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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

B612_20170729_201444

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.

B612_20170729_221555

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.

 

B612_20170729_213104

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.

 

B612_20170729_223725

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.

 

B612_20170729_221900

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.

B612_20170729_195755

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