Alu wadi or alwachi wadi is a Marathi snack made from Colocasia leaves. The leaves are layered with a thick paste made of besan (gram flour), jaggery, tamarind pulp and spices. After layering, the leaves are rolled up and steamed. After steaming, they are cut into round discs and either eaten straight away with a mustard seed tempering or better still, fried under crisp. A very unusual and delightful snack, thanks to the combination of the slightly bitter leaves and the spicy & tangy mixture that is used as a filling between each layer.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find these leaves in Singapore, so alu wadi for me can only be enjoyed on trips back home 😦
The first time I tried Panki was at Swati Snacks in Mumbai and I remember I was blown away by the dish. Panki, a Gujarati dish, is a steamed pancake made from a simple batter of rice flour and yoghurt which is allowed to sit and ferment slightly for 3-4 hours. This is then flavoured with cumin, ginger-garlic-green chilli paste, turmeric, curry leaves and salt. You apply a thin layer of this batter on a banana leaf, cover it with another banana leaf and cook it for a couple of minutes. The batter sets and coats the banana leaf forming a tangy and spicy, thin, steamed pancake.
At Swati snacks this used to be served with a fresh green chutney and would disappear down my throat in a matter of seconds. Yum! Yum! Yum!
Craving for panki, I decided to give it go the other day and must say I was extremely pleased with the result. A little less batter per banana leaf and I would be able to get a panki that was almost as good as the one from Swati snacks!
Keen to try other ways to cook the Tambda Rassa, I decided to try cooking lamp chops with a simple spice rub that included the Kolhapuri masala, ginger, garlic and salt. Since I had to cook these for dinner, I could marinate them only for 10 minutes. I decided to cook them in a pressure cook, in order to ensure the meat would be tender and cook fast. So after searing them on both sides to get a nice brown colour, I made a simple gravy of onions, tomatoes, a little extra ginger-garlic paste and a little more Kohlapuri masala. Then added some stock, returned the mutton chops to the cooker and cooked them on low heat for 30 mins.
Ta-da! Perfectly cooked and seasoned mutton chops!
When a kebab’s name literally translates as ‘melting’, the expectations are set pretty high. Add to it the fact that this particular kebab is among the top stars of an already star-studded Lucknow culinary tradition, and those expectations get multiplied manifold. So I have always attempted the Galouti kebab with the respect and nervousness it deserves. And while it isn’t even within waving distance of anything you’d taste from a half-decent cook in India, I quite like what I manage to whip up. It is made with spiced mutton mince with the protein broken down to the point that it should almost melt in your mouth. I have had some back home that I think I could have sucked down with a straw!
I chop the mince again to make it even finer and tenderise the meat with a bit of raw papaya (only a little, so it doesn’t taste of papaya), add fat to the mince with the spices, and finally infuse some smoke in it by letting the mince sit in a sealed bowl with a piece of smouldering charcoal. And then you’re ready to pan fry the soft, smoky, spicy kebabs.
This time, I attempted a Sheermal to go with the kebabs, a flat bread prepared with milk and saffron, that is soft, a little sweet and complements the spices of the kebabs very well. A dollop of sour cream and coriander on top rounded off the dish nicely. ‘Indian burritos!’ as one of our friends, called it, as she tucked into it with a fair bit of enthusiasm. A rose by another name, and all that…doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you like it.
For a recent get together with friends I made my version of the kathi rolls from Kolkata. I have spoken earlier about Kolkata kathi rolls vs. the Mumbai frankie and still maintain that both are quite different and tasty in their own right.
The filling in my rolls is made of chicken, methi (fenugreek leaves) and spinach and spiced with kashmiri chillies, the 3C’s – clove, cardamom and cinnamon, and coriander seeds. For the wrap, I made it using a combination of plain flour, whole wheat flour and an egg. And while cooking, I smeared beaten egg on the roll on one side and then flipped it over and cooked it, giving softness and added flavour to the rolls. Finally, the beautiful looking rolls were done by Aniruddha!
My best memory of kathi rolls in Kolkata is at a shop that Ani’s friend Indro had taken us to in Gariahat and what I remember most of those rolls is the heat from the filling inside – mouth-wateringly good! I kept mine more mild given the audience but my original recipe has at least 3 more chillies than I had used. Yowzer!
I joke that Marathi cuisine could give the old Atkins diet a run for it’s money, given the importance of pulses in our cuisine. Matki (moth beans), Moong/mung (green gram), chawli (black eyed peas), vaal/dalimbi (bitter field beans) and double bean are commonly used in many preparations at home. Both my grandmother and mother would make this often and it’s really quite simple to cook.
In most wet markets in Mumbai you will always find one vendor selling sprouted pulses. Or you can simply sprout them at home. I typically soak the pulses overnight, then drain the water the next morning and keep the pulses wrapped in a tea towel to allow them to sprout – typically 1-2 days. Once they’re sprouted, you can cook them to make them soft and add a simple tempering of cumin/mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, salt and jaggery and add onions and/or tomatoes.
A very classic dish made with pulses is of course Misal, found in many restaurants in Mumbai. The picture below is a spicy version at Tambe Arogya Bhavan in Dadar. You have a version of this with yoghurt which is quite nice, or simply eat it with pav (soft bread). At home I like to add a lot of stuff into my misal – fried garlic, sev (fried gram flour), coriander and yoghurt chutney and peanuts, topped with fresh coriander and coconut and a generous squeeze of lime juice. It tastes delicious and best of all it’s very nutritious.
Although it’s a bit of hike, tucked away in a corner of South Mumbai, the food is more than ample reward at Cafe Britannia which serves Parsi and Irani cuisine. Our favourites include Salli boti (mutton cooked with apricots and topped with potato shoe strings), Berry pulao (rice dish with bilberries from Iran), mutton cutlets and fresh chapatis. Of course no Parsi or Irani meal is complete unless it is accompanied by Raspberry soda and finished off with caramel custard!