Gupta Chikki – Yummy Candy

Pictures of Lego Minifigures enjoying Peanut Chikki by Arun Shanbhag
Lego Friends enjoying Chikki

Growing up in Mumbai, chikkis were our treats. Local kirana dukkan (stores) had a assortment of chikkis available for a pittance. Chikkis are the traditional Indian candy bars before there were candy bars. PiPi (fennel candy) was our other delicacy. The simplest chikki’s are roasted peanuts in a gooey, crunchy slab of jaggery (see Making Jaggery). Chikkis are made with every imaginable grains or nuts including peanuts, rajgira (amaranth), sesame (black, white), coconut (desiccated), rice (puffed), mango, cashews, pistachios and almonds. The closest equivalent in the US would be peanut brittle, but the indian chikki is typically nuttier and crunchy. Continue reading “Gupta Chikki – Yummy Candy”

Video: Making Rava Dosa and Masala Dosas

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Growing up in Mumbai, dosas were a staple in our home. We never tired of them. Could munch dosas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the expert hands of my mother, dosas were easy; its the parathas and North Indian fare she avoided. We didn’t miss those. Continue reading “Video: Making Rava Dosa and Masala Dosas”

Video: Jana Gana Mana, List of Performers


With democracy comes a serious responsibility.
What are you doing with your democracy?

Happy Independence Day!


Continue reading “Video: Jana Gana Mana, List of Performers”

Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway


Move your mouse out of the video frame to lose the black border.
Music: Mere Desh Ka Salaam, Shobha Gurtu.


Those who have ridden the Konkan Railway can attest, the rural countryside with emerald green fields is mesmerizing. I think of an early retirement in a village, a small house and running a school.

To share the genesis of this madness, I recorded the view. Here is a 67 second snippet, as the train crossed the Aghanashini River and approached the Kumta Train station. I recorded this from the doorway with my flip video, amidst the rain and rumbling of the train. Enjoy and tell me what you think.
Continue reading “Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway”

Video: Weaving Jaaii Flowers


During recent travels, I was visiting relatives in Honavar, Karnataka – a sleepy coastal town south of Kumta (see google map below). I had stopped by a family store to add money to my pre-paid cell phone. There, this older gentleman was weaving these delicate pink buds called jaaii-che kaLo. These buds only sprout after the monsoon rains (June – August), have a delicate fragrance and are highly sought after during the festival season in July-September. It was a simple, yet mesmerizingly beautiful weave and he agreed to let me record it on my flip video. Continue reading “Video: Weaving Jaaii Flowers”

Video: Making Puran Polis

When in Mumbai, we attended a puja at my aunt’s place in Jogeshwari. There we enjoyed a delicious south india lunch, served on banana leaves. Freshly made, warm puran polis, dribbled with home-made tuup (clarified butter), was one of many desserts. The catering crew were making it in the back. Enjoy the video.

puran poli sanzori konkani foodsAnd see this older post, where I describe how our extended family comes together to make Sanzori, a variant of the puran poli. So much fun.

Here is Shilpa’s (Aayis Recipes) excellent recipe for puran poli (also called Obbattu).

And another recipe for Puran Poli from Sailu’s Kitchen.



Some of my Other Videos:



Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir

haldi turmeric ginger milk by Arun ShanbhagTurmeric is an ubiquitous indian spice and a common ingredient of pre-mixed curry or masala powders. Turmeric (haldi, Konkani; haridra, Sanskrit) is also an essential component of fish marinade.

While I take for granted the turmeric used in cooking, I distinctly remember my grandma preparing scalding hot, turmeric milk whenever we had a sore throat or cold. And grandma admonished us to sip it hot, letting it course its way down the back of our throats. Haaiiii! She had alchemized this common root, to a piping hot, golden elixir, which not only got us back to school the next day (unfortunately), but also back on the playground (v good). Something magical about that turmeric milk! If she only knew!
Continue reading “Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir”

Kaapi: Way Coffee Should be Enjoyed

How to make south indian coffee kaapi by Arun Shanbhag
Running Update: To keep up with my training for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC I had to run 13 miles through partial rain and dodging puddles the entire way. Running with squishy shoes for a couple of hours is not fun! I made it around in horrible time and sore hamstrings.

