Friday, March 27, 2009

Roll Baby Roll : A Roll for All Seasons

Straddling a Hot Rod (Harley Davidson), this Australian lass is holding a Chiko Roll in her hand, a tad, suggestively, in the Chiko Roll ad in Australia. I understand they have now toned down their communication with a girl next door imagery. Chiko Roll started in the 50's is a great industry for the one hand, holding a beer and the other a chiko roll, in sports loving and watching Aussie land.

Chiko roll girl
So Whats your Roll story. Every Nation and community has a Roll, as convenience food from the Sattu paratha rolled up in your hand to exotic gourmet roll in the tony Oxford Street sidewalk cafe in London. I wish I could be the official chronicler of the humble roll the food of the masses.
To charter the anthology and the taxonomy of the Roll in different cultures and parts of the world. Theres is a Roll or something akin in every part of the world.

Called by different names Tunbrundsrulle in Sweden, Kathi Kabab/ Kokatta Rolls/Roomali Roti Rolls in India (not counting the rolled dosas, parathas and Chillas), Tortillas in Mexico, Souvlaki and Gyro in Greece and the neighbouring Mediteranean, Shawarma and Donner Arab countries in Lebanaon and the Levant world (of Syria, Jordan, Mediteranean nations east of Italy, includes Israel, and parts of Iraq etc), Panini in Italian, the formidable Hot Dog in the US of and Canada, Lumpia in Malaysia, Vietnamese paper rolls, Sushi Maki rolls in Japan, the Spring roll/ Egg Roll of China and the adjoining countries, Lavesh bread and Shashlik of Russia and the CIS countries, Bun Kabab of Pakistan and neighbours, Mutton Roll in SriLanka, The bakery rolls of the the Western world and adapted by the Commonwealth world. We have not even started talking about the subcultures and missed two or three continents South America, Africa and Antartica.
The way forward in this post can be two adress the why rather than the what in the Roll story. Why are they so sucessfull. I can think of :
Nizams Kolkatta

  • A single person"s meal (or one between meals). how many times have we wondered what to eat when we are alone, filling, cheap, tasty and quick.The answer usually is a Roll.
  • The sports watching onsite and offsite culture: quite similar to sandwiches and burgers.The Chiko roll company is large corporation in Australia. A nation of sports watchers.

  • Food on the Go: Don't have to stop eat, on the move. We see it every where when we travel where there is no place and time fora sitdown meal.

  • Peking duck rolls

  • The youth culture: Young people trying it and sticking on for later. Who can forget the Frankies in Bombay in the early 80s and how the became a range.
  • Nutritional angle (and I know I am on thin ice on this one). It usually has carbs (the outer wrap), proteins (meat), vegetables in some, as salad and lot of flavouring, pickles, chutney, mashed potato, relish, radish, mayo, tzatziki etc depending on where in the world you are eating it. Is it nutrition or just calories or just a filler.
  • Price factor: usually affordable.
  • Gourmet food: its lot more gourmet than ordering a sandwich, besides the sushi rolls and vietnamese rice paper rolls add to the glamour, ask vir Snghvi and he will perhaps tell you a place which makes one with Truffles and Wagyu beef (his two favorite gourmet food and perhaps reportoire).

  • Vietnamese paper rolls

  • Working lunch: Often we order Kathi kabab, from Nizams, Candies, Karims or Shawarma from Al Bake or something similar. I associate certain foods for business reviews. For e.g Subway, I never eat one outside a review, as it reminds me of the tough and uncomfortable questions.
  • Not Dirtying your hands: For intance Nizams's in Kolkatta was set up in 19oo by an immigrant and fuelled in the 30's with gora sahibs stopping by after the theatre for a roll wrapped in grey paper to avoid dirtying their hands.
  • Late night pubbing and clubbing culture: Across the world , had a lot to drink, had some short bites, need a filler, meat yes, spice yes, quick yes, cheap yes. Everywhere in Sweden, Hongkong, Berlin, Bangkok, Mumbai, Milan , you find a Kabab roll joint or a variant of the roll.

  • American Hot Dog
  • To the extent the mayor of Milan has banned all non Italian food and stalls. The new talibanisation of ethnic foods (I wanted to write about it but Big brother Vir Sanghvi beat me to the draw on that one.The logic, immigrants work harder, their foods(largely kebabs) are tastier and much cheaper As a protection to the lazier laid back Italians, the non Italians are prohibited from doing business.

Spring rolls

Donner Kebab a Turkish roll is almost a German dish, and as popular as Bratwurst in many parts of Germany. Goes great with beer, and its probably a hit with soccer fans. Almost like hot dogs with a Baseball or American football game.

