Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chhole With Paneer Kulche - Solid Punjabi Brunch

This can easily be my most favourite brunch option but it's a pity that NO place, I repeat NO place in Mumbai serves decent chhole kulche, except for a small place called Juicy Stuff in Powai. Now, as per my standards kulchas are stuffed, oven or tandoor roasted and ghee laden parathas but what we get here is a kind of naan which is passed off as kulchas. So, I try to make chhole and kulches myself most of the time. Do try them and let me know how well they turn out.

For Chhole
Kabuli chana - 250 gms (soaked overnight)
Onions - 4 (2 chopped and 2 grounded into fine paste)
Tomatoes - 4 (2 chopped and 2 grounded into fine paste)
Ginger garlic paste (optional) - 2 tsp
Chhole masala - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Fresh chopped coriander
Mustard oil - 1 tbsp

For Paneer Kulcha
Maida or all purpose flour - 2 cups
Curd (better if it's a little sour) - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Lukewarm water - 1 cup

For Filling
Paneer - 100 gms
Coriander seeds - 1/2 tsp
Kalaunji or onion seeds - 1/2 tsp
Saunf or fennel - 1/2 tsp
Green chillis (chopped) - 2
Green coriander (chopped) 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

  • Boil the kabuli chanas soaked overnight. If you forgot to soak them the previous night don't panic, soak them in hot water for 2-3 hours before cooking and boil them in a pressure cooker till 6-7 whistles are blown.
  • Heat mustard oil in a deep pan and throw in chopped onions+onion paste. Fry till they turn golden brown. Keep adding a little water if they start sticking to the pan. By doing that you will not need a lot of oil to fry the onions.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, chhole masala, chilli powder and fry for another 5 minutes.
  • Add boiled chanas with the water they were boiled in, add salt and let them boil for at-least 10-15 minutes.
  • Once done, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with kulchas.
Preparing the dough
  • Mix yougurt, salt and sugar in maida.
  • Slowly add warm water and keep mixing till dough is formed.
  • Cover the dough and leave it for 2 hours to rise.
Preparing the filling
  • Mash the paneer and add all the ingredients. Mix well.
Kulchas are made best in a tandoor but since that can not be arranged for in a house gas tandoor is a good alternative. You can also make it in your electric oven but I would recommend the gas one.
  • Heat the gas oven.
  • Break the dough into small balls and fill a little paneer mixture in each of them.
  • Roll them into round parathas. Don't use any dry flour, use ghee instead to avoid sticking.
  • Put a little water on one side of the kulcha and stick it inside the lid of the oven.
  • Put the lid back and let them cook on medium flame. Keep checking in between.
  • Once they turn brownish and start falling off the lid, remove them using a tongue and cook them directly on the gas.
Slather ghee on the hot kulchas and serve with chhole, onions and aam ka achaar. Lassi is optional.

By the way in Punjab, kulchas are also breads like pita eaten with masaledar chana. Vendors can be seen around cities like Chandigarh and Mohali selling these breads with chanas in a large matka kind of copper vessel. A small place called Fusion Food Bistro in Goregaon (E), opposite Royal Challenge sells decent bread style kulchas with nice chtpata chanas.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Food Review: The Funjabi Tadka, Bandra (W)

The latest entrant in Bandra’s food scene promises fine dining with a touch of quirkiness. I joined Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi along with Anuja Deora from Mumbai Food Lovers for lunch there last week to find out if the tadka was strong enough or not.

With just a handful of restaurants offering good North Indian/Punjabi food in the city, a restaurant run by a Punjabi Chef brings a lot of expectations. According to Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi the food here is similar to what you will find in a Punjabi house; with dollops of butter I assume.

Flavoured lassis

The host of Turban Tadka on Food Food channel, the Namak-Shamak Chef is famous for his antics and jokes on the show and has applied a similar sense of humour in the decor. A Mario Miranda-esque mural at the entrance welcomes you and the walls inside are decorated with pictures straight from a village in Punjab along with some regular quotes written behind the trucks.

Mushroom galouti, arbi karari 
We started our lunch with flavoured lassi served in cutting chai glasses, the thick creamy mango and chocolate flavoured yogurt (Rs 140) is a must try. There’s an Oreo lassi too; a definite hit with the kids. 

As we lined our stomachs with lassi, starters were served. What we tried was something very different from the regular kebabs and tikkas; Arbi karari (Rs 170) – arbi tikkis with a coating of cornflakes which added a nice crunch to the otherwise soft arbis, Mushroom ki galouti – mushroom kebabs served on small crispy parathas (Rs 195), Popcorn chicken (Rs 240) – boneless pieces of chicken dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried, Bheera da seekh kabab (Rs 280) – very succulent mutton seekh kababs. 

