Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai| Spiced Broken Corn Dumplings

A traditional steamed snack from Tamilnadu and a popular offering to Lord Ganesha on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, pidi kozhukattai is typically made using broken rice and toor daal. That is how it was always done in our family as well. However, in recent years, I began substituting the rice for different things like broken wheat, corn dalia, millets and so on, and have been really happy with the results.

Pidi kozhukattai by themselves are quite a healthy snack. There’s minimal oil used, as these dumplings are steam-cooked. They do not require soaking or any kind of pre-preparation, and can be put together easily. They are extremely filling, making them great for weekday breakfast or dinner and lovely options for school and office lunchboxes. The substitution of rice with millets or dalia makes the pidi kozhukattai all the more healthier, and enables me to create a different-tasting dumplings each time I make these. This Ganesh Chaturthi, I tried my hands at Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai, and all of us at home utterly loved them!

Corn dalia aka broken corn or corn rava is easily available in several departmental stores and health shops. It adds a nice, different-from-the-usual taste to the pidi kozhukattai, and offers them a lovely texture as well. I made these slightly differently from the way I usually make pidi kozhukattai, also adding in some veggies that were languishing in my refrigerator. I must say these changes took the taste to a whole new level.

Here is how I made the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.

Ingredients (makes 25-30 pieces):

  1. 2 cups corn dalia
  2. 4 tablespoons chana daal
  3. 6-7 dry red chillies
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. 1 medium-sized carrot
  6. A small piece of cabbage
  7. 6-7 beans
  8. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  9. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  10. 1 tablespoon oil + a little more for greasing the steaming colander
  11. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  12. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)

Method:

1. Grind the chana daal and dry red chillies to a coarse powder, using a small mixer jar. Keep aside.

2. Peel the carrot and grate medium-fine. Chop the cabbage finely. Remove strings from the beans and chop finely. Keep aside.

3. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.

4. Add the grated carrot and chopped beans and cabbage to the pan. Saute on high flame till the vegetables are half cooked.

5. Add 4 cups of water to the pan, along with salt to taste. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them to the pan too. Keep on high flame till the water begins to come to a boil.

6. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Stirring constantly, add the corn dalia, fresh grated coconut, and the chana daal-dry red chillies powder to the water. Ensure that no lumps are formed.

7. Keep cooking on medium flame, stirring constantly, till all the water is absorbed and the corn dalia mixture becomes a bit dry, resembling upma. Use your ladle to break any lumps that might have formed. Remember not to overcook the mixture – it should be cooked just to the point where it gets dry, but not overly so. Switch off the gas and allow the mixture to cool down.

8. When the corn dalia mixture has cooled down enough to handle, make medium-sized dumplings from it. Keep covered.

9. Grease a colander with a little oil. Place 8-10 of the prepared dumplings in the colander, or as many as you can fit in without overcrowding. Keep ready.

10. Take about 1-1/2 cup of water in a pressure cooker base. Place on high flame and allow it to come to a boil. Now, place a stand inside the pressure cooker, and place the colander above it. Ensure that no water enters the colander. Close the pressure cooker and steam the dumplings for exactly 10 minutes on high flame, without putting the weight on. Switch off the gas and allow the dumplings to cool down slightly, before transferring them to a serving plate.

11. Steam all the dumplings in the same manner.

12. Serve hot or at room temperature, with chutney of your choice. Here, I have served them with a yummylicious red chutney.

Notes:

  1. I used medium-fine corn dalia aka corn rava or broken corn, to make these pidi kozhukattai. If the dalia is too large, you might want to run it through a mixer once before beginning to make the pidi kozhukattai.
  2. Adjust the quantity of coconut and dry red chillies you use, as per personal taste preferences.
  3. Gingelly oil or coconut oil works best in the making of these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  4. Wheat dalia aka broken wheat can be used in place of corn dalia, as well.
  5. You can add in other veggies like broccoli, onions, cauliflower, green peas, etc. to the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  6. These pidi kozhukattai are best steamed in a greased colander, which ensures even cooking.
  7. I have ground the chana daal and red chillies dry, without washing them. You could even wash the chana daal, drain out the excess water, and then soak the chana daal and red chillies together for 20-30 minutes before grinding them into a paste. Use this paste while making the pidi kozhukattai.
  8. Remember not to over-cook the corn dalia mixture – it should be cooked till all the water has been absorbed, but not overly dry. Also, steam the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai for exactly 10 minutes, without putting the pressure cooker weight on. Over-cooking will make the kozhukattai hard.
  9. I used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  10. Please remember to place a tall stand inside the pressure cooker base, to ensure that no water enters the colander while steaming.
  11. These Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai can be prepared in advance and lightly steamed just before you want to serve them.
  12. Let the steamed Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai cool down slightly before transferring them to a serving plate. Handling them immediately after steaming might cause them to break.
  13. If you are making these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai for Ganesh Chaturthi or any other festive occasion, you might want to skip adding onion to it. Also, in that case, traditionally, the dish is made without tasting. The food is partaken of only after offering it to God.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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Sitaphal Basundi| Custard Apple Rabdi

Do you like custard apples aka sitaphal? We love them to bits!

Custard apples are in season, this time of the year. They are all over the markets in Bangalore right about now, absolutely gorgeous fruits that fill the air with their unique perfume. While the hubby and I love eating these fruits as is, I also use them in a basundi (rabdi) when in season – one mind-blowing thing it is, let me tell you! Try it out this Navratri, and I’m sure you will love it too!

You may use condensed milk or cream to thicken the Sitaphal Basundi, but I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way – allowing full-fat milk to cook slowly on the gas, till it thickens and gets rich and creamy. I add a lot of custard apple pulp to the basundi, which has a natural sweetness of its own, thus cutting down the amount of sugar you need to a great extent.

I recently made this Sitaphal Basundi on the occasion of my dad’s birthday. He absolutely adored it, with the huge sweet tooth that he has (which he has passed on to me too!).

Want to try out this finger-lickingly delish Sitaphal Basundi? Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients (serves 6):

  1. 1 litre full-fat milk
  2. 4 big ripe custard apples
  3. 4-5 tablespoons of sugar, or as per taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence
  5. 8-10 whole almonds
  6. 3-4 threads of saffron

Method:

1. Open up the custard apples and scoop out the flesh. Discard all the seeds and retain the flesh. Keep aside.

2. Take the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame, and allow it to come to a boil.

3. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Let the milk cook on medium flame till it reduces to half its original volume and gets thicker. You will need to stir intermittently. There will be cream forming on the sides of the pan, which you should scrape back down into the pan.

