Sunday, July 14, 2024

OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: THE RAMESHWARAM CAFE, RAJAJINAGAR, BENGALURU

 OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: THE RAMESHWARAM CAFE, RAJAJINAGAR, BENGALURU

A new home in the making. A new cooking hob to fire up in a new kitchen. But these things take time. The kitchen doesn't get operational until so many other things fall into place. I shall talk about my new kitchen in a future blog post but till the kitchen gets going you have to eat somewhere, right? 

We are indeed fortunate to have The Rameshwaram Cafe, (TRC, for short) Rajajinagar within a short walking distance from where we live. This naturally became our port of call for the first few days- be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sometimes for more than one meal a day here. 

Based on this experience, let me share my views on TRC with you readers, especially the ones in Namma Bengaluru. As you might know, there are The Rameshwaram Cafe  in Whitefield, in Indiranagar and in JP Nagar apart from the one we are speaking of. You can read about this chain of Quick Service Restaurants in their website. 

In the picture below, it was about 7.30 am and not crowded at all by TRC standards. . We ordered idlis and our friends have gone to get us the hot South Indian filter coffees! 



The Rameshwaram Cafe  is crowded almost all the time, more crowded during the lunch and dinner hours, and packed to the rafters on Sundays when you have difficulty getting in! It is said to be open from 5.00 am to 1.00 am and that says a lot! 


There is no system of reservation so the question of reserving a table and having a leisurely meal doesn't arise. The tables are the typical type you find in most fast food joints. Three- four people share a table and eat as they stand there. 

Self service is the name of the game. You can order and get your food in one of several ways. You can stand in the queue and order your food and pay for it. You will get a bill - a part of which has the items ordered listed on it. This is then passed on to the flock of staff waiting behind numerous counters. One for rice items, one for dosas, idlis, etc. They typically give you what you ordered very quickly but if the crowds are too much,  be prepared for a wait. Note your order number and wait for the guy to shout it out. " 257" he will yell or " 361" and you rush there and collect your order.

Modern tech has made it possible for you to use self- order kiosks which are linked to UPI systems so you place your order and make payment without any human interface.


The food is undoubtedly very tasty and is consistently of an extremely high standard. Whether it is idlis, dosas, akka rottis, puliogare, chitranna, or the wholesome full meals called Annalakshmi ( for which you have to be really, really hungry to do full justice) we found the food to be lip smacking. 

Top of the charts Ghee Roast Dosa! We had this sparingly but worth trying once in a while!! 


On another day we had rava idlis for a change!

The lacy Neer Dosa is a super hit with two types of spicy chutney and a sweet chutney to go with it. 


Crisp Akki Rottis with a variety of accompaniments make for a delicious snack !


By and large the prices are quite reasonable, the staff is efficient, and the place- an important consideration for diners- is really clean. If you want a quiet place to have a chat and eat your food leisurely, this may not be the place for you. But if you are up for some excitement amidst a lot of hustle and bustle to savour some amazing South Indian food, I would definitely recommend The Rameshwaram Cafe to you.

As I write this, my kitchen is up and functioning. I don't have to go to TRC for breakfast/lunch/dinner every day. However, you can bet that I will go there from time to time to savour the tastes and sounds of what was an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.  




Sunday, July 7, 2024

CHOW CHOW KOOTU

 CHOW CHOW KOOTU

The reason why there was a lull in this blog for the last couple of months was because we were shifting house. This was a big project for us and took up most of my time and energy! I am glad to say that everything went off well and we are fast settling down in our new home. The time has come to get back to my passions for cooking and blogging! 

Readers outside India may wonder what "Chow Chow" is! Some may think it is something to do with Chinese cuisine. In many parts of India, "Chow Chow" is a common name for  Chayote Squash, a vegetable belonging to the squash family. In Kannada, it is called Seemebadnekai. 

This vegetable is reasonably priced and has numerous health benefits which make it quite popular especially in South India. 

Today's recipe is for a "Kootu" (which is an accompaniment for rice or chapati commonly made in Tamilnadu). This is easy to make and is quite tasty.

We had this with hot steamed rice and a spicy rasam. We loved it! I hope you will try it out and let me know what you think of this dish.



Ingredients:-

  • Chow Chow (Chayote Squash) 2
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/4 tsp
  • Moong Dal, 1/4 cup
  • Salt, to taste
For the Masala Paste:-
  • Chana Dal, 1 tbsp
  • Coriander Seeds, 1 tbsp
  • Red Chillis, 2
  • Peppercorns, 1/2 tsp 
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 2-3 tbsp
  • Oil, 1 tsp
For Seasoning:-
  • Mustard Seeds, 1 tsp
  • Urad Dal, 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves, a few
  • Red Chilli, (broken into halves), 1
  • Oil, 1 tsp
Method:-




Wash and peel the chow chow and cut them into cubes. 

