From intoxicating curries, rich textures, complex yet endearing flavours to bringing back memories of home — Indian cuisine is more than just taste; for it is basted with care, emotions and lots of love. As India celebrates 70 years of Independence today, we at FreshMenu are celebrating our sacred love affair with food from our country. Six of our FreshMenu foodies get candid about which dish gets them proudly salivating and how.
Nithish Prajwal, Bangalore
I am not that DUM!
It was a classic case of “love at first taste”. And since then, there has been no looking back. I’ve always kept going for more. A love story that first began at home (almost 2 decades back) when my mom prepared chicken biryani at home, has only grown and matured over the years.
Hailing from a typical “Kannadiga” family, as early as my memory can recollect, having a “non-veg” meal had become a weekly affair. On a Sunday, when the entire family is taking a break from their busy schedules, my mother would be on her toes, trying to make the best meal for her family to enjoy.
If you ever had visited a meat eating Kannadiga family, their non-veg menu would generally consist of, Muddhe (Ragi Balls), Koli Saaru (Chicken curry), Chaaps (Mutton chops, don’t ask me why they called chops, chaaps) and my favorite, Biryani.
For a typical meat eater, the smell of chaaps, Muddhe and Koli Saaru would be enough to lift them up to cloud nine. But, here I was, a pseudo meat lover, who enjoyed his Biryani more than anything else. As a kid, I was a machine, built to eat. On a Sunday, I’d have lunch 3 times and dinner twice. No jokes! I’d space out my lunches and enjoy the biryani as much as I could. And no mother will ever deny her kid food. She was more than happy to see me eat her creation.
The marriage between the rich flavours of the rice, cooked in different spices and well cooked meat was a treat to my tastebuds. Every now and then, my dad would take me out to Nagarjuna to enjoy the best Andhra style biryani and chicken roast (in my opinion). I was exposed to a variety of biryanis and my poor soul was torn between the humbleness of the home cooked biryani and the sinfully tasty biryanis from the restaurants outside.
As I grew older, I had the liberty of going out for lunches with my friends and I would cunningly manipulate them to try out a new Indian joint, just so I could try out the biryanis in their restaurant. I’ve ridden across the city, far and wide and gone to every nook and corner of Bangalore in search of some of the most famous Biryani joints. If you must know, I’d go out on a limb to taste biryani and I have enjoyed every last morsel of rice in the serving. My love for biryani has been built on a very strong foundation and I doubt anyone can ever separate us. Many have tried and failed. No pizzas, burgers or pastas can ever come in the way of me and my biryani. Their tricks won’t work with me, after all, I am not that DUM.
Janusha Krishnan, Kerala
When it comes to Breakfast, we Keralites are blessed with a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. On any given day, a Keralite would vouch for the perfect combination of appam and chicken stew. Kerala chicken stew is a regional adaptation of the English stew, mildly spiced and prepared in coconut milk which goes well as a Breakfast side dish with the Kerala appam.
For one of our usual Sunday Breakfasts, when my mom, who I think is the MasterChef of the world, :), was all game to prepare my favourite appam and chicken stew, I heard a voice saying, “Stop! Why not try something new??”. I looked around to see no one and then realized that it was the food explorer in me who was talking. I decided to break the monopoly of appam and chicken stew combo and try something new with chicken stew. That’s how my favourite breakfast was renewed to ‘Puttu’ with chicken stew, a not-so-common combo, which, according to me is a heavenly combination. Puttu is a traditional Kerala breakfast dish. It is a steamed cake made out of rice flour topped and bottomed with grated coconut. Puttu is generally cooked in a metal Puttu Kutti, a vessel with two sections. The lower section holds water and the upper section holds the Puttu — where the rice mixture is inserted with layers of grated coconut. Perforated lids separate the sections to allow the steam to pass through the upper section, cooking the Puttu.
Some alternative cooking vessels are used for the preparation of Puttu, such as traditional vessels where a perforated coconut shell is attached to a section of bamboo, or a Chiratta or coconut shell or of metal shaped similarly to a coconut shell in which you can prepare Chiratta Puttu. Today, I have been fortunate to have the same favorite breakfast of mine along with a cup of hot tea prepared by my MasterChef at my home in Kannur and I would suggest each one of you to try this food combo once and I’m sure you would love it!
Suruchi Kashyap, Gujarat
I have lived in Gujarat for as long as I can remember. I have had a love affair with the land, the food & the people for well over two decades. Maybe that is why, much to the chagrin of my very “North Indian” parents, I identify myself as a “Gujju” than a North Indian. One of the most quintessential Gujarati dishes that comes to my mind is “Dal-Dhokli” which is basically a one-pot meal. It is a staple in most Gujarati households for a Sunday meal. Thin Masala chapatis cut into diamond shaped pieces are simmered in a thin dal with spices & condiments till it becomes thick and cooked. Then it is served hot, garnished with fresh coriander & ghee and doesn’t need any accompaniments to go with. The reason why this fairly simple & unassuming dish is my favorite, is because it transports me to a simpler time, of a beautiful Sunday morning when we used to eat it, along with other kids of the neighborhood. It reminds me of the laughter, the bonding with “society friends” and the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal. It is my favorite comfort food, wholesome, fulfilling & uncomplicated. Even now, whenever we are home on weekend mornings (and not out for brunch ☺), I prefer cooking it for my South Indian husband, who BTW also has become a fan of it. I guess, Dal Dhokli has become kind of a first tradition in our new family of two.