4. In the meanwhile, chop the almonds into slivers. Keep them ready.

5. When the milk has reduced to half and become creamy, add in the sugar, rose essence, the saffron strands and almond slivers. Mix well and cook for a minute more.

6. Now, switch off the gas. Mix in the de-seeded custard apple pulp.

7. Allow the Sitaphal Basundi to cool down completely before placing it, in a covered container, in the refrigerator. Let it chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Notes:

  1. Using full-fat milk is a must for this recipe. Here, I have used full-cream milk from Nandini.
  2. A couple of pinches of cardamom powder can be used in place of the rose essence. You can use vanilla essence too, alternatively. Personally, though, I prefer rose essence.
  3. It is important to let the milk cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, scraping down the cream that forms on the sides of the pan, adding it back to the pan. This helps the basundi get nice and thick and creamy.
  4. Use custard apples that are ripe and sweet, but not overly ripe either. You may use more or less custard apples as per personal taste preferences.
  5. Adjust the quantity of sugar you use, depending upon personal taste preferences. You will need to add only a limited amount of sugar because the custard apple will have a natural sweetness to it too.
  6. Cashews, chironji aka charoli, dried rose petals, etc can be added to the Sitaphal Basundi as well. Here, I have used only almond slivers.
  7. You may dry roast the almonds slightly before chopping them into slivers and adding them to the Sitaphal Basundi. I have skipped the roasting part.
  8. Use good-quality saffron in the Custard Apple Rabdi, for best results.
  9. You may use condensed milk or fresh cream to thicken the Custard Apple Rabdi, but I haven’t here. I have let the natural sweetness of the custard apple preside, and let only whole milk add thickness to the dish.
  10. Do not cook the rabdi further after adding the de-seeded custard apple pulp to it.
  11. This Custard Apple Rabdi tastes best when chilled. However, you may even serve it warm or at room temperature.

Did you like this Custard Apple Rabdi recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Edible Rice Flour Lamp Or Maa Vilakku Recipe| Making Adhirasam From The Leftovers

The tradition of Maa Vilakku for Purattasi Sani

Purattasi, the sixth month as per the Tamil calendar, is considered highly sacred. The entire month of Purattasi is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara aka God Vishnu, and is considered highly auspicious. The month of Purattasi more or less coincides with the Navratri celebrations in India every year and, hence, the two are indistinguishable in my mind. This year, Purattasi falls between September 17 and October 17.

Saturdays during this month (known as ‘Purattasi Sani‘ in Tamil) are considered all the more important, a day on which several Tamilians observe a fast. Many Tamilian households have the custom of lighting Maa Vilakku or lamps made from rice flour on the occasion of Purattasi Sani.

Maa Vilakku or edible rice flour lamps from Tamilnadu

The significance of Maa Vilakku in Tamilnadu

Maa Vilakku‘ in Tamil literally translates to ‘lamps made from flour’. Lamps or diyas made from rice flour, sweetened with jaggery, are considered hugely auspicious in Tamilnadu. They are prepared on special occasions like Purattasi Sani, Thai Velli (Fridays in the sacred Tamil month of Thai), and Karthigai Deepam (a Tamil festival that is celebrated after Diwali). These Maa Vilakku or rice flour lamps are also believed to be a favourite of Mariamman, the very powerful Goddess. When diseases like chicken pox occur in a family, these lamps are prepared with great sanctity and offered to the Goddess, as a means to appease her.

In the olden days, these lamps were made from freshly hand-pounded rice flour, using a mortar and pestle. If you visit the ancient temples of Tamilnadu, you will still come across women pounding rice in huge mortars with huge pestles, to prepare Maa Vilakku. This is a charming sight, indeed, something from a bygone era. Click here to see an example.

In today’s times, though, many households use a mixer to grind soaked rice and then proceed to use the same in making the lamps. Some even use store-bought rice flour to make these lamps.

Different families have different ways of offering these rice flour lamps to God. Some offer a single lamp, while some make two big ones. Some place the lamps on a banana leaf, some place them on a silver plate or tray. Some place flowers around the lamps, and some deck them up with kumkum (vermilion) and manjal (turmeric). The basic ingredients used in the preparation of these lamps and the method, more or less, remain the same. Traditionally, a cotton wick is placed inside these lamps, which are lit using ghee and not oil.

Since Maa Vilakku or rice flour lamps are typically prepared as an offering to God, they are prepared without tasting. Once the lamps are done burning and are cool enough to handle, the residual rice flour is consumed.

Edible rice flour lamps or Maa Vilakku recipe

Let’s see how to make Maa Vilakku or edible rice flour lamps, the traditional way.

Ingredients (makes 2 big lamps or several small ones):

To make the lamps:

  1. 1 cup raw rice
  2. 3/4 cup powdered jaggery

Other ingredients you will need:

  1. Cotton wicks, as needed
  2. Ghee, as needed to light the lamps

Method:

  1. Soak the raw rice in just enough water to cover it, for about 30 minutes.
  2. When the rice is done soaking, transfer to a colander. Drain out all the water from it.
  3. Spread out the soaked and drained rice well on a cotton towel/napkin, and place it in direct sunlight or under the fan for a while. Pat dry using another cotton towel/napkin. In 15-20 minutes, the rice should be damp but not soaking wet – that is when it is ready to use in making the lamps.
  4. Now, take the damp rice in a mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, for a couple of seconds each, stopping in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar with a spoon.
  5. Now, add the jaggery powder to the mixer jar. Again, pulse 3-4 times, for a couple of seconds each, stopping in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar with a spoon. At the end of this process, you should get a slightly coarse powder resembling rava, a good mix of the rice and jaggery. Transfer this to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Knead the rice-jaggery powder gently with your hands. This will make the jaggery melt slightly, and the powder will come together to form a sort of dough. If you think the dough is too dry, you may add a bit of water/milk at this stage.
  7. Shape the dough into two large lamps (diyas). If you want, you can make several small diyas out of the dough. Place the prepared lamps on a tray/plate/banana leaf.
  8. Fill each lamp with ghee, as required. Place a cotton wick in each lamp, and light them.
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Pictorial representation of the making of edible rice flour lamps or Maa Vilakku recipe. Move from left to right, first the top row, then centre and then the bottom row.

