Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dum- A-Dum Mast Biryani ; Have You Tried Matka Biryani?

Vegetarians or temporary vegetarians during Navratri, put your hands together for Dum-A Dum Biryani. Finally, a yummy biryani for the vegetarians, don’t be misled by the word, This Place serves the most awesome vegetarian food ever. I only tasted vegetarian food and actually ate up all of the Matka Biryani. Why?

My cousin brother, Manas and I, during Navratri, treat our yummy murgi (chicken) as the forbidden fruit that Adam wanted to taste. Manas and I are like the greedy twins we cannot resist any type of food and more so, non vegetarian food. The worst case scenario, tell us that NON Vegetarian Food is out of limits and we will pounce on every person tasting the slightest bit of Murgi. You cannot imagine how we count the nine days of Navratri as they pass by so we can stuff ourselves with murgi again. Gluttony I tell you!

The weekend before Navratri is like a big occasion, a non vegetarian eating fest, if I may say so, for and Manas. Even if we are not together we make sure to grab to that yummy tangdi or that oh-so-gorgeous chicken biryani. This weekend I went for a Biryani that I have mentioned to you earlier and have been anticipating it for weeks now. I couldn’t help it, the advertisement looked so delicious, I could dive right into it. Yes, I am talking about the Dum-A-Dum Biryani. This is a new place that has opened up a little ahead of Pune University Circle towards Baner.

We tried the Paneer Matar, the vegetarian biryani and chicken Dum Biryani on one occasion and Matka Biryani and Paneer Makhani on the other. One thing was common both times we picked up food from Dum-A-Dum their behaviour was very good and their food was fresh and delicious. What else do you want? Ambience? Well, it is a small place right now, but it is bright and pleasant but they don’t have much seating arrangement in the two outlets. One outlet is near Bhujpal Dairy, Sakal Nagar Gate 1 in Aundh and the other is on Baner Pashan Link Road, near Orange County, and yes I am greedy so I have tried both. The menu is precise with a short list of items but they prepare each one well.

My sister, Stuti is a non vegetarian yet she liked the vegetarian biryani more. Can you believe how good that vegetarian biryani must have been? Most biryani places specialise in Chicken and mutton Biryanis and ignore the vegetarian biryani. Even in Hyderabad, the Chicken biryani is awesome but the vegetarian aloo biryani is only okay in its comparison. Dum-A-Dum has the best Vegetarian Biryani you might try. The best part of the Biryani and the Paneer preparations is that the paneer is so soft that it literally melts in you mouth. That is what makes their vegetarian food so good, the freshness of the veggies and the smell of the spices.

Now, for the Chicken Biryani; Dum biryani was delicious with the sweet aroma of spices and you ought to try it out, yet, I was more excited about the concept of Matka Biryani. I have never had a Matka biryani in Pune city, have you? We got a take away and yet the Matka Biryani was even parcelled as it was, in a matka for us to take it home. I was really excited and my enthusiasm was totally worth it. The succulent chicken, the spiced rice with the mesmerising scent of the rice and the spices and yet, it was not a spicy biryani, it was very flavourful and yet the spice was subtle. You don’t need to run for a glass of water during your meal. The rice was nicely mixed with the masala and there was no need for an extra curry or anything. This dish was complete on its own. Now, it is very rude to compare it with Lucknow or Hyderabad Ki Biryani. These guys are experts in Pune city, I have tried Nile and everything, but this by far is the best bniryani available in Pune city, as on date. That thing about this place is the fresh ingredients, fresh and flavourful food.

Ambience: Not Applicable
Value for Money: 8.5/10 Very Good
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 8.5/10 Very Good
Service: 8.5/10 Very good
That Thing About This Place: 9/10 Excellent
Very Good Value For Money + Good Menu + Very Good Food + Very Good Service + Excellent That Thing About This Place = Very Good
Rating = 8 on Ten

Friday, September 23, 2011

How To Make Mayonnaise at Home and How to Correct Curdled Mayonnaise?



Egg (Yolk) 1 no.

Mustard Paste 1 teaspoon

Lemon, juice (You can use vinegar) 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Pepper Powder to taste

Vegetable Oil 120ml or ½ cup


Make mayonnaise in a cool, dry place.

In a clean, dry wide bowl add in the egg yolk, mustard paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper and whisk them.

Begin add in the oil, one teaspoon at a time and whish thoroughly.

Add in the oil teaspoon by teaspoon and whisk constantly.

Do not add the oil all together, this will curdle the mixture.

If the mayonnaise curdles, you can correct it following any of these methods:

  1. Take a new, clean and fresh bowl, make fresh mayonnaise and add in the curdled mayonnaise to it little by little, whisk it in to correct the mayonnaise.
  2. If the mayonnaise has just begun to curdle, then you can add in some more lemon juice and whisk to correct it.

To prevent the mayo from curdling make sure that the vessel is clean and the temperature of the vessel or the surrounding area is not high.

How To Make Lump-Free White Sauce? A Smart Trick.

Let me tell you a little secret they told me in catering school. Don't you hate it when you get a lumpy white sauce? It completely ruins the dish. Find the trick to do it right.

White Sauce

Milk 10 parts or 150ml/ 2/3rd cup

Bay Leaf 1 no.

