Momos in all its glory

Momos aren’t a ritual. They are a cult experience. These soft dumplings have been dominating the metros for the past couple of years. Mostly nibbled on by students and techies from street side vendors, they are flavor packed and tender.

On the surface, it may seem like plain white, dewy, and pinched dough. But when one takes a bite by dipping it in spicy red sauce (or mustard), the flavor bomb hits and you are a convert. And as far as fillings go, the range has expanded from mincemeat to paneer to chocolate. There are steamed and fried varieties. Fun fact: “Mo” actually means “steamed” in Newari.

Comfort food of Nepalese and Tibetans, momos are now found all over the country, from star restaurants to street vendors. There are peanut butter versions, tandoori chicken momos, dumplings fried in ghee, momos accompanied with soup and much more. Momos have been adapted to contain familiar ingredients and flavors. But other than the filling, it is the sauces that set one plate apart from the others.

A plate of succulent and juicy momos with fiery, killer sauce and you have hit the flavor jackpot. To balance the heat, some vendors serve a tangy sweet sauce. You can’t help but lick off the tangy goodness!

Words y Rekha Joly
Photographs from Various Internet Sources

Tunde ke Kebab: For the Royal Palate

Long before Chinese appetizers entered the Indian menu, kebabs would kick off the start to a grand meal. Neither the saucy Indian-Chinese nor the American crumb fried meat has yet the savoury charm of, say, Galouti Kebab. Said to have originated in Middle-Eastern cuisine, kebabs became popular in the subcontinent through Mughal influence. The grilled delicacies have now become an integral part of Indian cuisine.

‘Galouti’ literally means soft, rightfully named so as these kebabs melt in your mouth. Tunde ke Kebab is a beef galouti kebab authentically available in the streets of Lucknow. In the medieval streets, among the imambara and baradari, the bards whisper an old tale. There once was a generous Nawab with a penchant for kebabs who instructed his chefs to come up with new kebab recipes each day. When he grew old and toothless, his beloved cooks came up with Galouti Kebabs. No chewing was required, for the meat was tenderized with raw papaya, then ground to perfection, and enriched with over 150 spices. The meat could be either tender lamb or beef.

‘Balance’ is the key in this dish boasting of original skill and culinary perfection. Raw papaya should be just enough to tenderize the meat; excess would not go well on the palate. Copious spices must be added, but none too obvious. The masters at Tunday Kababi in Aminabad confidently whip up perfect kebabs served with flat breads like naan and rumali roti. The 100 year old shop is run by the third generation of the original masterchef amidst traffic defying customer queues. These delectable kebabs are a must on the list of every foodie and traveler!

The Virtuous King’s Homecoming Meal

In the age of tumultuous rulers and discontent populous, once a year we are reminiscent of a King so virtuous that everything was plenty, everyone was pleased. The folk song describing his rule postulates that no poverty, nor pilferage existed in his kingdom. So it is only befitting that his homecoming meal is King-sized. The Sadhya is the most intricate and inevitable part of Onam – so much so that Malayalees everywhere must have it. Gone are the days when the grand meal was a community event, prepared by adept hands of local cuisine, served on plantain leafs spread on the ground. Caterers and major restaurants prepare Sadhya by order – we can dine in or get it delivered.

But Sadhya was more than a meal shared by the haves. Historically, the harvest plenty was divided and used to feed the have-nots. The spirit of giving and sharing is long gone from Sadhya in most parts of Mahabali’s kingdom, but it thrives humbly at Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple in Pathanamthitta. Here, the ‘Valla Sadhya’ is an annual celebration on Ashtamirohini, the deity’s birthday. Legend has it that once a Namboodiri of Katoor Mana near Aranmula offered his prayers in Pamba and waited to feed a poor man to complete his ritual. A small boy appeared before him and the Brahmin offered him a sumptuous meal and new garments. The boy is said to have vanished and reappeared near the Aranmula temple, leading the benevolent Namboodiri to conclude that it was Lord Vishnu himself. Incommemoration, he proceeded to feed the poor at Aranmula every year on that day. In the later years, different individuals came forth to continue the tradition.

