Category Archives: Food

Under the Goan sun

Standard

Fun, food and festive fervour, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY find new reasons to come back to Goa

dsc09606_anurag-mallick

The Goan sun may have lost its burn after heavyweight music festivals like Sunburn and Supersonic shifted to Pune last year end, but that can only mean good news to Goa lovers. There’s plenty of elbow room to party for Christmas and New Year! Crank up the volume with the Krank Goa Boutique Party Experience (27-30 Dec) at Chronicle, have the ‘Craziest New Year’s Eve party’ at Banyan Tree with legendary techno artist Goa Gil or try the Yoga Retreat Fest at Mandrem (28 Nov-3 Dec).

However, there’s more to cheer about this season. Starwood’s swanky W Hotels opens in Vagator this December. An old soda factory at Baddem has been reinvented into Soro, a rustic New York-style pub with colourful tiles and retro posters. After wowing Hauz Khas hipsters in Delhi, Gunpowder is scorching Goan taste-buds with its eclectic Peninsular cuisine. Sharing space with PeopleTree design studio in Assagao near the new Fabindia outlet, Gunpowder has a new trendy bar designed by ace mixologist Evgenya Pradznik.

dsc09852_anurag-mallick

Not enough? There’s hot air ballooning (Rs.9900/person) at Assolda in South Goa and Duck Boat Safaris in Panjim, making Goa the first state in India to introduce it. Like Dublin or Dubai, you can take a terrestrial-aquatic tour of the architectural precinct of Old Goa followed by a boat ride on the Mandovi. Surely an upgrade from those sunset cruises with ‘live Goan music and dance’!

GTDC Managing Director Nikhil Desai is upbeat about new tourism initiatives. “We have launched cycling tours and birding trails. You can hire a yacht or go on boat tours to Chorao and Divar islands. Plans are afoot to convert Mayem Lake into a recreational spot. Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours like Singapore and London are in the pipeline. Apart from beach tourism, the focus is on the rich hinterland, unique festivals and Goa as a gourmet destination.”

dsc09513_anurag-mallick

Gourmet Goa

Having savoured Goa’s diverse repertoire, we had to agree. Be it Bomras’ Burmese cuisine like lah pet toke (pickled tea leaf salad) in Candolim, souvlakis, tzatziki and Greek fare at Thalassa in Anjuna or Indo-French fine dining at Gregory Bazire’s Le Poisson Rouge at Baga, Goa is for gourmands. Dig into river crab and fresh turmeric tortellini with a curry leaf emulsion at Le Poisson Rouge or hop across to Matsya Freestyle Kitchen at Samata Retreat Centre in Arambol to try out Israeli chef Gome Galily’s excellent tuna tataki and red snapper ceviche.

Chef Chris Saleem, the man behind Sublime in Morjim is now manning Elevar, a seaside restaurant in Ashvem. A large deck with casual seating overlooks the surf as well-plated dishes like Seabass Carpaccio and Tandoori prawns over saffron and fenugreek risotto are served. We took a ferry across to Fort Tiracol to dine at Tavern restaurant where Chris’s signature menu blends Portuguese, Goan and Indian flavours into petiscos (tapas). Overlooking Keri Beach from the fort ramparts, we tucked into spaghetti with Tiracol clams, Vitello Tonnato (stewed beef filets) and Peixe caldeirada (Portuguese fisherman stew) with a view as terrific as the food.

dsc09519_anurag-mallick

Forget Italian and Asian, there’s even Bengali cuisine in Goa! Latika Khosla’s gorgeous home store Freedom Tree in a sea green and white Portuguese villa in Sangolda had enough room for a restaurant. Her friends Shilpa Sharma and Poonam Singh found inspiration in the Franco-Bengali love for mustard and roped in food historian Pritha Sen to meld subtle flavours of East Bengal with French cuisine. Over Cucumber Latte and tamarind-based Tentul Joler Sherbet, Pritha deconstructed Eastern Indian cuisine.

“When the British built the railways to expand the trade in tea and Burma teak, steamers ferried goods, passengers, forest rangers, British officials and zamindars from the railhead. Mogs, a Burmese hill tribe from Arakan, were ace cooks who picked up European flavours aboard Portuguese pirate ships. Unlike Hindu or Muslim cooks, Mogs were Buddhist and had no qualms preparing pork or beef, so the British employed them on these steamers. Over time, this ‘steamer cuisine’ crept into the Raj clubs of Calcutta.” Pritha tracked down the last living mog in Kolkata and coaxing recipes and techniques from his assistant, introduced a limited menu here. The highlight is smoked fish, made the traditional way by charring puffed rice, jaggery and husk.

dsc00028_anurag-mallick

Museum of Goa

MoG was the flavour of the season! The smoky taste still on our lips, we breezed past the blue roadside mermaids scattered between Porvorim and Candolim to MoG or Museum of Goa in Pernem Industrial Estate. Mog is Konkani for ‘heart’ so when the museum opened last November, locals wondered what scandalous affair would unfold at the lonely hilltop. But the museum of contemporary art wows every visitor.

