. I had no clue what had happened and all I could see was that some yellowish-white material had splashed across the inner glass wall of the micro wave. I was little shocked and little terrified. Had I placed some explosive material inside oven? Had I placed something else by mistake? What it was after all? I looked to the left and right of me and feeling assured that nobody was close by me at that early hour of breakfast, I decided to open the oven whose timer had also stopped by now.

As I opened the door of the oven I realised that it was an Egg-blast, first of such kind in my life. All I could see was only two eggs left in my plate and full two eggs had splashed themselves in all imaginable yellowish designs on all four walls of the oven. Scared by the thought that I might have to pay damages under so called tough  American rules, I picked a full pack of napkins and tried to wipe off the oven faster than P T Usha had ran at Los Angeles some 32 years ago. I did not want to be caught in the act and lose like Usha by less than 100th of the second. I cleaned it up almost very fast. I looked around me one more time and sensing that nobody had got hints of my misdemeanors, I rushed out of the breakfast lobby. I decided to not experiment any further and buried 6 feet under the ground my hopes of eating hot boiled eggs in USA.

I still don’t know what caused this blast? Was it a half boiled egg from inside whose liquid released gases on heating or was the egg spoiled with some gases already inside? If the eggs were not to be heated with microwave then why the other two eggs survived the ordeal? I have not get an answer yet. May be those who are reading this, may want to enlighten me. But after this experience, I was scared to try again. For hard boiled hot eggs, I had to wait till I landed in India. Any more misadventure could have alerted only FBI perhaps. So no more blasts in USA…..

Jaspur’s Singhare( Water Chestnut) Ki Kachari

Coming back from Jim Corbett National Park, on my way to Dhampur, I was feeling a bit hungry as I had skipped my lunch. I was looking for some quick snack and that too non-oily and non junk. On a trisection  of the town Jaspur located on Jaspur-Dhampur highway(NH-74), I noticed a small road side eatery( thela) selling Kachari, made of Singhara or water Chestnut. I had heard that in winters, Jaspur boasts of selling best Singhare Ki Kachari and by some strange coincidence, I was not only hungry but at the right place at the right time. I went around the thela to see what was on offer actually.

I noticed that the boiled and mashed Singhara was kept covered in a cloth and on orders of customers, it was being garnished with onion, tomatoes, Cummin seeds, ginger and few more spices (India was raided perhaps more for spices in history than for gold!) and then heated with some butter. It was really something very appealing to senses and appetising to palate and suddenly I was feeling even more hungry. I ordered one serving for me to try that.

The man who was preparing it, was a proficient man and with clockwork precision, mixed all ingredients too soon and after heating it with butter prepared  the Kachari in no time. Before handing it to me, he garnished it with fresh lime juice. Without wasting any time I put a slice of this thick preparation of Kachari with the help of a wooden spoon. I closed my eyes for few seconds and commanded all my senses to help me taste that instant delicacy. It was really something to relish. The Singhara boiled  and mashed with all Indian spices was tasty beyond description. I polished off my portion too soon and ordered one more. I was just wondering why I had not eaten it earlier and why the hell, we Indians don’t encourage these outstanding Indian delicacies vis a vis junk foods and instant noodles and what not? As Indian we are too lucky to have a lot of these recipes actually and that too at a decent price of 20 Rs for a serving. I finished my second serving too in no time and thanked the man selling it. I also got to know by googling that Water Chestnut is a very nutritious fruit and fulfills the requirements of many vital minerals in the body. I hope more people do realize this and help preserve the great culinary tradition of India which is more healthy as well.

Thanks Jaspur….

Happiness Of Watching A Movie, Late……

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Authors Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling, in their book ‘Happiness is……….’ write down the 500 ways to feel happy about. They mention small but significant notes of happiness felt through, when we relish a complementary breakfast or while bumping in your very old school teacher or being the first one to get up in the morning or in having breakfast in bed on a cool frosty morning and many more pleasures derived from otherwise mundane happenings. They believe that the happiness is in recognizing these and other small but sweet pleasures of life. Ever since I read that book in a 24 hours bookstore in Taiwan, I have been exercising my find to recognise many such simple and sweet pleasures of life.