Notes:

  1. I use regular Sona Masoori or Wada Kollam rice to make these Maa Vilakku.
  2. Once the lamps stop burning, the wicks are removed, the residual ghee in the lamps (if any) is mixed into them, and the dough is consumed as prasadam. However, consuming too much of it can lead to a stomach ache, as it is raw rice flour anyway.
  3. The quantity of jaggery you will need depends upon the type and quality of jaggery you use. I use store-bought jaggery powder and the above measurements work out perfectly for me.
  4. After lighting, the Maa Vilakku dough can be kept at room temperature and consumed little by little. It stays well at room temperature for 3-4 days. Refrigeration will prolong the life of the dough further, but might make it slightly hard.
  5. Make sure all the kumkum (vermilion) and flower petals are scraped off the lamps, before you store the residual dough or consume them.
  6. Edible camphor (pacchai karpooram), dry ginger powder (sukku podi) or cardamom (elaichi) powder can be added to the dough, for extra taste. We usually skip these.

Making adhirasam from leftover Maa Vilakku dough

Don’t want to consume the leftover dough after lighting the Maa Vilakku, as is? You can use the residual dough to prepare Adhirasam, a beautiful, beautiful sweet dish!

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Adhirasam made from leftover Maa Vilakku dough

Adhirasam or athirasam is an old-time sweet dish from South India. In Tamilnadu, this is commonly made for weddings and poojas and on festive occasions like Navratri and Diwali. Traditionally, to make the adhirasam, a syrup is made with jaggery and water, to which coarse rice flour is mixed to form a dough, which is then formed into discs and deep-fried. Adhirasams are a delicacy, beautiful things that aren’t easy to get right. It is tricky to get the jaggery syrup right, and making discs that don’t disintegrate while frying is a huge task. Using leftover Maa Vilakku dough is an easier, short-cut method to make adhirasam, which more often than not yields great results, even for a beginner to Indian sweets like me.

Here’s how you can make Adhirasam from leftover Maa Vilakku dough.

Ingredients (yields 8-10 small adhirasam for the above Maa Vilakku measurements):

  1. Leftover sweet maa vilakku dough, wick removed, flower petals and kumkum scraped off
  2. Oil, as needed for deep-frying
  3. Ghee, as needed to grease palms

Method:

  1. Heat oil for deep frying in a thick-bottomed pan, till it reaches smoking point.
  2. In the meanwhile, grease your hands with a little ghee. Use your hands to make small discs of about 1/4-inch thickness from the leftover dough. If you have been refrigerating the leftover dough, bring it to room temperature first before proceeding to make the discs from it. Keep aside.
  3. When the oil is nice and hot, reduce the flame to medium. Drop in a couple of the discs into the hot oil and fry evenly, till they get brown on the outside. Drain out the oil and transfer to a plate. Take care to ensure that the discs do not get burnt. If the oil is too hot and the discs are rapidly frying up, you might want to reduce the flame further to ensure even frying.
  4. Deep fry all the discs in the same manner. The adhirasams are ready! They can be consumed straight off the stove or at room temperature. At room temperature, they stay well for 4-5 days.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Navratri Special’.

Thai Green Mango Salad With Carrot & Pok Choi Microgreens

Microgreens are all the rage these days, at least in the fine dining space. Rightly so, too, because they are packed with nutrients, and help in adding a whole lot of texture and taste to various dishes. These little greens also add hugely to the visual appeal of a dish. However, microgreens are most commonly associated with fancy dishes in fancy restaurants. These days, though, they are easily available for use by home cooks as well, and can be used in a lot of everyday Indian cooking. I was recently sent a tub of pok choi microgreens by Living Food Company, and have been enjoying putting them in anything and everything!

The beautiful pok choi microgreens I was sent by Living Food Company. Can you see just how fresh they are?!

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are nothing but little shoots of vegetables, just a few inches high. Do not confuse them with ‘baby greens’ – microgreens are smaller than baby greens, and much fresher. The microgreens from Living Food Company are grown without any chemicals or pesticides and are delivered to you in an eco-friendly tub, just a few days old, very much alive! Can you imagine just how fresh they would be? Sprinkle some water over them, and they stay well for 3-5 days more. You can keep them in your kitchen or balcony, and just snip a handful of the greens to use as and when you need them!

Arugula, basil, radish, beetroot, amaranth, spinach, fenugreek, pok choi, coriander, kale, cabbage, carrot.. there is a long list of microgreens available to the cook of today.

Why microgreens?

Microgreens have a highly concentrated, very intense flavour profile as compared to regular greens. Research has shown that microgreens have an exceptionally high concenration of nutrients too, as compared to fully-grown greens or vegetables. Also, like I was saying above, they are great to add some complexity, texture, colour and flavour to food, making it look prettier too.

How to use microgreens?

  • Microgreens are known to have a short shelf life, and are best used within a week’s time of harvest.
  • If you are using a living tub of microgreens, just snip off the greens from the roots using a pair of kitchen scissors. The roots should not be consumed. The little leaves and their stems are perfectly safe for consumption.
  • Ideally, microgreens should be eaten raw or, at best, lightly stir-fried. Overcooking tampers with their nutritional content and flavour profile. This is why they are best candidates for use in sandwiches and burgers, salads or just sprinkled over cooked dishes or desserts as a garnish.
  • Different microgreens have different flavours to them. Some will be quite spicy, some slightly bitter, some with a mustard-y punch to them. Choose dishes to use them in accordingly.
  • Microgreens can very much be used in a regular Indian kitchen, and need not be restricted only to Western food preparations. There are a whole lot of dishes that are cooked in an average Indian kitchen, which can benefit from the use of microgreens. Stop being intimidated by them and thinking of them as something exotic, let your imagination run wild, and you will open yourself up to myriad possibilities in your kitchen!

Here is how I used pok choi microgreens in a Thai Green Mango & Carrot Salad

I used some of the pok choi microgreens sent to me by Living Food Company in a Thai-style salad with green mango and carrot. The slight bitterness of the greens beautifully complemented the sourness from the raw mango and the sweetness of the carrot and honey I used in it. I loved how the greens made the salad richer and all the more delish!

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Thai Green Mango Salad With Carrot & Pok Choi Microgreens

Here is how I made the Thai Green Mango Salad With Carrot and Pok Choi Microgreens.

