From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, there’s nothing that bonds Indians better than food! I am a foodie myself (not a glutton or a gourmand as my size would have one to believe!) and love trying out all kinds of food and that includes cooking them. Having lived in a cosmopolitan part of Cochin and later doing a food review column in Muscat for five years have helped to a large degree.
Here’s a list of what makes me drool, state-wise (as I know them!).
Sarson da saag and Makki di roti. What DDLJ did to me, Copper Chimney Restaurant at Muscat did better… and I am talking only of the one time I had it maybe eight years ago… Nothing has replicated the taste… not even later visits. Went to the kitchen to check out the mustard leaves and watched the chef make the rotis. On a winter afternoon, it was a sublime experience. High on travel wish list – DDLJ type mustard fields and tall glasses of soothing lassi. And Punjab.
Visited Delhi only once… where we unfortunately had food from all other states; Andhra Bhavan, Kerala Bhavan and Maharashtra Bhavan. And at Nirula’s… But I guess parathas from parathewale gali can count as top favourites!
If Rajasthani food festivals are any indication, then their food is indeed lip-smacking. But nothing tastes better than home-made daal bhatti-churma I had at a Rajasthani friend’s house at Nagpur. Whenever I remember the taste, the closest I can get to is the nearest Rajdhani. And it’s never close enough! The taste I mean!
Have been to Bihar just once and was quite taken up with their kathal ki sabzi. (Athu chakkai di, (it is jackfruit) said my periamma in disgust when I gloated over its masala reincarnation the neighbour brought over one day. That is one lasting memory of the single visit. Apart from the matkewali chai (tea in clay cups) of course!
Chilled rosogollas I like… other Bengali sweets absolute no-no! The only vegetarian Bengali traditional dish I’ve sampled and liked is Alu Poshto (potatoes and poppy seeds), thanks to my friend Swati.
Grew up among Gujaratis, so Gujju food was and is second nature to me. The ghaatiyas and sevs bring back childhood memories. And ask me to cook up a Gujarati storm in the kitchen, I am ready to oblige, phulkas, sweet dal, aloo-lasun subzi, kadhi, dhokla, et al.
I was born in Maharashtra but did not return to my birth-land for a long stretch till I was about 18. And what struck me most was how most Maharastrians only whipped up only an alu poha for guests. Later, I learnt that there was more to Maharashtrian food than my taste buds could salivate on. Varan baat, (dal rice) puran poli (a sweet dish), moong dal vadis (vadas made out of moong dal) and not to forget the delicious food that they have when they are fasting (talk of the irony here) like sabu dana khichdi and sabudana vada. And who can forget the lip-smacking chaats from roadside stalls. Bhel, ragda, sev puri, chilled paani puri, the works!
I am a ‘Spice Girl’ and Andhra entices me the most when it comes to tickling my spicy taste buds. Most days, when I am too lazy to cook, I go through this delectable blog http://www.nandyala.org/mahanadi; It is a a PhD course in Andhra food. Love the Andhra avakkai (mango pickle), the chutneys and the spicy dals. And in spicier days, I visited the Chillies Restaurant regularly with my friend Rajee at Cochin.
Make bisi bele baat and neer dosa at home! Like obattu and that iddli looking like a dosa-thingie (the name I forget!). Sometimes like their sambhar with huge chunks of jaggery in it. Love coffee straight from an estate in Coorg that my friend brings for me each year! (Hint! Hint!)
Being Tam with roots in Tirunelveli, there’s nothing to beat amma-made Tam-Brahm food from this region. The milagu kuzhambu (pepper sambhar), the arichavitta rasam (rasam with freshly ground spices), vathal kuzhambu, all bring back memories from 25 years ago. Thankfully, having a periamma (maternal aunt) who lived longer helped… but somehow the taste is never amma-like! Maybe, the brat will differ!
Having married into a Tam family who has absolutely no clue where their roots in Tamil Nadu lie, my kitchen now looks like a Tamil Nadu-Kerala war zone. So, while the husband says, ‘Tch, Tch, who adds cumin to the coconut in the avial, I stealthily add some when he is not looking! But Kerala influences nevertheless are huge! Which means I have a steady stock of coconuts and coconut oil… to make the pulinkaris, rasakaalans, thorans and mezhukupurattis. Pure Kerala stuff I like? Aapam-stew, puttu-kadala, idiyappams… The list is endless.
Phew! This was one difficult post to do… One cannot write about food without conjuring up many images! A smiling amma in the kitchen, the making-you-eat-till-you-burst paatis, neighbours sharing a recipe or a dish or two (I can still remember my neighbour bellowing across the wall, ‘Maami, give me some of the vathalkuzhambu you are making), periappa (father’s brother) exhorting periamma to pour more oil into the puliyodorai, and having a fun time sharing dabbas at school.
Ah! What’s it that they say? “There is no sincerer love than the love for food!”
Happy Eating always, folks!