I came across one such sweet pleasure last evening when I watched the movie, Talwar. This movie directed by Meghana Gulzar is based on real and shocking murder of Aarushi Talwar for which her doctor parents were convivted. The movie is quite good but the story is a sad one and watching the movie questions the inept handling of the case and highlights many glaring inconsistencies in the story of prosecution. Movie is quite good to feel and better know the times we are living in. But that is not the reason of writing this piece.432123697

Actually the movie had only few paid preview shows on this Thursday in Lucknow, as it formally got released on Friday as any other movie does in India. However, on insistence of my wife for watching it on very first day, I booked two tickets for the 7:45 evening show. Before that I had to do my office followed by evening walk at Lohia park. I was aware that if i got late in leaving the office, I will be hard pressed to reach cinema hall in time.

I had a bad start. I left the office almost 43 minutes behind the schedule at 5:43 PM and rushed still to Lohia Park-a great spot for walkers and joggers in Lucknow. I did my rounds there and curtailing my walk a bit left the park around 6:25. I now had only one hour and twenty minutes to go back to my house, take a shower and then come back to movie hall before 7:45 pm. The times was short as my residence is more than 12 km away from my office and park and, the movie hall I chose among limited options on Thursday was a good 10 km away from my home. I could still manage if I reached home in good time and could turn around quickly with my wife to the PVR cinema hall in Hazratganj.

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I started to roll from Lohia park, but just then I recalled my morning chat with my sweet daughter as she was leaving for school in the morning. She had requested me to come back with her favorite cake while returning from office in the evening. Her request in the morning was a personal one as she does not make many requests while going dutifully to her school. I had seen her eyes and could sense that as a kid she was yearning for a cake really. That may be perhaps also due to the pressures of the exam she was facing since last week, as owing to the exam, she had slept late and even remain awoke during few previous nights. I was in a dilemma, because if I went to her favorite shop in busy Hazratganj at the evening traffic hour, I could not have made to movie at scheduled time. I had to choose one. Either the movie with the wife or a cake for the daughter. I took few seconds in deciding, but finally the request of the daughter prevailed over  the prospect of watching a thriller on time. It was not as if I was very happy to take that call but my fatherly instinct asked me to give preference to that only.

I rushed therefore to the traffic of Hazratganj and as expected got in the traffic jam of the evening. Waiting in the traffic, I was feeling the pressure of the situation and kept on looking at my mobile phone clock to recalculate the time I would eventually need to reach back to cinema. I managed to reach the shop after some tough traffic negotiations and purchased the best possible cake in  the shortest possible time. I almost jumped back into my vehicle with the cake. The clock was showing 6:55 pm by now. I was still 10 odd km away from my house and had many more things to do. I was anxious for the movie but at the same was happy for dutifully buying the cake for my daughter from her favorite shop.a-daughter-may-outgrow-your-lap-but-she-will-never-outgrow-your-heart-quote-1

I took a deep breath to ease myself and managed to reach my house only by 7:11 pm. With cake and pastries in may hands I just barged into room of my daughter and proudly presented the cake to her. She was really happy to see her wish fulfilled. She thanked me profusely and went to kitchen to get the plates etc for cutting the cake and eating it with all of us. I was happy to see her happy and glancing at the clock, pushed myself into the bath room and took a shower as quickly as possible. Its so relieving and freshening to take a shower after sweating out at this time of the year. Meanwhile my daughter was ready with the knife etc. to cut the cake we enjoyed the cake. The smile on her face alleviated my oncoming agony of watching a thriller movie late. I just hugged her and left for the movie with my wife at 7:30 pm. It was still at least 25 minutes away from the multiplex. I took another deep breath and shared with my wife the pleasure of seeing my daughter happy.

