Friday, April 29, 2022

HaZelnut Coffee

From the hot weather of Chennai, I transported to chilly post winter Wisconsin in March of 2005 within a couple of years after my foray into the software development world. After hearing a lot of stories about the United States from colleagues, friends and the talkative aunts at weddings who spoke more about California and Texas than probably the governors themselves, it was finally time to explore by myself.

One of the first things I got accustomed to having
around at home was the microwave and the plethora of microwaveable ready to eat food. The story about the dim-witted me trying to boil an egg in it in the middle of the night and what ensued needs a blog post of its own.I leave that to your imagination. 

My then roommate taught me how to make hazelnut coffee with milk in the microwave.It was Love at first sip and I have been in the relationship
ever since. I love hazelnut in my desserts too but
there is something about its combination with coffee thats absolutely heavenly. I am not a big fan of instant coffee. It can never replace the taste of filter coffee but this was a whole new revelation.

In Singapore coffee outlets are quite common where you get good hazelnut coffee but I am yet to find a good instant coffee brand with hazelnut flavour. Recently I discovered a 3-in-1 ready to mix 
version that seems quite close.

As a result, my Sunday mornings are my moments of peace in my rocking chair with the morning newspaper, watching the sun
rise. Me, my memories, my thoughts and my cup of hot, delicious hazelnut coffee. 

How do you like your coffee ?

I drew this with Sketch on my phone.

Food for thought:

Today's food for thought is not a saying or quote. Its an interesting information shared by my son to me. I made up a kiddie story about a tiger hunting  zebras. He intercepted and argued that it was not possible as Zebras are found in Africa where there are no tigers and so they do not know each other. Now that was an interesting point. If a tiger is moved to a place very different from the habitat it grew up in, will it develop the skills to look out for food alternatives ? Or does it believe that anything that eats grass is food? 

We humans often find ourselves in places or situations where the food is absolutely alien to us, not to mention the added complexity if one is vegetarian. Do you have any such experience to share?


There I have done it! Hip HipHurrah! The whole of April I was part of the A to Z blogging challenge where one had to publish one post everyday in alphabetical order from A to Z. This is the final post of the series for this year. 

To everyone who has visited my blog, read my posts, sent messages or left comments I would like to give a big Shout-out ...THANK YOU :)  

To everyone else who participated irrespective of whether you published all 26 or a part of it ... Kudos to you!!! You rock! 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Yam and Yoghurt

 Have you heard of Yam ??

Image credit: wikimedia commons

Well, yam is a family of plants that produces edible tubers. It comes in different varieties and is commonly found in India and across South East Asia. I do not know if its eaten in other parts of the world.

One type of yam we regularly use is senaikkilangu  which apparently translates to Elephant Foot Yam in English. If you see the picture you may agree that its an apt name.

Its brown on the outside and a sort of yellow on the inside. It can get a little itchy while cutting and the tip to handling such vegetables is to soak them in sour substances like buttermilk or tamarind water or even starchy water gotten from washing rice. 

We make the sauteed version of the vegetable to go with rice. I personally love flavouring it with fennel seeds and it gives out a beautiful flavour. We can also make curries with it. 

I remember one of my friend's mother replacing fish with yam in a fried fish recipe when they had to go vegetarian for a month for some religious reason. In India, its common for non vegetarians to abstain from meat on days of religious significance 

After staying in Malaysia and Singapore , a unique discovery was yam flavoured icecream. I believe its made from the sweeter varieties of the vegetable. On Google I found out that it is a popular Filipino delicacy and is called Ube.

Food from other lands:

During my growing up years,  trains and buses were our main modes of intercity transport. My first flight journey was after I started working. That was not the only first on that day. It was also when i tasted yoghurt for the first time. Reading that line again, I guess I am close to making it sound like to an event of historical significance! Ha ha!

We do make curd at home but flavored yoghurt was a new discovery and i have been hooked ever since. It is a family favorite. I especially love the ones that have fruit bits like strawberry or nata de coco or aloevera . We get the low fat versions mostly and so its a healthier dessert compared to icecream. I love yoghurt on my salads too. Yoghurt and herbs dressing with carrots, peas, pineapples and almonds ! Ooh !! 

Food for thought

The quote for Y is also from Thirukkural, a great literary work of Tamil on ethics and morality that is supposed to have been composed around 2000 years ago. It consists of 1330 couplets (kurals) of seven words each. 

These words are from anciemt literary Tamizh and totally different from the colloquial or contemporary literary versions of the language.

Yaakaavaa raayinum naakaakka kaavaakkaal
soakaappar sollizhukkup pattu

This sort of tongue twisting kural has deep meaning.

Naa (naaku) - tongue

Kaaka - guard

Aayinum - even if

Yaakaavaarayinum - whatever one does not guard

Soakappar - face misery

Sollizhukku - fault of speech

Pattu - become subject to

Whatever be the possessions we guard or fail to guard, we must guard our tongue. 

In other words , exercise caution while talking. If not, once own words can cause one sorrow or misery.

Basically , it says , restraint is a must in speech. In todays world of social media its very important, isn't it ?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

X - FoXtail Millet , Xonocostle

 Millets are called sirudhanyam in Tamil translating to small grains . Traditionally varieties of millets like kodo millet, pearl millet etc have been part of our agricultural produce and cuisine. With the advent of modern living and lifestyles , the usage had taken a backseat but now thanks to increased focus on health awareness and healthy lifestyles their usage is becoming popular.

They are apparently packed with proteins and fiber and are a healthier choice compared to rice. In fact now we have facebook groups that are dedicated to sharing recipes using these millets.

I am more familiar with their Tamil names and any one of the millets can be used in the recipes i am familiar with. We can substitute them instead of rice for the traditional savoury items. We have millet upma(cooked millets sauteed with spices and vegetables), pongal (grains cooked with lentils) , dosa (something like crepe) made with ground millets and the list goes on. To be honest , sometimes its tough to get people to switch to the slightly different texture compared to rice especially those who prefer taste to nutrition. My first attempt had a " Something is not right in the Pongal today" from my kids. We have cookie recipes too.

One type of millet is the foxtail millet, known as Thinai in Tamil. When I googled foxtail millet , i could understand why its called so. The plant has shoots that do resemble a fox's tail in shape.  

Image credit: wikimedia commons

Food from other lands:

I had no clue of any food item with X and so I asked good old google. Apparently there is a fruit called xonocostle in  Mexico that is obtained from a type of cactus plant. The prickly pear is supposedly sour and put to a lot of use in the local cuisine as an ingredient in soups and stews. 

Have you heard of this before ? Do you know any food items starting with X ? 

Food for thought:

Tough to find a quote with X , so my own thought for the day.

Sometimes things will go haywire. Inhale, eXhale , take deep breaths and keep calm . The problem wont be solved but will look more manageable! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Ward off the Evil Eye with Winter Melon

 There is a vegetable commonly available in TamilNadu known as vellai pooosanikkai which translates to white pumpkin.

