Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fried Maggi (for all my BITSian pals...)

If you know any BITSian (BITS Pilani alum), just mention these words and see their eyes light up like never before - "Fried Maggi", "A.N.C.", "Redi", "Rabri with banana", "Sunday High-Tea"! Let me know how it goes. Or if you are a BITSian reading this, would love to hear from ya - even a simple hello will do (Joking, right? Yes, coz how often have you met another BITSian who can stop at only a hello!)

Fried Maggi is a staple food in the campus marketplace as well as the "All Night Canteen (A.N.C)". After the "super-delicious" mess food, we were more than game for some "snacks" in the night. The greasy "Fried Maggi" was a favorite. In the girls hostel, we used to have a night canteen open for an hour at around 10pm (little fuzzy on the exact time!) - we could get Maggi there as well - that gooey dump of Maggi per serving was also delicious. More often than not, we will have a test the next morning - so the liberty to pig out that late was so that we can study late into the night! And conveniently go back to the room and "crash" to continue the study in the morning! :p

India has so many languages - I guess the BITSian lingo will someday become one of those listed language! The vocab is different - and it is amazing how soon you start using those words on meeting another friend from those days even after all these years! :) Check out this Google page on the same here.

Fried Maggi - 3 squares
Cottage Cheese\Paneer - 6-8 medium sized cubes, fried
Baby corn - 4-5 corns, chopped and fried
Frozen Peas - 1/2 cup
Water - 3-4 cups
You can also cube Onions, Carrot and Tomato - fry them lightly and add to the above mix as well. (optional)
Canola oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - a little for the extra veggies
Black pepper - 1/2 tsp


Lightly fry the cubed Paneer and Baby corns.
Boil the water.
Add the Maggi Masala and mix well.
As the water boils, add a few drops of oil and Maggi Noodles. I usually break every square into four pieces.
Add the frozen Peas as well and let them soften.
As the noodle becomes soft to touch, add the Paneer and Baby corns as well as anything else such as Onions, Carrot or Tomato.
Add Salt and Pepper a few minutes before stopping the heat and mix well.
Serve hot.

I usually add a good portion of Tomato ketchup and Chilli Sauce as garnish to my serving. :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bread Pakode ki Kasam...

Bread Pakoda waiting to be devoured!

Anytime I watch the movie "Band Baaja Baarat" with Anushka devouring the Bread Pakodas, no matter what time of day or night, there is an immense craving to have some myself. The first time I had it was in my high school cafeteria (also remember their Rice-Cholley and Rice-Rajmah - have never had the same flavors anywhere else - they were a Punjabi couple who set up the much-needed cafeteria - wonder if they are still around?). This was also a Tuesday breakfast item in my undergrad mess - surprised that I even remember the day? Well, that was the only day I could make it in time for breaker - so who would not? I try to make it once in a month or two with the warm hot potato filling for Sunday brunch. If you ever need me to swear on something, this is it! :)

Ingredients for Potato filling

Potato - 6-7 medium sized, pressure cooked for 2 whistles and set aside
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Green chilli - 1-2, as per taste
Cumin seed - 1/4 tsp
Salt - as per taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Canola oil - 1 tsp + few cups for deep-frying

Method for Potato filling

Heat oil. Add Cumin seed and let it sizzle.
Add chopped Green Chilli and Onion and let them cook till the onion turns translucent.
Add the mashed Potato.
Add a few tbsps of water and mix well Salt and Turmeric Powder.
Add Coriander Powder after a few mins. Mix well.
Cool it down slightly before you are ready to use it as a filling - just makes it easier to handle.

Ingredients for Besan (Gram Flour) Batter

Besan (Gram four) - 2 cups
Ajwain - 1/8 tsp
Salt - as per taste
Turmeric Powder - a few pinches, for the bright yellow color
Chat Masala - 1/4 tsp

Method for Besan (Gram Flour) Batter 

Mix everything using water. Depending on preference, you can make it thick or thin. I usually add about 2 cups of water. It's runny enough so that dipping the breads into it will make the batter stick to it (not just wet the bread and drip off!)

