Thursday, August 28, 2014

Instant Maida Paattholi

Paattholi is a steamed dumpling or momo type snack made by people living in the West Coast of India. GSBs are experts in making soft paattholis with soaked rice ground to a paste with grated coconut, stuffed with coconut jaggery choorna and steamed in turmeric leaves.
The divine aroma of paattholis fill the homes especially during monsoon season when turmeric leaves are available in abundance. Traditionally, paattholis are made during festivals like Naga Panchami Gokulashtami, Gauri Tritiya and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Paattholis are also made with jack fruit but that's steamed in either Kuduchaampa(Plumeria) leaf, teak leaf or in banana leaf and that's called Ponsaa Muddo. Making such paattholis consume lot of time and labour.

We came across an instant paattholi made with Maida(Refined flour)couple of years ago, when our good neighbour Balkunje Prema Shenoy made them and gave us sample. We too tried them once or twice and they came out good. Here are instant maida paattholis for our readers. You can enjoy them with your family and unexpected guests.

"Wishing all those who celebrate, a very Happy Gauri Ganesha Festival"

For the Batter:
Coconut Milk - 3 to 4 cups
Maida(Refined Flour) - 2 cups(Adjust according to need)
Sugar(Or jaggery powder) - 2 Tsp
Salt - A pinch
Turmeric leaves - 25-30

For the Coconut Jaggery Choorna(Filling):
Jaggery powder - 1/2 cup
Grated coconut - 1 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/2 Tsp

Keep a steamer on stove and allow water to boil.
Combine maida with coconut milk adding 2 Teaspoonful sugar/jaggery powder and salt, beat well till you get a smooth paste resembling dosa batter.
Wash and wipe the turmeric leaves and spread them on the kitchen work area or dining table with shiny side up.
Apply a Tablespoonful of the maida paste on each leaf and place 2
Teaspoonful jaggery choorna over them.
Fold the leaves and place them in a colander, taking care not to spill the mixture.
Steam with full flame for 15 minutes or till done.
Serve hot with fresh ghee.

Note: These paattholis smell good only when made on turmeric leaves.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Egg Chow Mein(Fried Noodles)

I first tasted Chinese food in Bangalore, somewhere in the summer of 1977. At Seven Star Restaurant in Gandhinagar, my sister in law ordered fried rice and for me it was testing time, since I was not exposed to Chinese food. With difficulty I ate half portion of that, and was slightly averse to the smell of burnt rice, chicken, soy sauce  and vinegar.

Mangalore first saw Indo-Chinese Chinese food in the Seventies when Nanking opened in Milagres Building, Falnir Road. Then I was still in college and was not much attracted to Non-veg food. Later, Ho-Pei was started by a Chinese family that migrated from Calcutta(Kolkata), in Hotel Sujatha where they captured the taste buds of Mangaloren foodies with their Chow Mein, Fried Rice, Chilli Chicken, Garlic Chicken, Mmanchurian, Drums of Heaven, Chopsuey and soups. I too started visiting the restaurant along with my friends since the late Seventies. The very first dish I tasted there, was Chicken Chow Mein.

Chow mein is perhaps the most popular main course on any Indo-Chinese restaurant after Fried Rice. This is mostly dear to youngsters who like fast food. Today, we can see many push carts and smaller food joints making chow mein in nooks and corners of every small town and city in India. Almost all the Nonveg restaurants have Indo-Chinese food on their menu. Making Chinese food is not so difficult, if you master the art of chopping the veggies and other ingredients, know the right proportion of various sauces, understand the significance of cooking rice and noodles, instant cooling technique, and of course the art of stir-frying on high flame.

Meena was a novice to this kind of cooking initially when we got married and settled down in 1988. I made Chinese preparations according to my own ideas or ideas borrowed from friends and relatives. She gradually developed liking for this kind of burnt food and also started making different Chinese dishes. I should say, in the last 3-4 years, she has really mastered the art of cooking Chinese food. Though our gas burners can't match the high flame of hotel burners, she does make fantastic noodles, fried rice and chopsuey!