Wash the moong dal and keep in a small vessel with water. 

Place the cubed chow chow in another small vessel, add turmeric powder and water. Keep these two vessels in a pressure cooker and cook for 2 whistles. When the cooker cools, remove the vessels. Mash the dal and keep aside.

In a small pan add 1 tsp of oil and fry the chana dal, coriander seeds, peppercorns and red chilli on medium heat till the dal changes colour. Transfer this to a mixer jar, add the fresh coconut gratings and grind to a fine paste adding the required amount of water. Keep this masala paste aside

Heat oil in a kadhai and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, Once they splutter add the urad dal, curry leaves and broken red chilli and saute till the dal changes colour.

To this add the cooked chow chow and mix well. Next add the cooked and mashed moong dal, salt to taste and the freshly ground masala paste.  Mix well and adjust the consistency by adding water to get a curry like consistency. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes. Finally drizzle a little coconut oil to enhance the taste. 

Switch off the gas. Transfer to a serving bowl  and serve hot with steamed rice and rasam or chapatis. 




Wednesday, May 8, 2024

PAVAKKAI PITLAI

 PAVAKKAI PITLAI

Mainly because of its health benefits, I often make dishes with Bitter Gourd in my home. I use it because though it is bitter as the name suggests, we find it to be very tasty and as mentioned it has many health benefits. It is very strong in Vitamins A and C and helps reduce blood sugar. 

Bitter Gourd is commonly available all over India and is known as Haggalakai in Kannada, Pavakkai in Tamil, Karela in Hindi, and Kaarathe in my mother tongue, Konkani.

Elsewhere in this blog, you will find recipes for some yummy dishes made with bitter gourd such as:-

Today's recipe is for a Pitlai made with Bitter Gourd. In Tamilnadu cuisine, Pitlai is an accompaniment -which is thicker than sambar- for hot steamed rice. 

We enjoyed this a few days ago for lunch and I hope you will like it too! 



Ingredients:-

  • Pavakkai (Bitter Gourd), 2 medium size
  • Tur Dal, (Split Pigeon Peas), 1/3 cup
  • Brown Channa, 1/4 cup
  • Tamarind, size of a small lemon
  • Salt, to taste
For the Pitlai Masala;
  • Coriander Seeds, 1 tbsp
  • Bengal Gram (Channa Dal) , 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Byadgi Red Chillies, 4 
  • Raw Rice, 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 1/4 cup
  • Oil, 1 tsp- to fry the ingredients before grinding 
For the Seasoning:
  • Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli, 1, broken into halves
  • Asafoetida, 1/8 tsp
  • Curry Leaves, 1 sprig
  • Oil, 2 tsp
Method

Wash the bitter gourd, snip off the two ends and cut the bitter gourd into roundels
Discard the seeds if they are not tender
Apply a little salt to the roundels and keep aside. After 15-20 minutes, squeeze the water out of the bitter gourd. 

Soak the tamarind in lukewarm water for about 10-15 minutes and extract the juice, discarding the pulp 

Soak brown channa for 6-8 hours or overnight. Later, discard the water
Cook the soaked channa in a pressure cooker with adequate fresh water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

In the same pressure cooker, in a separate container, cook the tur dal in adequate water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

Once the cooker cools, remove the cooked brown channa and the cooked tur dal and keep aside.
Mash the cooked tur dal. 

Heat oil in pan and on medium heat roast the coriander seeds, Bengal gram, red chillies and raw rice. When the dal changes colour, add the coconut gratings and fry till they turn golden 
After it cools, transfer to a mixer jar and grind to a smooth paste adding a little water. Keep aside

In a thick bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tsp of oil  and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the fenugreek seeds, broken red chilli, asafoetida, and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. To this add the bitter ground roundels and saute for a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook the bitter gourd covered on medium heat, stirring from time to time, till they get done

Now add the tamarind extract, cooked channa and salt to taste and mix well 
Cook for about 5 minutes till the raw smell of the tamarind goes. 

To this add the mashed tur dal and the freshly ground Pitlai paste and the required amount of water to get the desired thick curry like consistency 
Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes

Switch off the gas and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve the Pavakkai Pitlai with hot steamed rice






Monday, April 29, 2024

BOODU KUMBALAKAI HULI

 BOODU KUMBALAKAI HULI 

The summer brings out its own veggies and fruits. In the hot days of summer in India, veggies that have high water content become more popular. One such is ash gourd, which is called Boodu Kumbalakai in Kannada,  and Kuvaale in my mother tongue, Konkani. 

Ash Gourd has many health benefits as described in this article in PharmEasy.

