Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Food favourites

Many moons ago, Swati sent this tag my way. I’ve been lazy in replying, partly because I developed a complex after reading her intense food-descriptions. (At such times I regret not having worked on the foodie beat – phrases like “dumplings stuffed with condiments” and suchlike would then have come as naturally to me as eating does.)

But here’s my trifling attempt. Not a comprehensive list because I’ll probably think of something else as soon as I’ve posted this. So heartfelt apologies to the many food dishes that have given me joy over the years, and which I’ve ungratefully overlooked here. Also not sticking to the original meme, just naming some favourite dishes, and a lot of this is restaurant-specific:

- Nasi goreng rice at Chilli Seasson restaurant: with chicken and shrimp. Feels very spicy when you’re actually eating it but leaves no nasty after-effects, just a feeling of well-being and – two hours later – a yearning for more. Incredible how a dish with such a pungent flavour can be so easily digested.

- The steamed fish cakes at the above restaurant: the most flavourful fish dish I’ve ever had.

- The methi aloo made at my grandparents’ place: both ingredients have a slightly burnt quality, the brown skin on the potato is still largely intact, and it’s dry and wrinkled. Doesn’t sound great I know (and probably not the traditional way to make it), but good food is better eaten than read about.

- Tandoori chicken with naan: a staple, preferably ordered from Madhuban but will pass muster almost anywhere else.

- Maa ke haathon se bana khatti daal: give me this with rice and any potato dish (preferably beans-aloo) and I won’t complain about there being no non-veg – at least not for the next eight hours.

(Note: separate post exclusively on home-food to be written soon.)

- Slice of Italy pizzas: especially the Trio-on-Trio (smoked salami, onions, minced lamb and jalapeno peppers). Prefer these pizzas to the ones at Domino’s and Pizza Hut by a long way – the secret’s in the sauce.

Used to love their calzones too (the ones with ham-and-mushroom filling) but that was in the old days, when they were made with soft, doughy bread. Now they are just over-sized samosas.

- Rava masala dosa with lots of sambar: preferably from Sagar. (By now you might have cottoned on to the fact that I’m a potato-person.)

- Kai Yudd Sai (at last, a chance to be exotic!) at Bangkok Degree One: a great Thai omelette containing minced chicken. The question of whether the chicken or the egg came first may remain unanswered, but they both disappear equally fast when I’m having this dish.

- Prawn pepper butter garlic at Swagath: contains, as you may have guessed, prawn, pepper, butter and garlic. Unbeatable combination, best had with a spoon, straight out of the bowl.

- Hot Chocolate Fudge from Nirula’s: especially in winter and with, needless to say, extra fudge. People often wonder why it’s so pleasurable to eat ice-cream in winter. The way I see it is, if it’s a milk-based product it’s a heat-producing one regardless of its external temperature. Most of my best ice-cream memories are winter ones.


Favourite foods that I’ve had only once

- a brilliant, succulent shepherd’s pie with ale at a quaint pub in the village of Lacock during my Britain tour last year. It was treasured all the more because it came after days of sampling and being disappointed by various dishes that made up “staple English cuisine”.

- a Cullen Skink soup near St Andrew’s, Scotland, during the same tour. Fish soup (though it’s better to call it broth, a word more indicative of richness) with bread on the side. In the largest single-person bowl I’ve ever seen (at least I think it was a single-person bowl), but no trouble finishing it.

- a piping hot, mixed thenthup (a variant on thupka, the Tibetan noodle soup), with everything in it - flour, egg, many different meats and vegetables – consumed one cold, cold night in a monastery during my visit to Bir. Come to think of it, most of my trips in the last few years have been to very cold places – so warm foods are high on this list of one-offs.


My guilty little food secret

Most of my non-veg friends instantly turn into Pavlov’s pups when they see a shammi or galouti, but I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of minced kababs. There’s no texture, and the idea of meat and masalas being randomly mish-mashed together feels strange. In this post, K tells the story of the galouti’s provenance – apparently it was an improvised recipe for an old king who had lost all his teeth. Well, I say leave such “delicacies” to the toothless, I’ll take my meat chewy any day. Nothing beats a good, juicy seekh kabab. Or a pepper steak, preferably bee.. – er, tenderloin.


  1. Jai, I do hope I didn't come across as one of those insufferable food snobs a la Sanghvi in HT! I do tend to go a little overboard talking about food :).

