The Fifth Estate- Comfort Food

We know that India has four estates- the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the media. Without these, any country would not be complete. So in a way, we can say that an ‘estate’ here means something essential. I call dibs on calling ‘comfort food’ as the fifth estate because it provides comfort to people. Who does not want to live in comfort? There are many moments that we face, when we yearn for something that makes us feel better. What better way to deal with all the negativities than a bowl of say our favorite food?

So the discussion about food and writing about food came up in class, thanks to Nilanjana Roy. She, in this post talks extensively about food, packing it with interesting tidbits. How else would I have bothered to check out what Nimat-nama was? So that led us to discussing about our votes (context- read that post) for a national dish. No, I refuse to be a part of the Dosa bandwagon, because my dosa is mine. I would not fancy the liberal butchering of the soulful item with schezuan flavours. I would rather go and vote for Poori and Aloo masala. I mean, come on! They are Pan-Indian. Each state has its own version of this Sunday staple in most families. They don’t seem to hurt the wheat sympathisers from the north of the Vindhyas, it’s perfect!

So while we were discussing about our own choice of a comfort food, my thoughts never went past the first option- Paruppu Saadham and Potato Fry. To say the name in the language of High-end top notch-ish snootiness,

Steamed rice from the plains of Tanjore mixed in a generous serving of golden, cooked lentils with copious amounts of clarified butter, accompanied by a rich and sinful serving of potatoes, roast-fried to the optimum with a dash of exotic Indian spices. 

The blatant truth that the term ‘exotic Indian spices’ was nothing but our own mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilli and turmeric powders, will only be known to us, the insiders. Moving on.

So that being said and my mind being the irritating monkey it is, reminisced about each time I had the heavenly meal. This meal means a lot to me, on a personal level. It actually represents something more than food to me. It reminds me of the days when my mom used to feed me with this. I was a child who did not like anything to do with curd or buttermilk. I abhorred the spicy rasam too, since I was apprehensive about the surprise it might give me down my throat. So this was the only other child-friendly alternative my parents had, to get me to eat.

So this combination resembles a warm hug in a bowl to me. Whenever I am sad, happy, ecstatic, angry, disappointed or 12345876235 other feelings, I would love to comfort myself with this. Although, these days, the list of accompaniments has become longer. For instance, there was this one time, recently, when I also added a cup of mango puree (made in Jugaad style) along with my staple supply and it was heavenly. The feel of warm rice and dal, with the essence of ghee in it well complemented by the spicy and crunchy potato fry is not something to be missed or to be taken lightly. If only all meals are like that! Sigh!

That brings me back to the point where I was pondering about the contenders for the honour of national food. I think our own Parotta (or Paratha, whatever!) is also equally, if not more, qualified to be chosen. Parotta has its own variety in every state. It can metamorphosise from the humble Kerala Parotta to Enna Brotta (Vanakkam Tamizhagam) to Aloo paratha and a bunch of other parathas with creative stuffings. 

Coming to think of it, Parotta offends the wheat and the rice sympathisers equally since it neglects both and is made of refined flour. It can be paired with vegetarian, non-vegetarian and anti-national gravies with ease and can be equally tasty and fulfilling. The biryanis can be damned and the dosas dare not be touched.

 

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On A Fan-tea-stic Trail

Some call this their Elixir of Life. For some, this is their Holy Grail. A Chinese stamp that is loved by the entire world. 

Recently, I got a chance to visit the new outlet of Tea Trails, opened in Anna Nagar, Chennai. This was a place that I longed to go and when I got an opportunity to be their guest, my joy knew no bounds. After what seemed an eternity of searching and cursing the Google Maps, I located the place and walked in, to be welcomed by the Manager of the store.

He started off by explaining that Chai and Tea were two different things. While I have been a fan of the classic cardamom and ginger tea for a long time now, I hadn’t really thought about the difference between the two terms. Apparently, Tea is the version without milk and sugar, while Chai is the more Indianised version that we consume with milk and sugar.

Tea Pairings are more like Wine pairings. Not every food-tea combo is good. Some teas complement a particular kind of food, while some just doesn’t go well together!

I had the fortune to try out a fair share of the menu, along with its respective pairs. Silver Needle- Bun Maska, Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad, Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich, Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras, Red Zen, a few other coolers and food, finally a dessert.

Silver Needle- Bun Maska 

Silver Needle is a variety of white tea. It had a very mild taste and was very light when consumed. It is paired with the classic Bun Maska, which is sugar filled mild bun topped with a dollop of butter. The combination was elegant and light even when had together.

 

Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad

Next up was a brew of Green Tea, called as Kashmiri Kahwa. This one is had with almonds, saffron and other Indian Spices that gives it the distinct aroma of Indian Biryani. Pairing this up with a Salad is because of the low-calorie value of both the items, giving the health conscious people the full benefit of the tea. I loved the salad for it was crunchy at places owing to the occasional roasted Split Bengal Gram in it. Surprisingly, the salad also had infused green tea leaves that blended well with the brew I had with me.