All the starters were served with a side of Pickled beetroot, Anardana chutney, Gud ki chatni with muskmelon seeds and a very Punjabi style mango pickle. The chef told us that the pickle is specially ordered from Delhi and after tasting it all I wanted to do was to take home a jar of that pickle. yes, my Mom makes similar one.

The bar in this restaurant sits behind a walled partition. While there was little activity on this weekday afternoon, we sure hope to see more guests enjoying their Patiyala pegs soon.

The main course was a great respite from the regular dal tadkas, red gravies and green gravies passed off as North Indian food. We were served four different kinds of dal including Methi palak dal (Rs 175) – slow cooked dal with fenugreek and spinach and served with a generous ladle of cream and butter, Aandon wali dal (Rs 175) – black dal with boiled egg, dhaba dal (Rs 175) – a spicy concoction of mixed dals usually served in the dhabas of Punjab. The methi dal stood out of all and is a must try with crisp and buttery Lachcha or Pudina paratha (Rs 60). Butter chicken (Rs 280), a regular at every restaurant serving North Indian fare, is made with a little twist here. The gravy is not cooked with tomatoes and lemon juice is added to cut through the rich gravy and a little tart. We were a little apprehensive about eating a butter chicken which was white in colour but this can easily be one of the best I've had so far, and I am not even a big fan of butter chicken so yes, it was something. There was also a subtle flavour of lemon grass which was used as a garnish.

Nimbu wala butter chicken
Mirchonwala halwa
Given the amount of white butter and cream in the food you might have to walk around a bit to let it settle down and make some space for the dessert. The mirchaan wala halwa (Rs 175) is something not to be missed even if you can’t eat more than just one spoon. The semolina halwa is made with green chillies and quite the kick of spice as an aftertaste. The dessert is a must try just for its innovativeness. Another round of pudina flavoured lassi (Rs 90) would be a good option to wash down all the butter.

I wouldn’t mind heading to The Funjabi Tadka the next time I'm craving for some asli Punjabi food but only if they promise a bed to curl up on after the heavy meal.

Must try: Mango chocolate lassi, arbi karari, methi palak dal, mirchaan wala halwa

Meal for two: Rs 1200+taxes

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eating in and around Udaipur

Food is an integral part of traveling especially when you want to experience the culture of the place rather than going sight seeing or sitting in a resort eating standard food. For me it is more important cause, well, I love food. So, the research for what to eat and where to eat in Udaipur started as soon as I planned the trip. For those who don't know, Rajasthani food is a lot more than just dal-bati-choorma. There's a whole range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes especially in the Mewari cuisine. In this post I have tried to include all that I ate (good or bad) in Udaipur. A lot of recommendations and help came through Twitter and Lonely Planet and I tried my best to go to each and every place.

The food journey started from the train itself when the Husband got down at Ratlam station to get something to eat and got this awesome plate of pohe. They were very cold thanks to the weather outside. Still we sprinkled some fiery Ratlami sev on it that we had just bought from a vendor. I am amazed at the sheer variety we create with something as simple as flattened rice or pohe. Unlike the pohe in Mumbai which are made with onions, potatoes and groundnuts the pohe in Ratlam were plain, without onions, just garnished with coriander and lemon juice. 

Pohe at Ratlam station
The version of pohe served in Udaipur is completely different from the above two. Here, they taste a little sweet and are garnished with chopped onions, fresh coriander, crunchy namkeen and jeeravan masala. The last ingredient is a taste enhancer which is a mix of various Indian spices and is normally used instead of chaat masala. I was introduced to this spice by Amrita Rana who bought me a packet from Indore. Well, the guy at the shop was glad that I knew about it :D. 

Pohe in Udaipur
We reached Udaipur just before sunset and trust me the view was mesmerizing. The lights at the Lake Palace Hotel and Jagdish Mandir Island came on as the sun set and we sat on the terrace downing cups of chai....well, that was the case almost every evening.

Lake Palace Hotel

The next morning we decided to take a walk around the old city and found a small shop near Jagdish Temple which sells pohe, kachori, samosa and chai. This is where we had the pohe too. The samosa chat was average but we loved the urad stuffed kachori chaat. Both were prepared with dahi, chutney and lots of namkeen and groundnuts/peanuts. It's a perfect place to have an early breakfast while you watch the city waking up and getting started with their daily routine. 2 Kachoris, 1 Samosa, 1 Pohe, 2 cups of chai costed us Rs 75.