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I reached the multiplex by 7:58 and rushed to the audi showing the movie Talwar. It took another 5 minutes to get into the lift and to make it to the audi. As I rushed inside the hall, I was amazed to see that the movie was starting to roll just then, at 8:03 to be precise! I heaved a sigh of relief and had a real big smile of life at the situation. It was hard to believe my luck as I was not expecting the late start of the movie beyond 5 or maximum of 10 minutes. But here it was late by 18 minutes. It was sheer luck or something else? Did some circumstances ‘conspired'( Rhonda Byrne of ‘Secret’ fame will vouch for that for sure)  for so late start to compensate me for conceding to my daughter’s request? I don’t know actually. But it was such a sweet pleasure to witness the start of movie so late when you have reached late yourself. I had done a great job really. With my wife on my side, I sunk into plush seats of hall to watch the thriller in the right earnest but not before thanking God for bestowing me with a little sweet daughter some 16 years ago.Father’s-Day-Gift-Ideas-for-Kids-4

I can now say that ” Happiness is in watching a movie after sharing a cake with your daughter and getting late but not more than the start of the movie!” Perhaps Ralph and Lisa may include that in their next edition!!!

Restaurant Week India

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Organised twice a year in March and September by Desi Restaurant Week Events Pvt. Ltd., Restaurant Week India or RWI is a niche culinary event held in 5 major cities of India, Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. I got introduced to the concept in 2013 while visiting Delhi with two of my closest friends. The concept was new to me then as the top hotels and restaurants were offering their best recipes at the fraction of a la carta prices. That was done by hotels of course as part of their brand building, but it suited to my palate and purse quite well. When else one can imagine to have a three course dinner at a top five star restaurants for 1000 bucks!. The dinner we had at Varq, Taj Palace in Delhi in 2013 was really memorable and we enjoyed the ambience and the dishes both while being pampered by the staff of the restaurant.

At Taj Palace Delhi, 2013

At Taj Palace Delhi, 2013

After a gap of two years, I joined the event once again this year on a social visit to Delhi. I booked a table for my brother and sister’s family at ITC Sheraton’s restaurant Dakshin, known for its authentic south Indian recipes. It was my first time there and the occasion was special for my younger brother. RWI offers you fixed price menu. We had to choose from an elaborate menu which had all possible options. We were helped by Avinash, the affable restaurant manager. Since we were a large group and all were vegetarian on the day(Ganesh Chaturthi), we had the opportunity to taste almost everything on the RWI menu of Dakshin.

The appetizers were served first. It included Cauliflower Melagu Peratti, Kuzhipaniyaram and Vadai of the day, washed down with ever dependable butter milk. The freshness and taste of them, sat the right tone for a great evening. There were lots of spice condiments to tingle the tongue including the curd marinated and fried red chilies, a southern delicacy. I placed most of them in a neat order on my banana leaf lined thali and kept on using them to spice up the food. The main course consisted of Ennai Kathrikai (eggplant), Tomato Pappu (Lentils), Ambat(Lentils with Spinach) and Urlai Varuval(Potato). These were relished with appams, parrotas and neru dosas.  While Appams were crisp, Neeru Dosas were soft and delicate. Although I had been avoiding rich diets recently, I threw all cautions to the wind and immersed myself literally in the food paradise that was laid out for us at Dakshin. Everybody ate to his or her heart contentment. The company of brothers and sisters and a pretty to-be-new member of my family was no less the reason for enjoying these gastronomical delights in a great spirit.IMG_5350

IMG_5346The main course was followed by some mind blowing sweet dishes pronounced as Basundi(Rice), Elaneer Payasam(Coconut Milk) and Adai Pradhaman(Rice and Jaggery). We tasted all of them in smaller quantities as our stomachs were rounded well by then. The helpful staff including the chief chef and waiter Babu were taking a good care of us. The beetle leaves were last to come and I did not miss them either. Just as we were about to leave, my brother in law smelled the aroma of fresh filter coffee being prepared for some other guests. The aroma was amazing and enticing and though we had paid the bills, we sat back to enjoy the final delicacy of the day, the filter coffee served in South Indian style in small steel glass and a steel saucer. It was one of the finest coffee I ever had in my life. What a great evening it turned out to be! I thanked God and my sister and brothers for a memorable evening. I think, I had the best of Restaurant Week India!rwi_banner

Sandila Laddu: The Delicacy That Once Was…..