Ingredients (makes 4 small servings):

  1. 1 medium-sized raw mango
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot
  3. 1/4 cup pok choy microgreens
  4. 1/4 cup raw peanuts
  5. About 2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  6. 2 green chillies
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 3 tablespoons honey or to taste

Method:

  1. Get a pan nice and hot and add in the raw peanuts. Dry roast the peanuts on medium flame till they get slightly crisp, stirring intermittently to ensure that they do not burn. Switch off gas and allow the peanuts to cool down entirely.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the raw mango and carrot and julienne them. Transfer the juliennes to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add finely chopped coriander and the pok choy microgreens to the mixing bowl too.
  4. Chop the green chillies very finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  5. When the roasted peanuts have entirely cooled down, coarsely crush them in a mixer. Add the coarsely crushed peanuts to the mixing bowl.
  6. Add salt to taste and honey. Mix well. Serve the Thai Green Mango Salad immediately.

Notes:

1. For best results, use a green mango that is semi-ripe, so it will be a bit sweet and not overly sour. A raw totapuri works beautifully in the making of this Thai Green Mango Salad.

2. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and honey you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

3. I have used an Ooty carrot here, which has a certain amount of inherent sweetness to it. If you are using any other variety of carrot, you might need to increase the quantity of honey a bit.

4. Palm sugar, powdered jaggery or brown sugar can be used in place of honey too.

5. You can add in other ingredients to this Thai Green Mango Salad, too – like finely chopped ginger, garlic, onion, cooked sweet corn, cooked moong bean sprouts and the like. I haven’t, because I was limited by what was available in my kitchen and because I wanted to keep things really simple.

6. I have used pok choy microgreens from Living Food Company to make this salad. I was sent a free sample of the microgreens by Living Food, to test in my kitchen. I loved the superb quality of the produce, and am loving using it in all and sundry dishes. The thoughts expressed about the greens here are entirely my own, entirely honest, and not influenced by anything or anyone. This is not a sponsored post.

7. You may use any other type of microgreens in this Thai Green Mango Salad, too.

8. Increase or decrease the quantity of microgreens you use in the Thai Green Mango Salad, as per personal taste preferences. The pok choy microgreens I have used had a little bitterness to them, which complemented the sourness from the raw mango, the sweetness from the honey and carrot, and the spiciness from the green chillies perfectly. The above quantities were just perfect for us.

7. I have used a julienne peeler to julienne the carrot and green mango. Julienning vegetables, as opposed to grating them, stops the salad from getting too soggy.

8. Ensure that the peanuts do not burn, while dry roasting them. Let them cool down fully before coarsely crushing them in a mixer. Remember that you need to crush them coarsely, and not make a fine powder.

9. Do not let the Thai Green Mango Salad sit out for too long after preparing it. Serve it immediately. You may roast the peanuts and keep them ready in advance, but julienne the carrots and green mango just before you plan to make the salad, for best results.

10. I washed the microgreens in running water and patted them dry with a clean kitchen towel before using them in making this salad.

I hope you found this post helpful!

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

A Class With Ben Ungermann, Of The MasterChef Australia Fame

If you have been watching MasterChef Australia, I’m sure Ben Ungermann needs no introduction.

Ben Ungermann, runner-up at MasterChef Australia 2017, was recently in Bangalore for a few days, conducting events for World On A Plate. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a masterclass by him, at Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts yesterday. It was an experience that I will cherish for a long, long time to come.

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Ben Ungermann, regaling us with tales from his MasterChef Australia days, at his recent masterclass in Bangalore

Ben demonstrated to us, a fascinated audience, some really unique dishes –

1. Beer Can Chicken With Smashed Potatoes
2. Coffee-Cardamom Ice Cream With Cream Cheese Mousse, Butternut Pumpkin Puree, Shortbread, Rum Caramel & Micro Greens
3. Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes & Fennel Mayonnaise
4. Sake Ice Cream With Matcha Microwave Sponge, Puffed Rice & Wasabi Mousse

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Ben at the masterclass, demonstrating Beer Can Chicken With Smashed Potatoes

Ben kept us spell-bound by creating these fantastic dishes right before our eyes.

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Ben demonstrating Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes, i.e. the French way of cooking fish in a bag

He wowed us with his understanding of various ingredients and cooking techniques.

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Ben demonstrating how fennel mayonnaise can be prepared in exactly 30 seconds, which is then used to plate the Fish En Pappilote Roasted Tomatoes

Ben regaled us with anecdotes from his life and MasterChef Australia 2017. He told us of how he had children early on in life, and how he was forced to make a living selling shoes back home in Australia while he actually wanted to cook in a professional setting, just because he couldn’t support his family on an apprentice cook’s salary. MasterChef opened the doors to the world of professional cooking to him, as risky as it was for him to take a chance, quitting his job to enter the competition. Ben also told us of how his quest to make good-quality, healthy ice creams for his family led him to open up Ungermann Brothers in Queensland, Australia – now, a bucket list destination for me. 🙂

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Ben demonstrating Coffee-Cardamom Ice Cream With Cream Cheese Mousse, Butternut Pumpkin Puree, Shortbread, Rum Caramel & Micro Greens, at the masterclass

All through the masterclass, Ben’s humility and down-to-earth nature, his warm and friendly personality, shone through. It is evident that this person takes pride in his roots, and that he loves being a family man. Cooking for his loved ones is the highest form of adulation for them, it was clear, and this did win us over.

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Ben involving the participants of the masterclass in little tasks

Ben made us smile by involving us in little ways throughout his demonstration. He spoke to us of how India will always occupy a special place in his heart, because of the immense love that the country has given him and MasterChef Australia in general. Being the sweet person that he is, he indulged us by taking posed photographs and selfies with us, giving us personalised autographs, and giving the go-ahead for short video clips with him.

 

Ben at the masterclass, indulging his big and little fans with autographs

At the end of it all, we felt we had met a friend, Ben, from Australia, not watched THE Chef Ben in action.

Ben, thank you for being the lovely person that you are!

World On A Plate, thank you for making this experience possible for me!

 

 

 

Mug Nu Pani| Moong Bean Soup

Growing up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Mug Nu Pani or a thin soup made with whole green moong beans used to be the antidote to any and every ailment.

Feeling weak? Have Mug Nu Pani.

Broken bones? Give some Mug Nu Pani to the infirm.

Recovering from a fever? Nothing like Mug Nu Pani to bring back the lost strength.

Suffering from a broken heart? Some Mug Nu Pani will comfort him/her like nothing else.

You get the drift, right? No wonder Mug Nu Pani spells out comfort food, heartiness and recovery to me!

I love Mug Nu Pani, sick or not. A Gujarati neighbour of ours taught me how to make it, years ago, and I have been hooked to it ever since. It has saved my soul several times over, growing up, and still continues to do so.