 

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The Kashmiri Kahwa in the black cup and a plate of the Burmese Tea Salad, infused with Green Tea leaves

 

Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich

This is a Chinese Smoked variety of Black tea, which takes a little over 3 minutes to brew. The tea has its smoky aroma and aftertaste which is paired with a paneer sandwich. This variety of tea is a tad heavy and is aptly paired with a heavy food item. Well that being said, smoky dishes are not for everyone, so use your discretion while ordering this. I personally loved my smoky black tea.

 

Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras

Now we enter the Indian Chai domain. The Hyderabadi Special Irani chai was up for tasting and it was sweeeeeet (Yeah! That sweet). Being over-sweet is its trademark. Take sips of hot chai with bits of piping hot Onion Pakoras, that should be ideal for a rainy day.

Did you know?! Irani Chai is made with Condensed milk which is the reason for its extra-sweet taste

Red-Zen

This was another brew of hot tea that blew me away. This is technically not a variety of tea, but a tisane. Tisane is herbal extracts that do not form part of the tea family. Red Zen is one such extract of herbs, fruits, and flowers. It has a springy aroma which might remind you of some distant memory of Pot Pourri and may seem feminine for some of you. The taste was brilliant and refreshing, true to its name.

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Coolers

What about people who are not into hot teas but need something to cool their spirits? Fret not, for I also happened to try out some of their varieties of cool beverages.

Lychee Bubble Tea

The Classic tea, strongly flavoured of Litchies, with flavour-filled bubbles popping in my mouth. I would actually prefer to have the chewy variety of bubbles than the poppy ones (You can inform them of your choice when you place the order, actually). Nothing out of the ordinary, I found this too strong to my liking.

Matcha Shake

This Japanese Green tea is blended with cold milk and some butterscotch essence to present a rather heavy drink to the customer. The taste was good, with very slight trace of green tea. A healthy option when compared to the traditional milk shakes.

Better Wife

A rather controversial name, this drink is a mix of herbs, mint, and green tea. It reminded me of the mint lime coolers available in the market and was refreshing. A definite choice to beat the heat.

Veg Ham Bruschetta

I love bruschettas. The ones that were available here was well made with chunks of mushroom and basil leaves on the warm cheese. It was yummy and the taste lingers for quite a while.

Paneer Pizza

Again a heavy choice, which would go well with glasses of coolers, the pizza was generous in its toppings. So much so that I felt the thin crust was not able to handle the weight of all the cheese, sauces and the paneer chunks on its head. Extremely tasty, could have been cooked a little more, since the crust was still white and kinda raw.

 

Alfredo Penne Pasta

One just can’t have enough pasta. Let’s agree on that for peace to prevail. Well-cooked, amply loaded with black olives, capsicum, zucchini and chunks of tomatoes, the pasta had a distinct taste other than that of cheese. I think it extracted more of the zucchini pieces than what was necessary. The texture and the consistency were good though.

 

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The Alfredo Penne garnished with the usual suspects- The Oregano and Chilli Flakes

 

Schezwan Vada Pav

A Chinese twist to the desi vada pav, this was more like a potato pattice pav. Very yummy and piping hot, with all the right flavours, I enjoyed this one.

 

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Schezwan Vada Pav

 

Dessert- Chocolate Waffle with sauce and nuts

Freshly made choco waffles generously topped with Hershey’s chocolate sauce and nuts are enough to make a girl go weak in the knees. I would have still preferred those brownies to waffles.

 

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Choco Waffles with Chocolate sauces and nut toppings

 

All teas are freshly brewed and can be refilled twice each time you order, making it value for money

Each order of tea comes in a tray of steeping pot, a cup and a saucer with a timer. The card in the tray indicates how much time the brew must be steeped for and lets you handle it from there. If you need a stronger brew, feel free to dabble with the timing accordingly.

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The food is on the higher side of pricing. It sure is tasty and is suitable for those once-in-a-while cravings or splurging. Who doesn’t like that occasional pampering right?

The ambiance is great and so is the decor, which makes the outing picture-worthy. The people in there are cordial and warm, serving us with a smile.

 

The parking space is sufficient for two-wheelers and cars can be parked on the side of the road since this store is located at the fag end of an underused road.

My Picks- Kashmiri Kahwa with the Burmese Tea Salad, and a serving of the Red Zen

I had a great time and would recommend you to take yourself on a date to Tea Trails and experience it yourself.

 

*This is a sponsored post, although the feedback is honest*

Idli

Ready for a gastronomic delight?? 

This is about the staple tamil breakfast named ‘idli’. Made of wet batter of rice and lentils and left to ferment overnight, this food item is among the most nutritious of the lot.  