While Onam is a celebration of plentiful harvest, the spirit of giving remains at its core. Let this Onam, albeit amidst widespread intolerance and protectionism, lead us to noble ideals of equality and sustainability. Let us remember the magnanimous King, his egalitarian Kingdom, and embody the true spirit of Sadhya. And while we are on the subject, kudos to the Kerala government in their effort for a completely organic Sadhya!

Kerala: The paradise of foodies

India widely known for its culture of food; its unique cuisine and taste that attracted people from around the world. Indian food is another representation of Indian culture. Such beautiful culture reflection is found in South India, in the parts of Kerala, colorful cuisine and in its food culture; in the spices of Kerala. Kerala can be termed as‘Food Paradise’ or we can also call it a ‘paradise of foodies’.

This land of spices takes pride in its wide variety of non-vegetarian and vegetarian food, chiefly on its thrilled variety of sea food. People of Kerala use Chilies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric and asafetida in food to enhance its taste. Along with spices, Coconuts are commonly used within dishes for flavoring.

If we look at Kerala history, Christians and Muslims had influenced and contributed to Kerala cuisine and its unique dishes, especially to non-vegetarian dishes. While traditional Kerala food is vegetarian and includes ‘Kerala Sadya’, which consists of rice with about twenty different accompaniments and desserts, and most importantly it is served on banana leaf/ plantain leaf.

There are some notable popular dishes that one can’t miss out from all over Kerala: Firstly, Puttu and Kadala curry,is  cylindrical steamed rice cake with grated coconut, which is usually served with Kadala curry (chickpeas). Second one, Appam with stew, is similar to a thin pancake with crispy edges. Another one is one of Kerala’s traditional delicacies- Karimeen porichathu (Pearl spot fish fry, flavored with lemon juice). Next one, Malabar Parotta (Kerala style chappati which is shaped into a spiral with thin layers) with Kerala beef curry. Another one is a famous Keralaian fish stew made with coconut milk- Fish Molee, is a stew of lightly fried fish in coconut and spices, which gives a tangy taste. Next one is a brilliant delicious blend of rice with chicken, popularly known in Kerala as Thalassery biriyani. This one is a signature dish of the state, widely known in Kerala as Chemmeen curry (Prawn curry). And last one is a most popular desert of Palada payasam, a sweet rice kheer.

It’s sure that after trying all these dishes, one can easily unravel the mystery of delicious Kerala food and flavor and complement the rich heritage of Kerala cuisine and flavor.

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Chicken Saltimbocca

To count the stars in the night or for a romantic night out, we have found the perfect restaurant in Trivandrum City and its name is ‘Entrée’.

In French cuisine, it is a dish served before the main course, or between two principal courses of a meal. We didn’t have to wander like a nomad to find this restaurant. The sign board was lit and one can easily find Entree in Kuravankonam, Trivandrum. The open terrace of the house is converted to a beautiful alfresco dining, magically lit up for dinner. We didn’t have to think twice to get in.

Seeing Chicken Saltimbocca in their menu, we set out to experience the dish. Saltimbocca which is an Italian dish literally means jumps in the mouth. The original version is made of veal topped with prosciutto and sage or basil; marinated in wine, oil or saltwater depending on the region or one’s own taste. An American twist replaces the veal with chicken. So here comes Chicken Saltimbocca.

The dish arrived and it looked mouthwatering. We indulged ourselves in the dish to learn that the chicken is very tender and juicy and had lots of Italian flavor to it. Italian cuisine follows the Mediterranean pattern of eating—it focuses on simple, natural ingredients, such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, dark leafy greens and whole grains, making it one of the world’s healthiest diets. We really enjoyed every bite of the dish. The mushroom and spinach duo flavored with marinara sauce added an extra richness to the dish.

Relishing this exquisite dish rendered us speechless, making it a great culinary experience and we highly recommend this restaurant if you like Italian cuisine. Real Italian in Town!

 

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