Peppercorn 4

Cloves 2

Garlic 1 clove

Thyme (fresh) 1 sprig Optional

Butter 1 part or 15g/ 1 tablespoon

Refined Flour 1 part or 15g/ 1 tablespoon


Heat the milk in a pan with bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, garlic and thyme.

Allow the milk to cook on medium heat for five minutes.

Let it stand on the side to cool. Then preferably chill the milk.

To make the white sauce

In a pan, melt butter.

Once the butter melts add in the flour and whisk thoroughly.

Allow the mixture to cook for two minutes on low heat until it looks fluffy and off-white.
Don’t let it brown.

Strain out the spices from the milk.

THE TRICK to a Lump-Free White Sauce:

This mixture and the milk should be extreme opposite temperature when you add it in.

If the mixture is hot, the milk should be chilled.

If the mixture has cooled off, the milk should be hot.

Then add in the milk little by little to the mixture, whisking thoroughly.

Keep the pan on medium heat, this gives you more time to whisk and avoid lumps as you add the milk little by little.

It is very unlikely to form lumps in the white sauce, if you follow the rules.

If you want to be double sure or you still have a few lumps. You strain the sauce and get the smooth texture.

For that extra sheen, add in a little butter in the white sauce for that X factor.

You can store white sauce in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking Without Rules and Restrictions; Imagination Momos

This is a dish out of my whims. Isn’t it fun sometimes, to follow your imagination rather than cooking with rules and restrictions? I didn’t want to follow a particular cuisine, neither did I have a recipe in mind, but I was craving something yummy, something like may be pasta or momos, or shawarma. I was confused for an hour and all I knew was that I have some chicken leftover and a lot of tomatoes. Twisting and turning, playing between ingredients and dishes, I finally came up with these Imagination Momos. They do not follow the exact momo recipe, but I worked with what I had in mind and it turned out, well, spicy and yummy! I feel like a street vendor today, imagination wise, this is surely not fine dining stuff, but definitely something you will enjoy!


For the Stuffing

Chicken 1 large breast piece (You can use roasted chicken leftovers)
Cocktail Sausages, Pork 6
Black Pepper, freshly ground ½ teaspoon
Coriander Leaves a handful
Salt to taste

For the Dough

Refined Flour 1 cup
Egg 1
Salt a pinch

For the Sauce

Onion, peeled 1 small
Red Pepper, with the seeds removed 1 small
Garlic, peeled 6 cloves
Ginger, peeled 1 inch
Tomatoes 3, medium
Sesame Oil 1 tablespoon (You can use olive oil, vegetable oil in its place)


For the Stuffing

In a deep pan, fill in inch deep water. Add in the chicken breast and cook for five minutes on medium heat until the chicken is completely cooked. When you cut it in the thick part, it should be white inside, not pink. Remove the chicken and keep it aside.

Refill 1 cup water in the pan along with the leftover cooking liquor from the chicken. Add in the cocktail sausages and boil them for five to seven minutes. Save the cooking liquor, keep it aside.

In a grinder, add in the cooked chicken and the boiled pork sausages with black pepper, coriander leaves and some salt if necessary. Taste the cocktail sausages for salt, if they have some salt, do not add more salt to the mixture. You may cut chicken and the sausages into smaller pieces for easy grinding. Mince the mixture, the flavours should blend together. Let the mixture be coarse, for the meat texture to entertain your palate.
NOTE: Lime Oil is a fantastic addition to this mixture. On this occasion lime oil was unavailable to me, but you can add it in if you have it.

To Make the Dough

On a flat surface, take the refined flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and add one egg in it.
Mix in the egg with the dough with the help of your fingers. Bring the flour together and make a dough.
Knead the dough well. Cover it and keep it aside.
Do not prepare the dough before hand, the egg tends to dry out and makes the dough hard if rested out in the open.

To Make the Sauce

Make a cross incision at the base of the tomatoes, remove the eye and pop them in boiling water until there skins come out. Remove the skins, grind them into a fresh puree and keep them aside. OR USE CANNED PUREE, 200ml should be enough.
In a grinder, add in the peeled onion, the red pepper, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt. Grind this mixture into a fine paste.
In a pan, heat oil and add in this mixture. Stir and cook on medium heat for three to four minutes. Add in the tomato puree and cook the mixture on medium heat for five to seven minutes, until it becomes a thick paste. Keep it aside.

To Make Imagination Momos

Divide the Dough into 24 equal pieces. Divide the stuffing into 24 equal portions.
Roll out each piece of the dough into a thin circle. It should be about 2 inches in diameter or half the size of your hand.
Place the stuffing in the centre of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough into the centre until all the sides are sealed together. Press it firmly together. Make twenty four pieces.
Heat the cooking liquor saved from the chicken and pork in a pan. Make batches and cook each batch in the simmering liquid for three to four minutes. Make sure there enough space in the pan for cooking each batch. The pieces tend to swell up and increase in size when cooked.
Remove the cooked pieces and keep them aside. Squeeze some lime juice on top of the imagination momos if you haven’t added lime oil in the stuffing.
These can be served alongside with the red sauce we made earlier or mixed up with the sauce and then served warm.