I love idli.  Mainly because of the metamorphosis it is capable of.  You can have it plain, with chutneys made of coconut or tomato or pudina  (mint leaves)  or coriander leaves (cilantro) or with a powder made of ground dal and chillies. You can also soak it in sambar or powder and eat.  Bothered that there are some idli leftovers?? No worries, you can always dice it up and make upma.  

Idlis are the comfort food for a lot of people down south.  It is available everywhere and there are places where Idlis are available fresh and piping hot round the clock.  

This is a bowl of mini Idlis,popularly known as 14 Idlis.  It is named so because, usually, one lot has 14 idlis. 

This is a must have item when you are visiting tamil nadu and I bet you won’t be disappointed.  

This post is a part of the A to Z challenge 

Biryani 

Now, before I start, let me apologise to all puritans who say vegetable biryani isn’t biryani at all.  It certainly is,  for pulao has totally different ingredients and method of cooking.  So deal with this, fellas.  

Biryani is a dish, created and patented in the Heaven, where Gods supervised each and every particle of air around the pot in which biryani was made for the first time.   The mere mention of biryani warrants a plethora of emotions and also a word against biryani will guarantee the sound of the death knell for the person who says that.  Such is the power of this dish.  

Having its roots from the kitchens of Muslims, we have truly embraced it as one of our own.  In fact, during Eid and Ramzan, we wish our friends with the sole purpose of getting a share in the biryani made at their houses.  

Biryani, the name as such stems from the word ‘birinj’, which means ‘rice’ in Persian.  Although in Chennai birinj is more like a vegetarian cousin of the tempting and royale biryani. 

Biryani is known for its strong spices and flavours and also for being cooked in layers, which is not the case for pulao. 

Chicken, mutton, prawn etc can be used as one of the main ingredients to prepare biryani.  

Also apart from the ingredients, biryani also has distinct flavors based on the place where it hails from.  Thalassery, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Dindigul biryanis have their own identity and are not inferior to each other.  

Also, while visiting Bangalore, I had the fortune to taste something called Bamboo biryani which was good.  I would suggest you guys to try that out too. 

Bamboo biryani in Bangalore

Do you have any story to share with me that involves biryani?? Please do so in the comments.  

This post is a part of the A to Z challenge 2017

Let’s Go Frsh!

How difficult is it to get quality, fresh and piping hot food and affordable prices while on the move? Tough to imagine isn’t it? No worries. We have Frshly to make things possible for us.

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Nested away beyond the city limits of Chennai, Frshly is a venture which is known for its unique concept of Food Vending Kiosks. Providing quality, fresh, hygienic and hot food to its customers has been its USP since inception.

Well known in the railway circuit, this company has been working towards making good food accessible to the working class and for those on the move. It is evident from their presence in the railway stations, airports and IT parks across the city.

For people who have no idea of what I am talking about, here is the deal.

  • Go to a Frshly Food vending machine installed nearby.
  • Choose your option from their generous spread from renowned eateries.
  • input your order and choose your preferred method to pay, from their touchscreen installed at the kiosk.
  • Make the payment.
  • Prepare to enjoy hot and fresh food within 90 seconds from punching the order.

“It all began in 2013. The problem that I wanted to solve was the lack of accessibility to quality food for the people in transit” , says the CEO Mr. Satish ChamiVelumani.

He also adds that Frshly helps the organisations avoid the heavy initial capital outlay in the form of buildings, furniture, interiors and staffing. All the space that the kiosk requires is about the size of a small booth.

I happened to get a chance to visit their office and check out the real deal all by myself and I was impressed. The office was cozy and gave a warm feeling.

The kiosk that I had a chance to see was the one at SP Infocity, MGR Salai, kandanchavadi, Chennai. It was a fully automated process from placing the order to taking the food out to eat. No touching squishy squashy business out there! It was slick!!

They also have an app which can be used to reserve your food from your work-desk and then picking it up when you finally reach the food court. It is fully at your convenience. No strings attached.

The food is packed extremely well and the particulars, including the time of packing and the centre for which it is packed is mentioned in the packet, easy for the consumer to identify and be aware of.

“Any food packet that is loaded is not older than six hours from the time of packing. A minute beyond the designated six hours, the food will be trashed and not sold” says the Head of Marketing and Brand Management Ms.Dhivya. 

So essentially it is just like our good old Dabba food that we pack from home.

The machine, that does all the work- from identifying the order, to microwaving the food and finally delivering it at the counter, is fully automated and is the brainchild of the CEO.

Behind the success of the venture is a young and upbeat team that is working tirelessly. The team ensures that the technology behind this idea is up-to-date and the quality of the food served is world class.