We have not talked much about the rolls and the art of making them in the Orient, though they do not entirely qualify to be called rolls in the clasical sense. They seem to fit in in the nomenclature and there is huge variety, albeit, the need some instruments to eat it with e.g the chopsticks the fork etc, besides they add to the gourmet quotient.

Sushi Rolls

To trace the historical significance, one can track it down with reference to 8th century BC (and we are talking about the common man's role here) in the Greek history as well as the Mesopotamian Civilization which is modern day Iraq.Discounting what the Chinese, did , because the Chinese did everything else first and I don't read chinese to derive authentic sources on this topic.

My personal experiences begin at age 14. When I moved to Delhi and then committed a life time to rolls. First, with Kool Korner at the West corner Of M block Market in GK I (shut in early 90s). He Arora saab had the hottest kababs this side of the Indus River and three hottest daughters in nearly all of South Delhi ( dressed in shorts plump thighs and ample bosomed and in skimpy outfits fed on pork kababs in early 80s in GK 1). All in all the Kababs and the girls were quite a dish.The called themselves "The Pink ladies "in an orange Ambassador car. We were The Vulkans" in leather and motorcycles. Smoking lazily at Prince Pan corner while they looked back and teased us.
In memory of the pink ladies

Saleem's in Kailash colony, we were just about tasting monetary freedom and testing and tasting alcohol. They had a mutton tikka roll (with Roomali) and mutton seekh roll. You could make that adouble of each that is two kababs and two roomalis into one often called an "Atom Bomb". Alas, as income grew the appetite reduced more or less proportionately. I now perhaps cannot handle the legendary " Atom Bomb"

Then of course, Kathi Rolls of Nizam not to forget the earliest Kathi Kabab shop on in Panchsheel Enclave called Ali's opened in 1979 was hep and upmarket , it was my Dad who reminded me the name (Iwas struggling with name). He's just turned 81 and he promptly gave the name on the phone as if he had been revising it often. The rolls on Park street in Kolkatta, the Frankie's that flew in or travelled in the Rajdhani express from Bombay, the vineagary taste of the meat was addictive in the early 80s.

Al Kauser of Sadia Dehlvi and the clones thereafter including Aap ki Khatir, Khan Chacha and Saleem in Khan market.The Bihari kabab rolls in the outskirts of Dhaka.and my neighbourhood man Qureshi. All in all a great roll Journey. A special mention to the Souvlaki, Shawarma and others in our journeys to Greece, Dubai. My Peking Duck takeaway in the mayfair suites in New York or was it the Tudor hotel. More Rolls in the streets of Yangon in Myanmar. Roti Canai in KL and Roti Paratha roll in Sigapore with Metre Chai.

For some reason dear wife Praveen and little Ananya have not gotten to this eating pursuit. They are the sit down gourmet types. It continues to stay with me as habit of the past, whenever, I feel like having hungry food and smell my past. I get a roll......... Is it got anything with the Kool Korner girls Of B Block??

Whats your Roll story ?

What all goes into a Roast Peking Duck roll?

So Long !

Monday, March 16, 2009

Off Roading Kitchen : Journey food for Jeepers

Among the pursuits, I keep flirting with, the one that has stayed for a while apart from food ofcourse, is Off Roading (in the legendary Jeep). An active member of and Northern India offroaders club for nearly two years and a happy owner of a Pajero and a Mahindra MM 550 (Army issue and now with us), having participated in nearly 12-14 off- the road (OTR)events around Delhi. Qualifies for being called an active pursuit.

Where does food come in. I have written about food on State Bhawans, food in Railway trains, food in Greece, food in Bangkok, food in Indian Coffee Houses, Meat stores, Mallu food, Kashmiri food, food in the Army and so on.
Now for the the twist in the tail The Off Road Kitchen. Jeeps and food make strange and compatible bedfellows.Like the pegs in Patiala were big, the appetites and libido for food in North India is generally big. The Jeep forums in South india rarely talk about food and they make boring excel sheets about meagre expenses.
The largesse up North has to be seen to believed.For instance, the last week (OTR) menu was, pyaz kachoris and ghewar (from Jaipur, Rawat sweets, requested by me and promptly executed by Yogesh afellow Jeeper from there). Amazing stuff, a large kachori with a unique flavor, priced at Rs 10/- each and enormous mirchi vadas, lots of barter and stuffing, Rs 7/- and Ghewar, Yogesh please fill in the price. Thanks Buddy.

There was exotic ham and Salami Sandwiches being prepared on site by Sanjiv Singh and Prabh, the Salalami was more than a kilo and a half and brown bread, there were DahiVadas... by a young biker and jeeper from TeamBHP (another motoring forum), I saw some pre prepared chicken sandwiches, lots of boiled eggs, in fact 40 of them. Chicken salad, potato salad, Juices, cold drinks and Amul Lassi.

