Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Menasina Saaru(Hot and Sour Pepper Rasam)

Long long ago, perhaps in the early Seventies, there was a Kannada novel in my late father's collection titled 'Mundenu Raman'. I guess, the author was YNK(YN Krishnamurthy). That book had a story revolving around a small boy named Raman, his hardship in life, his dream to earn money enough to buy a book, his option to choose between the book and a blanket for his folks at home and the unexpected end. Later that story was adapted in a movie by name 'Bettada Hoovu'.

Why I mentioned about that book here is, the story had a whiff of rustic flavours, the author describing the simple meal of rice and piping hot 'Menasina Saaru' or Pepper Rasam savoured by the labour class family. That description made me drool, imagining about the hot and tangy Mensasina Saaru!

Well, years rolled and in 1979, I got job in a Bank in Chamarajanagar and I stayed in Mysore during those days. My roommate Mohan Reddy took me to a restaurant by name Indian Milk Bar on Chamaraja Double Road, where we used to have dinner after returning from Chamarajanagar by train. For Four Rupees, along with Mutton Kheema Ball Curry and rice, they served sambar, pickle, beetroot fry and also a cup of pepper rasam, or menasina Saaru.

I immediately developed a liking for it, because when I gulped small sips of that, I felt like molten lava travelling through my mouth into the stomach, burning the gastric mucosa on the way. As it reached the stomach, I felt pangs of hunger and started gobbling up heaps of rice, sambar and mutton kheema ball curry! So, there I was, tasting Menasina Saaru for the first time in my life.

When I landed Bangalore in 1980, my brother Radhakanth who was studying MBBS there suggested Hotel RR, a newly opened Andhra style restaurant in Gandhinagar. He said, the meals served on plantain leaf had a variety of unlimited curries, chutneys and side dishes which was worth trying. I went there and had my lunch. The very first thing they served apart from cold drinking water was a small cup of piping hot pepper rasam. My brother said, it is appetiser traditionally served in Andhra Restaurants, and has to be consumed before having food. Then on, I was a fan of Andhra food. My regular hangouts were mostly RR and Annapoorna in Gandhinagar. During every visit, I used to ask for extra serving of that addictive soup. Later, Meena used to make it whenever I was down with cold and fever. It acted like Pepper Kashaaya and clear my sinuses.

I have also tasted this soup in Blue Star Bar and Restaurant in Shivamogga, where they served complimentary cups of this after consuming drinks.

Menasina saaru is our challenge to the ever favourite Hot and Sour Soup in Chinese cuisine, as per my experience. South Indians are known for making spicy dishes and rasams, but this one is ultimate. Better than mixing into steamed rice like Raman in the storybook did, I prefer to sip it as it is, slowly but definitely a tall glassful!

Make this at home in cold winter or when it drizzles outside in rainy season. It keeps you warm, clears your throat and sinuses, and of course increases your appetite. The peppery, tangy garlicky taste and flavour linger on for a long time in your mouth.

Ghee - 2 Tsp
Mustard Seeds
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Curry Leaves
Red Long Chillies - 6-8 broken into pieces
Garlic - 10-12 flakes crushed
Crushed Peppercorns - 4-6 Tsp(As per taste)
Cumin Powder - 1 Tsp
Turmeric Powder(Optional) - 1/4 Tsp
Powdered Jaggery(Optional) - 1 Tsp
Tomatoes - 2 Medium chopped
Tamarind - 2 Tsp thick pulp
Cooked Daal(Lentil) Water - 2 Ltr
Coriander Leaves - A handful chopped


Heat ghee and roast mustard seeds till they crackle.
Add cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, garlic and fry.
Now add all the other ingredients, fry till the tomatoes turn mushy.
Add salt and lentil water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

Kaane Fish Green Masala Fried

Kaane is a fish found in tropical backwaters. It is also called as Noguli in Konkani and Lady Fish in English. It is a delicacy in the western coast of Karnataka. Shetty Lunch Home in Kundapur popularised this fish first and then Anupama in Mangalore and Coast To Coast in Bangalore went full swing with Kaane delicacies like Masala Fried, Naked Fried and Rava Fried.
We have been experimenting with chutney fish and green masala fish. Yesterday, our good neighbour Balkunje Vasudev Shenoy got 2 huge Kaane fish for us. Meena was clueless about what preparation she can make with it. She thought of making a spicy Kerala style curry but I stopped her and said, these huge kaanes are rare to find in the market these days. better make some exotic dish with it, preferably a strater dish with semi thick masala. Masala Fried fish has been prepared umpteen times, now that Kundapur Masala Powder is readily available. I suggested her that green masala fried would be a great idea. She went one step further and prepared a green masala that's better than what we usually make.

