The best meals of 2017 – Where and what I ate

How you begin the new year sets the tone for the rest of it…

It’s true. I started 2017 with a langar at a Gurudwara in New Bombay, wishing for  equally great meals in the coming year. And what a fabulous food year it was. I traveled to various cities for food. Took a trip to Pune to try the famous Bedekar misal and loved it, went to Surat to eat the locho and visited the ponkh market, traveled to Indore (done that twice this year already) and found another food city to fall in love with, took a solo trip to Calcutta and Meghalaya (where I ended up making some most amazing friends), traveled to Goa to learn sourdough which became one of the most brilliant experiences of 2017, traveled to Indore (again) and ended the year with a trip to Srilanka. Apart from all the good food I ate at these places, there were umpteen fabulous meals cooked by my mother, a couple of trips to Lucknow that involved loads of chaat, and some amazing beef curry/fish curry and rice meals at Chetna (PositivityAngel’s) house. Don’t think I can be thankful enough for this year.

I am an atheist, but somehow going to a Gurudwara doesn't feel like I am confirming to any religion. The idea of following a teacher and learning from his/her experiences sounds more logical to me than blind faith. Also, what fascinates me is their self-less service and the feeling of giving back to the community. Eating at a langar with people from different casts, religions and financial backgrounds and accepting your food with a feeling of gratitude is a humbling experience. So glad to start my food journey this year with such a beautiful meal. I hope the food that I eat this year helps me connect to my roots and make me aware of the efforts people put-in to put that food on my table. Also, here's a big thankyou to all the people who came into my life this past year, taught me new things, gave me new experiences and motivated me to be better than myself. I don't know whether all of you will be part of my journey onwards, but I will always cherish and value those times, learnings and experiences. Wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful new year. #NewYear #gratitude #CircleOfPositivity #Happy2017 #gurudwara #food #langar #feelinghumbled #thankyou #HappyNewYear

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Sarafa Market, Indore

Indore has won me over for life with it’s food. I have already taken two trips to the city this year and I think it’ll become a mandatory feature in my life. The bhutte ka kiss, garadu, sabudana khichdi and wafers bana ke at the Sarafa Market are the epitome of street food. You haven’t truly experienced India’s street food if you haven;t visited Indore.

Also Read: WHY SARAFA MARKET IS THE JEWEL IN INDORE’S NIGHTLIFE

Sarafa Market, Indore

Bengali Meal, Mukherjee Guest House, Calcutta

Earlier this year I traveled to Calcutta and stayed at a homestay in Salt Lake owned by a lovely couple. As soon as I reached, which was a little after lunch time, I was served this fabulous Bengali meal cooked by the owner’s mother and the Mashi who cooks food in their house. Clockwise on the plate – dhokar dalna – dumplings made of dal cooked in tomato gravy, chicken kasha – chicken cooked in nice onion and tomato gravy, rice, dal – loved the hint of sweetness, bengun bhaja, pabda or catfish shorshe with lots of kalaunji (nigella seeds), tomato chutney and shukto – Bengali mixed veg of raw banana, yam and other vegetables.

You can checkout the guest house here.

Bengali Thali, Calcutta

Khasi Food, Meghalaya

The Calcutta trip was actually a pit-stop to the Meghalaya trip which I took with Chalo Hoppo (the company organises trips in North East India and is owned by an absolute fun bunch of young guys). We ate a lot of Khasi food all through the trip, but this meal in particular which I had at Mylliem was the most memorable one. Also, it was our first Khasi meal which included Dal, rice, tungrymbai – a paste of fermented soybean, sesame seeds slow-cooked with pork, tungtap – dried fish chutney, dohkhlieh – boiled pork salad with ginger and onion.

Checkout Chalo Hoppo guys here.

Also Read: HOW TO EAT LIKE A LOCAL IN MEGHALAYA

Khasi Food, Meghalaya

Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s new menu, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Bandra

Ask me what’s that one perfect dish I’ve eaten at a restaurant in Mumbai and I’d say it’s this plate of lamb ribs at Olive Bar and Kitchen. Brilliantly tender lamb with carrot puree, grilled baby carrot which is also cooked in the puree (it’s not in the pic but was part of the dish I had), grilled corn cob and corn miso (fermented paste of corn kernels) which just takes the dish to another level. I have already been there twice in two months and think will keep going back.