“We are in the process of tying up with more restaurants and kitchens for food and we have also had many prominent ones approaching us for tie-ups. We, at present have outlets like Anjappar, Madrasi Biryani, Delhi Highway etc collaborating with us in providing quality food”

Frshly has been on a major growth mode and has also presented the concept during the Rail Vikas Shivir, organised by the Union Government , in the presence of our Prime Minister. They are also in talks with IRCTC to secure licenses to operate the kiosks in the Railway stations across the country.

Frshly is now on a scale of expansion and is hoping to begin its Singapore operations in March 2017, with the help of the Government of Singapore.

This could be a revolutionary idea in the area of food technology and who knows, this could even solve some of the major problems that the industry is facing these days!

Omnomnom in the neighbourhood

The OMR is one of the “happening” places in Chennai. Apart from being hustley and bustley during the weekdays, courtesy, the numerous organisations that have set their centres here, in those giant glass buildings, this place is equally vibrant even in the weekends.

I must confess that I haven’t really been out in this area during the weekends before. I made an exception to that trend and shunned my famed laziness to get to what is called the OMR Food Street.

Located at a prime place, opposite to the CEEBROS Boulevard (people who have had some experience of searching for accomodation in the OMR would definitely know this place 😛 ), this is literally a small “sandhu”.  It is lined with small shops that sell food ranging from coffee and soda to Mexican and Burmese.

I stepped in, donning that not-so-famous foodie hat and took a quick look around to see what can be made of the evening.

My first stop was “TASTE”.

This place is located right next to the Wraps shop and the menu board is lined up with varieties of Paniyarams. Carrot, cheese, Egg, paneer, mushroom etc are the variants with which the Paniyarams are served. I ordered a Cheese paniyaram, all excited about what I would be getting in a plate. Equipped with quite vivid imagination, I went to heaven and back, thinking of the cheesy paniyarams when I was served with what looked like normal paniyarams sprinkled with a miserly quantity of grated cheese. That is innovation, right? The paniyarams tasted fine and so were the chutneys.

Strutting like Dora in Exploration mode, I set my eyes onto the next stop, Bits & Bytes. I scan the menu and settle for a veg roll, which was sizzling hot and served with Ketchup. The best thing about the veg roll was that it was moderately spicy and very,ummm, well cooked. Among a couple of places I have tasted veg roll, this place would be the best. I enjoyed as my taste buds thanked me for not harassing it with the usual masala overdose.

I climbed up the stairs to taste the Organic Sirudhaaniyam Village food and ended up in 200BC!

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That is the name of the outlet and they specialise in using Sirudhaaniyams like millet, raagi, red rice etc in making conventional food items like pesarattu, dosas, sweet pongal etc. After bites of Thinai Sweet pongal ordered by Sindhu and Thinai Adai and aviyal from Goku , we gorged on the Ragi onion dosa from my plate. All of these were excellent and light on the tummy.

It was by then that Katie Ma’am brought some Sarbat from Zuki & Co. Yummy and pleasant, I rushed to get some for myself and quench my thirst.

My last stop was the Oasis, which turned out to be my Discovery of the Day!

Cute lil shop near the MilkyWay outlet, it was colorful and even yummy to look at. We ordered a Fruit salad with Ice cream, a jeera lime and a sweet lassi.

If you are the type who would love something to read while gorging on desserts, then this is the place. They have good stuff on their menu card that gives nice history of Chennai’s landmarks. The place is pocket friendly and is quite spacious too.

In a nutshell, OMR Food street is heaven for people who wish to have variety at a single place. You are spoilt for choices and are saved from shelling out a bomb on weekend food.

Do check their website out and also make time to visit in person, I am sure it will turn out to be a memorable foodie evening.

 

 

A quaint lil eatery in Namma Mylapore…..

Mylapore is probably the best place next to Mint street in Chennai to experiment in food and eateries. From high end Eeanglis-ispeakin peter places to the absolute yummy street food kinda places ,one can find all and more in and around Mylapore. One such kutti food point is FOOD POINT.

Located on the VM street near Yellow Pages bus stop and Sanskrit college/ Valluvar silai bus stop , this little place is THE go to place to grab a quick bite.

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Hidden behind the wall and baskets of fruits and bread, this shop is quite famous for its fast food. though it is not a typical hotel type outlet, they do have a few chairs under a few big umbrellas to sit and enjoy the fare.

Pocket friendly and tasty, the items here range from Rs.20 to Rs.70. Sandwiches, Toasts and its many many variants, Frankie, Juices, milkshakes, burgers, chaats etc are found in the menu. The Food point special items ( categorised so in their Menu itself) and the Bread Omelets are to die for (Personal choice)!!

This place has had the reputation of being the lifeline of the inmates of the 358796 hostels found nearby and is always crowded.

https://www.zomato.com/chennai/food-point-mylapore

I would vouch for this place in my sleep and would suggest it over any other similar place.. 🙂