So here it is, the lovely spicy, tangy and aromatic Kaane Fish Green Masala Fried to tickle your taste buds. Trust me. It is simple out of this world! Enjoy this with your family.
Kaane Fish - 1 Kg
Grated Coconut - 3 Tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 Tsp
Black Peppercorns - 2 Tsp
Green Tomatoes - 2 medium Chopped
Capsicum - 1/2 small chopped
Green Chillies - 4-6 chopped
Garlic - 10 flakes peeled
Ginger - 2" piece peeled and chopped
Onion - 1 big cubed
Coriander leaves - 50 Gms
Mint Leaves - A handful
Curry Leaves - A handful
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Salt - To taste
Coconut Oil - 30-50 Ml(According to need)
Lemon Wedges - For garnishing 

Clean, wash and put gashes on kaane fish. Apply salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder.
Marinate for 30 mins to 1 hr in the fridge.
Grind all the remaining except salt, oil and lemon wedges to a fine paste.
Reserve the water used to wash the grinder/mixie.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed nonstick pan.
Fry the masala paste till raw smell diappears.

Add 1/4 Tsp turmeric powder and salt to taste and fry further till oil leaves the sides and masala turns slightly golden brown.
Now add the water obtained from the grinder and fry.
Spread the masala evenly in the pan.
Place the marinated fish, coat the masala over them and pour the marinade over it.
Cover and cook on slow heat for 5 mins.
Sprinkle little water, shake the pan to loosen the fish and flip them over.
Cover and cook for another 3 mins.
Open the lid and sprinkle little water.
Raise the flame and allow the fish to sizzle for 2 more mins and switch off the flame.
Arrange the fish on a serving platter, garnish with salad of your choice and serve hot with lemon wedges.

Same masala can be used with any white fish.
You can also reduce the amount of spices and make Paneer/Mushroom/Egg green masala fried.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

If It's Chattambade, This Must be Agumbe

There was a movie in the late Sixties by name 'If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium'.

Thinking in that line, I am tempted to coin in the phrase, 'If It's Chattambade This Must Be Agumbe'. It is not because Agumbe is famous for Chattambade, or that every food outlet in Agumbe sells Chattambades. One man however, has been making hot chattambades(Lentil vadas) since last 21 years. Mr Padiyar, the friendly bearded chap in his late Forties from a small town called Dodderangady near Karkala, has settled down in Agumbe on the Western Ghats and he does brisk business selling them goodies on his 'Fast Food' cart canteen.

Though I have travelled many times via Agumbe to Shimoga and Koppa in the past two decades, I came to know about him just a year ago, when a friend told me about the crisp and spicy lentil vadas he makes, that sell like hot cakes.  He also told me that the Chattambade Maam(Uncle) makes idli vada and tea to satiate the hungry tourists who pass by or visit Agumbe in the morning and evening.

After negotiating the 14 hairpin bends of the Agumbe Ghat, as you move a few yards towards the town, you can see his cart parked on the right just before the forest check-post. You can also see many cars parked on the left side and people swarming the canteen watching him frying them crispies as he keeps chattering about how he's been running the fast food joint single handed since the last 21 years, how an ordinary guy like him became famous when knowledgeable people wrote about him in papers, magazines and online. 


You can also see a stack of Kannada books on philosophy, spiritualism and patriotism by famous authors kept on the edge of the cart which inspire him to render selfless service to mankind in the same style that he did over the years after he settled down there in the early Nineties.

"Please don't forget to take pictures of these books along with the chattambades and me. These are very precious and are inseparable part of my life. They inspire me to work hard, and that's why I have kept them here along with my cooking implements", he emphasises the need to highlight them books.

Padiyar prepares the ingredients necessary for the fried snacks at home, packs them in batches in plastic bags, empties them batch by batch into the vessel in which he mixes the ground lentil coconut chilli paste along with calculated amount of chopped greens and onions, then drops small flattened balls into the sizzling oil and fries them and tosses them over the oil on the perforated frying ladle to check if they are crisp. They get sold instantly to the waiting crowd who gobble up 2-4 vadas each and wash them down with a small steel tumbler full of hot strong invigorating tea or kashaaya. Some people who come in groups order anywhere from 50 to 100 vadas at one go, but wait patiently as he caters smaller portions to others.

I asked him if he sells over a Thousand chattambades per day, for which he shyly answered "May not be so many. Can't say for sure. I myself don't keep a count, but whatever I prepare, gets sold out soon after sunset and I return home with all the contentment of catering to hungry people who want fresh hot stuff".

We missed his canteen on our way to Shimoga on November 1st in the afternoon when he was off for lunch. We made it a point to reach Agumbe well before sunset on our way back yesterday and felt lucky to taste them. Same vadas may not taste as good at any restaurant in a big city, but the cool natural forest ambiance of Agumbe with a light drizzle of monsoon or a whiff of cold autumn wind make them favourite with the travellers. Besides, Padiyar's endless chat with rhyming poetic dialogs influenced by the books in store add to the fun and make us feel good.