Image credit: wikimedia commons

Apparently it is also called Ash Gourd. In these parts like Singapore and Malaysia, we get slices of something called wintermelon at the supermarket which looks and tastes quite similar and that is what I use for the vellai poosanikkai recipes. I am not sure if they are the same, if not they are definitely siblings!

This watery vegetable is quite big and oblong in shape. We add them to our curries and even make halwa with them . ( a sweet about which I had spoken in my H post.)

Another use for this vegetable is in a non food context. The poosanikkai is extensively used to remove "kan dhrishti" or the evil eye! It is believed that when anything good is happening , or anything is functioning well as expected, the onlooker's thoughts or envy can cast an evil eye that may have repercussions.  Babies, newborns, pregnant women, children, newly married couples,  new job, new home, new car, wealth, health, fame,beauty..... the subject's list is limitless!

Thankfully for this belief, there is a counter system in practise. There are ways to ward off the evil eye effect. Some light camphor and move it in a circle in front of the family members especially children. Some do the same with red chillies and then throw them in the fire. Some apply a small black mark under the child's foot with kajal( a paste traditionally made with soot used for eye make up). Some tie black threads to the bonnet of newly bought cars. Some hang pictures of donkeys or demonic masks outside of their homes. This topic needs a book on its own and a post can't cover even 10%.

Coming back to the vegetable, it is a common practice to light camphor on this melon, move it in circles and then crash it on the ground to ward off all evil eye effect.

At a spiritual level some believe this to be related to aura etc. Some say that it is just a superstition.It is the belief system I grew up in and if you ask me if I believe it, I would be lying if I said Not at all! Its a deeply engrained part of our culture. I don't know if its true but no one proved otherwise! Anyone can tell me something is beautiful. Camphor or the wintermelon can handle the effect! Ha ha  

Food from other lands:

I tasted wasabi flavored chips some time back. Its a Japanese condiment or paste made from a radish type plant as far as I know. It has a strong pungent flavor. Something that hits you on the head - that strong! Have you had wasabi before?

Food for thought:

Simple requests:



There are people that have to walk miles for drinking water or struggling for a fistful of rice. Let us do what we can !

This post is written as part of the A to Z blogging challenge, an annual event in April when many of us bloggers all over the globe publish one post every day for each letter of the alphabet(except Sundays)

Vadai and Vallavan

 My father enjoyed good food and family outings to restaurants were almost a weekly occurance. During our vacation trips, he used to insist that we should start our day with a heavy breakfast so that we would have sufficient energy for roaming around. Thanks to his frequent travels as part of his sales profession, he was like a database of the popular food joints of every town or city.  Our breakfast would invariably start off with a plate of Idly-Vada.

One should see the hustle and bustle in a South Indian restaurant during breakfast hours! At the entrance would be the cashier's desk and mounted on the wall behind would typically be a deity's picture with a small oil lamp and a burning incense letting out a wonderful fragrance. Waiters would be scurrying around carrying trays laden with hot idly, crunchy vada, crispy dosas or fluffy puris.  The wonderful aromas from all the food would waft in the air. A stereo system may be on, playing some music( not the soft fine dining type, get-the-day-started peppy ones). Some waiters may be going around refilling the chutney and sambar containers. On some tables, people would be pouring the coffee back and forth between the tumbler and the metal saucer in an attempt to cool it down.  Mixed into all this would be the cacaphony of fifteen tables having animated conversations not to mention the occasional running of the tinier lot! Writing about it brings about so much nostalgia!

Vadai (in Tamil its Vadai but its referenced to as Vada in some places) Ground lentils deep fried , resulting in a crispy snack. The vada served during breakfast is made with urad dal and made with a hole in the centre. It sort of resembles a donut in appearance. Suda suda(hot hot) kara kara(crispy crispy) vadai on a rainy evening! Bliss, indeed!

Vadai when dunked in sambar or curd has a unique taste of its own and is served as a separate menu item.

 Gosh!! I am writing this close to bed time and now I am craving for a vada, ha ha. 

Food from other lands:

I am a big fan of salads. The colors and crunchiness and the freshness of the ingredients combine to make it a very refreshing meal. Speaking of salads,  vinaigrette comes to mind. I love experimenting with salads and salad dressings. Be it simple lemon , salt pepper or a complicated ground and pounded mixture. 

Do you like salads ? What is your favorite dressing? 

Food for thought;

Todays quote:

Vallavanukku pullum aayutham.

Aayutham - weapon (tool in this context )

Vallavan- Smart / talented person 

Pullum - even a blade of grass 

This translates to - For a smart person even a blade of grass serves as a tool.

Basically if we set our mind on something, smartness lies in figuring out how to maximize the use of the resources at hand and thinking out of the box!  Something or the other could be put to use if we put our creativity into it !

Oops, I made it sound like a corporate motivational message on LinkedIn , didnt I ? Ha ha 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Upma and a quote from Kannadasan

Upma (oopma - the u is like the u in put not the one in cut) is a commonly seen item in South Indian kitchens and we make it almost every week for breakfast or dinner.

It is a fast to cook dish that takes like 15 minutes or so overall to prepare.  The basic ingredient would be some broken grain like semolina or coarsely ground rice or broken wheat. We could use millet varieties or wheat products like vermicelli.

Sautee lentils, curry leaves , green chillies , ginger add in roasted broken grains and water and it cooks in a jiffy. Whether we add the water first or the grain first is a matter of preference.

I normally add vegetables like carrot, potatoes, cauliflower, beans and peas to my upma.

I have heard of it being described as bland and boring especially in youth circles. Some subtle details like amount of water, quality of grains used, what goes into the garnishing, what is served as accompaniment decide the taste factor of this dish. It can be anywhere between a very bland porridge like substance to an aromatic, colorful , soul-stirring scrumtious meal. Its upto the cook to move it towards the latter.


The taste one enjoys what eating depends upon ones measurement on the hunger scale!  Don't you think so ? 

Food for thought:

Kannadasan was one of the most famous lyricists of Tamil cine industry.  His works were prominent in the movies of the black and white era in the 1950s and 60s. Kavignar(poet) Kannadasan has penned many verses with profound meanings. The below are from a movie song released in the year 1960.

Unakkum keezhe ullavar kodi

Ninaithu parthu nimmadhi naadu

The above are one of my most favorite lyrics from him.

Unakkum keezhe - even beneath you

Ullavar - who are there

Kodi - crore ( millions)

Ninaithu - think

Nimmadhi - peace

Naadu - seek

No man on earth is devoid of problems and everyone of us has some hardship or the other to face or endure. The lines say , there are always millions at a situation worse than yours. Think of them and be at peace! 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Thuvayal Thokku Tofu

 Thuvayal and Thokku are two items that can be just mixed with rice and eaten or used as a side dish for other recipes.