Last evening, she asked me what would I prefer to eat with the left over chilli chicken that was resting in the fridge. I prefer noodles always and she made Egg Chow Mein. Here's how she made it.

Chinese Packet Noodles(Preferably Egg Noodles) - 200Gms
Salt and Pepper
Grated Ginger - 1/2 Tsp(Optional)
Chopped Garlic - 1/2 Tsp(Optional)
Chilli Oil(She used oil used for frying chicken) - 3 Tsp
Mixed Veggies like Onion, Carrot, Cabbage, Capsicum - 2 cups cut into julienne
Onion Shoot - A handful chopped into 1 inch pieces.
Eggs - 2-3
Dark Soy Sauce - 3 Tsp
Chilli Sauce or Red Chilli Paste - 2 Tsp(Optional)
Vinegar - 2 Tsp

Boil 1 liter water in a pan, add salt and a teaspoonful of oil, break the noodles and drop them.
Stir lightly with a fork so that all the noodles loosen and cook evenlly.
Parboil them(Test one strip. It should be soft outside and hard inside but not pasty) and drain with a colander.
Wash them under running water at room temperature and drain for 10-15 minutes.
Combine the sauces/paste and vinegar in a bowl with little water.
Heat 2 Tsp oil in a wok.
Add the optional ginger garlic along with the onions and stir fry on high flame for 1 min.
Add remaining shredded veggies, salt and pepper and stir fry till crunchy but cooked.
Remove and keep aside.
Add 1 Tsp oil to the same hot wok.
Break the eggs and drop them into the wok.
Add salt and pepper and scramble the eggs.
Add the fried veggies along with the parboiled noodles.
Add salt and pepper, stir fry for 2 minutes.
Add the sauces mixture and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
Switch off the flame, transfer to serving dish, sprinkle chopped onion shoot and serve hot with choice of sauces and side dishes.

1. Add French beans chopped into julienne, par boiled green peas and chopped mushrooms instead of eggs while frying the veggies to make Veg Chow Mein.
2. Add 1 cup boneless chicken/pre-cooked pork/mutton cut into thin strips instead of eggs, fry that well and make Non-Veg Chow Mein.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maraalva Phodi(Tree Taro Leaves Fritters)

GSBs have found exotic ways of cooking Maraalva leaves, like making Patrvadi(Pathrode) and deep fried phodis(Slices). These phodis used to be traditionally fried in Dhoopa oil which is not available so easily these days. Hence Coconut oil is widely used for frying these phodis in the Coastal parts of Karnataka and Kerala and any good refined oil is used by others.

Maraalva or Tree Taro leaves are available in the local market during rainy season. They are mainly found in tea or coffee estates on trees. Slightly thicker and brittle than the normal Colocasia leaves, these  remain green for a week if wrapped in paper or muslin cloth and preserved in a fridge. What we get in the market are as small as betel leaves sometimes. If you have contact with anyone having coffee or tea estate, you can get really big ones. Avoid using ones that have turned deep yellow, as they are not suitable. Slightly Greenish Yellow ones are alright.
Meena's friend Joyce D'Souza gets very big tree taro leaves from her husband Max D'Souza's estate in Banakal. So, Meena learned how to make these fritters a few years ago. She also learned the technique of slicing the roll after freezing it, to obtain very thin and even slices.

My mother was not very fond of these phodis, as she was a bit allergic to maraalva leaf. She made pathrode more than these fritters. Besides, availability of good leaf was a major issue. My sister in law Prabha Shenoy made them very tasty and I had a chance to eat them for a few years in the Eighties when I was staying at my brother's place. Some people around Car Street Mangalore make them well. I remember having tasted excellent maraalva podis made by my Bank colleague Suresh Bhat's mother. She made them very crisp, tangy spicy and perfect.

