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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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