To Make a Soup with the Leftovers

Take some leftover stuffing and sauté it in a pan, add in some of the red sauce and stir. Now, add in one cup water along with the leftover cooking liquor. Mix a tablespoon of corn starch in two tablespoons of water and this in to the soup. Bring it to a boil and turn off the heat. Squeeze some lemon juice in it and add chopped coriander leaves on top. Serve hot.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spicing It Up! Ghar Ka Khana

I love ‘ghar ka khana’ (Homemade Indian food). Don’t get me wrong I ‘graze’ around the city all day. From vada pao to Chinese food, I love eating out. But at the end of the day you want to come back to Mom’s home cooked meals. Well, since mom’s not around I am just going to ape one of her home cooked recipes. The spicy Aloo baingan recipe; since she uses her experience and not measurements in her recipes, I had to go with my measuring spoons and the odds to re-create Mom’s Aloo Baingan.

Aloo Baingan- Serves 4


Vegetable Oil (Tel) 1tablespoon
Fenugreek Seeds (Methi) ½ tspn
Fennel Seeds (Saunf) ½ tspn
Onion Seeds (Kalonji) ½ tspn
Green Chilli (Hari Mirch) 2, chopped
Potato (Aloo) 2, medium, quartered, keep them in water
Eggplant (Baingan) 4, small, quartered, keep them in water
Turmeric (Haldi) ½ tspn
Red Chill Powder (Lal Mirch powder) ½ tspn
Coriander Powder (Dhaniya powder) 1 tspn
Tomatoes (Tamatar) 1, large, chopped
Salt (Namak) to taste
Garam Masala Powder 1 teaspoon
Heat oil in a pan then add in fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and onion seeds to the pan. Allow them to crackle and turn a shade a darker.
Add in the green chilli, drain out the excess water and add in potatoes and stir. Allow the potatoes to cook on medium heat for two minutes.
Drain out the water and add in the eggplant to the pan. Stir. Add in turmeric, red chilli powder and coriander powder. Stir, put on a lid and cook on low flame for five minutes.
Add in the chopped tomato, stir, add salt and cook for five minutes on medium heat until the tomatoes are completely cooked.
Add in garam masala powder, stir and cook for two minutes on medium heat.
Turn off the heat and serve hot with rotis. See recipe in How to Make Rotis?

Ten Minute Recipe; Simple Sooji Halwa

Do you also have those crazy sweet cravings? My sister has been craving Halwa-Poori (a homemade Indian sweet eaten with fried Indian bread) with lots of ghee for three days now. She has been working really hard these last couple of days, and has barely eaten anything. I was a little worried about her and I also wanted to reward her for the hard work. So, when she stepped out last evening I decided to satisfy her sweet craving. Making poori too much work, I was too lazy to make the dough, then roll out those pooris and fry them. I skipped the poori and just made some halwa for her. Halwa, simply because it was really easy to make, you will see! If you are interested in putting in some extra effort for someone special you can find the recipe in How to Make Pooris?

Sooji Halwa- serves 4


Unsalted, clarified butter (Ghee) ½ cup
Semolina (Sooji) 1 cup
Salt a pinch
Water, warm 2 cups
Sugar Cheeni) 1 cup
Almonds, Cashew and Raisins (Badam, Kaju, Kishmish), chopped ½ cup
Silver Varq optional


Heat the unsalted, clarified butter (ghee) in a pan. Add in the semolina and stir.
Allow the semolina to turn golden brown, keep stirring. Cook on medium heat.
Make sure that the temperature of the pan is not too high so as to burn the semolina. Add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavour.
Keep stirring and allow the semolina to brown evenly.
Meanwhile, warm two cups of water in a separate pan and add this water to the semolina, stir constantly.
Allow the semolina to absorb the water completely, it swells up and becomes fluffy.
Once the water is completely absorbed, add in the sugar and mix well.
Allow the halwa to cook on low heat for two minutes and then turn off the heat.
Garnish this simple sooji halwa with the chopped mixed nuts and dried fruit. Decorate with silver varq if available.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Have You Tried The Best Chhole Bhature in Pune City?

Name: Chatpattazz
Location: In front of Food Bazaar Baner, Next To Cantabil
Time of Visit: 12th September, 2011 [Lunch]

This is a tiny little place in Baner. It is a small shop converted to a food joint, with a couple of plastic tables and chairs placed in front of the small joint. With a humble setting, this place boasts delicious food.

Value For Money
I wish there was a word better than excellent in terms of value for money for Chatpattazz. It is delicious, dilli-style Panjabi chhole and two bhaturas for forty rupees as on date and Bedmi poori and Potato sabjee for thirty rupees as on date. Need I say more, it is a heavy, filling and a delicious meal at a reasonable price.
I have eaten dilli-style chhole bhature in fancy Punjabi restaurants in the city before, it costs me three times more than the dilli-style chhole bhature in chatpattazz.

The menu is limited. There are only three items on the menu. Chhole Bhature, Bedmi poori and aloo sabji and palak rice with chhole which the chatpattazz owner raves about.

The dilli-style chhole in chatpattazz is delicious with a capital D. It is spicy, a little tangy and yummy. It makes you want to lick the every little bit of that last morsel off your fingers. It is delicious. The bhature on the other hand, are flavoured with coriander greens and garlic mixture. The bhature are soft but are average is size and texture. The onion and pickled green chilli served as accompaniment compliment the chhole wonderfully.

The Bedmi poori is a large, grainy and crisp poori. The aloo sabji is delicious, it has a peculiar unique taste like no other aloo sabji, also very dilli-style in flavour. I loved the chhole but I liked the aloo sabji better, only because it is such a simple dish and yet such a pleasant surprise in terms of taste.
The Palak rice was highly recommended by chatpattaz, it is served with chhole. I tried out the palak rice, I did not like it. It tasted average. I did have high expectations after the recommendation and after having tasted the chhole bhature and aloo-bedmi poori. The palak rice was disappointing.