A thokku is like a pickle but not exactly the same. Basically grated , minced or ground vegetables are sauteed in sesame oil with some red chilly powder or paste for the spice and salt to taste. This is left to cook for some time till it reaches a nice spread sort of consistency. Thokku can be preserved in the fridge for over a week.

Thuvayal and small onion (shallot) thokku

Thuvayal is sort of a coarse chutney. Its made by roasting lentils and red chillies and ground with some other ingredient like curry leaves or mint or corriander leaves or coconut. My mother in law makes excellent thuvayals and a whole variety of them including ones with brinjals( thats what we call eggplants in India) . You can even make thuvayals with the peels or other parts of some vegetables which we might otherwise throw away! The inner filling of snake gourd  for instance (snake gourd is a vegetable. Have you heard of it? )

Hot rice, coconut thuvayal with tomato raita on the side was a favorite combination for me and my brother. Its easy to cook and great to eat.

Food from other lands:

Tofu . After over a decade of stay here in Singapore, tofu has become a part of our weekly diet . It is manufactured using soy beans and is a key constituent of vegetarian Chinese food. It couldve scrambled like eggs , fried  , added to soup. I have also heard that silken tofu is a good replacement for eggs in some of the baking recipes.

Food for thought:

Todays quote is from Thirukkural, one of the most renowned works in Tamil literature comprising 1,330 short couplets, or kurals. Each kural is of seven words and many of them convey important life lessons. The text is close to 2000 years old. Thirukkural quotes are taught to children in schools and used in oratorical contexts too.

Theeyinar sutta pun ullaarum aarathey naavinar sutta vadu.

Thee - fire

Pun - wound

Sutta - burn 

Naavu - tongue 

Aaru - heal

The wound or the burn caused by fire will heal and fade, but the hurt caused by the tongue or harsh words will never heal ( or last forever).

We must exercise restraint of speech as the hurt of words runs pretty deep and is indelible !

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Sambar poem and soup

 Sambar is the South Indian curry cooked with tamarind and lentils. Typically we have it with rice. But its also the main side dish served with our other dishes like idly , dosa etc. By the way many people incorrectly pronounce it as Sam-bur ...its saam-baar !

Today for a change i decided to do poetry and my poem is on the Sambar!

The mustards cackle like they picked up a fight;

The cumin seeds join with gusto and equal might;

Breaking into a sweat are the onions sliced thin ;

Shrivelling curry leaves emit the aroma from within;

Into the pot, the red and green chillies make their way;

The tomatoes and tamarind have the final say;

Bravely marches the spice powder with the turmeric and the salt!

Finally mashed lentils do their act of exalt;

Sambar , sambar in the pot ! 

Slice of heaven when steaming hot!

Food from other lands:

Soups! I  am a big fan of soups and love making them too. Good old tomato soup, brocolli soup, corn soup, minestrone soup, mushroom soup, noodle soup and the list goes on. Soups are an integral part of the local food cuisine in South East Asia.

I don't like canned soup though. The smell of preservatives is too strong and i guess its not a healthy choice.  Initially I was of the belief that soup is just an appetizer thats served along with the main course. Later realization dawned that a rich soup by itself constitute a whole meal. 

Whats your favorite soup ?

Food for thought:

The Tamil (my mothertongue) saying for today is also from ancient works of literature!

Seivana thirundha sei!

Seivana - Whatever you do

Thirundha - in the best manner or perfect way

Sei - Do 

I think thats self explanatory. Whatever you do, do it with perfection!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Rasam Risotto and Rosti

I have mentioned earlier in some posts about typical South Indian three course meal, with the base as rice but different accompaniments.

The second in that is a mouthwatering watery food item called rasam or saathumadhu as its called at my home. 

Rasam is prepared by boiling tamarind water with a mix of spices including pepper, cumin and corriander seeds. Its usually had with rice but we could take it on its own like a soup.

A cup of hot rasam with some white rice is sort of comfort food that can bring about a lot of nostalgia to many of us. There are different varieties of rasam too. We could add tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice or even pineapples to bring about a different flavor. 

At home we make rasam in a vessel made of tin specifically made for that purpose called eeya sombu(seen in the pic). A unique quality of eeya sombu ( tin pot) is that when placed on the stove with water inside it would withstand the heat . But if you leave it on without the water it (the vessel) would start to melt. I have done that once in fact! I left it without water on the stove and forgot about it and later what i saw on the stove were pieces of metal melting away and something resembling abstract art in the place of the pot! Leave it with the water and nothing happens!

But the vessel is supposed to impart authentic taste to the rasam and i will vouch for that! 

Risotto :

Risotto is an Italian rice recipe where rice is cooked to a creamy consistency. I vaguely recall tasting it once. Or am i am confusing it with a potato rosti which is a Swiss potato dish ?? I wonder.  No i have eaten risotto but not sure when or where. My favorite Italian food is still pasta with a creamy white sauce!

Rice comes in so many varieties. People have preferences to the texture and stickiness or graininess and that differs from region to region. TamilNadu and Kerala are neighboring rice eating states but the rice we eat have a stark difference. There is raw rice, parboiled rice, brown rice, red rice , jasmine Thai rice and even black rice!

Food for thought:

Rowthiram (anger) pazhagu (practice)

This is a famous quote from Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi. It literally translates to Familiarize with Anger! No, This is not opposing the principles of anger management or asking one to be driven by that emotion. 

What is to be inferred is when we see injustice or wrong occurences around , do not be indifferent. Be sensitive to them , be angry about them and brave enough to question or challenge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Quesadilla and quiet mornings

 I first tasted Mexican food during my stay in the US way back in 2005. I took an instant liking to the chewy texture of the tortillas and everything made with them like burritos and quesadillas. I have fond memories of our team visits to places like Chipotle for lunch. I used to stare at the giant tortilla presses and the way they operated with wide eyed amazement!

After the initial mentions of the word as ka-say-dil-la , I have come to know that the l s in Quesadilla are silent . Have you ever wondered what is the use of these silent letters in English? Like why do we need a b in doubt ? 

I also love making tomato salsa and guacamole at home and enjoying a packet of tortilla chips dipped into them. At the movies, a pack of Nachos with cheese would be my preferred choice.

Another thing that comes to mind when i think of Mexico are the colorful sombreros. I dont own one but they look colorful and beautiful in photos.

If any of you have suggestions for vegetarian fillings for a quesadilla i would love to hear!  

Have you tried Mexican food before ? What is your favorite ? 

Food for thought:

I dont have any Tamil sayings for Q. Today I thought I will post a picture of my favorite cozy spot at home. We got the rocking chair when i was pregnant with my daughter 8 years ago!

I love sitting there especially in Quiet mornings when the first rays of the rising sun fall on my face.

I found a few quotes  when i searched Google on quiet and silence  and the following seemed impactful!

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear - Rumi

Saying nothing sometimes says the most - Emily Dickinson

Silence is true wisdom's best reply - Euripedes

Monday, April 18, 2022

Pongal and Pizza

Pongal :

Pongal is a dish made by cooking rice with lentils (moong dal) , mashing it up , flavoring it with ghee.