Our man Friday, Manchand, packed us some Tuna/ Anda Burjee and Cheese Sandwiches with a wad of Alloo Parathas and Chai and some softdrinks. Our companion Alex brought some beer(which we coul'dnt consume, he was on Lent (abstinence before Easter) and I am temporarily a boring vegetarian and going easy on beer) . Besides drinking is forbidden before the OTR ends, we left before it was declared closed for the day.

We are often accused of more eating and less jeeping (by the other chapters of Jeep Thrills in India). That was only breakfast. I did not stay for lunch. We are mean Jeepers with mean appetites.The off roading is pretty intense with a lot of tough terrain and tough tracks. You have to be there to believe it.
Our food and cuisine has improved over the last two years, its started out with cold boiled eggs and sandwiches and some tea..... then moved up to homemade ham by Pranab dutta (with the land rover and an Suzuki Intruder motorcycle), yours truly took good shammi kabab sandwiches, exotic duck curry by RB Singh (rides a Ford World War 2 Jeep).

Moved on to a fantastic professional barbecue by a kabachi from Nizamuddin. He made seekh kabab, chicken and paneer tikka and fresh roomali rotis on windy and pleasant, May evening,last year. Beside, the Behrampur lake in the Aravalis near Gurgaon. Graciously hosted by Gary and, he would not accept our monetary contribution for a grand meal.

I once heard Pranab, say I like to come out with the Jeepers more than with the Bikers because here the food is better. We also have diet parathas (oil less) from Romi Malik's Kitchen with generous dose of lassi and juices. Laxman (a moderator and the life blood of the forum) is partial to bringing in Idlis smothered with gunpowder and Sarvinder (a capableoff roader and a moderator) likes his Chicken ham sandwiches with a slice of onion. RB ( veteran jeeper and moderator) is more than partial to Indian food, with his constant hunt for specialities of the region, a spice, a unique meat cut, a new flavour. And the legendary duck curry.

Now for the piece de resistance Arjun Khanna (drives a Prado and is professional chef) and feed 40 hungry people(jeepers ) in 40 minutes, the menu, sausages, fresh fried eggs (all on site), baked beans, a mean cheese spread and freshly brewed coffee on a methane burner (helped by my little 9 year old daughter Ananya, brewing the coffee). The guy is amazing and more than generous. To the extent everyone is wee bit disappointed when Arjun is not coming Jeeping. His field kitchen serving hampers and the trolley is amazing, very very oraganised and state of the art.

Erstwhile, packed food for journeys was usually sandwiches, Aloo puri, parathas and dry subzi with pickles for North Indians. Gujratis travelled then with a retinue and continue to do so even today with khakras, phaphdas and theplas with chundoo pickle. The South Indians carried enormous tiffins with a spoon to fasten it and hold it together, stocked with tamarind rice (rolled and insualted in banane leaves. The Bengalis loved their aloo and luchi and jhal (mirchi) with a piece of kalakand as a sweet and triangle namkeens called nimkis.
Have we all left this behind to evolve a new set of Journey food, some of us don't even bother to take something along, plan-to buy-everything-on -the -way. Another kind carries only packaged food as opposed to packed food.

My favourite story of packed food is the one told by maternal Grandfather (a legendary Police Officer of Undivided Punjab, Diwan Kasturi Lal Chopra). Once he and British- Christian- Priest, set out to do some relief work in Rohtak floods in the 50s. The missionary priest had an Aluminium boat (a novelty then), they set out to give supplies to the flood stricken locals. Come lunchtime, grandpa opened his tomato and butter/cheese sandwiches with a thermos of Chai. The priest opened his parathas, anda Burji and mango pickle. Strange how, both had adapted. Grandpa to the British he worked for, and the priest adapted with the Indian way.
Fortunately The Offroad kitchen we have has amalgamated to be a ethnic pot with all varieties and cultures both Indian and foriegn, adapted to one great jeeping cuisine.
We have our codes for the beverages,
Bangalore ka pani : Beer
Roos ka Pani : Russian Vodka or just Vodka
Brown Pani : Whisky
Boodha Padri : Old Monk rum and so on and so forth......

Ususually, there is plenty going and every is generous to pass on whatever, they have, its very very democratic, almost like an ideal commune. You have to check it out.

Parting shots:
What were the Jeep variants in France and Japan called ?
Whats your favourite Journey food story?
So long !

