Meeting LJers

Pictures of LJers Radhika, Vijay Basrur and Deepa George at Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag
In Mumbai, I met three wonderful LJers. Deepa organized the details and along with Basrya, met at Trishna – the seafood place in Fort Mumbai. It was such a thrill to see folks that I had only commented with. Finally putting faces to all the posts. By just reading her posts and her comments, I surmised Deepa would be a vivacious bundle of energy. She was all that and more. She is beautiful too and has the warmest smile. Everyone should have a friend like Basrya. You quickly realize he knows more people than you can imagine and his cell phone rings constantly. Their warm welcome put me at ease, and very soon we were chatting away like if we had know each other for ages. Continue reading “Meeting LJers”

Back Home in Boston

Exhausted, drained and my circadian rhythm is shot. Two conferences in the next three weeks and 700 e-mails to attend to. Why does everyone think I read my emails while on vacation?

Since I live to eat (suffer ye thinkers!), my self imposed exile to the culinary Siberia has resumed. Yesterdays cafeteria choices included Corn Chowder (85 Cal), Chicken in red cream sauce (995 Cal – really!) and 65 other equally unsavory options. While I really wanted the Rawas Hyderabadi or the Shrimp Kadipatha, I would have settled for the bourgeois Kamats Thali.

I already miss Aiee asking every night what I want for breakfast the next morning (M, please take note). And restaurant waiters understand “strong filter coffee.” I met fascinating people all day, every day. I am going to miss them the most. I don’t miss living out of a suitcase(s) for 4 weeks and my shirt soaked 2 minutes after I wear it.

I have 900 pics to go through, 45 books I brought back, a huge stack of CDs, a suitcase full of Ganapati foods (puran-poli, chewda, shankar-palli, saath, mysore-paak, banana and almond halwa, kaju barfi from Chandu Halwai, …) lots of knick-knacks and a boat load of memories.

It took me 45 minutes to get ready after the shower. Confusion reigned: what trousers do I normally wear to work? Which shirt? Socks? Where are they? Damn! They need to match the shoes. Where are my keys? What time is my bus? … Am I forgetting something? Bostonians, if you spy a zombie, its just me!

All signs of a great holiday!

And I am equally glad to be back HOME! My bed, my pillow and my blanket (yes, its getting chilly here!).

Sunday Cuisine: A berry beautiful meal!

Its July and the peak season for fruits at the local farm stall – berries in particular. Blueberries are my favorite, with raspberries, cherries and strawberries close behind. Theres something about blueberries. Bluish-black tinged, tiny, no seeds, tangy and barely sweet, and my tongue turns blue! When I wrap handfuls in a napkin and toss in my bag, they don't get squishy either.

Many recipes call for smothering the blueberries in pancakes, choking them in muffins, preserving them in jam, pickling them in a lemony cheese tart, freezing them, whipping them in a smoothie, or covering them in chocolate. I ask, why this obsession with messing up something so delicious to start with? I love my blueberries just plain – no recipes needed, thank you!

And if taste doesn't convince you, they have the highest anti-oxidant activity which protects from the detrimental effects of aging (I should know), prevents cancer and heart disease!

After a satisfying run, my dinner on Sunday was a bowl full of blueberries, a handful of cherries, papayas and a strawberry-mango lassi, which you needed to spoon out. Burp! Aaaaah! Life!

Notes: Unwashed blueberries shot in natural light of the setting sun, with my Olympus C4040

Mango Madness

Sunday was very relaxing and time to try some recipes. We had picked up a box of Mexican mangoes, which were surprisingly good. Combine that with a picture of a tart I had seen in the train. Perfect inspiration for a Mango turnover and a Mango tart.

For the turnover, I patted a central square of a pastry sheet, ladled two teaspoons of mango pulp (alphonso), skinned slices of mango, folded over and pressed the edges. I wish I could find my edge cutter. Lightly sprayed butter. Placed in the oven along with the tart below.

For the tart, I spread out the pastry sheet, cut strips and pressed on the edges, creating sort of a tray. Patted and poked holes in the center with a fork to prevent the pastry from rising and spooned copious amounts of mango pulp. Placed on a cookie sheet and in the oven for 20 minutes (400 deg C). Taking it out of the oven, I placed the mango slices and allowed to cool.

Surprisingly very simple. No added sugar, or any other thing. Just pastry sheet, and mango. Ate (and shared) while slightly warm. The turnover was delicious. The pulp had thickened in the oven and was not runny. The edges could have been sealed better. The tart was just superb. The mango slices had become warm. A scoop of vanilla icecream would have been heavenly – but we didn't have the icecream at home and I could not wait to dig in.