The staff members are very humble, polite and courteous. The service is quick and apt for a place located centrally close to many offices in Baner area.

That Thing About This Place
Really delicious dilli-style food, like no other Panjabi place in Pune, none of the chhole bhature I have tasted in this city can match up to Chatpattazz spicy Chhole Bhature. The menu items are few, but delicious. Available at very low prices, the office goers in this area can have a delicious and cheap meal everyday.

Ambience: 6.5/10 Average
Value for Money: 10/10 Excellent
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 9/10 Excellent
Service: 8.5/10 Very good
That Thing About This Place: 9/10 Excellent

Average Ambience + Excellent Value For Money + Good Menu + Excellent Food + Very Good Service + Excellent That Thing About This Place = Excellent

Rating= 8 on Ten

Five Reasons That Will Bring You Back To Salt ‘n’ Pepper

Name: Salt ‘n’ Pepper
Location: Close to Infinity Mall, Andheri West
Time of Visit: 13th September, 2011 [Lunch]

The setting of this place is brown and basic. It is hard to have a conversation when the music is so loud. The managers of Salt ‘n’ Pepper have to realise that this place is a restaurant where people come in to have a decent conversation, not a night club where you should need to raise your voice to be heard.

Value For Money
Value for money in Salt ‘n’ Pepper considering its location is very good. The dishes are reasonably priced, the quality of food and quantity served is good.  It has good food, good ambience at a reasonable price.

The menu offers a selection of oriental and Indian dishes. The menu has a wide range of Thai, Chinese and other oriental dishes. Salt ‘n’ pepper oriental dishes are more sort after than the Indian dishes.

The Indian preparation, tandoori mushrooms in salt ‘n’ pepper were good. This place serves better oriental food than Indian. There egg fried rice and Thai red curry were both delicious. I have tried couple of other oriental dishes in Salt ‘n’ Pepper, the Thai as well as Chinese preparations here are particularly good.

The staff members are courteous and prompt in serving the guests. The service is quick, it has never taken them over ten minutes to serve an oriental preparation at the table.

That thing About This Place
Reasonably priced, good food, good quantity, the service is quick. It is easily accessible and located close various offices in this area.

Ambience: 7/10 Good
Value For Money: 9/10 Excellent
Menu: 8/10 Very good
Food: 8.5/10 Very Good
Service: 8.5/10 Very Good
That Thing About this Place: 9/10 Excellent

Good Ambience + Excellent value for Money+ Very Good Menu+ Very Good Food + Very Good Service+ Excellent That Thing About This place= Very good

Rating: 8 on Ten

Just Another Coffee Shop

El Café
Location: Next to Pritam, Dadar T.T. Circle
Time of Visit: 9th September, 2011 [Evening]

Café chairs and little tables, this place looks a lot like all the Café coffee day outlets. With a little food bar and teller machine on one side, it is well lit and comfy looking. Yet it is not somewhere you can lounge for hours in those comfortable couches.

Value For Money
Low on value for money, the food is expensive. It is a good meeting place, located in centrally in the heart of Mumbai. If your intention is to order one brownie between two people and hang around for a couple of hours then it makes sense to pay so much for the food they serve.

The menu includes cold coffees, frappe and smoothie to a range of savoury snacks such as croissants, sandwiches and burgers. The selection of frappe and cold coffee is not unique but interesting and offers a wide choice of options.

The ultimate chocolate sin was awesome. A dark chocolate gateau with melted chocolate dripping from all sides with ice cream on the side, it makes you want to come back to this place again and again and again. It is similar to other coffee shops, it only tastes a tad better than them.
The croissant was average in taste but pretty filling.
The brownie shake on the other hand was cliché yet different and yummy.

If you don’t know Hindi or Marathi, you may face some trouble trying to explain yourself to the staff at El café. They are not fluent in English, in fact, it was rather hard for them to understand when we asked for extra brownie in the brownie shake. When repeated in Hindi, they understood the request pretty well.

This Thing About That Place
It is a perfectly good meeting point, which is what it is meant to be.

Ambience: 7.5/ 10 Good
Value For Money: 5/10 Poor
Menu: 7/10 Good
Food: 8/10 Very Good
Service: 6/ 10 Average
This Thing About That Place: 7/10 Good

Good Ambience + Poor Value For Money + Good Menu + Very Good Food + Average Service + This Thing About That Place = Good
Rating: 7 on Ten

The Right Place At The Right Place

Name: Café Tangerine in Mirador
Location: Opposite Solitaire Park
Time of Visit: 9th September, 2011 [Lunch Hour]

Cafe Tangerine is situated inside Mirador hotel. I have been to this place a couple of times, each time I found that most of their tables are occupied. With simple, modern furniture the setting of this place is a little cramped and the tables are set close together. This is in keeping with the fact that many official meetings and office get-togethers take place here.

Value for Money
Thumbs up for the value for money at the buffet spread in Café Tangerine. If you are an occasional big eater, most buffets prove to be a good and reasonable option, considering the variety and unlimited food. Café Tangerine is no exception to that rule. It has a wide range of items on the buffet spread. There is a variety of available cuisines to choose from.