There are both salt and sweet versions the latter made using jaggery and the former garnished with generous amounts of cumin and black pepper.

The Tamizh word Pongu means to overflow or boil over. 

Pongal is more than a food item. Every year around 13th to 16th January we celebrate a festival called Pongal.  It is an important festival for Tamilians at the beginning of the Tamil month Thai( pronounced like thye). It marks the onset of the harvest season for agriculture. We express our thanks to the sun, the rains and all the forces of nature including cows and livestock for blessing us with abundance.  In rural areas , pongal is cooked outdoors in earthern pots and when the rice boils and the water spills over its greeted with shouts of "Pongalo Pongal".  In urban homes we do it on our gas stoves in metal pots but the spirit of expressing gratitude for the fulfilment of our basic needs remains. 

It is actually  spread over three days - Bhogi when we clean up our homes and discard all unwanted things; Pongal the main day when the dish is made and feasting with family happens; Mattu Pongal when we offer our gratitude to the cattle... in village sides we can see cows all decorated and beautiful!

There is a joke thats popular in Tamil circles. Whats the difference between Pongal and Diwali (another one of our festivals)? You can eat Pongal on Diwali day but you cannot eat Diwali on Pongal day. 

This was a rangoli i made for Pongal( patterns drawn on floor with color powder)

Food from overseas :

Pasta and Pizza: My school going kids love pizza and pasta and it seems to be the case with most other children.  In recent decades pizza chains have made their way and established  their presence in almost every other country. 

I do believe that authentic Italian food will have a lot more to offer than what the world calls Italian (my son hates pineapples on his pizza, says its the same with Italians).

I do harp about it being unhealthy with all the cheese and calories. But there is nothing like opening a pizza package delivered minutes ago. The aroma is mesmerising, i must admit. 

During a recent visit to an Italian restaurant, the chef there mentioned that the right way to eat a pizza is with your hands. Do not use a fork or spoon.

We eat our rice with our hands and so thats a piece of pizza for us ! Ha ha 

Food for thought

There is a Tamil movie song written about Pongal festival in praise of our rivers. In it there are lines that go: 

Namma sorgam enbathu mannil ullathu, vaanil illayadi;Namma inbam enbathu kannil ullathu kanavil illayadi 

Sorgam - heaven

Mann - earth or land

kann- eyes

namma - our

Ullathu- is there

vaan - sky

The heavens are here on earth and not up in the skies. Our happiness lies in our eyes and not in our dreams. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Oatmeal Oranges and a Rajinikanth song

 "Orange and the lemon sold for a penny" ... I have been humming this since morning. I was trying to think of a food item beginning with O both from home and abroad and my brain is giving a lot of feed for O but sadly nothing related to food . 

Onomatopoeia, Ozymandias ( i love that poem ) , Ottoman Turkish Empire , Ogre, Oliver Twist, Ophthalmologist , Olligarchy , Oblivion ... everything but food.

I opened the fridge to get something and then it stuck ... oh yeah oranges ! Thats when i started humming that song that we used to sing as little girls at play. 

I finally decided to write about something that has started dominating the breakfast tables in South Indian homes in the past decade ! Oats or oatmeal ! 

It was in the early 2000s that it made its way into our kitchens, if I recall correctly. It sort of revolutionized the breakfast scene  and became the sought after, healthier and easier, option. Most seniors these days break their fasts with oats kanji , in other words oats porridge. The typical process is - cook the oats on the stove or the microwave, add some buttermilk, some salt to taste and asafoedita powder and bingo ! Breakfast ready! A few prefer the milk and sugar porridge but majority like this one as far as I know. 

We have started using oats to make traditional recipes too. Blend them to a powder and use it to make dosas(crepes) . Some even substitute it for rice and have it with the traditional Indian curries. 

Personally i love oats soaked overnight in milk chilled and topped with fruits and nuts. Smoothie is another family favorite. Popping in some oats, milk, yoghurt, fruits and nuts into the blender and whipping up a nice consistency. Yumm!

How do you take your oats if you do ? Would love to hear!

Food for thought:

Cinema and movies are a big thing in India . Not just Bollywood,  but many other Indian states have their own thriving cinema industry and South Indian cinema contributes a significant share to the total movies produced in the country.  Superstar Rajinikanth is one of most popular actors in the history of Indian cinema. I am a huge fan. Fandom in India  is at a deep emotional level that warrants an entire book in itself leave alone a blog post.

Without digressing further, the quote for today is from one of the very popular numbers in his film Muthu

"Oruvan oruvan muthalali, ulagil matravan thozhilali"

Oruvan - only one

Muthalali - master 

Thozhilali - employees or workers 

Ulagu - world

This peppy song composed by Academy Award winner A R Rahman is great to listen to with deep philosophical lines. The translation is that there is only one master ( the Almighty) and all others are equal as workers or subordinates.  Basically irrespective of who we are or what we are perceived as , we are all equal. Period. 

It has further lines on how fighting over land is futile as life is short and in the end , land engulfs one and all .  Youtube link below. Do listen, its a fun song!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Nellikkai and Nasi Lemak


Photo credit: wikimedia commons

Nellikkai ia the Tamil word for the fruit gooseberry. Its small round and green and actually slightly bitter. In Tamil literature five tastes are mentioned - sweet , sour, spicy or hot, salty and there is one more that we call thuvarppu. Some food items like betel nuts, gooseberries, banana flower etc have this taste and after some googling I figured out ita called astringent ( slightly bitter and acidic).

The gooseberry is supposed to be loaded with health benefits and is good for immunity, good hair, etc.  

In Kerala its a common practice to preserve gooseberries in salt water and that one is a mouthwatering snack. In our homes we make pickles using gooseberry , salt , red chillies and other spices. Surprisingly pickle and cucumber are synonymous in some parts of the world. In India thats not the case. We make pickles with mangoes, lemons , onions , chillies , gooseberries and even cauliflower . We marinate them in salt , add a lot of oil, red chilli powder and spices to give them longevity and to give us finger licking goodness every time we add some to our plate. 

Gooseberries can also be made into a pachadi or raitha ( something like a salad with curd ). Boil some gooseberries  , remove the pits, grind it with some coconut and green chillies. Then add them to curd and temper with mustards crackled in hot oil. It tastes awesome and has like a mountain of health benefits all grandmothers would vouch for ! 

Food from other lands : 

Nasi Lemak is a food item popular in Malay speaking parts of South East Asia. Nasi means rice and Lemak means fat. It translates to fatty or rather creamy rice. Its cooked with rice , coconut milk and a sort of leaf called pandan leaves used extensively in this part of the globe. Its typically served with sambhal , a spicy type of sauce . When I was working in Kuala Lumpur one of my Malaysian colleagues brought Nasi Lemak for a pot luck. That version is the best I have tasted so far . 