To the uninitiated, a thin moong bean soup might sound very meh and uninteresting. Let me quickly assure you that this soup is anything but meh. At least, the Gujarati style of preparation makes this soup far from bland and dull. Mug Nu Pani is, in fact, quite a delicious soup, one choc-a-bloc with nutrition. It works wonders for the aged and infirm, growing children, and those who need a pick-me-up on a gloomy day. It isn’t very difficult to make, either.

Now, let’s check out the recipe for Mug Nu Pani aka Moong Bean Soup, the way that neighbour of mine taught me to make it.

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings):

  1. 1/2 cup whole green moong
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 1 teaspoon black pepper powder, or to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1 teaspoon coriander (dhania) powder, or to taste
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera) powder, or to taste
  7. Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  8. 1 tablespoon very finely chopped coriander leaves
  9. 1 teaspoons ghee
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  11. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  12. 2 generous pinches asafoetida (hing)
  13. 4-5 cloves of garlic

Method:

1. Soak the moong beans for at least 8 hours or overnight, in just enough water to cover them entirely.

2. When the beans are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Add in enough fresh water to completely cover them, and pressure cook them for 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Meanwhile, chop the coriander finely, and keep aside. Peel the garlic and chop very finely. Keep aside.

4. When all the pressure from the cooker has gone down, get the cooked moong beans out. Mash them well with a masher.

5. Add a little fresh water to the vessel. Use your hands to mash the cooked moong beans further, extracting the flesh from them.

6. Again, add a little fresh water. Mash the cooked moong beans and extract the flesh from them. Repeat this process 3-4 times, until all the flesh from the moong beans has been extracted.

7. Now, discard the spent cooked moong beans. Strain the residual liquid using a fine strainer.

8. Take the liquid in a saucepan and place it on high heat. Add in salt and pepper powder. Allow it to come to a boil.

9. While the liquid is coming to a boil, we will prepare the tempering for the soup. For this, heat the ghee in a small pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add in the cumin, finely chopped garlic and asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Add this tempering to the soup when it is about to come to a boil.

10. Add coriander powder and cumin powder to the soup at this stage. Mix well.

11. When the Moong Bean Soup comes to a boil, reduce the flame to medium. Let the soup simmer for a minute, and then switch off the heat.

12. Mix in lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Serve the Moong Bean Soup hot.

Notes:

  1. To make the cumin powder, dry roast some cumin seeds in a pan on high flame, till they begin to emit a lovely fragrance. Ensure that they do not burn. Let them cool down entirely, and then grind into a powder in a mixer. Store in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle and use as needed. I make this powder in small batches every two weeks or so and use as and when I need it, in my daily cooking.
  2. To make the coriander powder, dry roast some coriander seeds (dhania) on high flame in a pan, till they begin to emit a nice fragrance. Ensure that they do not burn. Allow the coriander seeds to cool down completely, then grind into a powder in a mixer. This powder too can be made in small batches, and used in day-to-day cooking, as and when needed.
  3. This soup is supposed to be watery, not too watery, but definitely not thick. Use a fine strainer to remove any residual boiled green moong solids, for best results.
  4. Adjust the quantity of salt, black pepper powder, coriander powder, lemon juice and cumin powder you use in the soup, as per personal taste preferences.
  5. You may omit adding the finely chopped garlic to the soup, if you so prefer. Personally, though, I love it in the soup – I think it adds a lovely touch to it.
  6. To make the black pepper powder, just grind black peppercorns to a powder, using a mixer.
  7. Mash the cooked moong beans while they are still hot, just out of the cooker. This way, you will be able to extract maximum flesh out of them.
  8. After mashing the cooked moong beans once, you need to add fresh water to them little by little a little, 3-4 times, mashing the beans with your hands, extracting more flesh from them. In all, you’ll be adding about 1 cup of water at this stage. More than that, and the soup might get too watery.
  9. Some people pressure cook the moong beans, let them cool down, then blitz them in a mixer or hand blender, then strain the water and go on to prepare the soup as above.
  10. After extracting all the flesh from the cooked moong beans, all that remains is the husk, which you would be discarding. Hence, you need not worry about any loss of nutrition by doing so.
  11. Haven’t soaked green moong beans, but still want to make this soup? Well, you can. Just add about 1-1/2 cups of water to 1/2 cup whole moong beans, pop them in the pressure cooker, and give them 12-15 whistles – basically, blow them to smithereens. Once the pressure comes down entirely, mash the cooked moong beans and proceed to make the soup as above.

Did you like this recipe for Mug Nu Paani? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Bean Power’, wherein the members are cooking delicious recipes using different types of whole beans.

 

Cherupayar Curry| Kerala Green Gram Curry With Coconut Milk

I love cooking with legumes. I love making them a part of my family’s meals, regularly. I am forever looking for new ways to work with legumes like kabuli chana, rajma, double beans, whole green moong, moth beans and the like. Not only are these legumes significant sources of protein, but they are also rich in carbohydrates, dietary fibre and minerals. So, I was, naturally, thrilled to recently discover this new (to me) dish called Cherupayar Curry, which uses green gram aka whole green moong or moong beans.

The Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group that I am part of is cooking recipes from Kerala, this month. I was paired with the sweet Rafeeda, who writes at The Big Sweet Tooth, for the month. She assigned me two secret ingredients – green gram and coconut – and I decided to make a Kerala-style Cherupayar Curry with them.

I loved how the Cherupayar Curry turned out – finger-lickingly delicious, hearty, and nutritious too. It paired beautifully with the rotis I served it with. Traditionally, this curry is made with fresh grated coconut, ground, but I made do with store-bought coconut milk. With that taken care of, the Cherupayar Curry was a breeze to make, a job that took me barely 15 minutes.

The little reading that I did on the Internet told me that there are various ways to make this curry, though the basic ingredients remain, more or less, the same. Different families in Kerala have different versions of the Cherupayar Curry, some made with black pepper powder, some with garam masala, some with just the basic salt, red chilli powder and turmeric. I followed this recipe from At The Corner Of Happy & Harried, substituting coconut milk for the cow’s milk the author has used.