Method for Bread Pakora (pic steps)

Take a Bread slice.
Dab some Green Coriander Chutney - I use the store bought bottled ones. (optional)

Bread with Green Chutney

Spread thinly the Potato filling.

Bread with Green Chutney and Potato filling

Fold the bread in triangle or rectangle - either works! Triangles look better! :)

Bread with filling - ready to be fried!

Heat the Canola oil for deep frying. Using fresh oil is always preferred but feel free to reuse older frying oil, as long as it has not smoked in the past.
Dip the prepared breads above in the Besan (Gram Flour) batter. Make sure the bread is well coated with the batter and deep fry. Wait for one side to be done before turning it over to cook the other side. It takes a minute or two to get each side done.

We usually start eating after the first batch is out. :) Enjoy with Date-Tamarind Chutney and/or Tomato Ketchup!

Bread Pakoda with Tomato Ketchup and Date-Tamarind Chutney
Dissected Bread Pakoda! :)

New pic added on 09/02/2014

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kalara Bhaja (Bitter Gourd) and Simple Salad

One vegetable that I have often seen to baffle non-Asians in the local grocery store is Kalara (Odiya word for Bitter Gourd). I have explained what this veggie is to a few confused souls myself. This is a bitter tasting veggie as the name says it! :) The wikipedia entry for the same is available here. The Odiya cuisine calls for a good combination of different things - within a recipe as well as in the entire menu. Having different tastes in a given meal just balances out the flavors. We have different preparations of this - crisp fries, roasted and crushed as well as a drink. If you drink it after boiling and mashing, keep a spoon of sugar handy! :)

As the Wikipedia entry for taste states "The sensation of taste can be categorized into five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. "Umami" is originally the Japanese word for “meaty” or “savory”. Not surprisingly, it is characteristic of many oriental dishes.". Since this veggie is bitter, more so if it is not cooked crisp, it is not a favorite dish for hardly anyone. As a kid, I used to hate it! But note that the medicinal benefits of this dish is immense. It is good for diabetics and helps reduce blood sugar levels. My paternal grandpa "Dada" was diabetic, so whenever he was visiting, this was a regular in our house.

Let me divert a bit! Gosh, as I write this, so many memories come flooding about time spent with him and I am feeling so nostalgic about those good times. Long hours of Ludo games and chatting endlessly about everything under the Sun - he left us a few years back for heavenly abode. He was such an inspiration and always encouraging me to do better and be the "son" to my parents. He treated all his daughter-in-laws as his own daughter; think my Pisi was as comfortable talking to him as my mother. He was a progressive thinker opening schools and college in the village for the progress of the village. Hope I can someday live up to those ideals! Miss you, Dada, everyday - I will always think he is watching over and always there with me.

In the same note, I sure was lucky to be born to this family - feel even more intensely now knowing how prevalent "female foeticide" has been in India over the past decades. I think any girl born over the last 30-40 years and who has got a fair treatment in terms of opportunities and encouragement should be ever grateful to their parents for being high thinkers - to start with, you were not among the 3-crore girls that were aborted! This was recently brought into national attention by Aamir Khan Productions "Satyamev Jayate" program - a very well-researched program with information and statistics covering the entire spectrum of a given issue in 1.5 hours. They plan to cover a different topic every week - now, that is meaningful television which was kinda there in Indian television when I was growing up but not anymore. Is there any comparison between Udaan where they showed Kiran Bedi's story in contrast to the present day shows where the focus is on the woman crying all the time??

In that bitter note, let's move on to a literally bitter recipe! :)


Kalara - 5-6 medium to large
Rice flour - 3-4 tbsp
Salt - as per taste
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp

Canola oil - few tbsps for shallow frying


Chop the Kalara into thin slices as shown in the pic.
Mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
Keep it aside for 10-15 mins.
Heat some oil for shallow frying the Kalara.
Use Medium heat. Get done cooking one side before turning it over to cook the other side.

Serve it hot while it is still crisp.
Enjoy with Rice\Chapatti.