In the words of my server, ‘There aren’t many options in ala carte’. They didn’t sell their ala carte menu very much and so I did not opt for it. I have gone through their ala carte menu in the past, with a limited variety and high prices on the ala carte menu make it easier to opt for the buffet. The buffet menu included Indian, oriental and continental along with many Indian and continental options for dessert. There was an even selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items on the spread. Soups, salads, starters and main course along with dessert made for a very scrumptious buffet.

The quality of food in an ala carte menu is often better than on a buffet spread. I don’t really know much about the quality of the ala carte food. The quality of food in terms of taste, palatability and presentation was average. There is a lot of food available in this buffet. The items that I particularly liked were the fried drumsticks/ ayam drumsticks. The fish-balls stuffed in jasmine rice-balls was particularly unique dish on the spread and very tasty indeed. The corn tikkis were very spicy.

Dal was particularly good. The vegetarian main course was average in flavour. The Andhra chilli mutton and the mutton kheema with pao were very well made.
The dessert spread looked attractive but tasted only average. The cointreau mousse tasted like plain whipped cream with sugar, the chocolate cake pieces seemed a day old, not light and not soft.

We were showed to table right away. The service was prompt. However, I don’t believe they care much for a guest’s privacy if they are talking on the phone. They were quick and there manner of work was in keeping with the quick turn around time for each table. They managed to serve promptly and kept the guests from waiting too long for a table, which is necessary in a place like this.

That Thing About This Place
Café Tangerine does very well. It is located close to many of the big offices and companies in that area. The buffet provides a quick and satiating meal. It is reasonable and perfectly suited for the people working in and around that area. It is a great place for an official meeting or a quick meal. So, it is the right place at the right place.It is not really the kind of place you would go to with friends on a weekend. It is a wee bit claustrophobic, but you will do just fine if, like many other diners, you don’t stick around long enough to let it get to you.

Ambience: 7/ 10 Good
Value for Money: 9/10 Excellent
Menu: 8/10 Good
Food: 7.5/10 Good
Service: 7.5/10  Good
That Thing About This Place: 8.5/10 Very Good

Good Ambience + Excellent Value for Money+ Good Menu + Good Food + Good Service + Very Good That Thing About This Place= Very good
Café tangerine, Mirador = 8 on Ten

Five Quick Vegetarian Dips and Spreads

To Make Hung Curd
Take a cup full of yogurt in a fine mesh sieve or a muslin cloth and hang it and remove the excess moisture. Allow it to hang for two hours to overnight.

Dip 1
Hung Curd ½ cup
Processed Cheese, grated (Cheddar) ½ cup
Red Chilli Flakes 1 teaspoon
Chopped Coriander Leaves, chopped 1 teaspoon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together, mix well. Serve chilled.

Dip 2
Hung Curd ½ cup
Lemon Juice 1 teaspoon
Lemon Rind , grated ½ teaspoon
Scallion/ spring onion, chopped 2 tablespoons
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together, mix well. Serve chilled.

Dip 3
Hung Curd ½ cup
Garlic, minced 1 tablespoon
Sesame Paste 1 tablespoon
Cream 1 tablespoon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together, mix well. Serve chilled.

Dip 4
Hung Curd ½ cup
Mint leaves, chopped 2 teaspoons
Green Chilli, chopped 1 teaspoon
Ginger, minced 1 teaspoon
Coriander Leaves, chopped 2 teaspoon
Lemon juice 1 teaspoon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together, mix well. Serve chilled.

Dip 5
Hung Curd ¼ cup
Cream ¼ cup
Mustard Paste 1 tablespoon
Tomato Sauce 1 tablespoon (you can use chilli sauce)
Red Chilli, chopped ½ teaspoon
Vinegar 1 teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk them together, mix well. Serve chilled.

Eat them with cut up salad, tortilla chips and potato fingers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Not To Eat at Dara’s; A Surprising Revelation

Name : Dara’s Dhaba
Location: Ghodbunder Road, 2km from Dahisar Checkpost
Contact: 022- 28456119/ 32970818
Time of Visit: 6th September, 2011 [Dinner]

A dimly lit dhaba in the suburbs of the city with knitted cots, bolsters and the slight hustle bustle of the vehicles passing by, Dara’s ambience is a breath of fresh air from the claustrophobia of the city. The family seated on the next table won’t be able to hear your private conversation. So, drive to the suburbs, unwind on a weekend over a couple of beers and try out the variety of Panjabi delicacies Dara’s has to offer.

Mine and I were seated comfortably under the cloudy September sky, sipping beer. Could it be anything other than Tandoori Chicken, to make that evening perfect? That orange-red fleshy, robust tangdi of tandoori chicken, wherever you see it, hear about it, smell it, it seduces you till you give in. So, I was ready to surrender myself to the song of that evening, fulfilling with the open space, the pleasant monsoon breeze, the peace and someone to share it with. Although I am usually pretty stingy when it comes to sharing beers and chicken tangdis, who wouldn’t be?

Anyway, after a wait the tandoori chicken was served at our table. I obviously grabbed on to the tangdi and dug my teeth into it like a hungry animal, I couldn’t wait any longer. If you believe that no one can go wrong with tandoori chicken, break that bubble because you are highly mistaken. Dara’s can and they did, unexpectedly so. Dara’s Dhaba, a dhaba, go wrong with tandoori chicken? I know, it sounds really absurd and hard to believe. But believe me I couldn’t believe my tongue either. I have been to this place before. I have tried out their awesome dal makhani and butter chicken, craving to visit again for weeks. But this tandoori chicken was clearly a let down.