Food for Thought :

Norunga Thinraal Nooru Vayathu

This is very relevant to the theme of this blog.

Nooru - hundred

Thinral - if you eat ( thinru is the verb)

Norunga - crushed or chewed properly

Vayathu - age

If you chew or bite your food properly you live up to a hundred. 

The fast food culture is all about picking food on the move and wolfing it down to pacify ones hunger. In the day to day mad rush, I have done it too ! It is stressed by the wise that we need to treat our food with respect too. Eating slowly focussed on the food and chewing it properly is imperative for good health. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Murukku and Manchurian

 My memories go back to the Deepawali festivals of my childhood. My mother would start preparing the sweets and savouries three or five days before. Her womens magazines would carry supplements for " 30 varieties of snacks for Deepawali" .  If you walked into the kitchen on those days, the aroma of heated oil and deep frying would invigorate your senses and trigger your cravings. It would be murukkus in the making. My mother's murukku especially is always perfect and top notch !  

The pic shows creations of yours truly last Deepawali.

Murukku is basically a fried snack made typically using rice flour or gram flour. An addition of different lentil flours bring variations ( and we have different names for each of those babies) . The Tamizh word "murukku" in verb form means to twist or swirl. They usually are in a twisted pattern like a complicated pretzel and may be thats why it got the name.

These are usually gluten free snacks as they have no wheat or sugar and can have a shelf life of more than a week. In India we have flour mills in every neighborhood where one can give a mix of the ingredients and they would grind it to a smooth flour.  Outside the country, we use readymade off-the-shelf rice and lentil flours. 

We mix water into the flour, add in salt, cumin seeds or sesame seeds, some butter and make a dough. When the oil is hot enough we start making the swirls with a kitchen equipment or funnel meant specifically for that. 

It is important to add butter or hot oil to the dough to the flour to make it softer and easy to bite. The murukku should not be soggy nor should it be super hard to bite. There are jokes about amateur cooks making murukkus that cause people to lose teeth! 

There is one variety of murukku called 'kai murukku' (hand murukku). The swirls here are created by hand through a dexterous handling of the flour. My mother is an expert in that and i am a beginner with a long way to go. 

The below is a you tube video I found (from Raks kitchen youtube channel) displaying the method. 

Food from other lands:

Manchurian. Anyone who has eaten at an IndoChinese restaurant would be familiar with Gobhi(cauliflower) manchurian. There is a variety of food that is basically based on Chinese cuisine, altered to suit Indian taste buds and this is now popularly known as Indo Chinese food. Cauliflower florets dipped in corn flour batter are deep fried and then stir fried in a mix of sauces with some spring onions thrown in. The taste is heavenly. One of those moments of self indulgence purely to satisfy ones taste buds is digging into a plate of steaming hot gobhi manchurian. The thought itself is giving me a lot of craving! 

Food for thought:

Since we have been talking a lot about food , the quote we see today is about food as well and an ancient one too. Thought would show what Tamizh script looks like too.

மீதூண் விரும்பேல்

Meethoon virumbel.

Oon or unavu - food

Meethoon - Food in excess 

Virumbu(verb) - desire or wish

Virumbel - do not wish or desire

 This quote also from Aathihoodi stresses the importance of being wary of the quantity of our food consumption. 

Do not wish or ask for excess of food.

 What modern health advisories say - Eat everything but in moderation. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Laddu and lasagna


Photo credit: by PrchiPalwe

The spherical sweet is spelt as Laddoo or Laddu as it is just a phonetics based conversion of the Indian word. When it comes to Indian food, what really needs sufficient prior cooking experience before the attempt is the sweet section. The process is definitely not a piece of our cake for beginners.

Laddu is one of the common Indian sweets that is popular in both northern and southern parts of the country.

The way the sweet is made is an interesting sight. A batter is prepared with chickpea flour  and this is swirled in circles on a perforated ladel above hot oil. The batter drips from the pores in the ladel into the oil and become fried small drops which we call as boondhi. Once done, these are scooped out and placed in sugar syrup and mixed with raisins and nuts.  While still hot they are rolled into spheres to become the final laddu. It is a bit of a laborious process but totally worth it.

The laddus have to be rolled while the mixture is still hot or else they would be crumbly and not stay in shape. Hence we apply some flour or oil on the palms before rolling to tolerate the heat. Not meant for tender hands for sure!

One of the top pilgrimage centres for the Hindus in India is the temple in the hill town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh. It  draws a record 40,000 visitors per day and there are long queues and the process for crowd management keeps changing. At Tirupathi , the devotees are given laddus as prasadam. ( food that was offered to the deity and is considered blessed ) .  These laddus have a very unique taste and are much bigger. They apparently bear a Geographical Indication Tag - meaning  that only the TTD ( the temple board) can make or sell them. The laddu has its own Tirupathi laddu Wikipedia page.

There are other types of ladoos made with semolina, roasted chick pea flour etc. 

Food from other lands:

Lasagna !  During the pandemic, with restrictions in place , we explored a new eat out place every week and found one that has amazing lasagna, that too vegetarian ! We ate like we had been starving on a stranded island that day, the lasagna was that good !  Lasagna reminds me of the cartoon cat Garfield. My son used to enjoy the 'yellow cat' videos as he called it on TV as a two year old. Lasagna and TV ! Two items essential for existence in Garfield's view! 

Food for thought

The quote for today is

NooL PaLa KaL

Tamil is believed by many to be the oldest language in the world with very rich literary compositions.

 This is a quote from a very ancient Tamil poetic work called Aathichoodi written by poetess Avvayar. It comprises of single line quotes in alphabetical order promoting good habits, discipline and righteousness of actions. 

Nool - book

Pala - many

Kal - (verb) learn 

Four syllables here stress the importance of learning and reading. Read many books and that learning will mould you , is what Avvai is emphasizing ! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Kuzhambu and kimchi

 Before i proceed i must halt to throw some light on the letters 'zh' that i have mentioned in the word 'Kuzhambu'. It is not pronounced like the zee in zoo or zebra. This phonetic sound is unique to the South Indian languages Tamil and Malayalam. In fact my language is called Tamizh and not Tamil as its widely known. Its close to Rrr and la but unique. Found a video(short one, about 1.5 to 2 mins) on youtube describing it, check it out and tell me if you got it right :D 

Coming to kuzhambu , it basically means curry. The word curry is kind of looked at as a single item or flavour in Asian cuisines but these sauces that we have with our rice is of umpteen varieties in each country.

In South Indian food , the base ingredient used to make our curry is something sour like tamarind. The base is usually tamarind extract which when mixed with the right spices  we get a variety of curries.  We have a few variations where instead of tamarind we use sour buttermilk. 

Our typical lunch would be some rice served with a kuzhambu, some vegetable and curd. By altering the vegetables and spices and the lentils that go in we alter the menu everyday.