Sandila Laddoos

Sandila Laddoos

Laddoo……Sandila Laddoo……..Laddoo…….Sandila Laddoo……. Have you heard this clarion call ever? Have these words ever knocked through your ear-drums? Or, can you relate to the picture at the top, which has some sweets in an earthen pot with some red celophene paper besides it? I can presume and predict without the benefit of being an astrologer, that If you have you ever traveled in North India between Lucknow and Delhi on Indian Rail, you would have heard that. I have been hearing these sounds ever since I was a kid. Whenever I travelled on a non super fast train-Sandial being a smaller station so only non super fast train would be stopping here- from Lucknow to Delhi or to Dehradun, it used to halt at Sandila, a small nondescript town of Hardoi district located about 50 odd Km from Lucknow. My knowledge about Sandila town has been limited to the famous laddoos only which the town used to churn out in all probability in near past.

As soon as a train stopped or even entered the platform of Sandila railway station, I would hear very clear sounds of laddoos hawkers calling out for anybody who was interested in the delicacy on the move over a two minutes stoppage. The sound and sights of laddoos would be clearer through the iron grill windows of a second class sleeper coach as compared to black tinted glass windowed AC coaches. I would usually look out of the window and would look out at many small earthen laddoo pots hanging through a rope tied to a support hanging from the arms or shoulders of the vendor. The sight would usually amuse me and more often than not, I would try to assess the probability of buying eatables on a railway platform. I would sometimes ask about the prices and have a closer look at the pot, contents of which would still be little secret. I yielded sometimes to my taste buds and bought a pot. I would uncover them and found the sweets inside it. I would taste them and usually found that to be loaded with more sugar than besan (Bengal Gram Flour). I would still relish that and share with my family members and co-traveler. The taste would not be that great but still, the process of the purchase would leave a sweeter taste in my mouth as well as in my sweeter memories.

I would however always think about the probability of getting the tastier Sandila laddoos sometimes when I could get inside the town of Sandila by some chance and would get to the best shop of town selling authentic laddoos, unlike those on railways platform. Last week, I was travelling with my family by road from Hardoi to Lucknow and had some liberty of time as well. My kids too had been hearing about the laddoos and when I took their opinion of trying some good shop selling famed Sandila laddoos, they too acquiesced in. The next challenge was to know the best shop in town. I called my friend Yogesh over phone as he was a native of Hardoi and was most likely to know about those. He referred to me the name of Babulal Halwai(sweetmeat shop owner), whose shop was inside the town just after railway crossing and adjacent to Police  Station Sandila. I thanked Yogesh and headed for the destination.

I was there soon. The shop is really a smallish one and normally only locals would notice that. The seller at the counter was one Prakash, a man in mid forties. I asked him to suggest his shop’s specialities. He suggested to me, Bundi laddoos and Gond(Gum) Laddoos. I asked him to give an half Kg of both. I could notice that at the back end of the shop, fresh laddoos were being produced and Ii was therefore happy to know that I would be getting the fresh product. I asked him if he could pack the ladooos in earthen pot. He told me, that now he was not using the earthen pots as the locals now don’t prefer that. I was little disappointed at the prospect of not getting signature Sandila Laddoos in attractive earthen pots, but having no alternative, agreed to normal card board packing.

I got both the variety packed soon and boarded back my vehicle with the happy anticipation of a great delicacy so dear to my sweet tooth memories. I ate the Bundi Laddoos first, followed by Gum Laddoos. The taste was good, but not something to match with great popularity of the icon. Laddoos were better than those sold on a platform but still were no less sugary. The kids too tried each and were not eager to repeat them. Perhaps the price of Laddoos was responsible for that or how else could you afford to sell a Kg of Laddoos for a paltry Rs 130? A kg of Arhar Dal now costs no less than Rs 140! It may also be possible that hardworking Sandilaites could be digesting that much sugar easily, than fatty morons like me.