Arun Chandran, Kerala
(punches by Aatish Molasi)
Let me Arun Chandran, also known as Man manly (not really, but feel free to call me that (I like brackets)) tell you a story, the story of Mr. Kappa, or as as he’s known in some parts of the world — Mr Tapioca. Mr. Kappa was popular with farmers and the lower to middle class sector of our economy (some could call him a communist but let’s not get into politics). Mr Kappa comes from a land far far away, a land most commonly known as Portugal. Mr. Kappa made his way to gods own country (aka Kerala, not to be confused with the vegetable Karela) where the people found a way to imbibe him into their/our culture. Mr. Kappa seems to share a romantic connection with Mrs Meen Mulakittathu (Red spicy fish curry). She’s red, she’s hot and she’s everything a man wants (not to mention fish is good for your brain).
Mr. Kappa and me go way back (before the backstreet boys or the terminator) and have shared many experiences together, some that you may even call adventures. This particular adventure takes place in a farm. The farm was run by this mean older man whom I refer to as dad (sorry dad). Mr. Kappa was a lazy man who would chill at this farm, but he had a problem, a problem he could not bear (or should I say…boar). Incase you have not guessed already it’s the boar. A Farrow of boars to be precise. They would attack Mr. Kappa equipped with Armor and Ak-47s (just kidding, they were pretty naked).
Mr. dad decided to solve this problem by building barracks on trees (aka tree houses). He and his soldiers would bombard the ferocious ferrows (haha, ferocious ferrows) of boars and drive them back. Me being a young soldier who had not yet been to war or across the street wanted to join this battle. Mr. dad did not allow me to join him as he believed I was too inexperienced, but I used good reason to convince him otherwise (I cried a lot).
On that fateful night, the moon was full and the stars were shining, I was filled with fear and Kerala porotta. We stayed the night, we bombarded some boars and we had a really good time and I realized Mr. dad was not so bad after all.
Kappa takes me back to all the experiences that I had with some of the dear people in my life and this is why I hold it really close to me, Meen Mulakittathu is one such dish that has a rather nostalgic flavor to it and sits very well with Kappa. I personally like to revel in these flavors accompanied by black tea saturated with generous amounts of sugar giving the whole experience a not only tasty but rather nostalgic flavour.
Manvee Sharma, Uttarakhand
What I love and miss most about my home-town is the traditional Garhwali Thali. It has Kode ki Roti which is basically Ragi flour roti, very nutritious, high in protein and minerals and provides strength and energy. Of course, it is dabbed with desi ghee.
It also contains lasun and hari mirch chutney — a plain mix of garlic and green chilli paste with salt, Thichwani — beaten raddish and potatoes (never cut, only crushed) cooked in a spicy curry, perfect during winters, Kafuli — thick gravy made of spinach, fenugreek and spices, it is rich in vitamins and minerals, Bhaat — steamed rice (a must in all garhwali meals), raw onions as side bites and Raita.
Ben George, Kerala
Malayalis are known for their Appam and stew. So much so that when extended families get together, it becomes a matter of pride — ‘may the best stew win’.
What seems simple and pancake-like, a rice batter mixed in coconut water becomes a legendary combination when paired with a heavenly chicken stew made with a thick coconut milk, diced onions and a whole bunch of spices.
Chicken stews and Easter Sundays go hand-in-hand in my family. I’m not religious or a regular churchgoer for that matter. But for my mum’s Easter Breakfast, I’d go to church twice! I remember waking up early and going to church with my family on Easter Sunday. After church, we come back home along with my uncle and aunt and their two kids. My cousins, brother and I go play upstairs, being loud and making a nuisance of ourselves as usual. The shenanigans continue until the smell of appam and stew wafted upstairs. The four of us drop what we’re doing and run downstairs hoping to be the first at the dining table. Typically the first two get the two sought after chicken legs. We learnt valuable lessons of quick reflexes and swatting thieving hands away at the dining table. Remember the saying, ”save the best for last,” right? Wrong! Apparently that saying never made it’s way into my family. My dad being the oldest and craftiest kid of them all.
Every time I smell a good chicken stew, my mind wanders off thinking of those warm, Summer mornings, spent bonding with the family and exercising reflexes.
We hope you enjoyed our foodie chronicles. FreshMenu wishes you a very happy Independence Day. We wish that may there be humanity in hearts, and good food in your plate, always!