All in all a culinary delight; and low calorie to boot!

Family Time

My parents were visiting from India on their annual trip. So I took a few days off and just lazed around the house. Caught up on general gossip from Mumbai; what each cousin, nephew or niece is up to; as well as the recent elections, lazy garbage collectors, casual attitude of BMC corruption, and other such stuff.

With my brothers visiting as well, we caught up on the really important matters, such as the latest computer software, cameras, gadgets and toys. Wait till you see what my brother got me for my b’day! :)) Shopping is as always a pleasant distraction, particularly an outdoor outlet mall in Maine.

The initial concerns of ‘invasion of privacy’ were given away to a relaxing family time. Food represented the only occasional, minor source of irritation. It is no secret that I love food. But I am very finicky about what, and how much I eat. Breakfast is usually two slices of heavy whole wheat, or sourdough bread (with nutella of course), a piece of fruit serves as a snack, a cup of soup and a quick fruit yogurt for lunch and a decent dinner early in the evening. That too after a nice workout. Weekends we splurge on extending our culinary horizons. My parents were used to a large sit-down breakfast, a full-lunch and a proper dinner. While we all enjoy traditional konkani cuisine, I am just not used to eating constantly. With a house full of folks, I did not get a chance to go running or workout, so there was a constant feeling of being bloated.

But it was fun to just spend time with my family. Yesterday they left to visit my other brother in NJ and then on to the Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Now that is life!

For me it was tough getting back to work, but I relished by bread and nutella this morning and picked up the fruit for later in the day. As I packed gym clothes in my bag, I looked forward to indulging in my other love affair later this evening!

Ragda Pattis and Lassi in Colaba

Ragda Pattis and Meetha Lassi at Kailash Parbat, Colaba;
there is one in Bandra as well

pagda pattis lassi Kailash Parbat Colaba
Aug 2002; Canon Elan II, ISO 200 Velvia Slide

Other Kailash Parbat Posts:

Start the day right

A few days back, I was in New York City for a day. Dashing from Penn Station to my meeting on 50th St., I passed a coffee shop with these delicious rolls in the window. Couldn't go in, so decided to shoot through the window and savor it later. Grab one! Sharmao Nahin!

What apples were they?

From my previous post on apples.

The apples shown were (from left): Royal Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji and Red Delicious.

As many of you promised, grab a few apples (or any other fruit) on your next outing to the grocery store. They are so much better than the junk snacks the MNCs want us to eat.

An Apple (or two) a day!

I love to eat apples. They are juicy, crunchy, delicious and filling. And they are nutritionally loaded! A convenient snack whenever I want. I carry a couple in my bag everyday to work. I eat them at my desk, walking to the train, waiting for a meeting, or even in a lecture. Wet and wipe clean, and bite into it! Crunch! Crunch! Some varieties are so juicy that as you bite, you have to suck the juice as well, or it runs down the side of your mouth.

I eat about 8-10 apples each week. Thus I select a wide variety at the grocery stores. Red Delicious are probably my favorite – sweet, juicy and crunchy. As they over ripen they tend to crumble without a crunch and that is a big NO. Braeburns are probably my next favorite. They are a little smaller and great as a second apple of the day. I need to be in a certain mood to munch on the extra crunchy and sour Granny Smiths. If I cut one at home, I sprinkle a little salt on it and it reminds me of 'kairi' with salt outside the school. Royal Gala seems a nice mix of the crunchiness of the Granny Smith and the sweetness of the Red Delicious. Fuji apples are very similar in taste, crunchiness and sweetness to the Braeburns, but a tad less juicy. The Golden Delicious are probably my least favorite, They seem to have aspects I dislike in all the others – they crumble, less sweet, less juicy, not sour – just middle of the road. But I still eat them regularly for variety – to build character I say! What about Macintosh's? Well, there is only so much character a guy can have.

Here are a few apples from this weekend. Can you match the names to the apples shown. There is only one of each. Give it a shot! Better still, pick up a few during your next stop at the grocery store.

Answers here
Crunch! Crunch!

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

Erawan: Thai Cuisine in Chicago

In Chicago, my friends took me to Erawan, a posh Thai restaurant in Downtown Chicago (729 N Clarke St).

The decor was very nice, the service excellent and all the dishes were outstanding. The fried red snapper was perfectly crisp and moist. After bottles of Spanish Rioja and a California Cabernet we were rightly satiated and settled on jack-fruit ice-cream and coffee. The scoops were the tiniest I had seen and could fit on a tea-spoon. Compare to the sugar cubes in the pic. Delicious nonetheless!

