Sunday, July 26, 2015

Banana Sheera(Sapaat)

When I landed in a town called Chamarajanagar at 9:30am on January 9, 1979 for joining my new assignment in a Bank, I was taken to a small restaurant run by Udupi Brahmins named Hotel Anand, by two of my colleagues. There the owner's son was happy to see another Mangalorean and he asked me "What will you have for breakfast?" I asked him what's fresh and hot. He replied "Banana Kesari Bhaat and Idli Sambar". I ordered Banana Kesari Bhaat which we call sheera, ate it with little difficulty, as it was pretty dry and hard.

When I visited home after a few months, I asked my mother what's Banana Sheera. She said it is nothing but 'Sapaat', a sweet dish they make as prasadam for offering during Sathyanarayana Vrata. It is made with rava, Rasabaale banana, cow's ghee, cow's milk and sugar, as per mother's say. I had tasted sapaat before, but that was way too different than what I had tasted at Hotel Anand! When I asked mother about preparing that at home, she said, we can't prepare Sapaat at home, as it is meant to be prepared and offered as prasadam! I was disappointed and didn't force her further.
Many years later, after marrying and settling down, I told Meena one day that I will make banana sheera. She asked me if I know how to make it. Those days we didn't have internet, and getting recipes was very difficult. Yet, I said that's not a big issue, and I went ahead to make Banana Sheera using my own imagination. It turned out tasty but something was missing. 

Balepet Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan(USKB) had a lovely sweet dish called Dumrote made with Bombay rava and ash gourd. I was very fond of that, and I also tried my own way to prepare it. When I wondered about the unique aroma Dumrote had, my colleague Nagabhushana Hande had told me, that they add Pachcha Karpoora(edible camphor) to that. Dumrote came out very good, though not exactly what I had eaten at Balepet USKB. I did add pachcha karpoora, because as I relished dumrote,  a thought came to my mind that the Sapaat they make for  Sathyanarayana Vrata also has added edible camphor which gives it the unique flavour. 

If we add edible camphor to this, it's not necessary to add kesar or saffron. Without Kesar, this can not be kesar Bhaat but simply 'Sheera'! I did exactly that, adding edible camphor to banana sheera and made it perfectly like Sapaat. I am not religious, and I am not guilty about making it for breakfast simply because these delicacies are meant to be enjoyed in every day life, and without a certain ingredient, the dish may turn out to be something different. I don't think many restaurants add edible camphor to Banana Sheera/Kesari Bhaat but you can, if you are a connoisseur of good taste! 
Bombay Rava - 2 cups
Ghee - 100 Gms (Add more if you like)
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 cups (Add more if you like)
Pachcha Karpoora (Edible Camphor) - A pinch
Hot Milk - 1 cup
Hot Water - 4 cups
Kadali/Yelakki Bananas (Substitute for Rasabaale Bananas) - 4 (around 150 Gms)
Cardamom Pods - 6
Cashew Nut Bits - 25 Gms
Raisins - 25 Gms

Peel  cardamom and crush the seeds.
Powder pachcha karpoora.
Peel and chop bananas into tiny bits.
Keep water and milk hot, almost at boiling point.
Heat ghee in a thick bottomed kadai and fry the cashew nut bits on low heat until light golden.
Drain and keep aside.
To the same ghee, add Bombay rava and fry on medium heat until a nice aroma emanates and the rava turns golden.
Add the chopped banana, pachcha karpoora powder, hot milk and mix.
Carefully add the hot water and keep mixing lightly until rava sizzles and swells up.
Keep the fire low and allow the rava to cook and absorb all the liquid.
When the mass becomes almost dry, add sugar and allow it to melt.
As sugar starts melting, switch off the flame, keep mixing gently and allow sheera to ooze out ghee.
Take the kadai off the flame and garnish with cardamom powder, fried cashew nut bits and raisins.
Serve hot.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rava Bisi Bele Bhaat

In 1981, when I was working in a Bank in Chickpet Bangaluru, I used to have snacks at Balepet Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan(USKB), skipping lunch. My regular order used to be Dumrote, Idli Sambar and a plate of Khaara Bhaat on regular days and Rava Bisi Bele Bhaat on Wednesdays, only day on which they used to make that special dish found nowhere else! 
Yes. Rava Bisi Bele Bhaat is an invention of master chefs of Balepet USKB, and they also introduced it in their two branches in Koramangala and Gandhi Bazaar later, as I am given to understand by Purushotham, their manager. I was totally bowled by the taste of this dish, that's loaded with lentils and vegetables, and also the flavours of masalas and slight sourness of added lemon juice. I think they also add little tamarind extract to it, but I like more lemony taste and flavour.