I was still happy to fulfill one of my long cherished wish to eat Sandila Laddoos right at Sandila town. It was a mission accomplished sort of. This fulfillment was in fact sweeter and yummier than Laddoos! That day, I perhaps ticked one more item in my ‘Bucket List’.

Sea Food

Surrounded by Pacific Ocean in east, Formosa Sea in West, South China Sea in South and East China Sea in North, Taiwan inter-alia is a paradise for connoisseurs and lovers of sea food. One can have the best and brightest (literally) in that category in Taiwan. I too realised this once I landed in Taiwan. It was afternoon by the time I reached my hotel but the room was not ready by that time. I was feeling tired and hungry after an almost 9 hour journey from Delhi via Hong Kong. I therefore decided to have lunch in the restaurant of this plush hotel FX in Taipei.

However, I had not visualised the road blocks ahead. The first bottleneck was my complete lack of Chinese language and the limited language skills of the staff of restaurant in any other language. Looking at menu card, I was not clear about the contents of recipe. My conviction to avoid beef and pork was giving me jitters to chose froman otherwise rich menu. I kept on shuffling the pages of menu card without finalising the order for quite some time. The waitress, Janice was trying her best to understand my order and I was trying my best to break the language barrier. Janice suggested me some options but I was still not sure. I was also afraid of some raw, sticky, giddy sea food coming to me my table. I finally decided to try a recipe which had prawns as one of the ingredient, as I had eaten them before.

Just as I had a good portion of salads and fruits before the main dish of sub-buffet, I was served with a bowl of noodles with prawns. The prawns were accompanied by an oyster. I had not ever eaten oyster, but was feeling hungry enough to overcome my inhibitions. I started with noodles first and then had prawns. The taste was not bad for sure. They don’t use much spices and oils in Taiwan and you can garnish your food with pepper etc. I polished of everything soon except the oyster. I looked around and just scooped and sucked the flesh of the oyster. It was not the best of taste but it was not bad either. I finished everything was  now feeling stomach full with this introductory seafood bowl of food in Taiwan. I did not forget to thank Janice for that.

My First Recipe in Taiwan

My First Recipe in Taiwan

After getting lucky with my maiden sea-food experiment, I became confident first and subsequently adventurous. My next trial was with nothing less than baby octopus!. They were sprinkled with rice as we do with nutri-nuggets. This was over a lunch and out of my new gained confidence, I did not think twice before popping few octopuses inside my mouth. I was feeling very brave in a sense that I had eaten octopuses really, the same animal which in many movies appears very dangerous with its sucking pods can squeeze life out of you in no time. The poor animal was down by throat now an I was alive and kicking. I was really happy to be able to do that.

Rice with Octopuses

Rice with Octopuses

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Sardine

Over next few days of my stay, I became even more bold and was ready to taste everything, practically. The pictures below will testify that.

Cuttlefish and All

Cuttlefish and All

Red Crabs

Red Crabs

As you can see. I had all sorts of fishes right fro Sardine to Salmon to Cuttlefish to Crabs. All of them were yummy and even more important, good on my stomach. In fact over a week of my stay in Taiwan, I was feeling best, tummy-wise. The lack of spices and oil, unlike in India, means you can relish the healthiest food and that too with natural flavor of the ingredients. My pick of the trip was the grilled lobster served sliced in half mid way at Westin  Taipei. It was really tasty. I enjoyed it with many other sea food novelties and thanked my stars for getting me there and letting me relish this great sea food trail in Taiwan.

Pick of Trip:Lobster

Pick of Trip:Lobster

The Bukhara

Rated as one of the top restaurants of the world due to its authentic north western frontier province cuisine, Bukhara is the top class eating place in India. It is one of many restaurants of respectable ITC brand and surpasses all others in popularity. It’s signature ‘Daal Bukhara’ is irresistible and once you had it, the taste lingers in your mouth for days if not months and years. Its uniqueness is based on the perfected and fine cuisines of north western frontier province of pre-partition India. The rugged area was known for earthly charm of tandoor (Earthen Oven) and roasting. The stress is on right way of roasting after marinating the fine quality meat and non meat products with other essential ingredients. The secret recipes have continued to flow from generation to generation and the chefs at Bukhara are privileged to treasure them.