Sambar is the most famous of them all which is gotten by cooking vegetables in tamarind extract and then adding toor dal (lentils) and a blend of spices to it. A plate of steaming hot rice with some onion sambar and potato fry would immediately spring nostalgia of  relaxed family Sunday afternoons to so many of us.

Then we have Venthiya kuzhambu made with fenugreek seeds, mor kuzhambu made with buttermilk, garlic kuzhambu and so on and so forth.

Food from other lands :  

I sometimes watch korean drama series . Being a vegetatarian, a lot of food items that are shown are off my palatable list. But one thing i have wanted to taste in its authenticity is the Kimchi which to my knowledge is a sort of pickled radish/cabbage. 

Nowadays with kpop and kdrama gaining never before popularity we do get bottled versions in stores but i would like to taste the authentic home made version some day. 

Food for thought

Today I will include two quotes as I could not pick one.

1) Keezhorainum Thaazha Urai.

Keezhor - someone lower than oneself - may refer to a subordinate or someone in a lower financial position or social status 

Aayinum - even if

Thaazha(same pronounciation :) ) - softly or low voice

Urai - speak 

It basically means that no matter who it is , even those who are placed lower than you in society, they deserve to be spoken to respectfully . Speak softly and politely to everyone, to even those who serve you . 

2) Katrathu kaimannalavu kallaathathu ulagalavu

This is a quote that stresses both on learning and humility. 

Kai - hand; mann - sand/mud ; alavu - quantity

Ulagu - world 

Katrathu - what we have learnt

What we have learnt or already know is only like a fistful of mud , compared to what we dont know or have not learnt which is as vast as the whole world.

So keep learning, but be polite! :) 

Jangiri and Jalapeno

 White lentils called urad dal in Hindi and uluthamparuppu in Tamil play a huge role in South Indian cooking . They are used to make sweets too.

One such sweet is the Jangiri. It looks like a thick string woven into a flowery pattern and typically made with a touch of orange food color .

Soaked lentils are ground into a fine batter. This is placed in some equipment like an icing funnel to pipe the semisolid batter into flowery shapes. This is done directly into hot oil on the stove. The jangiris are deep fried at a medium heat and then dunked into sugar syrup flavoured with rose.

Wedding feasts are a good time to enjoy jangiris because they would always be part of the menu and are sometimes distributed to the guests too.

 Food from other lands:

Jalapeno was a new term I learnt in my twenties when I visited the US.  It took me a while to learn the pronounciation. For spice loving Indians, chillies are an integral part of our daily diet. We use green chillies or dried red ones too.

Food for thought

No quotes. Just two words that came to my mind . 

Just chill ! 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Idly and Icecream

When I say Indian food, what most of the globe picturises is what we typically get in Indian Tandoori restaurants. Naan, kulcha, Paneer tikka and so on. But i feel that not many know, especially non-Indians , that these are more related to Tandoori style of cooking which is a method of cooking food in an oven like "Tandoor".

Every state in India has a unique cuisine and the menu is influenced by the key agricultural produce and the weather too.  Typically the southern coastal states are rice eaters and the ones falling above the Tropic Of Cancer are more wheat eaters.

A very common food item in South India is the humble Idly, a steamed dish made using a batter thats 80% rice and 20% lentils(urad dal).

Idly made in the right way is incredibly soft and is very healthy, gentle on the stomach and easy to prepare .  Its typically served with coconut chutney and steaming lentil curry called sambar. The technique and equipment used in the making  of the batter determines the perfection of the outcome. Most Tamil speaking folks to whom cooking at home is serious business will have this kitchen equipment called wet grinder. Two rolling stones run by an inbuilt motor are used to fine grind soaked lentils and rice to make the batter.

This equipment has replaced the manually operated grinding stone that was mostly used in homes earlier.  I have seen in some of the old movies that if one ate at a restaurant and could not settle the bill, one had to make up for it by grinding the idly batter for the subsequent day. 

In fact some people in recent days even set up an idly batter making business that was a blessing to people who had no time for the preparation. The thing is , the same batter can be used to make the crepe-like dosa , thicker oothappam etc.  These days, are commercially available dosa batter in tetra packs too.

Food from other lands:

Ice Cream of course ! It is available every where on the planet today and I have no clue about its origins. I don't recall my first icecream. Like most others, it was when I was a very young child, beyond the reach of my memory. I do have memories of us cousins enjoying icecream during the summer holidays, one of the innumerable treats from our grandfather. Earlier the icecream stores sold them in a packed cup or a popsicle format. Chocobar was our favorite though the outer chocolate layer would slide off within a minute once the icecream started to loosen. Later softy icecream stores became popular with a wide array of toppings. 

Whats your favourite flavour ? 

Food for thought:

The quote today is from a Tamil movie called Mozhi (language) which is about a girl who is deaf and mute but still leads a very independant life. If you get a chance do watch it. 

"Iyarkkayin mozhigal purindhuvidil,

Manitharin mozhigal thevai illai

Idhayathin mozhigal purindhuvidil

Manitharukku mozhiye thevai illai"

Iyarkkai - Nature

Puruindhuvidil - if its understood

Idhayam - heart

Idhayathin - of the heart 

Manithar - man (humans) 

I dont think i can do justice to the beauty of the lines in my translation but will try !

If the language of nature is understood,

We dont need the languages of humans!

If the language of the heart is understood

Humans do not need a language at all!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Halwa and Hummus

 Food from home:

There is a city called Thirunelveli in TamilNadu. Ask any Tamilian what comes to mind when we say Thirunelveli and the immediate reply would be halwa.

The city is renowned for its sweet dessert otherwise called "Thirunelveli Halwa". 

Halwa is a basically semi solid glossy dessert made with ghee and sugar and some basic ingredient like carrot, wheat flour or semolina.  The aforementioned one from Thirunelveli is made using wheat flour.

In Tamil weddings a commonly served sweet is the Ashoka halwa which is basically made using mashed yellow lentils(moong dal).

We even make halwa with vegetables like carrots or white pumpkin. 

The basic ingredient plus the sugar and ghee are cooked on a flame till the right consistency is reached. I recently saw a youtube video where someone transformed left over rice into yummy looking halwa! 

I recall a funny story that i read somewhere or saw on TV. There is some situation which warrants a guy to be silent or not give away some secret and so they  make halwa using glue and offer it him. He greedily gobbles it up and his mouth gets stuck. Ha ha!

 Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Food from other lands :

Hummus! I am yet to figure out the correct pronounciation for this lovely food item from the middle east. In one of my previous workplaces there was this coffee shop where I would often grab a quick breakfast. My favorite used to be whole meal bread sandwich with a hummus and kale filling. I have not tried making it at home as it needs some additional flavourings like tahini but its on my would-love-to-try list!

Food for thought:

For H its not a quote but a single word.


This has been incorporated into many a language in the world as its the standard greeting uttered at the beginning of a phone conversation. 

There would always be someone on our minds we wanted to get in touch with or reconnect or just talk to as its been a while.