The recipe I came out, is not new. I had tried making Rava Bisi Bele Bhaat at least thrice in the last 27 years, and succeeded in getting the right taste and flavour. We don't make it often, as making this involves extra work like preparing veggies and other stuff. 

Try making this, and you will also love it. If you can't get Bisi Bele Bhaat powder, you can substitute that with sambar masala and garam masala. We had excellent Bisi Bele Bhaat powder given by our family friend Nirmala Urs from Maisuru and that added to the flavour very much. I made it adding pure ghee, but those who are cautious about fat may add refined oil. Adding boiled kabuli Chana is mandatory, as the taste of this dish will be perfect with it. You can reserve a cup of boiled kabuli chana when you make them ready for preparing chana chole or other curries. Please note that volume of  water used in making this rava based dish has been slightly reduced, because we are adding mixed veggies, tomatoes and boiled chana with its soup, which compensate for the right amount of water content needed to cook the rava perfectly.
Bombay Rava - 2 cups
Ghee/Oil - 6 Tsp(30 ml)
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tsp
Chana Daal - 1 Tsp
Curry Leaves - 1 Sprig
Onion - 1 medium thinly sliced
Green Chillies - 2 cut diagonally into 1/2" bits
Grated Coconut - A handful
Mixed Vegetables(As per list given below) - 2 cups
Tomato - 1 medium thinly sliced into 1/2" pieces
Bisi Bele Bhaat Masala Powder - 2 Tsp(or 1 and 1/2 Tsp sambar powder and 1/2 tsp Garam Masala powder) 
Kabuli Chana - A handful soaked overnight, pressure cooked with 1/2 cup water. 
Salt - 1 Tsp(or to taste)
Sugar - 1 Tsp
Lemon - 1 small
Coriander Leaves - A handful chopped

List of Mixed Veg:
Fresh Green Peas (or dry ones, soaked and boiled) - A handful
French Beans - 2 cut into thin 1/2 " long julienne 
Cabbage - 1 leaf cut into thin 1/2 " long julienne or,
Cauliflower - 2-3 florets cut into thin slices
Carrot - 1/2 small, cut into thin 1/2 " long julienne

Keep 5 cups of water for boiling in a vessel.
Heat 4 tsp ghee or oil in a thick bottomed kadai or pan and reduce the heat to sim.
Add mustard seeds, allow them to splutter, add chana daal and curry leaves, fry until daal turns golden.
Add rava and fry on medium flame until a nice aroma emanates and the rava turns slightly golden.
Remove and wipe the pan clean with a dry cloth.
Heat remaining 2 tsp ghee or oil.
Add chopped green chillies and onions, grated coconut and fry until onions are transparent.
Add mixed vegetables and stir fry on high flame until vegetables are crisp but partly cooked.
Now add the tomatoes and fry until tomatoes are slightly cooked.
Add Bisi Bele bhaat masala(or sambar powder and garam masala powder) and fry on medium flame for 1-2 minutes.
Add boiled Kabuli chana along with its soup, salt, sugar and squeeze lemon.
Add hot water and bring to a boil.
Check for salt and add roasted seasoned rava.
Mix gently and allow rava to cook on medium flame for 3-4 mins.
As the water gets absorbed and rava swells up but still wet, switch off the flame, remove the pan and keep it on the kitchen platform for 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, mix and serve hot.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anjal Fish Tawa Masala Fried

Anjal, Seer Fish, King Fish, Surmai, Isvon or Visonu. Call it any name, but this fish is one of the most sought after in the West Coast of India. The main reason is, it is a bulky fish with dense flesh which can be sliced very thin into perfect steaks. The masala with which we marinate the fish infiltrates deeply into the flesh and enhances the taste. This fish is best suited for making fried fish and the right texture makes them taste and feel like savoury cake slices. Here in Mangalore they also compare that to coconut kernel.