I had been to Bukhara few years ago. At that time I was a vegetarian and had relished the ‘Gobhi Ka Phool’ with Daal Bukhara and the naan. The taste of tandoori vegetarian dishes with a whole cauliflower was really mouthwatering and with sprinkling of special masala over them, I felt like paradise. Now with larger choice of non vegetarian food too, I decided  to revisit Bukara last week.

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The entrance to restaurant is noticeable by a large hanging wooden menu card. You can have a look at it and can also decide the orders, before even entering the restaurant. It may not be a bad idea, because once you are in , you don’t want to wait even for seconds before plunging your teeth in succulent recipes prepared in glass partitioned open kitchen.7001091-Bukhara_Jan_2014_New_Delhi

I had to wait for sometime outside as the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon was filled to capacity. I utilised the time to finalise the order therefore. After some time we were ushered into the restaurant by a pathan suit clad gentleman in the tradition of North Western Frontier British India. After being comfortably seated the menu card came in form of a wooden plank. It had all the dishes written in two categories of vegetarian and non vegetarian. I ordered a ‘Sikandari Raan’ and Daal Bukhara with Pudina Naan and plain Naan.

Sikandari Raan

Sikandari Raan

Raan recipe is prepared by raosting a marinated meaty leg of a lamb or goat and is cooked delicately. The recipe comes in a big size and you need at least 2 persons to devour it. The order came soon. The restaurant does not  places the forks and knives on the table and therefore we used our hands in right earnest to feed our salivating mouth. The taste of the ‘Raan’ was really great. It was so perfectly cooked that it dissolved in mouth with a little pressure of teeth and tongue. We had it with pudina naan and it tasted like heaven. After finishing a good portion of the recipe, we decided to taste the signature ‘Daal Bukhara’.

Daal Bukhara

Daal Bukhara

The black lentils are cooked in special earthen pots over night and is garnished with perfect and ancient mix of herbs and spices along with dollops of cream. As you get a spoon of daal inside your mouth, your eyes are closed automatically and you want to feel the recipe with a roll of tongue over a spoonful of daal inside your mouth. I had tasted it before too and was missing this perfect rich taste for years. I had few more spoonful and in no time my brother and me finished the recipes. We were feeling fully happy, that is ‘full’ and ‘happy’ both.

Phirni

Phirni

The order for sweet dish was now made with ‘Phirani’ and ‘Kulfi-Faluda’. Phirni is made with rice and other ingredients while Kulfi-Faluda is made with condensed and sweetened milk. We had it and smacked our lips like a happy cat. The experience at Bukhara once again was  really mind and tongue blowing. I thanked the staff at restaurant for their great food and their service and came out with a smile.

Food Delights of Indore

Savoring Kesaria Peda at Savanriya Sweets, Indore

Savoring Kesaria Peda at Savanriya Sweets, Indore

Roaming around cities in India, you frequently come across some small around- the-corner food shops and stalls which offer you amazing gastronomical delights. During one such visit to Indore, I came across the ‘Savanriya Sweets’ selling only Kesariya Peda(soft dumpling of milk-khoya). The shop is in a very small corner of Bajrang Mandir of Subhash Chowk, Rajwada, Indore. The gentleman there was selling some saffron tinged small yellowish peda. I was attracted by his confidence in selling a single sweet product in this busy market. Only if one has that deep confidence in your product, one will do that.

I asked him to let me taste his product first. I popped one into my mouth and rolled my tongue over it. It was really soft and yummy. I have earlier tasted pedas of Mathura and Lucknow and relished them a lot always, but this too was really good. The saffron tinge was really making a difference. I liked it a lot and ordered a portion more. Everybody else in the group looking at our facial expression in favor of peda, tasted themselves and relished it equally if not more. I thanked the shop keeper for making and  selling this sweet delight.