Chef Rishim Sachdeva is doing fabulous work at the restaurant. His pickle bar is a work of art. When you go there make sure to ask him about the different jars and the stuff they contain. He’s using varied fermentation techniques in the dishes. Like the 3 day fermented hummus which is so creamy and so fluffy you’ll be amazed. The green peas puree in sweet potato gnocchi has fermented lemon instead of lemon juice that keeps the green colour intact and adds a beautiful layer of flavour. Add to that, everything is sourced locally except lamb, salmon and pork. Yes, even cheese. I think this man is a genius. 

 📸Courtesy @adiwanji

Asian Food, Shizusan

Some good meals get better because of company. That’s the story behind the meal at Shizusan. Loved hteir sushi, bao, gyoza and lobster. One of the best Asian restaurants in Mumbai. Also, I shared this meal with my best friends – Amrita, Vipul and Radhika – which is why this one makes it to the list.

Meal at Shizusan

Kumauni Food, Meraki Bombay

A Kumaoni meal in Bombay, cooked by an awesome Kumaoni cooked who brought the fresh produce from the region. Pooja of Meraki Bombay – the Kumaoni and Meghalaya food pop-up – invited a bunch of friends over for this fabulous meal. There were big fat cucumbers with alsi and garlic salt, bhang chutney, pahadi aaloo cooked with jakhiya (local spice), bajre ki roti with local greens, mooli ki thichvani (a curry made with smashed radish and potatoes), dal, bhekti fish curry (bhang seeds were used to thicken the curry), beautiful smokey beef curry and bal mithai to end the meal. We also munched on fresh peaches, apricots, sour berries and lichis plucked from the trees. 

Checkout Meraki Bombay on Facebook.

Kumaoni Food, Meraki Bombay

Independence Day Special Meal, A Ramanayak Shri Krishna Udipi and Boarding House

Had this amazing south Indian meal at A Ramanayak which is their Indepenence Day special meal. Love their philosophy of keeping it simple and accessible to everyone. Also, they don’t hesitate in reprimanding customers if they are wasting food. Kudos to such places and people who run them.

A Ramanayak Shri Krishna Udipi and Boarding House

Khandeshi Lunch, Peckish Mumbai

Khandeshi lunch at Aparna Surte‘s house, the brain behind Peckish Mumbai where she hosts pop-ups and take cooking workshops. The meal was organised by Authenticook, another company which is doing amazing job bringing focus on regional food. Khandesh forms the northwestern part of Maharashtra which includes the Jalgaon district. Being a dry area and low on fresh produce the food of this region is spicy, oily with lots of chutneys and pickles. Our meal today was cooked by Aparna and her mother Sanjeevni. .

On the plate there’s a chicken curry cooked in Khandeshi kala masala, patavada aamti (stuffed and steamed bengal gram flour dumplings in curry), raw methi with garlic and sesame, pithla (besan preparation), vangyachi bharit (mashed brinjal), thecha, two types of chutneys and bajra bhakri. There was also khichdi with lasaneeche tel (garlic oil) and sewai kheer. All of this served with ‘Khandeshi agrah’. Absolutely killer lunch!

Khandeshi Lunch, Peckish Mumbai

Sinhalese Meal, Colombo

A brilliant meal that I had at a home chef’s house on Colombo. Sinhalas are the original settlers of Srilanka and their meal includes curries and rice. There are so many spices and ingredients that go into Sinhalese cooking, it’s a lot like Indian food and yet so different. My meal included dal, rice, jackfruit curry, chicken curry, egg plant curry, beans, dry fish preparation, two types of sambol and watalappam. There’s a lot that I learnt about Sinhalese food which I’ll soon share in another blog post along with the details of the home chef.

Sinhalese Meal, Colombo

SPECIAL MENTION

Amrita ke mahaan parathe

This girl is my favourite cook and her parathas – ghee loaded – are slowly becoming my absolute comfort food. So crisp, so amazing and so good! You have to eat them to know what I am talking about.