I told him, "I will make you a star online, as we food bloggers focus more on street food and highlight hard working traditional fast food sellers more than star hotels. Tell me, what makes you tirelessly work single handed for such a long time? Don't you have children who support you?".

He smiled and said in a rather humble tone, "I have three children and all of them are good at studies. Two girls have already completed engineering and are working for IT Companies in Bangalore. Youngest one, my son is also a distinction student. I feel lucky to have all the three of them brilliant, but I always believe in being with the common man, among common people, serving them, seeing their happy faces, seeking their blessings and good wishes. Almighty listens to my devotional chants(Bhajans) and graces me all that extra energy to serve people."

Before we left, my wife Meena asked him whether he had any urge to expand his setup in the past like many famous people who started with batata vada, bhelpuri and sweets in as street vendors owning chain of restaurants today.

He again smiled and replied in poetic Kannada with rhyming lines "21 varshadinda adey gaadi, adey daadi, adey body!"(Since last 21 years, same cart, same beard, same body).

I thought of completing the limerick by adding my own line  ".....mattu namage adey roodi"(....and for us, it's way of life), but reserved that for expressing in my blog, for I was his client for the very first time in those 21 years!

I have seen many street cart canteens in my life, this is one more, yet there is no second Padiyar anywhere in the world, chatting and making Chattambades quite like the one near Agumbe forest check-post! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pre-Diwali Special Seafood Treat

Every year when Deepavali is round the corner, fishing activities are brisk in the Arabian Sea and abundant quantity of fresh fish enters the market. Prices also drop considerably, and people go around buying tasty seafood like Seer Fish(Anjal) White Pomfret, Prawns, Silver Fish, Mackerel and Croaker in heaps!
It is also the time for GSBs to celebrate the oil bath and Pre-Diwali Special Seafood Treat. Perhaps we cultivated this habit from our Bengali cousins or from our forefathers who settled in Konkan hundreds of years ago. Thus, GSBs are also called as 'Matsya Brahmins' or fish eating Brahmins.

Not all GSBs are piscetarians, but many are. Anjal is a must for most of the GSBs on this day, to make fried fish. Anjal steaks are cleaned washed and marinated with a chilli tamarind masala with added asafotoeda(Hing), rolled in rice flour and deep fried in coconut oil. A simple Mackerel curry such as 'Alle Piyaava Ghashi'(Coconut based curry with added chopped ginger onion  and green chillies), phannaupkari or Kothambari Methi Ghashi(Coriander fenugreek curry) is prepared traditionally in earthen pot and is served with piping hot boiled red rice and the fried anjal fish steaks. This meal follows the traditional oil bath, lighting the diyas(Terracotta oil lamps) and burning of first round of crackers. rest of the days are auspicious to perform various poojas and are strictly vegetarian.

We have been trying new curries and fish fries every year for this special seafood feast, but this year we had enough of fish curry rice and fried fish two days ago. Hence we didn't make any curry or fry for the pre-diwali dinner. Let me present the typical Tuluva style Bangude Ghasi(Mackerel curry) that we tried last Sunday along with Anjal Tawa Fried. Our friend Uma Shenoi sent marinated Anjal steaks.

Uma is a fantastic cook, a perfectionist. The masala marinade she applied is as per typical GSB style Fried Fish with a pinch of added turmeric powder. The marinated steaks are rolled in rice flour and shallow fried on a tawa or shallow frying pan. A simple Tendle Batate Upkari(Gherkins with potato fry) made up for the veggies. Needless to mention here that the dinner was a super-hit!
Bangude Ghasi

Mackerel Fish - 4 big, cleaned washed and cut into 3 pieces each
Grated Coconut - 1 cup
Red Long Chillies - 18
Red Short Chillies - 14
Coriander Seeds - 2 Tsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Green Chillies - 8 cut into small bits
Ginger - 2" piece chopped
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Tamarind - Cherry size ball
Salt - To taste
Curry Leaves- 1 Sprig
Coconut Oil - 2 Tbsp

Marinate the fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder for 30 mins.
Fry red chillies, coriander seeds and mustard seeds with 1 tsp oil.
Grind the spices with tamarind and grated coconut to a fine paste.
Wash the grinder/mixie with 1 cup water and reserve this water.
In a thick bottomed vessel(Preferably earthenware pot) heat remaining oil.
Add chopped green chillies and onions.
Fry till onions turn transparent.
Add the ground masala and fry till raw smell disappears.
Add the water from the grinder/mixie and salt to taste.
Bring to a boil and add the marinated fish.
Cover, simmer and cook for 5 mins or till the fish is cooked.
Add curry leaves and keep covered for another 5 mins before serving with red boiled rice and fried fish.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...