Idli for President!

The first 20 years of my life, I hated idli. Oh, for my international readers, this is idli. Idli is to a south Indian what toast is to most Caucasians. Anyway, I hated it. What’s there to like – it’s bland, it’s a boring white, it’s not crispy, there’s no oil involved! Boh-ring!

And then I got a job and moved cities. From home, I went straight to this city called Hyderabad where the nearest idli was at least 20 km from where I lived. When you’re a single girl, on your own in a big city for the first time, dependent on public transport, it might as well have been 2000 km. For almost a year, I didn’t eat good idli. The ones I did eat were not even in the same food group as idli. I missed the buggers!

Then wedding happened. And hey, my mother bought me this wet grinder to make my very own batter and all my idli fantasies took flight again. Heaven.

Without further ado, here’s my idli journal. These were made in the course of the last month or so. See. And enjoy.

Idli, with Sambar and chutney. The Holy Grail of South Indian breakfast.

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Idli, with Chicken curry. Typical breakfast fare in a Telugu household when the son-in-law is visiting.

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Idli, with Peanut chutney. This is my childhood, at my maternal grandmother’s house, on a plate.

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Idli, with Pappulusu. Rayalseema fare. Comfort food when you miss Mommy.

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Idli, with Kurma. This is my humble idli making the most of a parotta-chapati invasion from the North.

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Idli, with Kumbakonam kadapa. Native of Tamilnadu but very joyously adopted into a Telugu household!

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Idli, made with oats, with Tomato pachadi. This is my idli adapting to the health conscious 21st century.

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These are just the ones I made and had the patience to take a photo of before stuffing my face. There are countless other accompaniments and variations of the idli, it’s actually ridiculous.

So, let’s raise a mug of sambar and a spoon of chutney to this most humble, unassuming of breakfasts – to the humble idli, which let’s the accompaniment take all the credit, while silently being the rock (not literally, mind you) on which they all flow.

Idli for President!

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Blasphemously yours

After living in Hyderabad for over 12 years, I finally had Haleem yesterday. Yep, it took me 12 years to eat one of the things that Hyderabad is #worldfamous for (I’ve done the pearls and Charminar bit, so it’s not ALL bad, ok?).

And my verdict? Please wait. I cannot tell you just like that, no? You have to suffer the long story first.

So we drove down all the way to Tolichowki, to the actual Pista House outlet because the husband didn’t trust the freshness of the haleem at the little Pista House pushcarts/stands that were closer to home. Here’s where I mention that driving to Tolichowki in your sedan on a rainy Sunday evening 2 days before Eid is downright stupid. We realized that about 10 seconds into the Tolichowki area but it was too late to turn around (also because the nearest U turn was..well..not very near). So we kept inching along in bumper to bumper traffic, husband muttering curses under his breath (kid in the car!) every time a two-wheeler came too close to the car, searching for the outlet and suddenly on the roadside there were about 15-20 men, clad in green t-shirts that read ‘Pista House Haleem’, with an ID card around their necks. Yes people – meet the new way of service/delivery – they take your order right there on the road, go to the shop and bring back the haleem for you. You don’t have to get out of your car or search around for a parking spot in front of the shop.

We got one regular haleem, ie the one made with the mutton and one vegetarian haleem (you know, just in case) so we could do a taste test. 10 mins into our ride back and the car was already smelling of ghee and roasted spices. Drool slurp.

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Back home, fed the kid, bathed the kid, filled up the umpteen buckets and vessels with water (oh I haven’t told you about that, have I? Severe water problem where I live. Only 3 hours of running water. Except the spoons and plates, everything is filled with water. I hate this place.) and then finally opened up the cartons. Aaaaaand…

Veg and regular Haleem

Veg and regular Haleem

…well, nothing. I opened the carton, took a spoonful and actually hesitated for a bit. Why? Because 1. It’s mutton and I don’t eat red meat and 2. The way it looked, all gooey and gluggy and I don’t know, very unappetizing! I was hoping it tasted better than it looks, so I shut my eyes and took a wee bit.

Haleem

Haleem

And I hated it.

I didn’t go for the next spoonful. I tasted the veg version, hoping that’s better but no. It was lumpy, glutinous and totally, completely bland. The kind of bland that’s associated with baby food. Actually, I think my son had spicier food than that when he was an infant.

So now I’m thinking, what is the big deal? Did I eat from the wrong place? I doubt that ‘coz Pista House Haleem is supposed to be #worldfamous and all jazz. I could have tried Shah Ghouse Haleem, but dude, do you know what that hotel looks like? I thought I’d rather sacrifice on taste than compromise on hygiene, so didn’t go there.

My husband was ok with it, though. Didn’t LOVE it, but didn’t become nauseous and green in the face like me.

Well, that’s that then. No more haleem for me, thank you. I’ll just go sit with my Paradise Biriyani and be content.

So that’s what happened. A total anti-climax to a big build-up (in my mind, at least). Yes, I realize it’s blasphemous to live in Hyderabad and say I don’t like haleem, but what can you do?! Sue me? Yeah right.