This year its the hamstrings and lung capacity which have been slowing me. Appears my lungs have NOT fully recovered from the bronchitis I got earlier in the Spring and kept me from the Boston Marathon. For the first four miles, I find myself gasping and unable to pick my pace. My doctor is not surprised and mentions that after bronchitis, lungs need 6-8 months to recover vital capacity. While I don’t notice a deficit in most activities, running long distances needs my entire lung capacity, which is still compromised. But I plod on! Have no hopes for breaking 4 hours, but it would be good to FINISH a marathon this year!
Continue reading “Kaapi: Way Coffee Should be Enjoyed”

Great Penance: Descent of the Ganga

Photos of the Great penance descent of the Ganga Mamallapuram by Arun Shanbhag
Mamallapuram, about an hour south of Chennai along the East coast, hosts India’s largest and most dramatic relief-sculpture. It represents the celebrated myth of the descent of the river Ganga from heaven to earth. The Great Penance, is carved on a giant granite rock wall 27 meters wide and 9 meters tall, and was believed to be initiated during the reign of the Pallava King Mahendra Varman, ca 7th century ce.

While a traditional sculpture (or other work of art) would memorialize a climactic scene, this Great Penance is depicted as a “continuous narrative,” wherein multiple scenes from a series of events are portrayed on the same canvas, permitting the observer to focus on different parts of the work and recollect different scenes in the narrative. The more details one observes and associates, the more richer the experience.
Continue reading “Great Penance: Descent of the Ganga”

Krishna Mandap @ Mamallāpuram

photos of Pallava Krishna Mandap in Mamallapuram by Arun ShanbhagPerspective of the interior of the Krishna Mandap, Mamallapuram; larger version

Earlier you saw the Varāha Gudi (Varāha Mandap) from early in the reign of Pallavā, Mahendravarman (571-630 ce). In addition to other fabulous caves, he commissioned carvings into the side of mountains, combining creativity and artistic excellence.

In this Krishna Mandap, devotionally carved reliefs pays tribute to Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan. The shallow cave-like slot cut in the mountain is infused with warm light, bringing to life the villagers of Gokul huddled under the mountain.
Continue reading “Krishna Mandap @ Mamallāpuram”

Phova Dosa: Beaten Rice Crepes

I am well-fed. Thanks to all foodies on my “Food to Live For” Blogroll (see sidebar), M is inspired to try various dishes. After adapting Sailu’s recipe for our Boston home, M made these delicious Phova poLo with our own onion chutney for brunch.

Phovu (beaten or flattened rice) is a staple of Konkanis and I have previously posted our traditional breakfast, Tambdo Phovu.

The poLo in this recipe reminded us of the konkani delicacy surNoLi. The surNoLi recipe is very similar to the poLo here, with the addition of soyi (grated coconut), the batter being fermented more and the poLo laid heavier (daaTh). In another variation, the batter is mixed with jaggery resulting in a sweet surNoLi.

Pics of making Beaten rice crepes or Phova Dosas by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Phova Dosa: Beaten Rice Crepes”

Varaha Mandap at Mamallāpuram

Mandapas or Cave shrines of Mamallapuram.

Pallava art Varaha Mandap at Mamallapuram by Arun Shanbhag

The Pallavas (4th – 9th century ce) were the first dynasty to rule over large tracts of present day Tamil Nadu. Their capital at Kanchipuram was at the cross-roads of the North-South trade in spices, gems and silks. Their thriving port at Mamallapuram was the export nexus for trade with the distant lands of Java, Sumatra and Cambodia. The prosperity of the Pallavas, permitted their artistically minded King, Mahendra Varman (571-630 ce) to be a patron of the arts, focusing on sculpture and replicating in stone, temples which were previously built in wood, brick and mortar. Their dynastic reign thus oversaw the initiation and development of temple architecture in South India. Their work influenced temples as far away as Ellora and across the bay in Cambodia.
Continue reading “Varaha Mandap at Mamallāpuram”

PiPi Unbound

Growing up, even a thimble full of these squiggly bits was a treat It still is. I found this in a desi store here. Now I get my stash from Mumbai on every visit. (Chikki was my other treat.)