Bon Appetit!
and have a great weekend!

Dim Sum at the Four Seas Restaurant in Chinatown, SFO

Anuj invited me to join him and his friends for a Dim Sum lunch. In SFO, or anywhere else, I never turn down an opportunity for Dim sum. And you shouldn’t either. I am a strong adherent of the Food Yoga path to eternal salvation. Enjoy delicious foods, spread its gospel, and you are certain to attain the kingdom of heaven.

Anuj and Andreas, both from our program, Mary Beth – currently at Yale, Ivan from U Basel, Suisse, and I headed off to Chinatown as soon as the morning session ended. We crossed Market St and passed the new Apple Store (need to stop by later and ogle at the iPOD) and walked up Grant Ave.

You enter Chinatown passing under the two-storey high green tiled gateway with two dragons resting on top.

Chinatown Gateway on Grant Avenue
Chinatown on Grant Avenue

Grant Avenue in Chinatown
Chinatown on Grant Avenue

During business hours, Chinatown is a bustling, screeching, hub of humanity. You can find anything and everything here from Chinese antiques, souvenirs, jewellery shops with expensive jade bracelets, to open air meat shops with carcasses of meat hanging on hooks. The large varieties of fish at various stages of dissection are best not viewed on the way to lunch. Reminds me of the Colaba fish market. We dodge the vendors and dripping fish entrails and arrive at our destination, Four Seas Restaurant.

The gaudy red carpet and b/w photos of 60’s Hollywood stars lining the stairs triggered pleasant memories from our last trip here a couple of years ago. Simultaneously, Anuj and I echoed, “this is going to be good,” and we strode up the stairs and were led to a big table by the window watching Chinatown drift by on the street outside.

Dim sum is the traditional Cantonese style snacks and served starting from breakfast through lunch. Most are dumplings, with an assortment of shrimp, lobster, chicken, mushrooms and other vegetable fillings. Waitresses roll carts stacked with bamboo steamers and plates of various delicacies from table to table. At this restaurant the waitress carried trays stacked with the delicacies. You pick whatever looks appetizing and the waitress stamps a hieroglyphic with the price code on your bill. The large assortment of savory snacks is a big draw at the restaurants. Each snack comes with two or three pieces and costs about $2-4 each. It is more fun as a large group so you can order many dishes and share.

The group lets me do the picking. Given that most of the staff doesn’t speak English, I don’t even try. They open each basket, I point and with a limited vocabulary, I choose: “this yes – 2; this no; shrimp, vegetable yes – 3; mushroom vegetable – yes; beef no.” I passed on the shark fin soup (too ‘crunchy’) and the chicken feet (just steamed chicken hocks). Very quickly the rotating ‘susan’ at the center of our table is full and we hold off on the ordering.

Our table is quickly loaded with jasmine tea and a variety of dumplings.

With our chopsticks we pick whatever catches our fancy and bring to our plates. I like to mix a little soy sauce with the hot sauce and lightly dab the dumplings before eating. The waiters constantly refill our little cups of jasmine tea.

As more trays appear, I keep ordering; “yes – 2; yes 3; no – thank you.” Some of my favorites include steamed or pan fried potstickers – these translucent half moon shaped delicacies with ruffled borders and stuffed with seafood and vegetables, resemble karanji or naevri served in Mumbai homes during the ganapati festivals.
Har Gow are the round shrimp dumpling.
Slices of bell pepper, layered with minced shrimp cutlets, steamed and lightly browned
Tender shrimp rolled in rice rolls. These long and slippery rolls are challenging to tease apart and eat with chopsticks- but delicious nonetheless.
Stuffed eggplant with minced shrimp in garlic sauce,
Steamed dumplings with combinations of scallops, scallions, spinach and shrimp;
Crispy deep-fried dumplings with shrimp, mushrooms, vegetables and chopped peanuts.
Vegetable rolls wrapped in fried bean curd.

To bring closure to this fine meal, we pick Sesame seed puffs – round light dough balls covered with sesame seeds with the delectable red bean paste filling.
Yummmm! What did I say about the easiest path to heaven? It starts right here on Grant Ave in SFO!

All of us are satiated and after clearing the tab, we slowly journey back to the conference, each of us engrossed in our own version of heaven.

One of my Chinese friends had explained that Dim sum means ‘ a little touch of heart.’ This delicious ‘breaking of the bread’ in the company of good friends surely pulled the right heartstrings. Another blessed day, which can only be topped by a short nap 🙂 What more could you ask for in life!


If you have not tried Nutella, Do it now.