    This is wonderful, and I can't think of a single thing on your list that I don't enjoy. I make nasi goreng often at home, it's really easy. And I think your grandparents' recipe is the more authentic "methi-aloo", because the recipe you linked had tomatoes, something that "methi-aloo" traditionally doesn't have.

    If you like chewy kebabs, you should think of dropping by at the Iranian Cultural Centre on Barakhamba Road someday. They have a cafetaria serving Iranian food, and if they serve "barg" and "koobideh", do try them.

    SFX, are you referring to the aaloo chatwallah next to the India Today office?

  2. Sfx: the last time I went to Wenger’s I didn’t see any aloo-chaat guy nearby. Don’t know about the English Dairy either.

    TTG: And here I thought I was an honorary member of the libertarian cartel! Don’t remove me from Bloglines, sob sob, I value your patronage. I promise I’ll learn to appreciate those hideous melt-in-your-mouth kebabs and that kebab-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth non-actor Devgan.

    Swati: No, your post was great – but just so learned that it made me nervous. And, well, this is also where I confess that I’m actually a big fan of Vir S’s food writing. (I know, crucify me now, most of my friends already have!) Sure he’s self-indulgent, a food snob etc etc – but you know what, I figure that if I were ever in his position I’d do exactly what he does: use reams of newsprint to write long, self-indulgent pieces that are of little relevance to most of the newspaper’s readers.

    Also, if you think about it, the specifics of his writing (the way he explains various foods and their provenance etc) are actually much more casual reader-friendly than the jargon carelessly hurled about by other reviewers.

    By “traditional aloo-methi” I meant the type that isn’t overdone (the aloo at my grandparents’ place is close to being burnt). Tomatoes are a strict no-no in either case.

  3. Missing burra kebabs at Karims. And the Dilli-style tandoori chicken!

  4. what? not even a mention of moolchand and pandara road? your credentials as a delhite are under question now! as a non-delhite having heard endless raves about both i finally went and checked them out, making me wonder whats the big deal ?

    i think one post you shd do is late night food places, those that are open till 3am or later. who better than journalists, the original nocturnal professionals, before the onslaught of call centres ie.

  5. Hey bro, no mention of Akhtar's biryani or Tulsi's Tuesday's with curry-chawal? And how could you have missed out on Karim's? No mention of their raan or mutton ishtew? BTW, have you tried the mutton korma at Rahmani's (near PC)?

  6. Dude, request: please don't post these. Usually read you in office - and the other stuff is tastier. My office is in Jhandewalan, where the Videocon Tower canteen is supposed to have been good once upon a time, and the best food in the vicinity these days is Gupta ji's Daal Fry. Please. Please.

  7. How could you forget the delectable maharaja sajjiga dosa and red, red sambar at Udupi's next to BS office? The memory of that stuff still sends shivers up and down my spine.

  8. Hey, I love the fudge at Nirula's. Wrote about it in my Delhi posts last month. Chomp on...

  9. A small request....try tunda kababs from Lucknow before making an opinion on shami/gilauti/mince kababs. If you still don't change your mind...fair enough :-)

  10. I agree with Worma: hardly anything beats properly made tunda kebabs and sheermals from Lukhnow. And just for the record: I just had a cucumber sandwich.

  11. YB: you condescended to visit my little bog! Honoured brother, honoured.

    Shamya: No one can force you to have a cucumber sandwich if you don't want to have a cucumber sandwich. You are master of your own fate and I have no sympathy for you. None.

    Ahh, Guptaji's daal phry, what memories! Does he still wash his ice blocks and plates in the sewer? And does the Aaj Tak canteen still charge Rs 50 for the little chicken neck with gravy?

    Sue: chomp on fudge? Are you sure Nirula's was giving you the right thing?

    Worma, BMR: I'm going to travel to Lucknow to have minced kebabs for the toothless? Really?

    Fool on the Hill, Shrabonti, pywzqci: like I said, I've left out much, much more than I've been able to include here.

  12. Just to be insufferably pedantic, it's St.Andrews (NOT St.Andrew's)..A Brilliant Blog otherwise!! :-)

  13. Regarding Mince kebabs..You should try kakori kebabs at Salim's kebab corner,khan
    market...I would like to hear your comment
    on that