Sometimes we keep pushing it to a corner of our minds dealing with daily mundane runs. We just click the button and make that call. They would be happy and so would we. 

A little care can bring about a lot of happiness!!

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Ghee and green curry

One of the definite items in the monthly order I send to my grocer is a bottle of ghee, (nei in Tamil) or what is called clarified butter . 

Most Indian sweets are made with ghee and like sweets , ghee is more of a reflection of love. The more the affection, bigger is the size of the serving accessory used! Grandmothers are adept at picking the biggest size of spoons with a "To hell with your weight loss regime" outlook! Ha ha ...The more the ghee, the richer is the food.

My mother used to collect cream formed on the top layer of curd in a vessel in the fridge. Once a good amount was collected, she would whip it up to extract the butter and then melt it on a stove to extract the ghee. During this process, the kind of aroma that would fill the home - i have no words to describe - The one that would make you close your eyes, take in the smell and let out a delighted sigh with a gleam in your eyes. 

Every day we would add a bit of ghee to our rice before mixing it with the curry or the vegetable. A small serving of rice , a spoon of ghee and boiled yellow lentils is absolute comfort food. This one in a mashed version is the first solid food for the babies in most of our households.

Ghee is mainly added for flavour and is also said to have some health benefits like building strength in bones and providing the required calcium. In today's sedentary lifestyle , it can lead to build up of cholesterol though, if taken without moderation of quantity.

My dad had this habit while eating chapathis(flat bread made of wheat) . No matter how many tasty side dishes emerged from my mother's kitchen, he would reserve one last chapathi for his favorite accompaniment - sugar mixed with ghee! 

Food from other lands:

As a family we love Thai food and our favorite is Thai Green Curry  . My daughter especially is a big fan like me! With the coconut and spices it has a good amount of similarity with our traditional food. Staying in South Asia , we do get to taste the authentic versions. I have attempted making things like tom yum soup and green curry at home too and the results were not bad. I have read articles that pounding the spices in a mortar and pestle yields the best taste. A mix of shallots and vegetables cooked with coconut 
milk and blended with lemon grass and kafir lime leaves and lemon rind and other spices - woah!! I am typing this after a heavy dinner but the thought itself is mouth watering ! 

Food for thought:

What I have for G is more of a phrase than a quote in Tamil

Gundu chattiyil guthirai ottuvathu

Gundu chatti - fat  pot 
Guthirai - horse 
Ottuvathu - ride 

It literally translates to riding a horse inside a fat round pot - tough to visualize and does not make complete sense, i know! 

What it means is doing the same repetitive things in a restrictive or comfort space with no real progress or scope for growth . 

It can be applied to one s career or growth in a particular field. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Falooda and Falafel

 Food from home:

The phonetic sound "fa" is very rare or technically non-existent in Tamil to my knowledge, especially at the beginning of a word. Hence its tough to find a  food item from traditional recipes at home that begin with 'fa'. 

Falooda is a dessert supposed to have entered India from Persian side of the world through the Mughal rulers. 

Its basically like a sundae. It has some noodle or vermicelli and some soaked basil seeds. Then there is thickened and sweetened milk, some rose syrup, some jelly bits, fruits of our choice and topped with icecream. 

It can be pretty filling though and so if its part of our meal plans we need to be vary of our pre-dessert servings.

Till my early teens we were in a place called Kozhikode in Kerala and I remember there was a Falooda place in the main shopping area. Compared to the typical single flavor monochrome icecream that we were used to, this was much more appealing.

These days I make falooda at home whenever we are in the mood for some , and the results are not bad, I must say. Its one of those food items where its not the cooking method but what goes into the mix that really matters. Also there is no hard and fast rule. You could be creative on additions and deletions.

Food from other lands:

Falafel is what comes to mind with not one but two 'F' s. I have had Falafel in wraps and I enjoyed them though i would not put falafel on top of my favorite snacks list. What is the best way to eat falafel? Any recommendations ?

Food for thought:

As I mentioned earlier its difficult finding words in my mother tongue with F leave alone quotes.

For a change today would be an English quote , one of my all time favourites from forwards. I have seen it in newspapers, email forwards, sms forwards,orkut, facebook, twitter and whatsapp! As we moved forwards from one medium to another. 

The quote is 

I cried because I have no shoes till I met a man with no feet

I am not aware of its origins but its one line that says it all. Look at the bright side of things! When you google it, and look at the images there is a myriad of sources mentioned from ancient Persia to Helen Keller. I don't know who said it but I love it ! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Elaneer and Eggplant Parmesan

This post is part of the April A to Z blogging challenge where we publish one post every day except Sundays.

In many parts of the world, summers are a welcome season of warmth after brutal cold winters. On the contrary,  in tropical zones like Southern India, summers are time for long school holidays and scorching ruthless heat. Every casual conversation will have a reference to the heatwaves. Compared to those whose jobs require them to be on the move on the roads, like salesmen or those involved in some form of labour like construction sector, the ones tucked away in the safety of offices or homes are more fortunate.

There are a few food items and drinks that are commonly seen in the summer months and offer the much needed respite from the smoldering heat. One such thing is a drink that nature delivers in a beautiful container - elaneer also called Tender coconut.

If we drive along the highways connecting cities in Tamilnadu , tender coconut sellers are a common roadside sight. They have them stacked up skillfully and its quite a sight to see how dextrously they hack away hard cover and then place a straw before handing it over to us.

Elaneer is supposed to have a lot of health benefits. The drink cools your body and is recommended to treat gastrointestinal problems and ailments like measles when the body needs cooling down.

The best part comes after we are done emptying the liquid inside. The vendor would crack open the shell into two, make a makebelieve spoon with a piece cut away from the side and scoop out the white fleshy layer inside. As a kid I used to look forward to this more than the drink.

Food from other lands

A dish that I was first introduced to in Italian restaurants is Eggplant parmesan. Layers of finely sliced eggplant coated with a lovely tomato based sauce and baked with a generous amount of cheese!! For someone who hates brinjal , this was a revelation. 

Food for thought

The quote i have for this letter is from a Tamil language movie of the 1960s... The lines go

Vetri Vendumaa Pottu Paaradaa Ethirneechal

Neechal is swimming and ethirneechal is swimming against the currents.

Vetri means success. Vendum means want.

 Meaning is pretty simple - If you want success you need to fight and swim against the currents. 

Nothing comes easy ! 

Like managing to publish a post every day in April..Phew! :D

Monday, April 4, 2022

Dosais and doughnuts

 Dosai is what would come to mind when I say tiffin varieties in Tamil cuisine. The word tiffin refers to having a light meal instead of a full fledged three course heavy lunch. To quote wikipedia - " tiffin is derived from "tiffing", an English colloquial term meaning to take a little drink" . Basically anything like idly , dosai , chapathi - light meals akin, to say a sandwich, is a tiffin item in Indian English.