Continue reading “PiPi Unbound”

Ten Tips to Survive Saree Shopping

Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

Yes guys, that day will surely come. You’ll have to accompany the wife or significant other for saree shopping. How you respond to the not-so-subtle hint is going to mark you for ever.

In the good old days of the joint (or extended) family, you were safe. She may go saree shopping with her MIL, SILs, or other relatives. You could simply hand over the money and safely curl up with a book. With modern nuclear families, no such luck. You will have to man up and go saree shopping.

On our trip to Chennai last month, M & my mother both conspired on the research and planning for saree shopping. They planned such that we arrive at the airport, check-in at the hotel and go straight for saree shopping, of course. I softly recommended shopping at the end of the trip. My argument: “you won’t have to carry the sarees around for the entire trip” did not go far. “We’ll just put the sarees in the car, which will be with us the entire trip,” was the quick rebuttal. I resigned and with a big smile, went along. I survived, and you will too.

Here are Ten Survival Tips!
And pics from our shopping extravaganza at Nalli’s (Nalli Chinnasami Chetty), Chennai. Apparently THE place for sarees. Don’t fret, all cabbies know the place.

Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

  1. When you hear the first hint of going saree shopping, be enthusiastic and jump to it
    Wives and elephants have great memories in this regard. If you try to dodge your way out of this one, she will remind you when you want to purchase that new camera or phone. Eventually she’ll get her way, so might as well get it over with and be enthusiastic.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan. For whom? How many?
    Talk to her and identify who the sarees are for. What event are they for? What general color (s)? This may all change once you get to the store, but get her to start thinking. It will save a lot of time and indecision later. It also gives the impression you are really interested. In Nalli’s they have four (or five) levels of sales areas with different pricing and styles. They must have about 25 sales people on each floor. As soon as we approach a counter, the salesman would bring out and unfurl 20 – 40 sarees in a matter of seconds, blinding you in a color cacophony. Completely overwhelming. Even her head will be spinning. My mother’s vast experience in saree shopping was apparent. She quickly honed in on a style and finalized her picks within an hour. Poor M was still darting from counter to counter, and floor to floor, in a daze.
  3. Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

  4. Get a Price Estimate
    Then double it, and consider yourself lucky. You didn’t think this was going to be cheap, did ya?
  5. Plan at least half a day.
    Anything less and you are only asking for a grumpy shopper. And you will have to do it all over again. Don’t try to plan any activities after the shopping. You will be exhausted and may have a splitting headache. When it comes to saree shopping, you will be surprised at the energy reserves women have. This same girl who wilts in 10 seconds in a camera or book store, can shop sarees for days.
  6. Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

  7. Take a Pill for a Headache – before you go
    The wide array of bright colors, and the faint aroma of new fabric will overwhelm your senses. And constantly having to make comparisons, and opine which saree will look good on which relative, is sure to induce a migraine. Remember to take your headache pills before you head out.
  8. Go on a Full Stomach.
    I get cranky when hungry and it shows in my demeanour. She will interpret it to mean you are being skittish on accompanying here, or worse, spending money. So eat well before you go.
  9. Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

  10. Don’t say, “OMG! That much for a piece of cloth?”
    No, my friend. That would be sacrilegious and never uttered in this temple. You will look cheap AND be ridiculed in front of all relatives – for evah! Remember the elephantine memory?And one more thing my friend, there is no such thing as an ugly saree. At least not that guys can tell. She may point to some as hideous, and you should simply nod.
  11. Helpful phrases:
    That is a beautiful color! Look at the delicate embroidery;
    Yes, it is expensive, but definitely worth it for you;
    I think everyone will love this saree of yours;
    Don’t worry about the money, just get what you really like!
    Memorize a long list of such phrases and you will be a chum.
  12. Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

  13. Buy Lungis for yourself
    Not that I wear any, but they were cheap. I splurged on two. At Nalli’s the most expensive lungi was about 125 rupees. What asymmetry. How come they don’t have Kanjeevaram silk lungis with elaborate gold jaari?
  14. Carry a Credit Card.
    Yes, you could get a back ache carrying that cash. And bring out the card in a flash. No hesitation here. And smile widely the entire time you see the bill and sign for it. Don’t even think of that nice D-SLR you could have purchased for that money.
  15. Bonus. Be thankful the day is over.
    At the end of the extravaganza offer to carry the heavy saree bags and remember to say: “What a great day! We should do this again!” (just kidding!)

