Friday, April 30, 2010

Mediterranean Cuisine

Here's a bit of a change in terms of content, although not radically. I was contacted by Eva Alexander, who writes for Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a personal hobby blog that she started in 2009 to help other people understand the health benefits of Mediterranean diet, about having a post on the benefits of Mediterranean cuisine. And since a lot of places that I've covered do deal with Mediterranean cuisines, and almost all new restaurants opening want to serve Italian and Medit food, I thought this would be a good idea. More about her great blog can be seen by clicking the link above, or here.

Here's what Eva had to say on the differences between the standard American diet and the Mediterranean diet:

a) Most people say the Mediterranean diet is high in fat. Can people still lose or maintain weight on a Mediterranean diet?
While the Mediterranean diet is high in fat, it is high in the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats, in contrast to diets rich in saturated fat. It is not the fat content that will determine weight loss on the Mediterranean diet. People who wish to eat the Mediterranean diet may experience other health benefits but still not lose weight if they do not lower their caloric intake.

b) What makes the Mediterranean diet different from the common American diet?
Americans consume high numbers of red meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, while the Mediterranean includes very little. The diet also differs from the typical American diet through its dependence on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, breads, cereals, and potatoes.

c) Why people in the Mediterranean have lower heart disease?
Research has indicated that the foods in the Mediterranean diet play an important role in lowering heart disease. Research also indicates that the Mediterranean diet requires a more holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle than most other diets.

d) How does exercise, walking, and physical activity enter into the "recipe" for the Mediterranean diet and health?
Exercise is a vital part of maintaining the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is based on the food choices and lifestyles of the region during the early Sixties and during that time period, physical activity was an important part of their culture. Daily hourly walks are encouraged, as are exercises for at least one hour a week that utilize the entire body.

e) How the Mediterranean diet differ from the Low Carb diet?
The Mediterranean diet features little protein, in contrast to low-carb diets. Only fifteen percent of the calories consumed each day on the Mediterranean diet come from protein.

f) How has wine figured into the Mediterranean diet? How much per day is recommended?
Wine is recommended in low to moderate amounts. For men, five percent of their calories per day can come from wine, while women can consume up to two and a half percent.

g) Final Tips
The Mediterranean lifestyle is most effective when including a range of root vegetables, foods high in omega-3 acids, and vegetable oils such as flaxseed or canola. Along with fruits, breads, and cereals, these foods may lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.

More at Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mani's Dum Biryani

I was supposed to visit this place and review it for Bangalore Mirror. So along with my guests, Manu Prasad and Nikhil, I visited the place last evening. We parked our bottoms on the chairs, and take a look around, and suddenly Manu points to the notice board - horror, oh horror! "Priya Bala has reviewed this place for Bangalore Times" said Manu. "Dye-am" I thought to myself. I should have been a little more thorough with my research of the place. For those of you who don't know, we make it a point to try not to review places reviewed by Bangalore Times.

I was crestfallen - that's one more place down the drain in terms of officially reviewing it for the paper. Nevertheless, we got down to business - eating. On the notice board, we saw a few 'specials' of the day, and so decided to order one of them, the crispy fried wings. Along with that, we placed an order for a chili chicken and a plate of chicken lollipops.

While waiting for our orders to arrive, we were involved in animated conversations about Twitter, the recent Sashi Tharoor + IPL incident, and a lot more. Turns out Manu and Nikhil and regulars Twitter users (since a message from Twitter is a twee, is a Twitter user called a twit?) and were filling me on the details about what happens in the Twitter world.

The chili chicken came first, and was very good, although, I did feel it ought to have been a little more spicy, given the fact that it's called 'chili' chicken, but maybe it's just me being fussy, you decide. The chicken was nicely cooked, and we liked it. Nice start.

Chili Chicken

The crispy fried wings turned out to be a standard fair, and it would have been better if there would've been a little more 'meat' in these wings. Taste wise though, it was good, and you can notice a little bit of their masala sprinkled on the plate that added to the taste.