Dosai is made using a batter made of rice and lentils. We use a utensil thats something like a skillet. Its traditionally made of iron though we call it a dosakkal (literally translates to dosa stone). A few years ago, i got quite a big one when I visited my home city of Chennai. This one as per the seller's instructions had to be soaked in starch water got from washing rice for two to three days to kind of get it ready for the stove. I am ignorant of the science behind it, though.

A typical Sunday evening in my kitchen would unfold like this. The skillet is placed on the stove, and then a splash of water on it to check if its hot enough, gives out a sizzling noise. A drop of oil is smeared for some lubrication. A ladel or two of batter is added and spread in circles into a dosa. Some oil is added along the border. 

The amount of oil added depends on which side of the tug of war you are on - taste/crispiness or health.  There are times if the skillet is too hot and the batter sticks to it , refusing to budge.. thats another tug of war any dosa maker would be familiar with! 

 Different types of ingredients like semolina (rava) , millet flour , rice flour , wheat flour or for that matter ground oatmeal can be mixed with water , some buttermilk , green chillies , corriander etc to make a batter and then made into crispy instant dosas. This version we can experiment with as we please . 

A permanent occupant of my kitchen shelf is what we call at home as the milagai podi - dosai chilli powder. A mix of lentils and red chillies are roasted in a bit of oil and then ground to a course powder. Whenever we make dosas, all we need is this powder mixed with some oil as an accompaniment.

Food from other lands:

Doughnut. For some time, the term had me imagining some distant cousin of almonds and cashews. Later i came to know of this sweet snack. The sight of the donuts with different dressings on the rack is so captivating, is it not ? 

Food for thought

This is actually a funny quote that I remembered. 

Its from a Tamil movie I saw long back and it goes.

Dilhi kku raaja naalum patti sollai thattaadha

Raaja as most may know means king.

Patti - grandmother

Sollai - (of) words

Thattaatha - dont disobey or disregard

Dilhi - Delhi 

Even if you are the king of Delhi , pay heed your grandmother's words. Ha ha ... Its a comedy movie but on serious thought , once we become adults we think we know it all. But we are all learning , always , every step we take in our lives. We need to remember that the seniors or elderly folks  have a lifetime of experience. More oft than not, they have simple solutions to the most baffling of our problems! 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Coconut chutney , chocolate

Coconut is a significant ingredient in South Indian cooking which is not surprising as we are coastal regions  with abundant supply. We grate it and add it to our vegetables, use it for flavoring and thickening  our curries, and use the oil for nourishing our hair and skin. Coconuts are placed as offering to our deities in temples.

During the weddings in my community, there is a  ritual where the bride and groom play a game rolling coconuts. Wonder if it symbolically means " ok! All set to drive each other nuts!" Lol !

 An accompaniment for most of the savoury items in Tamilnadu is the humble coconut chutney.

Humble because its a no-cook simple recipe that needs few ingredients and can be whipped up in a jiffy.

Add coconut, red or green chillies, salt and some fried gram to a blender and you get the basic version. Flavor can be enhanced with ginger, garlic, coriander or mint. There are no-coconut versions like onion chutney, tomato chutney and so on. I love experimenting with chutneys in my kitchen. We do carrot chutney , capsicum chutney , ground nut chutney and once i even tried using cabbage !

Food from other lands

I love chocolate. As a kid , any type of chocolate candy was an attraction.  Later i developed a liking for dark chocolate and now thats always my preference and i find the sweeter milk chocolate less appealing. Chocolate sauce, chocolate cake, chocolate icecream, chocolate gelato, almonds coated with chocolate name it and I love it. Period. 

I remember times in my college when if my day felt lousy, i would buy a whole bar , sit in my room and eat it. Sitting on my bed with a 'To hell with the world' feeling and focussing purely on the moment; on the joy the brown bar was giving me offered a good amount of self-help !

Have you tried it ? It works :D 

But chocolate is a dominant flavor that tends to suppress anything else that goes in. Recently I tried coconut icecream with chocolate sauce and that was one rare instance when i wished it were not there. The coconut was struggling to make its presence felt! 

Food for thought

There is a song from Tamil movie Roja that goes...

Chinna chinna Aasai

which means small small wishes.

Every person on earth will have some small wish tucked at the corner of his mind. Some may not be fulfilled due to lack of time or lack of opportunity or simply self boundaries set due to fear of embarassment or ridicule. It could be trying out jeans for some sweet lady who has always adorned sarees. It could be getting drenched in the rain. It could be going on a long bike ride ( oh yes , not all have the luxury) . It could be sporting a newhairstyle or look. It could be owning a pet.

Sometimes life is all about these small wishes that may seem trivial in the big scheme of things but they make life worth living ! What is a small wish that you have ?

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Bagalabath and Baba Ghanoush

I have heard accounts from my mother about her growing up years in her village where every home would have a cow that provided the milk supply for the family.  Cows are revered in our communities due to their gentle nature and also for providing the nourishment the family needs.  Even now, if we visit my ancestral village , we can see these four-footed members in some homes.

Food from home:

Milk is an important part of our daily diet.  The very first thing we do in our kitchen is boiling the milk to make the morning coffee. The final activity before switching off the kitchen lights would be to warm up the left over milk and add a teaspoon of curd to it. When we open the vessel the next morning, we can find thick fermented curd with a thin layer of cream on top.

The term we used for this had always been curd though of late people have been using yoghurt instead. I am not very sure how industrially manufactured yoghurt is different.

Curd rice which is cooked rice mixed with curd is a sort of comfort food for us and its gentle on the stomach. I remember opening my lunch box in school to creamy curd rice with cut mango pickle.

Bagalabath is a decorated version of this humble curd rice.  Cooked rice is mixed with curd and some milk is added to prevent it from getting sour. A teaspoon of oil is heated  and tempered with mustard seeds, lentils and curry leaves and this is added to the mixture. A pinch of asafeloetida, some salt to taste , chopped corriander leaves, ginger and green chillies for the flavoring go in. One can add mango bits,  grated cucumber, grated carrot,  pomegranate or grapes or even roasted raisins and nuts for additional richness.

There would always be curd  and varities of pickles in our fridge. When one is too tired or lazy , some rice in the ricecooker is all one needs to whip up a meal. Rice, curd and some pickle on the side.  Happy stomach and happy us! 

                                     Photo credit: Unsplash by Sumeet

Food from other lands :

I recently got a chance to try BabaGhanoush at a mediterranean restaurant.  For someone who has quite a bit of dislike for brinjal or eggplant , this was a discovery. I really enjoyed it with pita bread .

Food for Thought

The Tamil word for a calf is kanru. Have you ever watched a calf run around when its tether is released ? He would run helter skelter in fun and frolic totally unperturbed by anything on his way with absolute zero caution .

The saying we have is Ilam Kanru Bayam Ariyaathu.

It literally means - a baby calf has no fear. What is to be inferred is that youth is a time when people are very active or daring and to an extent can tend to be a bit more reckless compared to the older folks.