Two sides of a biscuit

Picture this –

It’s 6 PM and you’re at work. And it’s a pretty long day, that ends in the near vicinity of 12 AM. The mid-evening pangs of hunger hit you from nowhere (actually it’s from the brain, but what the heck) and you fancy a quick munch from the 7 types of biscuits placed in the pantry.

(Now, stories from my work pantry often make an appearance on this blog. Please to click on the three links above to get a feel of that little room in the corner where the airconditioning doesn’t always work and the coffee is always crap.)

I have to mention here that of the 7 types of biscuits, only one is cream biscuit. Orange cream. Yes, that bad, I know. There used to be Britannia Bourbon long back, but then I’m digressing. So, here you are, craving a quick bite and standing in front of the biscuit box in the pantry.

Everyone who’s ever looked at a cream biscuit knows there are 2 sides to the story, I mean the biscuit. The ‘cream side’ and the ‘non-cream side’. The biscuit is no fun without the ‘cream side’, right? I mean, it’s as good (or bad?) as any regular Milk Bikki without the cream side!

So what do you see in the aforementioned pantry? Only 6 cream biscuits. Only 6. But that’s not a problem, you know – it’s not like I was going to stuff my face with 6 biscuits anyway. But here’s the real deal – there were only 6 cream biscuits and all of them with just the ‘non-cream’ side!!!!!! I mean, for the love of God!! I cannot believe someone would actually split all 6 (the only 6, mind you) cream biscuits and take just the cream sides and leave the non-cream sides!

What is this world coming to, I ask you! Isn’t there anymore biscuit etiquette left on this planet?! Like Calvin says, ‘It’s hopeless, Ms.Wormwood’.

What am I going to do now? Time to take my voodoo kit out tonight and see who comes to work tomorrow with a broken arm and two broken teeth.

P.S: I know what you’re thinking. She posts after a week and look what she posts about. But you know what? This is precisely why I maintain this blog – to rant about whatever whenever to whoever. Tough luck, mate.

P.P.S: Surprise of the week for me: Thought Process, for some strange inexplicable reason, is ‘featured blog’ here. Now what are the chances that they mistook me for someone else who actually writes well? It’s always a freakin’ adventure seeing how people reach your blog. Topic for another post, me thinks.

P.P.P.S: Where are my manners?! Thank you, Labnol.org for featuring me and above that, you all, dear readers, for being instrumental in all this featuring business. Can I please have my Oscar statuette and/or Nobel Prize scroll now? Thank you very much.

Life’s like that!

Update [April 25, 2007 10:36 AM]: Prose and Verse updated!

You see a piece of cashew in your cup of curd rice. You eagerly put it in your mouth, expecting to savor the creamy nutty taste and for a split second, enjoy your sorry meal.

One bite.

It’s ginger.

And you can’t spit your food out since you’re sitting with your colleagues in the cafeteria.

Reminds you of this thing called ‘life’. Rarely cashew. Mostly ginger. And a whole of people around judging you by the nanosecond.

Soggy delights

All my creativity leaked out of my ears last night and now I have none left. Ergo, I will be putting you both (yes, I still firmly believe there are never more than 2 people who read this blog) through the following painful ordeal. Resistance is futile. Resign to your fate and read on please.

One of the most entertaining part of my work-day is the coffee routine in the evening. Not because the coffee is good (it never is, FYI), just because 1) I need something hot to drink at that time and 2) believe it or not, I badly need that eensy weensy bit of exercise (approximately 25 steps from my desk to the pantry, go figure.). Now, one cannot drink a coffee/tea without something to munch. The thoughtful people that they are, the office guys keep a whole variety of biscuits next to the abomination of a dispenser. (Some day I’ll blog about how much I ‘adore’ that dispenser.)

Right, so about the biscuits. When I say wide variety, I mean really wide variety. We have the usual Marie, Krackjack, Goodday and cream biscuits (orange, milk aka yuck, etc) but then we also have *start drumbeats* Britannia Milk Bikkis *end drumbeats* Remember those biscuits? The first ones we probably had (if you’re as old as me, chances are this was the first biscuit you had with your two tiny milk teeth) and maybe the only ones in the grocery store of yore! Like I was telling my colleague, these Bikkis always remind me of little babies leaving half eaten, soggy biscuits on the floor. Don’t ask me why.

But the point of this post is not Britannia Milk Bikkis. It’s about which biscuits are best soggy. Yep, yours truly will now reveal the findings of this top secret project to determine which biscuits..er..soggy biscuits go well with coffee/tea. All my opinions, which I will definitely try to impose on you. Escape it if you can.