Crispy Fried Chicken Wings

The lollipops were much like the wings when it came to taste, but luckily had a bit more meat in 'em. Given the location and quantity served, I think the prices charged are reasonable here.

Chicken Lollipop

Finally, we got to the main course, and decided to have the 'half' biryanis, and so two chicken biryanis and a mutton biryani were ordered and devoured in no time. The rice was cooked superbly, and even a look at the length of the grains in the snap below won't make you fully realise how long they were (similar to the ones we had at Saffron), and from what I've heard, you need a really high level of skill to get them that way. As far as the taste goes, I know where I'm going to be packing biryani from the next time :)

Mutton Dum Biryani

To wind things up, we ordered a 'matka' kulfi each. The menu also has mishti dahi, and we wanted to try that but it wasn't available on that day. Too bad, maybe some other time.

Food:Very good
$$$: Not expensive. Our meal, including 3 'matka' kulfis, came to around 570 (3 people).
Service: They take your orders, and bring them to your table(s).
Verdict: Must visit if in the area, or if in the mood for cheap and amazing biryanis.

Mani's Dum Biryani, Jyothi Nivas College Road, Above Cuppa, Koramangala, Bangalore.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Coorg

"Thank Goodness it's Friday" is what went through my mind. It'd been a tough week at work and at home, lot's of work at office (which finally got done... hurray!) and some issues regarding some property (which also seems to have been settled for now), and so I needed some way to unwind. And so the chums (P & VP) and I met up, along with BakeACake (who is 5 months preggers) first at Gloria Jean's coffee. Along came Polly...well, not Polly actually, but another classmate of ours from school. He may be making occasional guest appearances here, so let's call him HPDude, for his continual support of HP laptops (he's bought/been gifted 5 laptops successively, all HP, soon after one crashes & burns).

So after assembling, and then haggling like old women over where to go for dinner, I was at the point of collapsing because of no food in my system since lunch (OK, exaggeration about the collapsing, but you get the picture), we finally decided to head to Take 5. We got there and there was quite a bit of cigarette smoke, something we didn't think of initially, and with BakeACake's baby on the way, there was no way we were going to spend time there (the fact that we didn't find seats also helped). And so we went down the building and walked into Cream n Fudge Factory for some ice cream until we decided where to go for dinner.

And so while BakeACake decided to mooch a spoon from our orders (apparently, she's not in a state to eat too much sweet), we went ahead with our orders. So P had an Apple Crumble (double scoop), VP had a Mocha Fudge (single scoop), HPDude got a single scoop of a Cookie Dream, while I had a double scoop of a What's up Berry. Apart from HPDude's Cookie Dream (which he says was actually a nightmare), the remaining were fine and so didn't elicit any extreme reactions from any of us. BakeACake found mine toooo sweet, but loved VP's Mocha thingy.

Cookie Dream

Mocha Fudge

Apple Crumble

What's Up Berry


And so after ice cream, we said our byes to HPDude, who had to go home and wouldn't be joining us for dinner. VP said he felt like eating pork, and the closest place was Wanley, and so we started a march towards Wanley. While entering the street where Wanley is, I suddenly remembered that there's a restaurant nearby that served Kodava food, and it was called Coorg, and this place is open for dinner only on Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays. And so that's where we went.

The restaurant is located on the terrace of a house opposite Hotel Imperial (or Empire, one of those kabab-famous places) on Shree Krishna Temple street, besides the Karnataka Bank ATM. The place is decorated with pictures from around the Coorg district and a few farming implements used by the Kodavas in farming and other activities. They only have a buffet, and apart from that, there are a few fruit drinks that are offered. A bowl of potato wafers with a dip was placed on the table, and we also ordered a few drinks - passion fruit for P and me, while VP had is standard sweet lime soda.



A picture of Kodava men worshiping their guns

Potato wafers and dip

Passion Fruit juice

Akki Rotis

Along with the buffet, they also served hot akki rotis (these were made fresh and hot and were served on the table and weren't present along with the spread).