I tried it the very first time at a bed and breakfast in Switzerland last year. Spoon this Hazelnut chocolate spread on home-made bread and … WOW! Oh my God! I am totally addicted to this. I have it nearly every day – except when I had my wisdom tooth extracted.

Can you imagine I spent so many decades of my life not knowing about Nutella! What if I had died without ever having tried Nutella. Yama Dev, would definitely have sent me back.

So this counts as my Social/ Community Service. Eat Nutella. I like it on wheat bread, and even on chapattis. You can spread it like jam and then roll the chapattis and carry to the office or school as a snack. When you try it, you will know what I mean. And if you wait for a few years, don't blame me. You have been warned.


Anannas Mhoramba – Pineapple Jam

Anannas Mhoramba is one of those dishes which instantly transports me to my childhood home in Donald House, Colaba. My grandmother from Bhatkal made the best mhoramba. Not too sweet and not too sour. Best eaten with warm chapattis! I remember using my fingers to wipe the plate of any traces and then licking them clean. It was that good! As kids we used to spread it on chapattis, roll and pack it for a school snack.

Its been decades since I had any good mhoramba. A few weeks ago, one of my aunts asked for a recipe and that got me thinking: why not make it myself. Actually I had tried it several times in the past here in the US. The pineapples here are just too sour and if you add too much sugar, the whole thing carmelizes and you’ll need an axe to hack it.

Finally a stoke of genius – BTW, I get about a 100 of these per day 😉 Why not try it with Canned Pineapples? I put together a recipe and it worked just great. Lets just say, I don’t complain about dinner anymore – I just reach for the chapattis and mhoramba, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even for a snack. It is not to runny and not to dense. Not too sugary – when it zings the teeth; and not too sour. Heaven! Svarga! this must be it. Since I am not a sadist, I am including a simple recipe as well. Try it and let me know what you think.

Pineapple Mhoramba:

  • 1 medium can (375 -450 gms) of crushed Pineapple in its own juice (not “in syrup”).
  • 1 medium can of Pineapple “chunks” in its own juice.
  • Open the cans and pour out about half of the juice.
  • Pour remaining in a medium non-stick saucepan (saves you the cleaning)
  • Add two cups of sugar on top – don’t have to worry about mixing it.
  • Simmer for about 45 minutes. You should just see some bubbling.
  • Use a wooden spatula and stir if you want to feel involved and hard working. I just twirl the saucepan. Its not going to burn because the heat is on very low.
  • Separately use a mortar and pestle to crush about 20 seeds of cardamon (elaichi; the seeds from about three cloves, peeled). Add to the simmering stuff.
  • Add three cinnamon sticks broken in half
  • About ten strands of kesar (saffron)
  • A fifth of a nutmeg freshly grated straight into the pot. Be careful – some folks find this too strong.
  • Let it simmer for another 45 minutes, with gentle mixing or twirling. You should see the color change to a light brown and the pineapples condensed to about half. You can let it simmer for a little bit longer if you want it a bit thicker.

That’s it! You did it!

If you made it, you get to try it out when it is still warm. If you don’t have chapattis, try it with whole wheat bread. Yumm!

I spoon it to a clean jar when it is still warm, allow to cool on the counter overnight and then cap tightly. No need to refrigerate – we always leave it in the pantry. If you are doing the cleanup, count your blessings. You get to lick the spoon clean.

By mixing the crushed and chunks of pineapple, I get a nice mix of spreadable mush and some chunks.

Any comments, or suggestions for improvements, or what to eat it with are always welcome.

Coconut Oil – The Friendly Fat

Read this in “Experience Life” Magazine – Jan Feb 2004 issue. The magazine is dedicated to exercise and nutrition related topics. Here is their spiel on Coconut Oil, verbatim.

Coconut oil is all the rage right now. Once vilified as a heart-clogging monster, its suddenly being touted by many nutritional experts as a “miracle food” a saturated fat that is high in healthy medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) like lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. Easy to digest, MCFAs burn more like carbohydrates than fats, which makes them great for fueling exercise. Coconut oil also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which can help support your immune system. Its withstands high heat better than most vegetable oils, which makes it great for cooking. And it has an exceptional shelf life (up to two years). While many unrefined brands offer high quality and a delicious coconut smell that makes them nice on toast or slathering your skin, for general sauteing you may prefer a gently refined product, …

Interesting write up. Konkani's may not have known the terminology, but they used coconut oil in their diet and appreciated its value. In my ancestral hometown of Kumta (Karnataka) the price of a plot of land goes up depending upon the number of coconut trees on the land!

Eat well,

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