Elsewhere in this blog, you will find recipes for dishes made with ash gourd, such as :-

Today's recipe is from my Home State of Karnataka and is a Huli made with ash gourd. "Huli" in Kannada means a sambar like accompaniment for hot steamed rice. We enjoyed this for lunch with hot steamed rice and happala.

Please do try this  easy to make "perfect for the summer" dish.


Ingredients:-

  • Boodu Kumbalakai or Ash Gourd, 1/2 kg
  • Thuar Dal,(Split Pigeon Peas), 1/4 cup
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/4 tsp
  • Jaggery, grated, 1 tsp
  • Tamarind, size of a gooseberry
  • Salt, as per taste
  • Oil, 1 tsp ( for roasting the ingredients before grinding) 
To Be Ground To a Paste
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 1/2  cup
  • Byadgi Red Chillies, 4
  • Urad Dal,(Black Gram Dal),1 tsp
  • Coriander Seeds, 2 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds,  6-8
  • Asafoetida, 1/8 tsp
For Seasoning:-
  • Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli, 1 broken into halves
  • Curry Leaves, a sprig
  • Oil, 1 tsp 
Method:-

Wash and peel the ash gourd, remove and discard the central core and cut the ash gourd into bite size pieces 
Soak the tamarind in lukewarm water and extract the juice 
Wash the thuar dal and place it in a vessel in the pressure cooker 
Add 1/2 cup of water, a pinch of turmeric powder and a few drops of oil
Pressure cook this for two whistles or till done
Once the cooker cools, remove the cooked dal, mash it lightly and keep aside

Cook the ash gourd in another vessel adding the required amount of water and a little salt  
Take care that the ash gourd gets cooked yet remains firm
Add the tamarind extract and cook till the raw smell of the tamarind goes

In a small pan, add 1 tsp of oil and on medium heat roast the Byadgi red chillies, urad dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida till the dal changes colour. 
Transfer to a mixer jar, add 1/2 cup of coconut gratings and grind to a smooth paste adding water as required

Add the cooked thuar dal and the ground paste to the cooked ash gourd 
Next add the grated jaggery and salt to taste ( remember a little salt has been added while cooking the ash gourd) 
Bring this to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes

In a seasoning pan, heat oil and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, when they splutter add the broken red chillies and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds
Switch off the gas
Pour this seasoning on to the Boodu Kumbalakai Huli
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with hot steamed rice 






Friday, April 19, 2024

SNAKE GOURD BESAN FRY

 

SNAKE GOURD BESAN FRY

The main ingredient for today's recipe is Snake Gourd.  In my childhood I remember many houses in Bengaluru had kitchen gardens. These invariably had vegetables growing in them including the long snake gourds.

Snake Gourd is called Poddale in my mother tongue, Konkani; Padavalkayi in Kannada, Pudalangai in Tamil, and Chichinda in Hindi.

The health benefits of snake gourd are well documented in many ancient texts as described in this article in Netmeds. 

If the seeds of the snake gourd are tender, you can use them to make Snake Gourd Seeds Dosa. 
Elsewhere in this blog you will find recipes using snake gourd such as:-
Today's recipe is for an easy to make side dish made with snake gourd and besan (Bengal Gram Flour).  I have adapted this from the YouTube video Snake Gourd Besan Curry by Padhu's Kitchen.  

I tried this out recently and we enjoyed this dish for lunch with hot steamed rice and rasam. 



Ingredients:



  • Snake Gourd, 300-350 gms
  • Besan (Bengal gram flour), 1/2 cup
  • Chilli Powder, 1 tsp or to taste
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, to taste
For Seasoning :-
  • Mustard Seeds, 1 tsp
  • Urad Dal, 1 tsp
  • Dry Red Chillies, 2, broken into halves
  • Asafoetida, (Hing), 1/8 tsp 
  • Curry Leaves, a few
  • Oil, 2 tbsp
Method:-

Wash the snake gourd and snip off both the ends
Lightly scrape the skin off the snake gourd and cut length wise
Remove the seeds and chop the snake gourd




Mix the besan along with chilli powder,  turmeric powder  and a little salt
Dry roast this in a kadhai on medium heat till the besan gives off a good aroma
Switch off the gas and transfer the roasted ingredients to a bowl and allow it to cool 

In a thick bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tbsp of oil and when it gets hot add the mustard seeds
When they splutter, add urad dal, broken red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves and saute till the dal changes colour
To this add the chopped snake gourd and salt to taste, sprinkle a little water and cook covered until the snake gourd gets done. Ensure it does not get overcooked. 