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mallu Food or Porn: Take your pick

I have been itching to write this post, you google Mallu and you are inundated with so much of mallu porn that its unbelievable. Though my innocent objective, was to know and write about my experience with Mallu food, but the porn is in your face raw and not airbrushed and crude. There is some eroticism to this rawness, fat, stretchmarks.... must be. My friend Alex a mallu, advises its Kodambakam stuff and ... and I forget is further explanation. I am sure he will fill in his comments. I think he said its generic, all South Indian porn is being touted under the umbrella of Mallu porn.

Switching gears from porn to food, My spiritual guru (Dr Nalin Nirula), once said, the tongue/mouth, ego ( which resides below the navel in the hara chakra) and the groin/genitals are strangely aligned and are in a straight line. They seek and provide pleasure and also a lot of pain in a persons life. Taste, Ego and Sexual Pleasure.

One a more basic plane, I intended to treat and write a simple post on my experience with EOID gang (Eating Out in Delhi) with Mallu food in Sarai Julena near Escorts Hospital on Okhla Road in New Delhi a Sunday evening a few days ago. Should stop using Mallu (as its kind of derogatory which gets to be okay after a while, Bong, Surdie, Punju, Bawa,Ghatti, Gujju, Chinky and so on).

However, I Love M or Kerala food or Cuisine (it has alot of similarity with the Sri-lankan cuisine), but I can't help see the similarity between, Malayalis and Bengalis, in fact Alex mentioned it was in his Middle school text book that the similarities were mentioned, e.g food habits, population density, education levels, and thats it. I have been doing the research for a while, though the edict is mine, I have taken the inputs of Murli (an ex colleague at mint, a mallu, who's worked in Bengal) and Nat (a colleague at Business Standard, a Tamilian, who grew up in Bengal and worked in Kerala), so here it goes......

The- compendium- of- similarities-between- Mallus and Bongs-will- amaze -you.Not included, Bangladeshis as yet(more of that later).
1.Communists and Communist parties (obvious).
2.Football Aficionados (Kerala and West Bengal Football clubs)
3. Hot and Horny Women (Think about it, meditate, you will get your answers)
4.Tea Drinking Lots of it(Kerala drinks a lot more tea and W.Bengal, of course, Adda).
5. Smoking- Lots of it ( Specific brands, Scissors in Kerala and Charms W. Bengal).
6. Marie biscuits- category (Highest sales contribution from the two states).
7.Beef (Permission of cow slaughter, as part of the cuisine).
8.Trade Unionism, similar to 1.
9. Work ethics (both work splendidly out of their home state).
10. Fish as a part of daily cuisine.
11.Ambassador car (fondness for it and you see many more).
12.Coconut trees (plenty grown and used, definitely more in Kerala).
13.Lungi (different formats, same product, extensively used).
14.Fondness for chappals, Bata- Crona and Sandak (probably, monsoon and humidity).
15. Banana/Plantain, (parts of the tree- fruit, raw, stem, flower, leaf used in cuisine extensively).
16.Appreciation of Arts and fine arts.
17. Romantic in disposition.
18. Art films (yes despite the raunchy stuff there is plenty of good stuff from Kerala Directors).
19. High readership of newspapers and magazines.
20. Interest and discussion around politics (at Adda and Chai Kada).
21.Names (Joy, Bijoy and many more are common).
22.Also, high density of population per sq km.
23. High lieracy rates.

So, I love Bengali food and Malayali food, this evening ,I was mentioning about, was at Sarai Julena, 8 of us, Hemanshu, Ashwan, Rohit........ and a Gora and aGori who retreated hastily when they were exposed to our slumdog gourmet destination (so I believe).

We order in parts, however the whole order for 8 burly guys, beef chilly fry, beef masala, beef curry, chicken chilly/pepper, chicken masala, chicken curry, beef biryani, chicken biryani, a single mackerel fried and 36 porrotas. Hungry food, rudimentary flavours, could be better, value for money, slow service (they can handle twosomes and threesomes and not eightsomes). This is in a lane going inside Sarai Julena where you first see a restaurant called Joy's then a Mallu video sale/rental (for your fix of Mallu porn or Adoor Gopalakrishnan, take your pick) a malayali jewellery store and then turn right climb a few stairs into the tubelit steel backed chaired Malabar Restaurant (how original is that).

The meal cost us Rs 650/- for eight persons. That's well below Rs 100/- for local or near local exotica actually it was Rs 81.25 person. I lived up to our Rs100/0 mark for The Salesman's guide to eating out. Albeit unintentionally. No Appam's at night and no Kappa biryani which were to be the highlights of the evening.

Who is your favourite Mallu porn queen ? Shakeela ? Please check her out.

What is Kappa in English ?

Parting shot.... Please add to my list of similarities between Mallus and Bongs. Please do Google images of Bongs and enjoy the fun.

So Long !