Jagdish Temple
Samosa and kachori chaat
Another place highly recommended for breakfast is Cafe Edelweiss, commonly known as German Bakery. It's located at the Laal Ghat on Lake Pichola and is very close to Bagore Ki Haweli. The small cafe is generally flocked by foreigners. We decided to grab a quick brekka before heading out to explore the city. We spent a modest Rs 210 on 2 cheese omlettes, 6 toasts, 1 capuccino and 1 really yummy hot chocolate. During my stay also tried their apple pie - soft crust and very mildly sweet. The mocha cake was too dry and I couldn't finish the whole piece.

Breakfast at Cafe Edelweiss
After exploring the city on foot we decided to take a rickshaw from Fateh Sagar Lake. The guy charged us Rs 400 and took us around Saheliyon Ki Bari, Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, Shilpgram and Sajjangarh Palace. At Shilpgram we decided to have a dal-bati-choorma lunch and oh! boy, that was some lunch; three fried batis served with dal, kadhi, gatte ki sabzi, salad, pickle and choorma laddoo. All we wanted was find a little shade under a tree and doze off. A thali costed us Rs 100. 

Dal-baati-choorma at Shilpgram Dhaba
Despite so much food all through the day we had built up quite an appetite for dinner and since it was our anniversary too we decided to go to Ambrai Restauarant. Located at the edge of Lake Pichola this open air restaurant gives a good view of the Lake Palace Hotel and City Palace. The laal maas here is a must try. It's a slow cooked mutton curry where Jodhpuri or Mathaniya chilis play very important role. We also had tangdi kebab and mutton boti kebab their, very succulent and very well marinated. Sorry for not taking pictures but I didn't want to irritate the husband by constantly taking pictures on our anniversary dinner. We spent around Rs 4000 for 1 chicken tangdi kebab, 1 mutton boti kebab, laal maas, dal tadka, 1 rice, 2 missi roti, kheer and a bottle of Sula Brut.

The current Maharana of Udaipur Shreeji Arvind Singh Mewar has a meuseum where he keeps his collection of vintage cars. We didn't enter the museum but did have lunch at the vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant only serves thali with a traditional Rajasthani food. We were served ker sangri; a dish made of local beans and berries, kadhi, dal, potato sabzi, paneer sabzi, bottlegourd sabzi, chapatis, bati, rice and a sweet. All of it was wiped off and we overate thanks to the hot, ghee smeared chapatis. One thali was priced at Rs 150 and included unlimited servings.

Thali at the restaurant at Vintage Car Museum
Since the day I planned the Udaipur trip I was vehemently looking for the restaurant recommended by Rocky and Mayur in their show Highway On My Plate. The hunt ended at Savage Garden located in the by-lanes of Chand Pol. The restaurant is painted all blue and has loads of bouganvilla all over its walls. In fact, the whole city is flooded with bouganvilla and looks absolutely beautiful. They are famous for their salmon preparation but it was the grilled singada that bowled me over; mildly flavoured, crispy fish served with a huge portion of mashed potatoes. The husband fell in love with spinach and mushroom ravioli. It was a surprise for me to find a place in Udaipur serving such great Italian/Continental food. We spent around Rs 700 on a bruschetta, a grilled fish and a mushroom and spinach ravioli.

Savage Garden
On the fifth day we made a day trip to the Kumbhalgarh Fort and on our way stopped over at this tiny eatery for onion kachoris. The picture speaks a thousand words and the kachoris were as oily as they look in this pic but tasty nonetheless, served with a yellow kadhi kind of chutney and fried chillis.

Onion kachori
From Kumbhalgarh Fort we went to HaldiGhati Museum. Along with the very facinating museum there's a small restaurant where you get homemade food. We had a very satisfying lunch of dal, kadhi, potato sabzi, hot chapatis and rice. An unlimited thali costs Rs 80.

Thali at Haldi Ghati museum
On the last day of our trip we went to this lake side restaurant called Food Club. Well, the location of the restaurant was better than the food itself and I would suggest you go there just to grab a drink and stick to the standard fish and chips or French fries.

Food Club near Lake Pichola
Finally, the good days of sipping chai and siting near the fire got over and we had to come back. There were a lot of recommended restaurants like Natraj and Santosh Bhojanalay that I missed out. Will check them out on my next trip to this beautiful city which I will plan soon.

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