Dara’s tandoori chicken had a strong smell and lingering after taste of mustard oil that evening. Unlike many others my taste buds are not mustard oil intolerant, I love it, and I use it in many of my recipes. Nearly all recipes of Punjabi tandoori chicken include mustard oil. I use mustard oil in my version of tandoori chicken as well, but the trick is that the oil is heated to smoking point before adding it to the chicken. The problem with this tandoori chicken was that the oil was probably not heated properly before addition. I could distinctly get the scent of mustard oil in my chicken. The after taste made the flavour of the tandoori chicken unpleasant and I did not care for the rest. The chicken was cooked well and the inside flesh was flavourful but the uncooked mustard oil smell made the dish disappointing.

Dara’s did manage to make up for a lovely evening, in spite of a disappointing start. The service was prompt and flawless. Their staff members were courteous and polite. For main course we tried their paneer khurchan with rumali rotis and some cheese naan. The khurchan, was a yummy orangish, dhaba-style thick paneer gravy. The rumali rotis were, funnily enough, crispy, but I liked it. Who cares about the fine technicalities of a rumal, when you are chilling at a suburban dhaba? As for the cheese naan, need I even mention? It was coated in butter, finger-licking awesome.

The rabdi, well, what can I say, it made my day, evening and the coming week. I was reluctant about eating it at first. I was too full. When I saw that little clay bowl with the rabdi flavoured with saffron and garnished with mixed nuts, my heart melted and my mouth salivated. There were mixed feelings, temptation, greed, ah, forget about it, I’m going in. You know how it is with rabdi, you can’t really stop eating it once you have already begun. Gluttony is my sin. So, Dara’s Dhaba,

Good Food + Very Good Service+ Very good Ambience+ Very Good Value for money = Very Good
Rating= 8 on Ten

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Do you Think When You Think Pizza?

Name: California Pizza Kitchen
Location: First Floor, High Street Phoenix
Contact: 022 - 65558888
Date of Visit: 6th September, 2011 [Lunch hour]

What do you think when you think Pizza? No, seriously, give it a minute and imagine it. Can you taste the cheese, the tomato sauce, the basil and the oregano on top? Don’t you love that stringy cheese? Well, my pizza at California Pizza Kitchen was not that sort of pizza, so throw that montage out of the window.  It is a Pizza kitchen, so let us talk about the pizza they serve, first. Don’t get me wrong the pizza was alright, but it is probably not the Pizza you just imagined. The bread was just out of the oven, it smelled and tasted fresh and good. The tomato sauce was bright, yet subtle so as to not over power the other flavours on the pizza; so was the cheese, not to strong to overpower the other flavours. The flavours on this Pizza were married very well and not one of them dominated the others. Except the herbs, the fresh beautiful herbs, you could smell those fresh herbs, it was beautiful and it is what will win your heart in this place. To prevent myself from being seduced by cheese or pepperoni, I ordered a subtle 'New' vegetarian pizza. The New! (as mentioned on the menu card), Eggplant Pizza.

You might say, Eggplant, really? I know what you mean, it is not really the topmost item on my list of favourites, yet, I do believe that some chefs can magically transform an ingredient into something amazing. Have you tried the eggplant in a well made ratatouille? You will never make that funny face when you hear ‘eggplant’ again. Anyway, before I get totally carried away about the awesomeness of ratatouille, not the movie, although that wasn’t half bad as well! Let us talk about the eggplant pizza. Well, I don’t think the chef had a magic wand back there because the eggplant did not taste like something out of this world, it tasted, mundane. I would be okay with the eggplant if it wasn’t the main ingredient on my Pizza and all I could taste was eggplant, eggplant and eggplant everywhere.

 The freshness of the ingredients, the smell of the herbs, the olive oil, the bread, that is what you tend to appreciate in the California Pizza Kitchen Pizza. That is good, because it is what makes this Pizza special and different from other Pizzas. Look at this as a Dining place rather than a Pizza place and you will love it. We are Indians, as a community we tend to often appreciate stronger flavours. This place brings out a different face of the pizza from the one we often grab on weekends over a movie and chilled beer. The cheese is right there, but it doesn’t take away from the other ingredients. The funny part is, when you think California Pizza, you think American Pizza, often overloaded with cheese but this Pizza is more like the Pizza I ate in Italy, simple, subtle, fresh and delicious. So, eat with a wide mind and open mouth, oh sorry, that was the other way. Try it out with a wide mouth and an open mind and I am sure that you will love it.

The other dish on the table was Spaghetti with spinach and tomato. It did not look very saucy, but bright and again, fresh. My friend and former colleague from a food channel, Suman who I was catching up with over lunch had ordered this dish. Suman aka Superman was off food for many months. She had doubts about being able to finish that spaghetti. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to finishing her spaghetti myself. I thought she will be done in a couple of morsels. She ate the entire dish, she ate it all, did not leave out a single morsel. I smiled and said, ‘I bet that spaghetti was really good’. ‘Yes’, she said, ‘I am going to click a picture to show my friends I finished it!’ Fortunately, my Pizza was pretty big, so I was full.