We had ours this time with a simple Potato curry, Simple Salad (details below) and Paratha (Indian bread).

Simple Salad



Cucumber - 1
Tomato - 1
Onion - 1 medium
Green Chillis - 1-2 or more, as per taste
Note - You can increase\decrease the amount depending on taste and preference.

Chop everything into similar sliced long pieces.
Mix them together with 1/8 tsp sugar, salt as per taste and some Chat Masala. A little chilli powder can also be added.
To add sourness to the salad, you can add half-lemon's juice.
To make Raita, substitute lemon juice with a few tbsps of yogurt. We have Raita and Salad inter-changeably with dinner.

Maharastrian Misal

Maharastrian Kolhapuri Misal
For the first time, I had Maharastrian Misal (Kolhapuri, to be specific) made with home-made Kolhapuri Masala and Kala Masala. It was yummy! Thanks to my friend, Prajakta, for introducing me to this Maharastrian favorite. Like the mutton curry is one of the favorite Sunday traditions in Odiya house, I was told this is a Sunday brunch favorite in Kolhapur.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Maka Bhaja (American Corn fry called these days...)

This corn fry is my mom's recipe. Maka is the Odiya word for Corn. Bhaja is the Odiya word for shallow-fry. She used to make this for us an evening snack. We used to only get in particular months of the year in Odisha - so when it was available, eat as much as you can. And I used to love this particular preparation, not just for it's awesome flavor and taste but also because this did not require me to put any effort in eating the kernels off the corn! ;)

A few years back during one of our India trips, we realized that there was a big craze for American Corn fry as an appetizer when eating out. Everyone was going gaga about it. We decided to try it out and R's humorous take on it was "'s just Maka Bhaja" :) It still intrigues me why people refer to it as "American"..wonder if it is the next American Chopsuey that only exists in Indo-Chinese cuisine! Ok maybe coz it is the young corns whereas we are used to eating the slightly mature corns after roasting it in flame. But then it could have been called "Kancha Maka Bhanja"..ofcourse that does not sound as trendy! Anyways, there are better things to worry, enjoy the recipe!

3-4 servings

Canola oil - 1 tbsp
Corn heads - 4
Onion - 1/2 big, thinly chopped
Fresh Green Chilli - 1, chopped
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 2 pinch
Fresh Curry leaves - 4-5
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (Hing) - a pinch
Salt - as per taste
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Lemon juice of 1/2 small lemon


Take the fresh corn heads. Clean the hairs left on them, if any.
Holding the corn in your left hand with the utensil underneath. With your right hand, take a knife and start cutting out the kernels from the corn. Takes a few strokes to get all the kernels. Some people can just use their hands to pull off the kernels - not me!

Start the cooking by heating the Canola oil.
Add the Mustard seeds.
Once they sizzle, add the Cumin seeds and fresh Curry leaves.
As the Mustard seed crackles by now and the smell of the Curry leaves is encompassing your kitchen, add the chopped Onions and Green Chillies. Stir and mix.
As the onion starts turning translucent, you can add the Hing. Stir it to mix up.
Add the Turmeric powder and Salt after a few seconds. Mix it well.

Depending on how crunchy you want the Onions to be, appropriately add the already chopped corn kernels as shown in the pic.
Mix well and let it cook in Medium-High heat.
As the corns look half-cooked, add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix it well. Cover it and let it cook in Medium heat.
Once the corn look cooked, add the Coriander Powder and Lemon juice. Mix it well and cook for 2-3 more minutes to make it crunchy.
You can garnish it with fresh chopped Coriander leaves for added flavor. I did not when I prepared this.

You can have this as an evening snack. Or as an item with bread \ Chapatti.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie

This recipe goes for Foodelicious ongoing event 'Only' Cooking with Chocolate. Eagerly waiting for the roundup and feed my chocolate cravings hereon by trying the recipes from there! Hope my doctor's appointment is done by then and I have passed on my scores (A1C, LDL, HDL and what not!) with flying colors - come on, final exams as a kid were easier compared to the annual physical. :( I am diverting yet again! :)

So here goes the recipe..I am going to cheat a bit as I don't have a pic of my own cookie! I will not disappoint you on the visual treat from reading blog-posts...there is one nature-click and one related to the post but of a store-bought cookie that I almost 'mauled'! :) Read on..