After savoring the peda and satisfying our sweet tooth, I moved to try one more very popular recipe of Indore at ‘Joshi Dahi Wada Wale’. This shop right in shoppers’ paradise of Indore-Sarrafa Bazar(Jewellers Market), is doing tasty dahi wada for decades. I too reached there with my group. We entered the shop and there were few persons already eating them in big paper bowls. The size of dahi-wada too was one of the biggest, we had seen or eaten anywhere in India. We ordered too and soon were offered big paper bowl of that, with curd almost overflowing. As soon as I had the first bite of it, I realized that this was really good and one of the best I had ever. The perfect balance of hardness and softness of it was really the key thing. It was really yummy and no amount of explanation in words will suffice for the satisfaction I had by actually eating it. I was really happy at my choice.

One more interesting recipe I noticed it at shop was, ‘Bhutte-ki-Khees‘. I was enticed by the name of recipe first and decided to try it myself. It was made of grated corn and is a Malwan specialty. The taste was really good. I had never had any similar dish in any part of India. The preparation was simple and perfect. I read about  this recipe afterwards, in Tarala Dalal’s writing too and was happy to have relished it at one of the best shops in India. I had my stomach full by now and had decided to skip the lunch, more so perhaps to retain the test of the gastronomical delights, I just had in Indore.

The sacrifice of lunch was followed by one more food joint-Ice Cream. The Kamat owned ice cream brand of Mumbai, Naturals is increasingly getting popular all over India, due to its philosphy of real fruits instead of just flavours in ice cream. The brand has its outlet at Indore also and we decided therefore to relissh few fresh fruit ice creams before leaving the mini-Mumbai city of Maharashtra. The ice creams we had included, Kala Jamun, Cheeku, Tender coconut and many more. I was so bold by the taste of them that I decided to get few packed with dry ice in thermocol box to carry them back to home. I really relished them all. In fact all food delights of Indore including the old and new ones left a memorable taste in my mouth.

I miss that in Lucknow.

Naturals at Indore

Naturals at Indore

The Gulab Jamuns and Me

Gulab Jamuns

Gulab Jamuns

If I presently weigh some short of 100, the most responsible person for this state of affairs is man who before his death, left a legacy of churning out the yummiest and softest Gulab Jamuns you can think of. His name was Tularam, the man who set up the famous Tularam Gulab Jamun shop at Nagina, Bijnor in 1945 at NH 74 linking Uttarakhand’s Garhwal and Kumaon via Nagina.

Nagina though a sub divisional headquarters, is a small town. It is also famous for inlaid wooden craft and the material carved here, is sold out across all parts of India. The sweet shop of Tularam would had been set up of course for the local consumption and particularly for passengers coming to and fro, to the smallish railway station located at the entrance to it. If you are not a local or not aware about the shop in advance, you may easily miss the shop as there are thousands of such road shops in thousand various mofussils and cities over entire India.

I was introduced to this delicacy when I was posted as Sub Divisional Magistrate at Dhampur, a town very close to Nagina. I had a sweet tooth always and 15 years ago was not forever calculating calories while eating these recipes. As SDM, I had a Tahsildar, one Tewari Ji who had mastered the art of VIP duties. He used to stay at Nagina as he was earlier posted there and despite being transferred to Dhampur, continued to keep living there. He was a smart man and a typically successful Tahsildar, by his instinct to judge the officer’s liking and disliking in all fields including food of course. He once came to meet me and as is customary, came with a well packed earthen bowl containing Tularam’s Gulab Jamuns. Uninitiated to the taste,  I was oblivious to their speciality. He told me that, I might like those Gulab Jamuns as they were from one of the most famous and old sweet shop of Nagina. I said nothing and did not realise that, that first earthen bowl full of Gulab Jamuns will become my weakness soon and will also add few inches to my waist soon.