Let me be honest with you, I was so full that I did not even look at the dessert. For dessert, if you look, you eat. Then again, the list of desserts had a variety of choices and looked, well, enticing! I won’t comment on them because I did not eat them. It is no surprise, that Suman, although is a sweet tooth, was too full to have dessert as well. It was a pleasant afternoon, with good food and great conversation, which involved a little bickering about old colleagues, indeed, no girly afternoon, is complete without that. So, all in all,

Good Food + Good Value For Money + Good Ambience + Good Service = California Pizza Kitchen
Rating = 7.5 on Ten 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Indulge in Lord Ganesha’s Favourite; Modak

Ganesh Chaturthi is incomplete without Modaks and Puran Polis. I recently read about chocolate modaks, mava modaks and maida with sesame modaks. These are the contemporary versions of the modak. I like to go for the real modak, the traditional Maharashtrian style modak. I learnt how to make the original modak which Lord Ganesha loves. With the rice flour and coconut flavour, that blends like a marriage made in heaven. The warm modak with lots of ghee, mmmmmmmmm!


For the Dough

Rice Flour (Chaval Ka atta) 4 cups
Water (Paani) 4 cups
Unsalted, clarified butter (Ghee) 1 teaspoon
Salt a pinch

For the Filling

Fresh Grated Coconut (Gari) 4 cups
Jaggery (Gud), grated 2 cups
Mixed Dried Fruits and Nutes (Meva) Almonds, raisins, cashew and walnuts ½ cup
Nutmeg (Jaiphal) ¼ teaspoon
Poppy Seeds (KhusKhus), roasted 1 teaspoon
Green Cardamom (Elaichi) 4 pods, crushed
Modak Mould


For the Dough

In a deep pan, boil four cups of water. Add a pinch of salt and ghee in the water. Add in the rice flour little by little, whisk vigorously. Do not allow any lumps to form in the mixture. Add in the entire rice flour in the boiling water and keep whisking the mixture until it is smooth. It becomes a thick dough-like mixture. Cover it up with a lid for fifteen to twenty minutes. This will make the dough smooth.
Keep the dough aside.

For the filling

In a pan, add in the grated coconut and cook on medium heat. Add in the grated jaggery and mix well. Blend both the ingredients together. Keep stirring and blending them together.
Cook them together until they turn into a golden coloured mixture. Mix well.
Now, chop the mixed dry fruits roughly and add them into the coconut and jaggery mixture.
Crush and add the roasted poppy seeds, nutmeg and green cardamom in the mixture.
Mix all the ingredients and blend them together with each other.

To Make the Modak with the Modak Mould

First, take a bowl full of water with a tablespoon of vegetable oil mixed in it. Apply this water and oil mixture properly on the inside of the modak mould.
Apply this water oil mixture on your hands. Take a lemon size portion from the dough mixture and round it up in your palm.
Put this portion of dough inside the modak mould.
Make a cavity in the centre of the dough with your thumb. Press the dough evenly with your fingers, on the sides of the modak mould, making a large cavity in the center.

Add a tablespoon of the mixture in the cavity and fill up the cavity completely.

Take another small piece of the dough and seal the modak from the bottom, making it flat and even on the base.
Open the mould and remove the modak. Finish the entire dough and the filling, making even size modaks.

To Make the Modak Without the Mould

Apply a mixture of water and oil on your palms. Take a lemon size portion of the dough.
Round it up and flatten it between your palms.
Roll it out on a flat surface into a circle, half the size of your hand.
Make little folds in four or five places around the edges of the circle.
Place a tablespoon full of the filling in the centre of the circle.
Bring the ends together in the centre and press gently.
The Modak should be pointed on the top. Make Modaks with the entire dough and filling mixture in a similar fashion.

To Cook the Modaks

Dip them in a bowl of water, and then place them over a banana leaf in a steamer. (Use a double boiler with a strainer if steamer is unavailable).
Steam the Modaks for eight to ten minutes.
Serve them warm with a teaspoon full of ghee (unsalted, clarified).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chilli Chicken Desi Style

Chilli Chicken – Serves 4


Chicken, boneless, cut into strips or chunks 1 ½ cups
Soy Sauce 1 +1 tablespoon
Cornstarch 1+1 tablespoon
Sesame Oil 2 tablespoon (use vegetable oil)
Garlic 6 to 8 cloves, minced
Ginger 1 inch, mined
Green Chilli 2 to 4, slit lengthwise
Spring Onion Bulbs 6 to 8 cut lengthwise
Chicken Stock 1 ½ cup
Salt to taste

For Garnish:
Spring Onion Greens few stalks cut lengthwise (keep them in chilled water until use)


In a bowl, mix soy sauce and cornstarch. Add in the chicken pieces and coat them in the mixture. Keep them aside.
In a wok or a large kadhai, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Once the oil is very hot, add in the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes on high heat, until cooked. Keep them aside.
Wipe the wok and add in the remaining oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the ginger, garlic, green chilli and spring onion bulbs, stir-fry on high heat for one minute.
Mix the remaining soy sauce and cornstarch.
Add in the chicken and stir. Add in the chicken stock and the soy sauce and cornstarch mixture and stir. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add salt.
Turn off the heat. Add in the spring onion greens on top. Serve hot with fried rice.