Now add 1/3 cup of water to the roasted besan mixture
Mix well taking care that no lumps are formed 
Add this besan slurry to the cooked snake gourd and cook on high heat for a few seconds
Next, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes till the water evaporates and the dish becomes dry 
Switch off the gas and transfer the dish to a serving bowl
Serve Snake Gourd Besan Fry as a side dish to the main meal 








Saturday, April 13, 2024

COOKING WITH THE CHEFS AT ITC GRAND GOA


COOKING WITH THE CHEFS AT ITC GRAND GOA

We enjoyed our recent stay at the beautiful luxury resort ITC Grand Goa, in Cansaulim in South Goa.  Being passionate about food and cooking, I was delighted to get an opportunity to cook with the chefs at this luxury resort, thanks to Executive Chef Anshul Dhyani.  I can never forget this memorable experience.



In these resorts we usually have a heavy breakfast, so Chef suggested we do the cooking- not for lunch but for the evening meal. I thought this was a very practical and appealing idea. Working with the Chefs, I got the chance to make Jumbo Prawns Fry. Goan Fish Curry and  "Daliche Roso". Through this blog post, I would like to share snippets of this delightful experience. 

We started the meal with a tall and cooling typical Goan drink of Kokum Kadhi. 


The jumbo prawns which were cleaned and deveined were first marinated in salt and turmeric powder. To this were added Degi Mirch powder, jeera powder, coriander powder and ginger garlic paste. Also added were 1 beaten egg and vinegar. After marination, the prawns were dusted in a mixture of semolina and cornflour. They were then deep fried.   They tasted delicious served with a salad of finely cut capsicum, carrots, onions and tomatoes laced with toddy vinegar.



The Goan fish curry was made with Barramundi or Chonak fish. Here too the fish were well marinated and then kept aside after they were shallow fried


The masala was prepared with coconut gratings, Kashmiri red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, tamarind and chopped garlic. The shallow fried fish was cooked in the masala with the local Goan ingredient of Kokum. 


A local favourite is " Daliche Roso"  which is made with thuar dal, and has chopped garlic, onions,  and green chillies in it. It is important to use coconut milk to get the authentic flavour of this popular dish from Goan cuisine. It was garnished with fresh coriander leaves.


I enjoyed learning from these enthusiastic and talented chefs. It's amazing to see how everything was so systematically done and how the ingredients are kept ready before cooking. 


Even if I took part in the cooking myself, I must say the dishes were great!  We enjoyed these dishes with hot steamed rice.  


During our vacation we had many enjoyable experiences, but I must say this cooking experience has to rank as one of the best! 



Thursday, March 21, 2024

OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: CHOKHI DHANI , JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN

 OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: CHOKHI DHANI, JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN


Friends told us that no trip to Jaipur was complete without dining at the Chokhi Dhani. Over the years,  Chokhi Dhani has come to represent Rajasthani culture and heritage primarily for tourists from India and abroad.  Naturally we were keen to try this as it was presented to us as an option to experience traditional Rajasthani food and culture in the ambience of a typical village.


The resort is on the highway towards Tonk and you would need a car to get there and bring you back. If you wish to visit for lunch that's not possible. They are open only for dinner- which means you need to plan an evening here. Their timings are from 5.00 pm to 11 pm. 


We went there one evening during our stay at Jaipur. Getting the tickets was no hassle. There are different options available. We chose the basic Rajasthani meal for 900/-. Let me explain that Chokhi Dhani is like a re-created village so you have stalls selling different types of handicrafts. There are also other shows by magicians, puppeteers, a guy who brought flames out of his mouth etc. One can take a ride on a camel too. 


As we entered we were given a welcome drink  that was piping hot. This was made of Buttermilk and Bajra. We then entered the ethnic styled dining hall, for dinner. We had to sit on the floor and ate the food served on a thali with many "donas" (katoras) made of leaves.

The people serving the food- dressed in their colourful gear- were a most enthusiastic bunch. They encouraged us to eat much more than we would have! 




Being a typical Rajasthani meal, it had rice and Rotlas (Rotis) of different kinds including those made with bajra (millet), and makai ( maize), and jowar. Of course we had the famous Dal Batti Choorma, Gatte ki Subzi,  Rajasthani Dal, Mirchi Vada, Kadhi, a dish made with legumes, Moong Dal Kachori, an Aloo Subzi, fresh cabbage and onion salad, and a yummy Lahsuni (garlic) chutney. A cooling glass of chaas ( buttermilk) was served with the meal. 

The meal was served using some very old world utensils! At the end of the meal, we were fed with a stream of piping hot jalebis which were delicious. We enjoyed the meal very much. 




After such a heavy meal, we had to stroll around the complex for some time. We had a look at some of the shops with their multi coloured clothes on offer and some of the entertainment shows. Especially enthralling was the "Ghoomar" dance. 



All in all, I feel Chokhi Dhani is a nice place to visit. What you will find there is very predictable given its positioning but well worth the experience! It does embody typical Rajasthani culture. Jai Sri Ram!