1. Britannia Marie – Typical chai biscuit, isn’t it? A full 95 marks on 100.
2. Britannia Milk Bikkis – They’re ok. Just that they taste a wee bit too sweet when soggy with coffee/tea. If your coffee or tea doesn’t have sugar, you might enjoy this. But if your coffee/tea does not have sugar, you probably shouldn’t be having biscuits, no? 75 on 100.
3. Britannia Chocolate chip biscuits – I used to like them at one time. But then I had it so often that now I can’t stand them. The chocolate chips kinda melt when they’re soggy. But it’s ok if you want a change in your usual soggy biscuit routine. 70 on 100.
4. Britannia Goodday – Ditto above. Like some Spice Girl said, too much of something is bad enough. I wouldn’t suggest a soggy Goodday. It soaks up the liquid too soon and more often than not, breaks in the cup. And then you have fish around in the cup to take it out or even worse, leave it in till the beverage is over. Messy matter. 20 on 100.
5. Cream biscuits – Wrong choice again. The cream makes it too sweet. They have a new flavor called Milk cream (which if Im not mistaken is also used in soaps!! enough said.) – ‘yuck’ is an understatement. 20 on 100.
6. Krackjack/Salt biscuits – Not exactly good when soggy, mainly ‘coz it’s a bit salty. Salty biscuit dipped in sweet coffee tastes like salty biscuit dipped in…coffee! I lost what I wanted to write, so excuse please! Also, it takes longer to soak up the coffee. 30 on 100.
7. Britannia Bourbon – Woe to ye if you dip this in coffee or tea. Thou shalt never insult chocolate by mixing it with other things. Putting chocolate between two biscuits is bad enough. 0 on 100, because this is not acceptable behavior for a normal person. I mean a normal chocolate loving person.
8. Britannia True Coconut biscuits – Surprisingly good when soggy with coffee! Try it to know it. 85 on 100.

Note: I’m not paid by Britannia to do this research (although I wish they would!). It’s just out of goodwill towards the general public that I indulge in such activities.

Bored? I understand. I’m bored too. Time for coffee! And…a soggy biscuit!

BTW, picture above has nothing much to do with the post. It just looked so yummy that I had to put it up and drool a bit.

P.S: I write too much in brackets, don’t I? Shows what sort of a chatterbox I am, no? 🙂 Too late, you already know me/my blog.

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The Noodle Revolution, 1980s-2007

Maggi Noodles. Synonymous with a lot of memories, mostly from times when one was too lazy to cook but too hungry not to eat? Those childhood times when Maggi was the THE snack of all times? How your mother scolds you that you serve Maggi for breakfast? Umm, no? Ok, maybe the last one is just me. Nevertheless, would be hard to find an Indian (or as Wiki tells me, a Singaporean, Malayasian, New Zealander or Aussie) who hasn’t had Maggi in their lives. If you’re below 60 years of age, that is. Somehow, old people and noodles just don’t get along. And that’s a brilliant idea for a next blog post. Oh, did I just say that aloud?
Why talk about Maggi now? Because I’m hugely hugely impressed by how innovative the blokes at Nestle are! They’ve just introduced Maggi Rice noodles!! After the regular noodles, the wheat flour (atta) noodles, now rice! Natural progression, one could say. And something that makes a lot of sense.

I’m a big fan of Maggi noodles. I still remember fighting for one extra strand of noodles with my brother (who, after punching me, would graciously offer me two, thereby making me look like the bad person in front of my mother, not to mention a complete glutton for noodles). How I used to cycle the 400m to the nearby shop to buy noodles and pester mom to make it for me before my brother comes. Ok, my brother is always a part of the noodle story ‘coz, seriously, I HAVE fought that many times. Yes, I make a lousy sister. And no, I’m not so now. Happy? Those were times when I had just learnt cycling, so no matter what the distance, it was always my trusted BSA SLR. Even if it was to my friend’s who lived, hold your breath, two doors away! I mean, two whole doors! Can you believe that?

Ok, umm, back to noodles. Back then, there was just veggie, chicken and tomato flavors, and we used to be such devoted fans of the veggie flavor. If my mother had the patience and the time, she would make it extra special by adding real veggies and it would look like the picture on top of the cover! Ah, those were good times. Then came a lot of flavors that didnt quite click (Chatpata, if I remember correctly), and I think there was one which was supposed to be like noodles in soup.

The marketing for Maggi has always been very sensible. Their ‘2 minute’ tag line was very appealing for mothers and kids alike – mothers needn’t spend precious time in the kitchen again and kids can make an entire project out of it! Let’s face it, for a lot of us, the first dish we ever made in the kitchen (and for some, the only dish we can make in the kitchen even now) is Maggi noodles. If you were exceptionally talented, you would’ve made an omlette already, but hey, for regular people like me, it was noodles. Ok, I’m sorry my mind is so tangential, this post is still about noodles, noodles and just noodles.

The popularity of Maggi stems from the fact that it made noodles easy and non-messy. Though it neither tastes nor looks like the authentic chinese noodles, it is very much an accepted type of ‘noodles’. So much so, I’ve seen restaurants serve ‘Maggi noodles’ next to the other regular Chinese/Conti dishes.

As to the catalyst of this post, Maggi Rice Noodles – available in 3 flavors: Shahi Pulao, Chilly Chow and Lemon. Take my advice, the last two suck big time – even more than Maggi Dal Atta noodles (which was banned from my kitchen after I couldn’t finish even half a plate of it, even when I hadn’t eaten all day). Shahi Pulao is just about palatable. Which made me realize that nothing compares to the original no-nonsense, no frills, regular good ol’ Maggi Vegetable Noodles.