The husband will not miss Kashmiri if I never cook it. The son does not much care for the regular no-nonsense everyday-Maharashtrian. I eat Thai all by myself…But we all agree on South Indian! What can I say? We were South Indians in previous life. There is no other explanation. How else can you explain that my FIL, a Maharashtrian born and brought up in Jabalpur (MP), my late MIL, born and brought up in Jodhpur (Rajasthan), my dear H, born in Pune and brought up in saddi Dilli, I, born in Srinagar and brought up likewise, and our son, a 100% Delhiite, should all agree that South Indian food rocks. Period.
It is, by far, the most popular cuisine in our home. I realise I have included practically the entire peninsular India in this categorization – starting south of Maharashtra of course 🙂 . And it does not start and end at the dosa-idli-upma for us – no sir/madam – we like to go the whole hog. As much as we can.
My love affair with South Indian food started when a lot of infatuations do, in my teens. But this turned out to be life long affair. Two of my best friends in school were from Tamil Nadu. Rajamma and Bhuvaneshwari. We were in grade 9. Our school introduced an additional short break of about 15 minutes at around 11 in the morning. That would be the time to peek into each other’s lunch boxes, if we hadn’t already done so. Soul satisfying curd rice is one lingering memory I have of Rajamma’s tiffin. I could never have enough of that. The smells from their tiffin were so different from mine but wonderfully delicious.
And you cannot contain the fragrance of the kadi-patta to the back row…it travels. Before long Rajamma’s tiffin would have been licked clean. But I would take her along to my home for a hot lunch of dal-roti-subzi during the lunch break. Yup, those were idyllic times. Actually, we were lucky to live in IITD and my school (KVIIT) was a quick sprint from home. When most of the students would sit all around the school lawns, under shady Neem trees, I would, often, walk home for lunch.
I had many a dosa, adai, and idlies from my friends’ tiffins. Since we all lived close to school, I would look forward to the occassional invite for lunch and savour more of their everyday kind of food. I particularly remember that at Rajamma’s there would usually be a vegetable-dal dish, not the sambar, which was heavenly with the short, clumpy rice.
We graduated from school and went on to study at different colleges in Delhi. I missed their tiffins. And I needed to do something about it desperately. The curd rice I managed to recreate, since it is such a simple dish.
Then my mother became very good friends with her school principal and his family, the Bhujangaraos, from Andhra! Mrs Rao’s upma was diffferent, her mango pickle with garlic was to die for. Many times, she would invite us over. There were many others from the South – a neighbour in the house oppposite ours, with the drumstick tree…I hesitatingly walked into her house one day and asked for a recipe for sambar!
CY Gopinath wrote a few articles in TOI during that time which were a blast to read and gave me further insights into Tamil (I think he is Tamil) food.
And so began an endless journey to find the recipes behind the tastes and smells of the food of my classmates’ tiffins. My fellow bloggers, a majority of whom seem to have roots in this region, have made it a lot easier. I was searching for a recipe for the dal they serve at Andhra Bhawan when I discovered Mahanandi. It was like standing at Alladin’s cave, and no password required!!
So, when we crave South Indian food, we do not head to Sagar Ratna, though there is one at walking distance. We cook our own or we head to Andhra Bhawan near Hyderabad House. The food used to be better but it is still good. I wish they would charge more (the all-you-can-eat thali is a mere Rs 50!) and bring back some of the earlier curries. The menu is: a dry subzi, a wet curry (this used to be coconut -milk based, but no more), the dal (toor dal with gangura or spinach), a chutney (there is an amzing variety here, just checkout the South Indian blogs. This Monday they served a peanut chutney similar to this one at Indira’s), dahi, a sweet, sambar, rasam, and papad, all served with roti and rice. On Saturdays they serve pooris instead of roti. On every table are small containers with two types of pickles (gongura, lemon, tomato, or mango-garlic); a spiced powder of roasted dals, similar to the Maharashtrian metkoot, to be mixed with the rice and some ghee – yum; and a small katori of ghee. The sweets can be a not-very-good tapioca or vermicelli or rice payasam, or boondi, the moderately good ‘kesari’ halwa (without the kesar, of course), or my favourite of the lot, the shahi tukda.
You can additionally order the non-vegetarian dishes: fish-fry or fish curry, chicken fry or chicken curry, and mutton curry, all for a very affordable Rs
50 70 each! Alas, the chicken curry has fallen from grace since they started cooking it without the coconut-milk! So, everytime we want to have ‘slow’ food without having to cook it, the entire family gets into the car for the drive to Andhra Bhawan. My son is possibly the biggest patron of their dal (and I still don’t have the recipe). He eats only the dal with his roti. Everytime. We have had aloo (potatoes) there just twice in the last 15 years since I have been a regular there!
Sorry, no pics. Did not remember bloggers’ Golden Rule – ‘never leave house without camera’ – in time. Next time.
Cutting a long story short, what I am trying to arrive at is that despite feeling intimidated by the blogs with authentic regional cuisine of the South, it will not be long before you see it featured here. Not a warning, just a promise. Remember that I have a claim from reasons of previous birth. The rice is soaking. Watch this space…