Paratha, Amrita Rana

Prawn Curry, Veg Stew and Sourdough, The Sumitrans

Coming to my most memroable travel experience of 2017 – the sourdough baking workshop in Goa at Sujit Sumitran’s house. So much learning, so much positivity and such good food. I think Sujit’s sourdough breads and Sudha’s curries and stews are made for each other.

Also Read: SOURDOUGH IN THE LAND OF POI

Asian Langar

What do you do when you have a bottle of Sake lying around that you brought back from your Japan trip? You get together with friends and make loads of Asian food (enough to suffice a langar hence #AsianLangar) to drink the sake with. Cooked this amazing lunch with Amrita and Radhika where we cooked stir fried Malabar spinach, mushroom gyoza, cold noodles salad with miso and peanut butter dressing, miso eggplant and okonomiyaki. And, there was lemongrass-basil sangria with coconut rum to accompany the lovely feast.

Asian Meal

Dal Bafle, Amrita’s Mom

Amrita’s mom is such an amazing cook and she feeds everyone with so much love. I’ve been to Indore twice this year and she happily cooked this meal of daal, bafle, kadhi, aloo ki subzi and chutney for me.

Dal Bafle, Indore

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Food Walk Through North Calcutta With A History Lesson

This post was written for India Food Network

Calcutta is bursting at its seams with history, and that’s not an exaggeration. Walk on the streets of north Calcutta and the mere feeling of tracing the footsteps of legends will give you goose bumps. Every corner tea stall, every snack shop has a story to tell that dates back to India’s independence movement.

Indian Coffee House, Calcutta

When British established the city as their capital and took up central Calcutta to convert it into “White Town”, the local population moved to the northern part of the city. It later became the hub for India’s freedom struggle movement and communism. Shops were built as a meeting point for the revolutionaries.

Kachuri Subzi and Tele Bhaja

One such place is Paramount in College Street, which is now declared a heritage building by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Established in 1918 by Niharanjan Mazumdar, the shop was first known as Paradise, which later became Paramount. It’s said to be the favourite hangout of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the owners still have that chair where Netaji used to sit regularly. As I sit there, sipping on my second daber sherbat – the most popular drink here made with coconut water, ice, syrup and the pulp of coconut, the owner tells me the story behind the drink. It was Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, the founder of Bengal Chemicals, who suggested the recipe to the owner since it was inexpensive and highly nutritious. On a hot and humid day, dab sherbat is a blessing in disguise.

Netaji’s footprints become more evident as I move ahead. At Lakshmi Narayan Shaw and Sons, where he regularly ate tele bhaja (Bengali fritters), his birthday is still celebrated every year with free food for all the customers. The most famous snack here – the onion bhajiya – is known as Netaji ki piyaji.

Lebu Cha shop, Calcutta

Atithi, across the street from Lakshmi Narayan Shaw and Sons, is where I stop over for some lebu cha – the fuel that keeps the city going. The lebu cha or lemon tea in Kolkata is a hot concoction of black tea, lime juice, sugar and a special spice mix, which gives it its zing. In the midst of the locals getting together for adda – meetup to chat and discuss, I sip multiple cups of cha. I move on to Sukea Street to line up for my evening snack of kochuri-subzi at an old shop at the corner of the street. The humble shop has just two rows of benches where people sit with their plate (made of dried leaves) of kochuri and potato subzi. 

The Indian Coffee House, right opposite Presidency College, still has lingering memories of India’s independence struggle and the rich literary past. While most of the tables are occupied by the young college-goers, you’ll also spot a few elderly men sitting with a newspaper and sipping coffee. And then there are cabins, the dining rooms of the era bygone. Cabins served as private dining areas in the times when it wasn’t usual for women to eat out in public. The curtained dining booths provided them the much needed privacy. A few of such cabins still exist, albeit as tea and snack joints. A few such places are Basanta Cabin and Mitra Café – the latter is where I eat a dinner of prawn kabiraji cutlet – deep-fried cutlets coated with bread and eggs.