Here is how I made this Cherupayar Curry.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 3/4 cup green gram aka whole green moong
  2. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  6. 1 sprig curry leaves
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 5-6 garlic cloves
  9. 1 large tomato
  10. 2 green chillies
  11. 1 large onion
  12. Salt, to taste
  13. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  14. Red chilli powder, to taste
  15. About 1 tablespoon garam masala, or to taste
  16. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  17. A few stalks of fresh coriander

Method:

  1. Soak the whole green moong in just enough water to cover it, for at least 8-10 hours or overnight. When done, drain out all the water. Add in just enough water to cover the soaked green moong. Pressure cook for 2 whistles, and allow the pressure to come down naturally.
  2. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Peel the garlic cloves. Grind the ginger and garlic together, coarsely, using a small mixer jar. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the onion, tomato and coriander finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves and slit green chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  5. Now, add the chopped onions to the pan. On medium flame, saute till they begin to turn brown.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with the ginger-garlic paste. On medium flame, saute till the tomatoes turn mushy. Add a little water at this stage, if needed.
  7. Add in the cooked whole green moong to the pan, along with the water it was cooked in.
  8. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder, garam masala and red chilli powder to taste. Mix well.
  9. Let the curry simmer on medium flame till it begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes.
  10. Keeping the flame on medium, mix in the thick coconut milk. Allow the Cherupayar Curry to simmer for a minute more, and then switch off gas.
  11. Mix in finely chopped coriander. Serve hot with dosa, rotis, parathas or puttu.

Notes:

  1. Coconut oil works best in the making of this Cherupayar Curry. However, you may use any other type of oil as well.
  2. You may omit the slit green chillies, if you plan to make this curry for kids.
  3. If you want to keep it really simple, you can omit the garam masala as well. Just add salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder as the seasonings.
  4. I have used a 200 ml carton of store-bought Dabur Coconut Milk. If you so wish, you can make the coconut milk at home as well.
  5. After soaking, cook the whole green moong for just 2 whistles or so. It should be just cooked, still firm, not overly mushy. Cooking times and number of whistles might vary depending upon the make of the pressure cooker.
  6. Coriander powder can be used instead of garam masala, in this Cherupayar Curry. Here, I have used store-bought Shan Garam Masala.

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This recipe is for the Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge.

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #243. The co-hosts this week are Catherine @ Kunstkitchen’s Blog and Becky @ Bubbly Bee.

Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal| Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry

The health benefits of bitter gourd (‘pavakkai‘ in Tamil) are quite well known. They are rich in dietary fibre and Vitamin K, and low in calories. They are great for keeping one’s weight and blood sugar levels in control. Indian cuisine has a wide range of dishes that use bitter gourd, some really innovative. However, a whole lot of people shun this vegetable, thanks to its bitter taste. I used to be one of those people too, till I discovered the real beauty of the bitter gourd and made it a regular feature in my kitchen.

The last weekend, on a short holiday in Madras, I came across these lovely baby bitter gourds (‘midhi pavakkai‘ in Tamil) at a vegetable vendor’s. They looked so cute, lying there in their basket, that I absolutely had to get some back home with me to Bangalore. 😉 This delicious, delicious Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry aka Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal is what happened to them.

Baby bitter gourds are less bitter as compared to their regular, longer counterparts, and tastier too. Or at least I think so. 🙂 De-seeding them to make this poriyal was a bit of an uphill task, but I would say the end result was totally worth it. I served the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal with hot rice and sambar, and the combination was nothing short of divine.

Here’s how I made the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal aka Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 250 grams midhi pavakkai aka baby bitter gourds
  2. 1 large onion
  3. 2 tablespoons oil
  4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  5. 3-4 dry red chillies
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Red chilli powder to taste
  12. 2-3 tablespoons powdered jaggery, or to taste

Method:

  1. Wash the baby bitter gourds well under running water. Drain out all the water, and pat dry using a cotton cloth.
  2. Chop off any long tails that the baby bitter gourds might have, and then chop each one into half. Use a knife or your fingertips to scoop out the seeds from the bitter gourds. This will help in cutting down the bitterness of the vegetable to a large extent. Keep the prepared bitter gourds aside.
  3. Finely chop the onion, and keep aside.
  4. Heat a pan, and add in the oil. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Now, add in the cumin seeds, dry red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida. Let these ingredients stay in for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the finely chopped onion to the pan. Turn the flame to medium, and add a little salt. Cook the onions on medium flame till they begin to brown, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking.
  6. Now, add the prepared baby bitter gourds to the pan. Add salt to taste, and continue cooking on medium flame till the bitter gourds start shrivelling. This should take 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add red chilli powder to taste, jaggery powder and turmeric powder. Mix well. Continue cooking the curry on medium flame till the bitter gourds are completely done. Keep stirring intermittently. Switch off gas when the bitter gourds are fully cooked, and the curry acquires the blackish hue of caramelisation. This should take 3-4 minutes.
  8. Serve the Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry hot or at room temperature. It goes really well with piping hot rice, ghee, and rasam/sambar.

Notes:

  1. For best results, choose tender baby bitter gourds that are fresh and firm, and not the yellowing, mature ones.
  2. There is no need to peel the baby bitter gourds. Remove all mature seeds from the bitter gourds. If the bitter gourds are too tiny or fresh and the seeds aren’t very mature, they can be left in.
  3. If you are not able to get hold of baby bitter gourds, the ordinary long ones can be used instead. Remove the seeds from them the same way, chop finely, and proceed to make the poriyal as in the recipe above.
  4. Once halved and de-seeded, the baby bitter gourds can be mixed with a little salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes. This will make the bitter gourds water. You need to squeeze out the water and use the bitter gourd pieces in making the poriyal, as per the proceedure outlined above. This step helps to cut down the bitterness of the gourds quite a bit, but I skipped this.
  5. Gingelly oil works best in this recipe. However, if you don’t have it, any other type of oil can be used instead.
  6. Sugar can be used in place of jaggery powder here. Adjust the quantity of sugar/jaggery powder you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  7. Finely chopped coriander leaves can be used to garnish the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal, once it is ready. Here, I haven’t.
  8. You may use more oil to make this Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal, if you so wish. I have used 2 tablespoons only.
  9. It is important to cook this Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry on medium heat, uncovered. Stirring intermittently is critical too, to ensure that the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, remember not to sprinkle any water while preparing the curry. This is what will give the curry a beautiful colour and taste.
  10. You may add a spoonful of thick tamarind paste or lemon juice while making this Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal. This adds taste to the curry, and also helps in cutting down on the bitterness of the pavakkai. I haven’t used any tamarind/lemon juice here, though.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #243. The co-hosts this week are Catherine @ Kunstkitchen’s Blog and Becky @ Bubbly Bee.

Dragon Food Festival @ InAzia, Sheraton Grand, Whitefield

I have had the pleasure of dining at InAzia, the Pan-Asian restaurant at the Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center, a couple of times. Last week, I was invited to partake of another feast there, to check out their ongoing Dragon Food Festival, along with some other food bloggers.