Photos of Kancheevaram sarees from Nalli Sarees Chennai by Arun Shanbhag

So go ahead and smile. Go saree shopping and splurge. And after this extravaganza, we headed to Murugan Idli, another Chennai tradition.

Dill Idlis: A Konkani Delicacy

During this summer, we had parents, siblings and their families visiting. In addition to catching up on gossip, we were constantly eating various dishes that the women conjured up.

And they made one of my favorites, Dill Idlis (Dill is called Shaepi in Konkani). These idlis represent the marriage of the South Indian staple idli with the aromatic Dill, popular in coastal Maharashtra. Dill Idlis are primarily made along the northern coastal Karnataka (Konkan).

In making these idlis, the key is to retain the subtle taste and gentle aroma of dill, which is later complemented by warm tuup and honey while eating. So here is the brief recipe and a few pics.

Fresh Dill
Pics of Making Dill Idlis - steamed rice cakes by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Dill Idlis: A Konkani Delicacy”

Idli Sambar: Its whats for brunch!

Idli Sambar: Its whats for brunch!

Of late, I was craving idlis. First it was Lakshmi, who tormented us with her pati's excellent idli making skills. Then at the Konkani Sammelan we had idli sambar for breakfast, and I only got one serving! Considering the long lines, I felt guilty and did not go for seconds. *Yes sad!*

But the ever-vigilant M dearest noticed my silent suffering. She soaked the dal for two days, ground it, fermented if for a day and on Saturday morning made delicious idlis. She even made the perfect sambar, just the way I liked it – from scratch and by blending all the spices. And with lots of eggplant, peppers and potatoes. I like the gritty feed. No powders were used in the preparation of this sambar!

And yes! I went for seconds, … and thirds!

Kumta: Field of Dreams

pics from Kumta by Arun Shanbhag
The road leading from my cousin's house in Chitragi to the Kumta (paent) market. It's a beautiful 10 minute walk. Here, bicycles serve as family vehicles. Notice how calmly, mom and infant are enjoying the ride on the rack.

The open drains on the side of the roads, carry the heavy monsoon rain water run-off. Ahead, cows resting on side of the road.


And across is this spectacular rice field. Despite having seen this field hazaar times, I am ever in awe. Depending on the time of day, or year, its a different scene. These pics are from an evening in September 2004; the light has a golden tinge and shadows are getting long. Monsoon rains have just ended, and the crop is starting to mature.

In this God-fearing country, the parting greeting is: Dev Bare Karo literally, May God do you good
pics from Kumta by Arun Shanbhag


Other Kumta Related Posts:


Sitaaphal

pics of sitaaphal by Arun Shanbhag
The one fruit I sorely miss. Sitaaphal from the fruit-wallah on Colaba Causeway, Mumbai. Sitaaphal is also called a custard apple.


Other Fruits & Vegetables Posts:


Mando – A Konkani Delicacy

Making Mando - A Konkani Delicacy During the annual Ganapati festival, our house in Colaba is a bee hive of activity. See my earlier post on shopping for flowers at Dadar. For weeks before the festival, the women are busy preparing konkani delicacies from scratch: Cheeroti, Chackli, Gaanti, sweet and spicy diamond shaped shankar-pali, Puran-Poli, Nevri (Karanjya), Chevda, Mando, and a variety of ladoos.

Here are a few pictures of cousins and aunts making “Mando.” Its a simple maida atta (all purpose flour dough), rolled thin, quick fried and sprinkled with confectionary sugar. Fold when very warm and it hardens to a crisp.

I like to reach in and pick the Mando when it is still warm and starting to harden. A few slaps on the wrist are definitely worth it. Yumm!

Making Mando - A Konkani Delicacy
Making Mando - A Konkani Delicacy
Making Mando - A Konkani Delicacy

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