What and where to eat:

•    Sweets at Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy at Hatibagan
•    Piyaji at Lakshmi Narayan Shaw and Sons, Hatibagan
•    Lebu cha at Atithi, Hatibagan
•    Kochuri subzi at Sukea Street
•    Lebu cha at the corner shop on Sukea Street
•    Daab sherbat and imli at Paramount, College Street
•    Kabiraji cutlet and fish fry at Mitra Café, Shobha Bazaar
•    Mochar Chop at Kalika, College Street
•    Coffee and dosa at Indian Coffee House, College Street

The author went on a food walk with Devashish Kuthari, a foodie and history buff, who also runs a Facebook group called GoodVegFood.

Why Sarafa Market Is The Jewel In Indore’s Nightlife

This post was written for India Food Network

“This is Sarafa market, you will feel a different vibe here in the night,” said Amrita, my friend and host in Indore, as we drove through the tiny by-lanes during the day. In a city where food is a conversation starter, my hopes were high and I couldn’t wait to dive headlong into the street, which has many seasoned food writers swearing by it. I walk in at Sarafa, armed with my curiosity and appetite.

The shops that had gold and silver jewellery shining through their windows now had their shutters down, and the street was lined with makeshift food stalls. Amrita has the itinerary chalked out listing down everything I must try with room for whatever catches my fancy.

Bhutte ka kees and garadu, Sarafa Market in Indore

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How to eat like a local in Meghalaya

This post was written for India Food Network

It’s around 6 pm when we reach Mylliem, a small village between Shillong and Cherrapunji. It still isn’t reasonable time for dinner, but our half-hearted lunch at a generic roadside dhaba has long disappeared making our stomachs grumble. We spot tiny restaurants on both sides of the street and stopover for some grub. We walk into a small wooden house like shop with curtained windows.

Kong Shop in Meghalaya

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Jackfruit Two Ways – Kofta and Stir Fried with Besan

I love Jackfruit. I have some really fond memories attached to this vegetable/fruit. I grew up at a farm where it grew in abundance and my grandmother and mother would make all sorts of preparations with it including pickles. I recently wrote a piece on Jackfruit and how it is eaten across India for The Goya Journal, read it here.

In this post I am sharing two of my favourite recipes – Jackfruit or Kathal ke Kofte and Kathal Stir Fried with Besan. Both the recipes use tender jackfruit.

Jackfruit Kofta

Ingredients

For kofta
Tender jackfruit – 500 gms (peeled and cut)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard oil – for deep frying

For curry
Onions – 2 large
Tomatoes – 2 large
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilly powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Green coriander for garnish

Method
1. Place the jackfruit in a pressure cooker, add water and pressure cook for 10-12 mins or till the jackfruit is tender.
2. Drain out the water and let the jackfruit cool down.
3. Mash the jackfruit with hands or blend in the mixer to make fine paste. Season with red chilli powder, turmeric and salt.
4. Heat oil in a wok, make small balls of jackfruit paste and deep fry them till crisp.
5. For curry remove all the oil from the wok and leave 2 tbsp
6. Fry onion paste in this oil till it turns brown and starts leaving oil on the sides.
7. Throw in ginger-garlic paste and tomato puree and fry for another 15 minutes.
8. Add garam masala, turmeric, red chilli powder and fry for another 5 minutes.
9. Add water (about 2 1/2 cups) to get the curry like consistensy.
10. Add salt, cover the wok and let it cook for 10 minutes.
11. Place the koftas in a bowl and pour the gravy over them right before serving.
12. Garnish with green coriander and serve with plain rice.

Jackfruit Stir-Fried with Besan

Ingredients
Tender jackfruit – 500 gms (peeled and cut)
Besan (Bengalgram flour) – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Amchoor (dry mango) powder – 1 tsp
Hing (asafoetida) – a pinch
Mustard oil – t tbsp
Salt to taste

Method
1. Pressure cook jackfruit for 10-12 minutes
2. Heat oil in a pan and add hing to it.
3. Throw in boiled jackfruit and fry till it turns crisp.
4. Mix besan, red chilli powder, amchoor, turmeric powder and salt. Sprinkle this mix over besan and fry further till the besan is completely roasted.
5. Serve with parathas or dal-chawal.

Food styling and photography – Amrita Kaur