Experience Chef Shishir Rai’s Magic At The Dragon Food Festival

The Dragon Food Festival, as the name suggests, will showcase dishes from the exotic land of China. The festival menu has been carefully curated by Jr. Sous Chef, Shishir Rai, who is also spearheading the campaign.

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Chef Shishir Rai, the mastermind behind the ongoing Dragon Food Festival at InAzia

I loved how the Dragon Food Festival menu has a good selection of dishes for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians alike. Both exotic and popular Chinese dishes feature on the menu, which is something that won brownie points with me.

(For more pictures from the Dragon Food Festival, check out my Facebook post!)

What did I try out?

Chef Rai suggested the foods we absolutely must not miss out, from the food festival menu. Each dish came to our table beautifully presented, and most of it managed to bowl me over.

Here is a sneak peek into all that I tried out at InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival, the vegetarian, non-alcoholic part of it that is.

Cucumber & Cilantro Soup: Decked with slivers of cucumber, delicately flavoured with coriander, this subtly spiced soup was served warm to us. I loved how it was so simple yet hearty, neither overwhelming nor overly bland. It was done just right!

Assorted Mushrooms Truffle Blast: These dimsums were, again, simple but extremely delicious. The filling was a mix of hon Shimeji enokitake and shiitake mushrooms, scented with truffle oil, and I loved them to bits.

Top left: Cucumber & Cilantro Soup; Bottom left: Assorted Mushrooms Truffle Blast; Right: Vegetable Sichuan-Style Pan-Fried Dimsums

Vegetable Sichuan-Style Pan-Fried Dimsums: Stuffed with celery, carrot and asparagus, these pan-fried dimsums were absolutely perfect. They were mildly spiced, but so delicious! The garlic oil they were seasoned with added a whole lot of oomph to them.

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Wok-Tossed Tofu, Sichuan-Style, at InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival

Wok-Tossed Tofu, Sichuan-Style: Cubes of silken tofu were marinated, then tossed with Sichuan chilli paste to create this dish, which was a real beauty indeed. The outside was crunchy, the inside deliciously soft, the sauce a burst of flavours.

Jasmine Tea: We were served some jasmine tea, to cleanse our palates after the appetisers, in preparation for the main course. Now, I have had jasmine tea at a few places, but never loved it, thanks to it almost always feeling like insipid lukewarm water. The jasmine tea at InAzia was an entirely different story, though! It had a mild and subtle flavour, the gorgeous scent of jasmine, and the power to perk you up. Love!

Traditional Moon Fan: Here, steamed rice was flavoured with traditional Chinese five-spice, topped with sesame soy sauce and assorted veggies. This dish wasn’t bad, but felt quite bland to my tastebuds, as opposed to all the other dishes that were filled with taste.

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Left: Dry-cooked Hoo Fun Vegetable Noodles; Top right: Traditional Moon Fan; Centre right: Tofu, Asparagus & Water Chestnut With Malak Paste; Bottom right: Jasmine Tea

Dry-Cooked Hoo Fun Vegetable Noodles: I loved these flat rice noodles cooked with Napa cabbage, sweet peppers and bean sprouts. Flavoured with sesame oil and seasoned with fermented bean sauce, they were oh so flavourful!

Tofu, Asparagus & Water Chestnut With Malak Paste: With melt-in-the-mouth silken tofu, asparagus, water chestnut and green onion cooked in a sesame-chilli paste, this dish was such a flavour bomb! It was absolutely delicious, and paired beautifully with the rice and noodles.

Cranberry Mint Cooler: Along with the food, we were also served a Cranberry Mint Cooler, an extremely beautifully done mocktail. The sourness of cranberry and the freshness of mint leaves paired together really well. This was something I absolutely loved at InAzia!

Left: Chilled Mango Pudding; Top right: Rice Cakes With Ginger Syrup & Ice Cream; Bottom right: Cranberry Mint Cooler

Chilled Mango Pudding: This pudding with mango jelly was served chilled, with pieces of fresh mango and cream. I loved that the pudding had a mildly sweet taste, and that it was not tooth-cloying. I also loved the bits of fresh mango and cream (of course!), but overall, the pudding felt like it had a bit too much of gelatin in it. While I loved the taste of this dessert, I didn’t quite enjoy the satiny consistency.

Rice Cakes With Ginger Syrup & Ice Cream: This dessert was quite unusual, at least to me. A sweet filling made with adzuki aka red beans was stuffed into rice flour shells, then steamed, and served alongside a mild ginger syrup and vanilla ice cream. The rice flour cakes were not unlike the Tamilian kozhukattai, although a bit thicker. The red bean stuffing takes a bit of getting used to. The ginger syrup was simply brilliant, and went wonderfully with the vanilla ice cream. Overall, this made for a very interesting choice of dessert!

A must-visit!

Like I said earlier, I enjoyed my time previewing the menu for InAzia’s Dragon Food Festival. Most of the food I tried, I loved. I would highly recommend you to pay a visit too, and check out the many foods and beverages the festival menu has on offer.

Intrigued? The Dragon Food Festival is on at InAzia till September 30, 2018, from 7 PM to 11 PM, and a meal for two costs about INR 2,000 plus taxes.

Thai Food Festival @ In Azia, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel

Regular readers of my blog will know how special Thailand is to me. The husband and I honeymooned in Thailand, watching Thai dancing and kick-boxing shows by the hour. Who on earth does that on their honeymoon? Turns out the hubby and I do. 🙂 It goes without saying that I have fond memories of us being shy newly-weds together in a foreign land. Making Thai food at home is something I have taught myself to do, to keep that connection with Thailand alive.

Thailand was also my very first international holiday, the first-ever time I set foot on soil that wasn’t Indian, which made the trip all the more special. I wasn’t a food or travel blogger then, so we didn’t explore much of the local food or sights, a fact I regret to date. I haven’t had a chance to go back to Thailand, and explore it to my heart’s content. I did, however, recently get the thrilling opportunity to experience some of Thailand’s famed street food at InAzia, the classy restaurant at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel. Along with a few other bloggers from the city, I was present at InAzia for a sneak peek into the restaurant’s ongoing Thai Food Festival.

Sample Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae’s expert craftsmanship at the Thai Food Festival

Like I said earlier, InAzia, the Pan-Asian restaurant at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel, has a Thai food festival going on now. The festival, brought to you in association with Thailand Tourism, will continue till August 29, 2018.

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Thai Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae, Specialty Chef at InAzia, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel

Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae, Specialty Chef at InAzia, has put together a special menu for the food festival, which includes several vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies straight off the streets of her hometown, Thailand. There are also some incredible desserts on offer!