Spread across four floors amid landscaped sculpture gardens, MoG is the largest private art space in India. Set up by local ‘sea artist’ Subodh Kerkar (his muse is the sea), it chronicles Goa’s various cultural histories by local artists. Spanning a time frame from Parashurama to the Portuguese and 450 years of colonial rule, the museum is a tribute to Goa. Ceramic and pottery workshops by local artist Mayank Jain, art classes, book launches, lectures, film screenings, concerts; MoG is a hub where many art forms collide. The lores behind the themes were as interesting as the exhibits.

dsc09736_anurag-mallick

The artists creatively interpreted Portuguese imports to India – from pepper and chili to gulmohar (brought from Madagascar and locally called kombyache zhad or ‘tree of the rooster’ owing to its crest-like flower). Subodh created installations using green mussels, sawn boats, porcelain plates submerged in the sea for months, even a fish vendor’s chopping block!

A large wooden horseshoe titled ‘Al Khamsar’ retraced Goa’s trading history as the centre of horse trade during medieval times. Nearly half of Goa’s revenue came from the sale of Arabian horses, in high demand by Indian royalty. The Vijayanagar kings were the biggest buyers with exclusive rights to all horses brought by the Portuguese. They also paid for horses that perished on the sea voyage, provided they could furnish the tail!

dsc09629_anurag-mallick

Exploring Panjim

The gallery’s in-house Om Made Café served organic fare, but we were so famished, we could’ve eaten a horse! At Ritz Classic on 18th June Road in Panjim, patrons stalk diners for a free table, so we checked out their spacious new outlet in Patto. After a plate of chonak (Giant Sea Perch) fry, we concurred the taste was as spot on as the grilled pearlspot.

Panjim’s alleys are dotted with great eateries – Viva Panjim, Casa Bhosle (amazing tisrya sukkem or clams) and Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro that offers a daily rotating menu. Chicken cafreal on Monday, beef stew on Tuesday, feijoado (beef-pork-bean stew) on Wednesday, xacuti on Thursday and any dish on Friday. Bhatti Village in Nerul goes one better – an unfixed menu based on Patrick’s wife’s whims!

dsc06771_anurag-mallick-old

Besides gastronomy, it was heartening to see Goa finally do justice to Mario Miranda’s legacy. The Reis Magos fort, named after the Biblical three wise men, was renovated by architect Gerard da Cunha, INTACH and the UK-based Helen Hamlyn Trust. The Craft Centre outlines the restoration process while two halls showcase Mario’s work, though one has been recently converted into a freedom fighters’ gallery!

Most visitors miss the first-of-its-kind Indian Custom & Central Excise Museum opposite Panaji jetty. Located in the 416-year-old Captain of Ports Building, it was renamed the Blue Building after a repaint in 2001 as tribute to the indigo trade. A chapel near the entrance is dedicated to St Anthony, patron saint of the lost-and-found. Among the highlights are dioramas of old trading settlements, Goan ports, a rare manuscript of Ain-i-Akbari, a Narcotics Gallery and a Battle of Wits Gallery where smuggled goods were seized in hollow shoe soles, cane sticks, commodes and car engines!

dsc06524_anurag-mallick-old

In Panjim, take a guided walk through the old Portuguese quarter of Fontainhas. Walking past lovely vivendas (homes) and pousadas (guest houses) with oyster shells windowpanes, we reached the fonte (spring) after which the settlement was named. Artist Subodh Kerkar too leads heritage walks and we joined him on an early morning jaunt to ‘any place within a short drive.’

At a time when we normally return from a rave, we set out to explore the heritage village of Moira. Beyond architect Charles Correa’s ancestral house, we strolled to the Moira riverfront guarded by the pre-Aryan folk deity Rastoli Brahman Prasann. At the sluice gates, fish was left to dry and fresh hatchlings in perforated plastic jars hung half submerged in the waters. ‘It’s to keep the bait fresh! On each walk I learn something new,” said Subodh.

dsc06827_anurag-mallick-old

Having done enough rounds of Anjuna’s flea market, we browsed Mapusa’s Friday Market for local produce, clothes, furniture, terracotta artefacts and round Salcette sausages we had tried at the Pattoleochem Fest in Socorro village. They looked more like rudraksha beads (rosaries). “Child, they’re so tasty, you’ll come back for more”, one lady said. Indeed, we will! You can never have your fill of Goa…

FACT FILE

Getting there: Jet Airways flies to Dabolim airport in Goa.