The meal consisted of nooputtu, which is something like iddiappams, or rice noodles that are pressed from a special contraption and them steamed. This was to be eaten with a chicken curry (like a stew), and for vegetarians there was a veg stew.

Nooputtu

Chicken curry

Veg stew

Apart from these, there was also the famous pandi curry, or pork curry, and it was simply yummylicious. VP's first question when we walked in was "Do you have pork?", and boy, did they have it or what! Succulent, tangy, and flavourful, it was awesome, and went well with the noodley, nooputtu (the iddiappam-like dish), as well as with the herbed rice that was there.

Pork, or pandi curry

Two other vegetarian dishes present were a mushroom curry and a dry dish made from jack fruit (something very similar to what's done in Mangalore and places in South Canara). Both were fantastic (well, I"m a sucker for mushrooms, but I'll have to rate the jack fruit dish slightly above for the simple reason that it was very well balanced, and since this was the only dry dish, I guess it stood out).

Mushroom curry

Jack fruit dish

To have the rice, there was a pot with some mango raita as well, and this nice and sweet. I hadn't noticed, but BakeACake and P told me that there were ants on the pot, and so were a little apprehensive about serving. Ants, sweet, kinda just made my point, didn't it?

Mango raita

A vegetable salad was also there, something that was essential given the amount of pork fat bobbing around in the pot :)

Veg salad

For dessert, there was some coconut souffle and caramel custard. BakeACake loved the caramel custard (I found this sweet, and wondered what she was ranting about 'sweet' things while we were having ice creams earlier). The coconut souffle was also very good, although I thought maybe a little less gelatin would have been better. The owner told me that make it like a mousse, which I agreed.

Caramel custard

Coconut Souffle

At Rs. 275/-, this was an amazing meal, and since this was a place that was for long on my 'must visit' list, I'm glad it finally materialised.

Food: Fantastic
$$$: Rs 275 + tax for the buffet
Service: What? Buffet, and akki rotis are served promptly. Go figure.
Verdict: Must visit, especially since Kodava food is not freely available in all parts of the city.
Extra Info: Open only for dinner on 3 nights of the week: Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Coorg, Krishna Temple Street, Opp. Hotel Imperial, Indiranagar, Bangalore

Friday, April 23, 2010

BM Review: Dalma

Last Sunday, I visited Dalma, a restaurant that specialises in the cuisine from Orissa, located in Koramangala. Needless to say, I was thrilled at visiting a restaurant which had food of a cuisine about which so little is known about. The review can be read here. Thanks to Ruth for delivering me with the guests for the review.

Here's what I made of the entire experience. The food served is simple, yet awesome. It really is home food, and is probably one of the very few 'fancy' (I hate to use the word fancy here because it'll give the impression that it's expensive) restaurants that serve home food. Don't be fooled by the 'fancy' word - it's NOT expensive even though it's situated in Koramangala. One of the other restaurants (that I am aware of) that serves quintessentially home food is Kudla.

My guests suggested that the pakhal thali is a must as it is one of the best examples of Oriya cuisine. It comes with a large bowl (read cauldron) of rice mixed with curds and water (with a few curry leaves and cumin for good measure) and is accompanied by a few veggies and a mixture of fried & dried onions and garlic. The rice is sometimes left for a while and allowed to ferment, but the one served here is the 'straight' kind.

Pakhal thali

From the vegetarian dishes, the ghanta, pronounced ghon-tuh, was a medley of several vegetables. According to my guests, in Orissa, this is made only on special occasions, and is supposed to have all the known vegetables in Orissa! To hell with that, it tasted great, and it reminded me of something that's made in the countryside around Mangalore, which includes some of the same ingredients like the dark brown channa-like pulse, and another vegetable that's called dondekai in Kannada and manoli in Tulu.

Ghanta

We also ordered the dish, the namesake, dalma. This is nothing but lentils, or dal, that is cooked with some spices. Along with that, we also ordered another 'classic' of sorts, the alu-potal rasa, which was potatoes and, well, excuse the excessive use of Indian languages here, but I really don't know the English name of this vegetable, parval (in Hindi). Awesomeness I say. Going back to the food, it was good.