Stir Fried Vegetables in Szechwan Sauce

Stir Fried Vegetables in Szechwan Sauce Serves 4


Tofu, cut into triangles 8 pieces (substitute Paneer in Tofu in unavailable)
Soy Sauce 2 teaspoons
Cornstarch 1+1 tablespoon
Button Mushrooms, halved 10 pieces
Sesame Oil 2 tablespoon (use vegetable oil)
Garlic 3 cloves, minced
Ginger ½ inch, minced
French Beans, cut into ½ inch pieces ½ cup
Red Bell Pepper, cut into triangles 10 pieces
Spring Onion White part 8 pieces, cut lengthwise
Szechwan Sauce ½ cup (For recipe of Szechwan Sauce Cooking the ChaiNusssss... Desi Rasta Chinese)
Vegetable Stock (or  ginger, spring onion water) 1 ½ cup
Salt to taste


In a bowl, place the tofu. Coat it with a mixture of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
In a large wok or a kadhai, heat a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is very hot, add in the tofu, toss and fry it on high heat for one minute. Keep it aside.
Use the same wok, heat the remaining oil. When the oil is very hot, add in the mushrooms, stir- fry for two minutes on high heat. Keep them aside.
Wipe the wok. Heat oil in the wok, when it is very hot; add in the French beans cook on high heat for one minute. Add red bell pepper, cook on high heat for one minute. Add in the mushrooms and spring onion white, ginger, garlic, stir and cook on high heat.
Add in the Szechwan sauce and stir. Keep the wok on high heat, add in the vegetable stock. Mix the remaining cornstarch with one tablespoon water and add it to the wok. Stir and bring the sauce to a boil.
Add in the cooked tofu, stir and add salt if required. Turn off the heat.
Serve hot with fried rice.

Desi Szechwan Fried Rice

Desi Szechwan Fried Rice ( Indian-Style Chinese Fried Rice) Serves 4


White Rice 1 ½ cup, washed
Vegetable Oil 2 tablespoons
Garlic 5 cloves, minced
Ginger ½ inch, minced
Spring Onion Bulbs (White part), minced ½ cup
French Beans, finely chopped ½ cup
Carrot, finely chopped ½ cup
Green Peas, shelled ½ cup (optional)
Cabbage, finely chopped ½ cup
Salt to taste
Szechwan Sauce 4 tablespoons (For Recipe See Cooking the ChaiNusssss... Desi Rasta Chinese)
For Garnish:
Spring Onion Greens, chopped 1 cup (Keep them aside in chilled water until used)


Wash and soak the rice for twenty minutes. In a pan, mix equal quantity of rice and water (that is 1 ½ cup). Add a pinch of salt and vinegar.
Boil the rice and cook it until it absorbs all the water. Keep it covered with a lid for five minutes.
Now, spread the rice out on a large plate lined with absorbent paper towel and allow it to dry out.
Place the place full of rice in the freezer for thirty minutes, while you finish the preparation for the fried rice.
In a large wok or a kadhai, add oil. Keep the wok on high heat. The oil should be very hot, add the garlic, ginger and mix. Add in the onion, allow it to turn translucent.
Add in the beans and the carrot cook it on high heat for a minute. Add in the peas and cabbage, mix them in, and keep the wok on high heat. Add in salt. Then add in the cooked rice. Mix well until every grain of the rice is at a high temperature.
Add in four tablespoons of Szechwan sauce (prepare Szechwan sauce as mentioned above).
Mix in the sauce with the fried rice. Turn off the heat.
Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and mix well.
Serve with a side dish.

Vegetable Spring Rolls (desi style)

Spring Rolls – Serves 4


Spring Roll Sheets 8 (See recipe to prepare them at Home)
For Spring Roll Sheets
Refined Flour 1 cup
Egg 1
Vegetable Oil 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste

For Spring Roll

Carrot, cut into thin long bite size strips/ julienne ½ cup
Cabbage, shredded ½ cup
Spring Onion, cut lengthwise (whites and greens) ½ cup
Bean Sprouts (optional) ½ cup
Soy Sauce 1 teaspoon
Oil for frying

Serve With
Szechwan Sauce (For Recipe See Post Cooking the ChaiNusssss... Desi Rasta Chinese)
See http://foodietryingstein.blogspot.com/2011/09/cooking-chainusssss-desi-rasta-chinese.html


For the spring roll sheets

Mix the flour, egg, salt and oil on a flat surface and knead. Make stiff dough. Do not add water.
Divide the dough into eight equal parts.
Roll out each portion of dough evenly on a flat surface into wide rectangular strip. Poke it in a few places with a fork.
Make sure all the spring roll strips are exactly the same size. You can cut them with a knife to even them out exactly.

For the spring roll

In a bowl, mix the carrot, cabbage, spring onion and bean sprouts with soy sauce. Divide the filling into eight equal portions.
Take one spring roll sheet and one portion of the vegetable mixture.
Place this mixture in the centre of the strip, along the length. Roll the spring roll sheet. Fold, tuck and seal the spring roll from the sides so that the filling does not fall out. Prepare all eight spring rolls in the same way.
Heat oil in a fryer or a deep pan, once the oil is hot fry the spring rolls in batches of two or four depending on the size of the fryer. Fry them until crisp and golden brown.
Place them on a plate lined with absorbent paper towels. Soak up the excess oil.
Serve Hot with Szechwan Sauce.

Note:Salt is not added to the raw vegetables so that they do not release their juices and moisture while making spring rolls. The dipping sauce with salt is served alongside.

Tip: Cooked Noodles are added to spring rolls at times.