When I was a small boy, my mother and a few contemporaries used to roast urad daal, soak it and manually grind to a  smooth paste, add slightly coarse paste of soaked rice with red chillies, salt, asafotoeda and tamarind to it and then apply that paste on the leaves. Since last 35 years or so, we get Hoorna(Roasted Black Gram powder) and Rice powder in local mills, making our job easy.
1. Tree Taro leaves(Maraalva Paan) - 10-12
2. Hoorna(Roasted Black Gram powder) - 1/2 cup
3. Rice flour - 1 cup
4. Red chilli powder - 4-5 tsp
5. Asafotoeda - a pinch
6. Tamarind - Cherry size ball
7. Salt - Q.S.
8. Water - Q.S.
9. Coconut Oil or Refined vegetable oil - For deep frying
Make a thick solution of hing in water. 
Extract tamarind in 30ml water.
Mix all the powders and salt to taste to make a thick gummy paste, adding the asafotoeda solution and tamarind extract, adding water as required.
Check for salt.
Wash and wipe the tree taro leaves dry.
Remove stem and ribs if any, with a sharp knife.
Spread one big leaf shining side down.
Anoint the masala paste evenly in a thin layer.
Place a smaller leaf over its edge and again smear the masala paste.
Go on arranging layers to make sufficiently thick and tight roll, tucking the ends inside like a 'Patrvadi Roll'.
Keep the roll in the freezer for 6-8 hours till it hardens.
Remove from the freezer and transfer to the cutting board.
Using a very sharp slicing knife, make very thin slices of the roll.
You can arrange these slices in a fridge container, keep them for later use and they remain good for 2-3 days.
Heat oil in a thick kadai.
As soon as the oil starts fuming, reduce the heat to less than medium.
Roll each slice in rice four and deep fry 6-8 slices at a time in hot oil on controlled heat till crisp, puffy and brown.
Remove any dropping in the oil each time as you finish frying them phodis.
You can also fry some slices without coating them with rice flour to make naked fried phodis.
Rava fried ones consume less oil and naked fried ones consume more, but latter ones turn out more crisp like puff pastry.
Drain the phodis on the perforated ladle and then transfer over to absorbent paper.

Serve with rice and daal or as a tea time snack.
You can store the fried podis at room temperature in an air tight dry container and use them for almost a week.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Charmuri Upkari/Masale Mandakki/Masala Bhel

Any festival, fair or school function in Mangalore is not complete without Charmuri sellers. They have ruled the street food scenario from time immemorial. They were already there, when I opened my eyes and realised that I am also on this earth, that too in such a lovely coastal city of Mangalore!
When we Mangaloreans hear the name Charmuri Upkari, the first thing that comes to our mind is 'Sukrunde Vittal'. Sukrunde Vittal Shenoy was a legend of all times and he taught rest of the Mangaloreans how to make perfect charmuri upkari. Slim and short guy clad in khaaki shorts, khaadi kurta and a white gandhi cap, he was mostly seen in Temple Square near the Temple making and selling charmuri upkari, raw mango pachchodi and excellent quality masala peanuts for many decades. He passed away in the early years of the new Millennium. Now his son Raghuram Shenoy runs the charmuri stall in front of School Book Company in Car Street.

I remember that in mid Seventies when I attended the Pratishta Poornima festival in Mulki, we friends asked a charmuriwala to make charmuri as good as Sukrunde maam made. He said, "Sukrunde maam is our guru and no one can beat his expertise. I shall however make charmuri upkari in my own special way, which please taste and comment on!". He made fantastic charmuri, but I appreciated his respect and concern for Sukrunde maam.  Another famous personality is 'Mangli Maam' or Ananth Shenoy, the sugarcane juice and bhel vendor near St Aloysius College till the Eighties. He now sells only sugarcane juice near Mangala Stadium.

In spite of innumerable modern Chinese and North Indian fast food sellers showing up on Mangalorean streets, Charmuri Upkari stalls are always there with people swarming around to grab their packet of this spicy tangy chatpata yummy treat that doesn't satiate your hunger but makes you feel good. The tingling sensation left on the tongue is mostly washed down with a cold sugar cane juice or lime soda but I have my own choice, a cup of hot coffee following the charmuri upkari!