Zoe's Kitchen, Fairfax, VA - love their jumbo chocolate chip cookie - how guilty I felt after finishing it ALL off! :)

Makes 15 cookies

1/2 cup Butter (that is, 1 stick butter)

1/2 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoons Baking powder

1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecan nuts chopped

Tip - As with all baking, keep the dry and wet ingredients separate from each other till ready to give the final toss.

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Shift together the flour, salt, and baking powder and keep aside.
  • Combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg.
  • Add the vanilla essence. I usually hand-mix but you can use a mixer for the same as well which is much more convenient.
  • Add the flour mixture little at a time and just fold till the mixture is uniform.
  • Add the chocolate chips and chopped pecan nuts towards the end and fold.
  • Chill the dough.
  • Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets with adequate distance between the cookies since the biscuit spreads out.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the cookies are golden brown and chewy.
  • Cool and store in an airtight-container or ziploc bag.

This is always a hit with kids who can never have enough of chocolate chip cookies! Further the house smells divine when you bake it - the warm whiff of chocolatey air..sniff sniff! :)

If you have a recipe that never fails with pleasing the kids, please let me know - would love to hear more about it.

Beautiful sunset - drive back home. The sun just dipped as I scrambled for the camera!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Passport DC Embassy Tour 2012 #PassportDC

Logo near Venezuela Embassy
It was by chance on Thursday evening that I learn of an upcoming weekend event. I had heard of this event in the past year after-the-fact. Thus, it further piqued my interest but with such short notice, wasn't too sure if I will be able to make it. Further the ongoing week was hectic - so I was really looking forward to some downtime! But I did not want to pass this as well. Ah, the self-debate is the most energy-consuming!

Such is my life and varied interests..wish lesser things interested me (much along the lines of my pet peeve that I wish that lesser cuisines interested me so much - well, I guess this is again misplaced emphasis on my interest than my own lack of control when it comes to new and good food!).. La and voila, my friend Raji was interested as well to go for this. With company available, another argument in my kitty to not let go of this opportunity! So I was all set to be a part of this wonderful event - Passport DC Embassy Tour 2012.

It is a wonderful international event in DC. About 40 embassies open their doors for citizens to visit them and be a part of their culture and food. It is aimed to increase interest in the different countries and encourage tourism. Indian embassy was not a part of it this year - they have been in the past and have had saree-tying and mehendi as some of their spotlight events. #PassportDC is the twitter tag for this event - if you are interested in looking up the interesting pics and tweets related to this. I am already looking forward to the next year.

Well, my bad luck was that I could not wake up early and get the much-wanted head-start to the day. I met up Raji in DC metro and we headed to our destination. Being new to the Dupont Circle area and embassy row took some getting used to. For a certain section of our walk to the various embassies, we resorted to following the crowd coz that was easier than reading the map, particularly when you have so much to cover in so less time! :)

Before I get into the different embassies and their pics, one surprise discovery during the 4.0+ mile walk during that day included finding this very statue of Bapuji aka Mahatma Gandhi. I had first heard of it's existence from my friend Raka when we were walking in the Rock Creek Trail - we wanted to go by and see this that day but could not for some reason. A proud surreal feeling on seeing this!

Bapu's Statue in Massachusetts Avenue, DC - first heard of this statues existence from Raka - finally got to see it!
The link to the tour details page is here. Click the map below to see the participating embassies and their locations.

View Around the World Embassy Tour in a larger map
Embassy of Indonesia

We started with the Embassy of Indonesia as we came across it first while walking down from the Dupont Circle Metro. It was grandiose both from outside architecture as well as the inside decor. The pics will tell it all. I even picked up a furniture store's card from one of the exhibitors there and look forward to get a nice solid wood-work item from there. And definitely this is one of the countries I want to visit some day. Passport DC's objective had started working for me - to get citizens interested in the different countries and increase tourism.This embassy put up a good show indeed.