Alu-potal rasa

To represent the !vegetarian dishes (ha ha, {evil grin}, I had to sneak in something to show that I'm an engineer), we had the chicken kassa, mutton kassa, and chungudi malai, which was prawns cooked in coconut milk. All three dishes were wonderful because of the minimal use of over-powering masalas, and the taste of the meats were quite easy to find on the palate and wasn't lost in the midst of the masalas.

Chicken kassa

Mutton kassa

For desserts, we weren't lucky enough to have the rasgullas or the chennapoda. The rasgulla , for long and even till date, is attributer to the state of Bengal, but actually traces its origins to the state of Orissa. Later, during the 'renaissance' in Bengal, rich households employed brahmin cooks from Orissa and the dish 'migrated' to the neighbouring state. Years later, a young mand called Krishna Chandra Das, popularly known as K C Das, started canning and selling them. The rest, as they say, is history.

The chennapoda means baked cheese, and is nothing but cottage cheese, or paneer, that is baked for hours until it develops a thing brown crust. In some cases, sugar and cashew nuts are also added. We settled in for the kheeri, or kheer, and it was great as well. Not quite like the wheat payasa we have in Mangalore and parts of South Canara in terms of texture, this one being more smooth.

Kheeri

Drop in for some simple, yet delicious 'home food', Orissa style.

Food: Simple and wonderful.
$$$: Cheap! Meal for two should cost you about Rs. 300. The rice in one thali is more than enough of two people, so thali + 1 side dish could well be less than 300!
Service: Decent
Verdict: Must visit.

Dalma, #37, 100 Feet Road, 6th block, Koramangala, Bangalore. Phone: 41660921

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BM Review: Phileas Hogg

On the same day that I visited Khazana (lunch), I visited this new restaurant opposite the Innovative multiples in Marathahalli called Phileas Hogg, a pun on Phileas Fogg, from Around the world in 80 days. The entire review can be read over here. A pictorial & detailed description can be found below.

For starters, we had the chicken satay, which although tasting nice, didn't come on skewers and certainly wasn't grilled. A significant part of the satay's flavour comes from grilling it over the hot embers, and a pan-fried substitute sometimes just doesn't cut it.

Chicken Satay + Peanut Sauce

The galouti kabab, the legendary dish, popularised by the Nawab of Lucknow, Asad-ud-Daulah. The aging Nawab was actually toothless, but loved to eat, and so his chef made these kababs so soft that even that toothless old man could mush them down his throat. True to the legend, our kababs were tender and just melted in the mouth.

Galouti Kabab + Mint Chutney

The minestrone soup wasn't all that bad, but there was something about it that just didn't give it that 'oomph' required for us to say that this one was yummy.

Minestrone Soup



Chicken + Gin Ball

The macher jol wasn't all that great - fish wasn't all that fresh, and it's not supposed to be tomato based (from what I've read and heard) but this one was, and I was later told by the owner that I should have ordered one of the north Indian Mughlai dishes which he claimed were one of the better ones.

Macher Jol

This dish below, the Khow Suey, is a Burmese dish, and was one of the better dishes we had that night. The noodles along with the meat and all the little condiments, wish a dash of lime made it a pleasant surprise.

Khow Suey

The chicken burgundy steak was pretty good - I guess the wine sauce in it made the difference.

Burgundy Steak

The seafood risotto wasn't very good - in fact, it was bad, although the owner has told me now that they've improved it since my feedback (which is good to know).

Seafood Risotto

The pizza pie was nice addition to the menu, although in terms of texture, it could have been a little better. I didn't like parts of the sides, because they tasted like, well, hardened dough - duh, that's what it is - I know, but it was flavourless, so maybe it should be made thinner, but then the pie may not hold...I don't know, I don't need to provide a solution, I just get to complain!.

Chicken & Bacon Pizza Pie

Probably a little less gelatin could have been used for the souffle. Taste wise, it was nice. The fried ice cream was ok, nothing special.