After Tewari Ji left, I retired to my house and had dinner. As I used to have sweet dish after dinner daily at that time, Gulab Jamuns were suggested as the sweet dish. I was offered two Gulab Jamuns only. I scooped a part from one of them and kept it in my mouth. As soon as I rolled my tongue over it, it melted like cream. It was really tasty and very soft. I had not ever tasted softer than this Gulab Jamuns despite being from Lucknow, a city famous for food and cuisines. I had more and very soon devoured almost 7 or 8. I would have eaten more if I had not finished my dinner just then. I had few more next day and my wife could get only a few of them. Soon there were no more left.

Tewari Ji came to meet me again soon and this time came with some different sweets and fruits. In anticipation however, my eyes were looking for that sweet earthen bowl but that was not there. Being his boss, I could not ask him directly about that, as that would have exposed my weakness. Our discussion continued for some time over official issues and after some time he left for his office. However, before leaving he asked me whether I had liked those Gulab Jamuns or not? I was perhaps waiting for this opportunity to express my appreciation for those softy Gulab Jamuns. I appreciated them with a conservative tone, but my smart Tahsildar got enough clues about my love for them. He said nothing however and left.

Next day, Mr Tewari was again at my residence in the morning and was this time with an even bigger earthen bowl of Gulab Jamuns. I was really happy to see them though I tried to conceal my enthusiasm. He said nonchalantly that he was coming to Dhampur that morning and in the way noticed the fresh and hot Gulab Jamuns and thought of gifting them to me so that I could eat them as hot and fresh. I was really happy. I came inside the house and tasted few more and realised that fresh and hot Gulab Jamuns were even better. I left for office only after getting enough of them.

Mr Tewari sensing my love for Gulab Jamuns now decided to send them to my house every alternate day. Those were really not so expensive and could not be categorised as any undue gratification and therefore I continued to relish them as often as I could. Little did I realise however that, that was adding a good weight to my body and particularly around belly. The smart Tahsildar sensing my only weakness perhaps, continued to supply them aplenty. I continued to relish them and brushed aside any suggestion of my wife to control my urge. This continued for next one year and by that time I had devoured a lot many Gulab Jamuns. I was not aware that my waistline was also smiling more.

This happy and yummy but calories loaded streak got interrupted only, when I was transferred from Dhampur to some other sub division. I, however continued to get them occasionally by sending my man all the way to Nagina. The cost of getting them to my new place was perhaps more than the price of Gulab Jamuns. Few times when I passed through Nagina during course of my official duties and otherwise, I landed at the shop and tasted them, there itself. Tewari Ji too being a true bred revenue department officer, whenever came to visit me out of courtesy, came with a good load of them. No need to say that I relished them a lot. The habit however eased a bit later on but by that time, I was had put on substantial weight due to them alone. I tried to somewhat control my urge in eating them in the larger interest of my health.

Recently, I happened to travel to Dehradun from that road and was with my family. My daughter who was born around the time I tasted them first in 2000, was also with me. I told her about the shop and its unmatched tasty Gulab Jamuns. She was not keen to taste them however. I still stopped my vehicle and   entered the shop. My daughter unwillingly followed me and entered the shop.  I was at the shop after almost  a decade and was little nostalgic about the place too. I ordered Gulab Jamuns for every body. The taste of them was great as always and I was feeling happy and lucky to have passed through this route that day. However I was shocked to see my daughter ordering one more plate of Gulab Jamun. I was really bemused to see her eating Gulab Jamuns with same happiness as I used to 15 years ago. Was History repeating itself?  After all daughters do admire their fathers more. I smiled at the turn of events and left the shop but not before getting a mobile pic clicked in this shop. The Tularam had now made inroad into mind and belly of next generation. What a legacy really!

At Tularam Nagina

At Tularam Nagina

In fact my daughter still keeps on asking me, ” Papa,  when are we going to Nagina again?” I smile at her being my daughter truly and refresh my memory with aroma and taste of Tularam’s Gulab Jamun. Tularam is dead, but long live Tularam, through his Gulab Jamuns of course.