Indonesian Embassy
Front entrance - Indonesia EmbassyPainting in Indonesia embassy
Glass decor roof - Indonesia Embassy
Banquet Hall - Indonesia Embassy
Lovely idols exhibiting their traditional dresses in the Indonesian EmbassyA nice sculpture in the Indonesian Embassy
Indonesian Embassy - solid wood work!Indonesian Embassy Sculpture - their national symbol, I guess!
Intricate work in a statue in the Indonesian embassy - would love to have one of these in my house!
Embassy of The Bahamas

Our next stop was here. That day was Cinco de Mayo, so me and my friend were interested to visit the Embassy of Mexico. However, due to the short time and it being a little further off, we decided to cover the ones in Massachusetts Avenue. They had colorful head-gears placed all over the place with nice camaraderie, music and dance - only thing missing was the beach! People got to try some of the head-gears - second down and one more added to my list of places to visit. Well, re-confirmed coz it was already in my list! :)

Note - I have already been to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas during our cruise trip a few years back. Should share the pics of this someday. Fine sand, nice sunshine, good food - I was not ready to leave that place. Think I almost got my kids married off there - the ones I don't have yet! :D

Bahamas Embassy - Entrance colorful decor
Bahamas Embassy - Colorful head-gear on display
Bahamas Embassy - Another colorful head-gear on displayBahamas Embassy - Yet another colorful head-gear on display - each one more enticing than the other!
Embassy of Haiti 

This was huge and a kites galore. And of course, the much needed fruit punch to beat the heat of the afternoon. They had some nice paintings - not sure if it is new and thus, they still need to furnish the rooms. There was one huge almost empty room in the top floor. Would have loved to see more cultural display here.

Kites decor in the Embassy of HaitiEmbassy of Haiti - roof decor

Embassy of Chad

It was a good experience to see the local culture, style of dressing and interior decor of these embassies. Chad had a small exhibition area but it was a visual treat - the crafts galore! The symmetric display of the flags in the background added to the charm.

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

There was a long line for this and none of us were complaining coz we did want to stop walking and take a break for sometime even if it meant just standing in a line! ;) But we were soon welcomed in and given a tour of the facility. They had it very well-organized with people guiding you from one section to the other. They even had a cultural show at 4pm which we passed-on in favor of getting back early - next time!

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - Guided tour
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - an interesting painting

Embassy of Japan - what a display of culture  

This was another embassy with a long line - but it was worth the wait! The gentleman from the security team gave an interesting funny presentation and made the wait in the line at the end of the day less painful. :) There was green tea to welcome and a nice exhibition waiting for us inside. They had a good display of culture indeed and people more than willing to answer your questions. This was our last stop - we did not even manage to cover half of all that was out there for us but we were happy with the ones we did manage to cover.

Embassy of Japan  - the front yard with lovely unique fish-kites who were enjoying the breeze as much as us!
Embassy of Japan  -Uchikake, a bridal dress - very expensive and passed on from mother to daughter at times (learned this during my Japanese language class while @Wipro, Bangalore quite a few years back.Embassy of Japan  - a brief write-up on the Uchikake, the bridal dress
Embassy of Japan  -Boy dollEmbassy of Japan  -That's a kite!
Embassy of Japan  - Girl dollEmbassy of Japan  -Are those kites too!
Embassy of Japan  - loved the young girl in the extreme right of this picEmbassy of Japan  - traditional umbrellas .. Sayonara Sayonara (Japanese greeting and a popular Hindi song of the 60's)
Embassy of Japan  - different type of painting near the exitEmbassy of Japan  - 2nd one the different type of painting near the exit
Embassy of Japan  - A Samurai - most people were just standing with him for a pic but this was a more cool pose - glad I caught it in time. Hope the lady in this pic gets to see this pic as well! :)
Please note that the European tour is today. Hope you get to check it out. Looking forward to hear all about it. I would have loved to go down but a trip to DC two weekends in a row is not my cup of tea! :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!