Unlike other fish, this can be marinated and frozen for days to retain the taste. However, please note that if you keep the Anjal steaks in the freezer without marination, they may lose the taste and become harder. At least apply some salt and keep them in the freezer for better preservation.
Mangalorean GSBs have opened new fish specialty restaurants and street food joints namely Giri Manja's, Prabhu Brothers, Machali and Bapama's. One thing common with them all is that they sell a specialty which is spicy, tangy and aromatic. They coat the fish with a unique masala and shallow fry them in lots of coconut oil on the iron skillet or Tawa and serve them garnished with freshly chopped coriander leaves, onion slices and lemon wedges. People hype and rave about them and make a mad dash as soon as someone updates his or her social networking status with pictures of that yummy looking fried fish! They call it Anjal Tawa Masala Fried and charge a decent price for the amount of oil, oops the size of the fish steak they serve, as per prevailing rates. I have tasted this specialty from Giri Manja's and Machali a couple of times and found them tasty, but very oily as expected at any restaurant.

With my abilities to taste something and guess the ingredients that go into that, I did a quick guess work about Anjal Tawa Masala Fried as well, and formulated my recipe. Please note that I have added garlic paste to the masala and at Giri Manja's or Machali, they may add asafotoeda or hing. I have not tasted the item at Bapama's or Prabhu Brothers, hence no guess about that. Whatever, adding hing is your choice, but I like it with lots of garlic. After all, Kundapur masala needs garlic to enhance the flavour!

Yes. You guessed it right. The kitchen friendly Kundapur Masala has come to my rescue when I formulated this dish. It is always in stock in our fridge, and we use it for many preparations like Masala Fried, Rava Fried, Tawa Fried and Ghee Roast. A versatile masala powder, not so easily available in any store near to you, but you can prepare it at home following the recipe given here.
Always use a good non stick tawa/pan for frying fish. I mentioned 'Good Non Stick Pan', because this is a kind of fried fish which gets stuck to the pan if you are not using a clean pan. In restaurants they use the iron skillet that's recurrently used for frying fish, and has a coating which avoids the fish steaks from sticking to the pan. Besides, the amount of oil they add for frying fish is mindblowing, and that amount of oil ensures that the fish remains intact with the masala!

For authentic Anjal Tawa Masala Fried, you may go to Giri Manja's, Prabhu Brothers, Machali or Bapama's, but you may also get a pool of oil with them as bonus! Addiction to these fried items call for frequent visits and ultimately we run the risk of cardiac ailments if we eat these things in excess. So be wise and prepare these at home. After all, Kudpiraj's Garam Tawa also cares for your health and better living.

Anjal/Seer Fish Steaks - 1 Kg(or around 14 medium size steaks)
Kundapur masala Powder - 6 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Kashmiri Chilli Powder(Optional for better colour and taste) - 2 Tsp
Rice Flour - 2 Tbsp(or around 40 Gms)
Tamarind - A pea size ball, pulp extracted in little water.
Salt  - 3/4 Tsp(or to taste)
Water - About 3/4 cup(approx)
Coconut Oil - 100 Ml (for shallow frying)
Coriander Leaves(or curry leaves) - A handful chopped
Clean and wash the fish steaks, pat dry and keep aside.
Combine all the powders, salt and tamarind extract.
Add water little by little to obtain a thick and smooth masala paste that feels like wet mud.
Apply the paste over the fish steaks and arrange them in a way shown as per picture.
That way, the masala gets coated better, doesn't drop off when you lift the fish steaks, and the steaks can be easily detached from one another.
Heat a nonstick pan on medium heat.
Spread 2-4 teaspoonfuls of coconut oil, allow that to heat up and then place 3-4 marinated fish steaks on the pan.
Reduce the flame to sim and allow the fish to sizzle.
After 3-5 minutes, one side starts getting crusty.
Sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves on the fish steaks and flip them over to get roasted on the other side.
After another 2-3 minutes, the steaks will be well fried and ready.
Don't allow the coating to harden and get browned much, as tawa masala fried fish has a crust much softer than its counterpart tawa fried fish.
Transfer them on to a platter, garnish with more chopped coriander leaves.
Likewise fry all the fish steaks and serve them with onion slices and lemon wedges.
You can have them as starter, with fish curry rice, or with accompaniment like ghee rice, pulao or biryani.


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