Food has been my passion since a very young age. Blessed with a patient nature and a generally understanding appetite, I daresay I've ventured out quite a bit, as far as my vegetarian taste buds would take me. While I'm not a fabulous cook or anything - I can whip up a really good pasta or a paneer manchurian, but that's about it - this love for food has survived through the onslaught of mess food, the horrors of Basera 'food' and everything else life at IIT has in store for me.
But then, there are certain dishes which make me go weak in the knees that I'd eat them even if served in a black mug and an orange for accompaniment. So this is my food guide, cutting through kitchens throughout India, my own Top 10 guide on what you should eat before you turn 65. Not that I have anything against 65 year olds, but some things should never be put off till age catches us and wrecks us apart.
10.Pazham Pori/ Ethakka Appam
The first time I tasted this Kerala delicacy was at Saarang Village, 2011. Not that I had much of an option, the only delectable vegetarian options on the menu was this, and an utterly forgettable tea. I remember wondering then why the obligatory chutney or tomato sauce was missing till I took a bite…and discovered that it was sweet! Yet, the Nendranka bajji quite grows on you and I should know, I must have polished off atleast six plates that Saarang. The slightly fermented taste of the banana flirts with the taste buds and the very crispy coat disintegrates at the touch, making it a very satisfying culinary experience. It is hard to believe that something as amazing as this could come out of a land which also brought out Avial.
9. Akki Roti with Chutney
Oh Akki Roti, the stuff of my dreams, the breakfast fit for kings! Thou might look very unassuming to the benighted eye, who’d merely laugh at thee and move on to the more seductive benne masala dosa, only to end up with an unshackled bowel! Oh, Akki Roti, forgive me for not having discovered thy wonders earlier!
I stayed with my mother’s friend the last time I visited Bangalore. A wonderful, discerning woman, she was also the best possible cook I could discover in Bangalore. Every morning, I’d wake up to different Karnataka style rotis, one day ragi, another day, jowar, and maybe even bajra. And they were all super crisp, super addictive and super healthy.
The star of the show, however was the humble Akki Roti, the staple breakfast option for many Kannadigas. This dish made of rice and a very deft hand, topped with coconut or tomato chutney is super nutritious and very very tasty. Give me my akki roti over Raghavendra masala dosa anytime!
8. Onion Sambhar with Rice
Onion Sambhar is a staple luxury at every TamBrahm household – you’d know it’ll make its appearance every three weeks when the mother has run out of things to make, yet, its visits are sporadic enough to be alluring to the senses. I’m a Rasam person and sambhars don’t really excite me, neither do vathakozhambu, kozhambu and that miserable liquid called morkozhambu. But onion sambhar makes me sit up everytime it makes its rounds, and with rice and liberal doses of ghee, this Sunday lunch would leave you burping of tamarind and very very satisfied.
7. Khandvi and Dhokla
There are two things you ought to do if you do happen to go to Gujarat – shop and eat, and if you miss out on any one, you ought to be shaken up and packed off in the next train to the Kathiawar Peninsula. While all the Gujarati food sends me in rapturous delights and every time I make a trip to Ahmedabad, I return three kgs fatter and three times happier, there are some which are my especial favourite. The pretty Khandvi, made of gram flour and curd tops the list, followed by Dhokla, also made of gram, I think. It’s hard not to fall in love with these two, especially if they’re backed up with Green chutney, or my favourite, Imli chutney.
It’s been a long time since I had Khandvi anyway. When I was a eight or nine years old, there was a wonderful Gujarati restaurant called Bhavai in Chennai, which made the best Khandvis I could ever imagine. I used to be a very fussy eater as a child and all I’d have at that restaurant was their super soft khandvi decked with mustard which you could count off the tip of your tongue, and chaas. I think that restaurant’s closed now, I’m not sure and perhaps I need to wait it out till Ahmedabad calls me again.
6. Gobi Manchurian
My eighth standard was a decisive year, for I fell in love with both Abhishek Bachchan and Gobi Manchurian. It’s been five years since then and the love’s still there, but the priorities have changed. There’s Ranbir Kapoor now, Abhay Deol, the very alluring Imran Khan and so many more. And similarly I discovered Doodhi Halwa, Cheesecake, Paneer tikka and many more, thus relegating The Gobi Manchurian to a docile 6th spot.
Gobi Manchurian is a very tricky dish and can be scarring, if badly made. I have braved through many Gobi Manchurians, the salty Bangalore version, the undercooked, nauseating Tifany’s version, the tomato-sauce-can-salvage-me-after-all Adyar Anand Bhavan version…so much so, the original Gobi Manchurian, if it exists seems to have disappeared into the recesses of good cooking. Yet this Indo Chinese dish is a particular favourite of mine, and like narthanga, drier, the better.
And these are the five food items I'd want to eat, if marooned in an island with Johnny Depp for company etc etc. What did you eat today? :)