Yes, the counter irritant effect of hot coffee on the already sensitive tongue is simply ecstatic. Only a few contemporaries know the real pleasure within this combo!

Charmuri upkari is very simple to make. It needs some common ingredients that are mostly present in a typical Mangalorean kitchen. My mother used to make it with chopped onions as well as with grated coconut for evening tea. The one we get on the streets is with onions. In 1971 when I was in school, we friends erected a stall near Ballalbagh circle where Gurji festival was on. We made brisk business selling charmuri like hot cakes. I was mostly making the charmuri upkari that evening, as my measurements were more or less perfect!

In summer, the street vendors make it special by adding chopped raw mango. In monsoon months or slightly colder winter months, they make it special, adding some grated carrot, namkeen mixture(Chivda) or rosted/fried peanuts. In Sirsi and Sagar I have tasted masale mandakki with green masala and added boiled potato chunks and green peas. Each region has its own style of preparing this.

Here is my formula for charmuri Upkari with chopped onions, that's made special by adding tomato masala flavoured potato wafers. I have added Haldiram's Sev Murmura that comes in 5 Rupee packets. That has its own added masala which makes the charmuri upkari slightly different than the traditional one. To make the traditional one, please use plain charmuri/mandakki/bhel. Makes your day lively on a dull rainy day.

Plain Charmuri/Mandakki/Bhel - 2 cups(or Haldiram's Rs.5/- Sev Murmura packets 4)
Choice of namkeen mixture/roasted peanuts or potato wafers - A handful
Onions - 2 medium finely chopped
Coriander leaves - A handful finely chopped
Lemon - 1/2 small squeezed
Salt - 1/2 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Coconut oil - 1 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)

Mix all the ingredients except charmuri and other crispies.
Add charmuri and toss well.
For better results you can use two bowls inverted one over the other as shown in the pic and shake them well.
Serve immediately, topped with potato wafers or other crispies as garnish.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicken Badami/Murg Badami

Chicken Badami is a special gravy dish made on auspicious days by people living in the North West frontier. Mughals introduced the dish to India centuries ago, but Sindhis settled in Bangalore had their own sweet ways of making this dish.
I first tasted Murg Badami at the West End Hotel in Bangalore when my relative Dr Prakash Kamath hosted me dinner there in 1981. It was very rich and creamy. I was totally bowled by the expertise of the chef of West End, a class hotel which can not be compared with other hotels in Bangalore. That Murg Badami had its own special taste, but the mind blowing Murg Badami was made by the owners of Roomalee, a sidewalk restaurant on Church Street Bangalore that was very popular in the Eighties for their fantastic Roomalee Rotis, Murg Kesari and Murg Badami. Other favourite Sindhi Restaurant was Casbah on Brigade Road 2nd cross. Casbah had excellent soft naan and Butter Chicken apart from other delicacies. I was introduced to Casbah by BN Radhakrishna, younger brother of Dr BN Jagadeesh, the famous dental surgeon. A special ice cream sundae at the over priced Lake View Cream Carlour on MG Road completed the dinner those days! 

I must give credit to my childhood friend Kulyadi Diwakar Pai, a connoisseur of good living. He first introduced us friends to Roomalee Restaurant when he and other friends came to Bangalore in the early Eighties to watch cricket test matches. Diwakar's favoutite order used to be Roomalee Rotis with Murg Badami and Murg Kesari(A baked chicken starter). That was by all standards, one of the finest dinners one could have those days.

Both Casbah and Roomalee closed down long ago but the taste of good food lingered on my taste buds. I was reminiscing over that murg badami recently when I met Diwakar at a party. Then I told him, I am trying to formulate the recipe for that lovely dish myself. He couldn't believe me, but he wished me luck!