Strawberry Souffle

Fried Ice Cream

Food: Nice
$$$: Moderately expensive. What we ate came to around Rs. 2600 or so.
Service: Good
Verdict: Can visit if in the area if you're on the lookout for multi-cuisine food.

Phileas Hogg, 90/3, 4th Floor, above Purple Haze, Opp. Innovative Multiplex, Sarjapur Outer Ring Road, Marathahalli, Bangalore. Phone: 25223828, 42001297

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kudla

Sunday, April 11, was when I finished 27 years of existence on this pale, blue dot in the universe that we call Earth. That's right, it was my 27th birthday, and I decided to take the gang (P, VP, BakeACake, WeightConscious) out for lunch to Kudla, a Mangalorean restaurant that is part of the Ramanashree Comforts Hotel on Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road, just after Hotel Woodlands. Kudla is the Tulu word for Mangalore, and Tulu happens to be the language spoken by the majority of the folks in the South Canara (Dakshina Kannada, or D.K) district (Konkani and Kannada being the other two languages).

So we got there and immediately ordered a kokum kadi. Kokum, or brinda, is a fruit found in the Western Ghats region of western coastal India. It's used in the cooking in Goa and coastal Karnataka as a substitute for tamarind. The drink consists of coconut milk along with the kokum fruit, garlic, chili, and sometime a little coriander.

Kokum kadi

For starters, we had the prawn masala, which was superb. VP wanted to have only this and didn't want any other main course dish (he has a thing against coconut and can't eat things with coconut in it). The marinade was red chili paste, along with some garlic I guess. Simple, yet effective, and tasty as hell.

Prawn Masala

Another starter we had was the seer fish fry, which was again very nice. And of course, the famous chicken ghee roast. Since P is a vegan (lacto-ovo vegan to be specific), we also ordered a mushroom ghee roast, which turned out to be superb. The only non-Mangalorean dish that we ordered was a paneer satay with peanut sauce, but the peanut sauce (and the masala used) quite clearly had a coastal touch to it.

Seer Fish Fry

We were pretty stuffed by this time, so for the main course, we had appams and stew for P, while the rest of us had neer dosa along with prawn curry.

Appam + stew

P liked the stew and the appam combo, and even I liked the stew, since in a lot of other places, they fill potatoes in the stew, but this one had more veggies in it. The neer dosa with the prawn curry was also very good, although I'll never like the neer dosas made outside home.

Neer dosa + prawn curry

Neer dosa and prawn on my plate

For dessert, VP wasn't going to be adventurous and so had a carrot halwa.

Carrot halwa

The rest of us had a raagi manni, which is made form raagi and is kinda like a custard when it comes to consistency. I liked this, although it would have been better had they tossed in a couple of cashew nuts into it.

Raagi manni

The final dessert we had was a wheat payasa, which again, turned out to be great. It wasn't the usual milk-based on, and so had more texture to it, but then again, it didn't play spoilsport on the palate, and neither did it spoil the taste.

Wheat payasa

Along with the bill, usually you have some saunf that is served. Well, here we had saunf as well as betel leaves and the pink paste and the areca nut. I moved the saunf away to take a picture of only the betel leaves and the areca and paste, something that our waiter insisted that I take a picture of.

Betel leaves

The decor of the restaurant is very reminiscent of the houses built in the countryside around Mangalore and South Canara. Wooden beams go across the roof (usually a high ceiling to allow cooling). The waiters also dress in the traditional mundu, which is a white lungi and have a cap made of the areca palm leaves. Suffice to say everyone enjoyed the food and we had a good time.

Food: Superb
$$$: Moderately expensive, but value for money if you ask me. Our bill, with 13.5% VAT (yes, from now VAT is 13.5, not 12) came to around Rs.2600 (for 5 people).
Service: Good
Verdict: Must visit for traditional Mangalorean food.

Kudla, Hotel Ramanashree Comforts, 16, Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road, Bangalore. Phone: 66995970, 66684050