We had a lovely time sampling Chef Rungtiwa’s expert creations, and would urge you to partake of them too. The Thai food festival special menu is available at InAzia between 7 and 11 PM every day, on an a la carte basis. A meal for two would cost approximately INR 2000. Prior reservation is recommended.

My experience at InAzia’s Thai Food Festival

As soon as I set foot into InAzia, I was greeted by two ladies in traditional Thai gear with a sweet ‘Sawadee Kha‘ (‘Hello’ in Thai). This instantly put me at ease, as did the lovely live Thai music being played in the restaurant. The simple and uncluttered but elegant decor of InAzia also soothed my mind plentifully.

The understated but classy decor at InAzia

I loved the references to Thailand that were everywhere in the restaurant. Being the sucker for attention to detail that I am, I adored these little touches – centrepieces made of Thai bird’s eye chillies and galangal, Thai-style lanterns on the tables, place mats that depicted the different aspects of Thailand, Thai umbrellas on display, and a live station for Thai salads, et al.

Glimpses from our recent preview of the Thai Food Festival at InAzia

With the warm hospitality that is typical of the Thai people, Chef Rungtiwa brought out one after another of her creations. We greedily lapped all of it up, loving every bit of it.

What did I taste?

Here’s a brief recap of all the vegetarian, non-alcoholic goodness that I sampled at InAzia’s Thai Food Festival.

Som TamSom Tam or Green Papaya Salad is, perhaps, one of the most popular dish in Thai restaurants across India. Chef Rungtiwa’s version was slightly less sweet and sour than the Som Tam I am used to here, more spicy and pungent with hand-pounded chillies and garlic. I loved this salad quite a bit!

Pheuk-TordPheuk-Tord or deep-fried taro cakes are a popular street food in Bangkok. Salty and spicy, they are served with the accompaniments of chilli and/or peanut sauce. These cakes were too bland for me, not meant for my taste buds that demand chatpata food all the time. 🙂

Tom Yum Soup – Spicy and salty and sour, Tom Yum is one of my most favourite kinds of soups there is. Chef Rungtiwa’s version was brilliant – slightly more sour than the Tom Yum we get here in Bangalore, it suited my taste buds just perfectly. It was just the right amount of spicy too – neither the boring kind of bland, nor too spicy as to draw tears from your eyes.

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Top Left: Spiced Pineapple; Bottom Right: Pheuk-Tord; Top Right: Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup; Centre Right: Virgin Mojito; Bottom Right: Som Tam

Spiced Pineapple – This was one of the mocktails I ordered from the regular menu at InAzia, to go with the Thai appetisers. This was such a lovely drink, perfectly made, Indian spices subtly adding depth to pineapple juice. Lovely!

Virgin Mojito – I also tried out the Virgin Mojito here, off the restaurant’s regular menu. It was perfectly made too, the right blend of sweet and sour, very refreshing and lovely.

Pad Thai – Main course began with a serving of Pad Thai, Thai-style noodles that are hugely popular in India. I love a well-made dish of Pad Thai, and this one was no exception. The flat noodles were interesting to eat, with the added crunch of bean sprouts and coarsely crushed peanuts. The flavours were absolutely on point, just the right blend of sweet and spicy and salty, with just a tinge of sour.

Left: Thai Green Curry; Top Right: Thai Jasmine Rice; Bottom Right: Pad Thai

Thai Jasmine Rice – This was my first time eating Thai Jasmine Rice, and I simply loved it. The texture and fragrance of the rice was just lovely!

Thai Green Curry – We were served some beautiful Thai Green Curry to go with the jasmine rice. Mild and subtle, very well-made, the curry made for a great accompaniment to the fragrant rice.

Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong – And then it was time for the desserts to be brought out! We started with Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong, a traditional Thai delicacy that I had never heard of before. Coconut custard is poured onto big slices of pumpkin and baked together, to create this dessert, which apparently sells like hot cakes on the streets of Thailand. The Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong did sound wonderful, but it was too eggy for me to eat. For someone who loves eggs, this would be a very unique thing to try, I’m sure.

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Left: Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong; Top Right: Sang Kaya Ob; Centre Right: Home-made Coconut Ice Cream; Bottom Right: Tab Tim Krob

Tab Tim Krob – Next up came the Tab Tim Krob, another interesting traditional Thai dessert. This one was brilliant, with bits of jackfruit and jellied water chestnut served in sweetened coconut milk. It was delicate but hugely satisfying, mildly sweet but delicious, and I couldn’t stop lapping it all up.

Sang Kaya ObSang Kaya Ob refers to baked coconut caramel custard, another traditional Thai dessert. This just blew my mind away with silky texture, coconut-ty flavour and mild sweetness. It was served on a banana leaf, which added to its taste greatly. This is one dessert I would highly recommend you to have at InAzia!

Home-Made Coconut Ice Cream – Yet another dessert that was brilliant enough to charm the socks right off me! Good ol’ simple ice cream made the traditional way, this one tasted scrumptious. The crushed cookies that the ice cream was dusted with added oodles to its charm and taste. This is another dessert I would highly recommend you to try out here.

Traditional Thai Rose Cookies

Thai Rose Cookies – The meal ended with a thoughtful little gift from Chef Rungtiwa to all of us – a box of traditional Thai Rose Cookies. These were so pretty, I almost didn’t have the heart to eat them. 🙂 I am glad I did, though, for they were exquisite. Delicate, mildly sweet, each one topped with white, dark and milk chocolate, these three cookies were a treat to the taste buds.

In hindsight

I loved most of the food that was served at the preview, though I wish there had been more vegetarian options.

Dishes like Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry gave us a glimpse into Thai cuisine as we know it, while the ones like Pheuk-Tord and Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong taught us that there is more to Thai street food than what we typically find on restaurant menus in Bangalore. I love that this festival has whetted my appetite for more – I can’t wait to head to Thailand now, and explore the vegetarian street food scene there, right at the source! I wish the food festival had delved deeper into more lesser-known food, drinks and desserts from Thailand, but I understand the problems that might cause.

A bit of background, history and stories, to each of the dishes would have been hugely appreciated. To a food history buff like me, that would have been blissful.

While the staff was extremely polite and warm, we found the service to be quite slow. A bit more pro-activeness on the service front would have taken our dining experience up by several notches.

Overall, we had a great time at the food festival, eating our way through some of Thailand’s known and lesser-known delicacies, created with Chef Rungtiwa’s finesse. I would definitely urge you to head to InAzia too, to get your fix of authentic Thai street fare!