After intensive research, I came to a  conclusion that I can make the dish almost exactly like the chefs cum owners of Roomalee Restaurant prepared it. North Indian gravy based dishes mostly have baked chicken with some common ingredients like ginger garlic, onions, tomatoes, kasoori methi and a few spices. I am against using whole spices in curries, as they are big turn downs when relishing the dish. If you bite a whole green cardamom or a clove, your taste buds go for a toss and everything tastes spicy, making you lose interest in eating. So, I prefer to use garam masala powder(Everest brand is preferred) which is easier to use and the flavour is blended into the dish homogeneously. Kashmiri chilli powder adds to taste and substance, and due to its deep red colour, it eliminates the use of red food colour. I avoid food colours to the maximum because they are supposed to be carcinogenic. Unlike other Chicken Badami recipes, heavy use of brown onion paste, the sweetness of onions blended with pure spices and tanginess of tomato puree makes this dish awesome. Almond paste adds to the smoothness and richness of the gravy. Then of course the aroma of butter/cream and optional saffron add to the flavours. We didn't add saffron, however.

Try and prepare this dish at home. I recommend you all to try the Tandoori Chicken Tikka recipe if you can spare couple of hours more to make this dish. Purity of ingredients, concern for your family's well being and cheerful faces of your family members and guests will make you forget the stress of cooking and you will go for this dish whenever you want to celebrate some happy occasion.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka - 1 full cut into 21 pieces(about 1.5KG without skin)
Ghee - 20 Ml
Refined oil - 20 Ml
Brown onion paste - 4 Tablespoons(400Gm onions sliced, browned with little oil and salt, then ground into a paste)
Garlic paste - 2 Teaspoons
Ginger paste - 1 Teaspoon
Salt - To taste(I added 1 Teaspoonful)
Sugar - 2 Teaspoons
Kasoori Methi - 2 Teaspoons
Turmeric Powder(Optional) - 1/2 Teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1 Teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 Teaspoon
Tomato Puree - 100 Ml
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 8-10 Teaspoons
Black/White Pepper powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
Almonds - 50 Gm
Hot Water - 2 cups
Garam Masala powder(Optional) - 1 Teaspoon
Saffron(Optional) - A pinch soaked in a tablespoonful of hot water.
Butter/Whole Cream - QS
Coriander Leaves(Optional) - A handful chopped

If you are making Tandoori Chicken at home, you need not add turmeric powder or garam masala powder to the gravy.
Reserve the excess marinade you obtain from tandoori chicken and also the collected juices from the baked chicken.
Blanch whole almonds in a cup of hot water for an hour.
Peel them, soak them further for 30 mins in warm water.
Chop 4-6 almonds and reserve for garnishing.
Grind the remaining almonds into a smooth paste, adding very little water. 
Reserve almond milk(water used to clean the mixer after grinding the almonds).
You can either use just ghee or oil and ghee 50:50.
Heat oil/ghee in a thick bottomed pan.
Add the brown onion paste along with garlic and ginger paste.
Add little salt, sugar and a teaspoonful of kasoori methi.
Fry well on high flame, taking care not to char the pastes, till oil separates on the sides and the mass is dark brown.
Add cumin, coriander, black pepper powders, optional turmeric powder and fry well till raw smell disappears.
Now add the tomato puree and fry well till oil separates.
Add the kashmiri chilli powder and fry for 1-2 mins.
Mix in the almond paste and fry till raw smell disappears and the masalas are well blended into the pastes.
Add the reserved marinade and the reserved almond milk.
Fry till the mass is almost dry.
Now add the juices collected from the baked chicken and add a cup or more of hot water to dilute the gravy.
The gravy should be as thick as dosa batter.
Add salt to taste, remaining kasoori methi, optional garam masala powder and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Now drop the tandoori chicken pieces carefully, coat the pieces with the gravy, taking care not to break the pieces.
Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, add the optional saffron and switch off the flame.
In a serving bowl, arrange the chicken pieces topped with the hot gravy.
Top with whole cream or butter according to taste, sprinkle optional chopped coriander leaves and garnish with chopped blanched almonds.
Serve with roti of your choice but Roomali Rotis taste too good with this dish.

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