When to go
Besides IFFI in November and Christmas/New Year in December, look out for local fests every month – Grape Escapade in Jan, Carnival in Feb around Lent, Shigmo (Holi) in March, Mango festival in May, Sao Joao (well jumping) and Ponsachem (Jackfruit) Fest in June, Touxeachem (Cucumber) Fest in July at Talaulim and Pattoleochem Fest in Aug at Socorro.

dsc09964_anurag-mallick

Where to Stay

Birdsong, Moira
Ph 9987962519, 9810307012, 9587508222
www.birdsonggoa.com

Coco Shambhala, Nerul
Ph 9372267182
www.cocoshambhala.com

Ahilya by the Sea, Nerul
Ph 011-41551575
www.ahilyabythesea.com

Aashyana Lakhanpal, Candolim
Ph 0832-2489276, 2489225, 9822488672
www.aashyanalakhanpal.com

Panjim Inn, Panjim
Ph 0832-2226523, 2228136
www.panjiminn.com

W Hotels, Vagator
Ph 0832-6718888
www.starwoodhotels.com

Turiya Spa, Canacona
Ph 0832-2644172, 2643077, 9821594004
www.turiyavilla.com

dsc09508_anurag-mallick

Where to Eat & Drink

Casa Bhonsle
Cunha Rivara Road, Near National Theater, Panjim
Ph: 0832-2222260

Ritz Classic
‪Patto Plaza, Gera Imperium II, Near Kadamba Bus Stand, Panjim
Ph: 0832-2970298

Elevar Beach Bar & Restaurant
Leela Seaside Cottages, Ashvem
Ph: 9130352188

Soro The Village Pub
Baddem Junction, Siolim-Assagao Road
Ph: 9881934440, 9881904449

Gunpowder
People Tree, Assagao
Ph: 0832-2268228

Mustard Restaurant
Freedom Tree, Sangolda
Ph: 98234 36120 

dsc00035_anurag-mallick

What to See/Do 

Indian Custom & Central Excise Museum, Panaji
Ph: 0832-2420620 Email goamuseum2009@gmail.com
Timings: 9.30am-5pm (Tues-Sun)
Entry: Rs.50 Audio Guided tour tablet

Museum of Goa, Pilerne
Director: Dr Subodh Kerkar Ph: +91 9326119324 www.museumofgoa.com
Timings: 10am to 6pm
Entry fee: Rs.100 Indians; Rs.300 foreign nationals, Rs.50 students and children.

Reis Magos Fort, Verem
Ph: 0832-2904649 Email reismagosfort@gmail.com
Timings: 9.30am to sunset (Tues-Sun)

Houses of Goa Museum, Torda, Porvorim
Ph: 0832-2410711 www.archgoa.org

For local tours, contact GTDC
Ph: 0832-2437132, 2437728, 8805727230
www.goa-tourism.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of JetWings International magazine.

Advertisements

The Journey of Biryani

Standard

ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY go on the biryani trail across India chronicling the history of this iconic dish and its regional variants 

thalassery-biryani-img_0868

In a dark sooty kitchen in Mysuru’s Lashkar Mohalla with only a shaft of light slanting through a glass tile, Sadiq bhai stood stirring a huge cauldron of boiling oil sizzling with onions. Two wide steel vessels had the choicest cuts of fresh pink meat. In another vessel, water was already on the boil and a woven basket on the floor held a heap of washed rice waiting to be transformed into Nasheman’s signature mutton biryani. Sadiq bhai was one of the countless practitioners of a well-guarded craft using secrets handed down by elders.

There is something remarkable in the manner in which humble rice is elevated to a heavenly dish fit for kings and commoners alike, with just a play of ingredients, flavours and techniques. In Tamil Nadu, there is a reference to “oon soru” in Tamil literature dating to 2 AD, a delicious combination of rice, clarified butter, bay leaf, turmeric, coriander, pepper and meat that was served to warriors.

hyderabadi-biryani-img_1903

Though synonymous with Indian cuisine and a part of speciality and mainstream menus of every chef worth his salt, the biryani is regarded as an import from West Asia, more specifically, Persia. The word biryani is thought to originate from the Persian word “birian” which means ‘fried before cooking’ or “birinj” meaning ‘rice’. The washed rice is fried in butter or ghee before being cooked in boiling water – this not only imparted a mild nutty flavour to the rice but also ensured that the grains retained their shape after cooking.

Since medieval times, the recipe of a good biryani has been simple – rice and meat set in layers with the number of spices varying from few to fifteen. Traditionally, long grain brown rice was the preferred option, but now the scented basmati rice has become synonymous with biryani. In south India, local varieties like kaima or jeeraka shala (jeerige sanna in Coorg and seeraga samba in Tamil Nadu), provide their own distinct flavour and texture to the dish. The meats vary from goat, sheep, poultry, beef, eggs to seafood like fish, prawns and crab. Fragrance heightens its appeal and it’s not uncommon to find biryanis scented with rosewater, edible ittar or kewra water and saffron. The cooking technique can be kachchi (raw) where the meat is layered with raw rice in a handi or pot, or pakki (cooked) where cooked rice and meat are layered together.

img_5471_biryani-anurag-mallick

Legend has it that Timur the Lame, the Turkic conqueror and founder of the Timurid Empire, was responsible for the entry of biryani to India. Apparently, when he landed at our frontiers in 1398 he served a rudimentary form of ‘biryani’ to his soldiers. His armies would consume a hearty diet of pots of rice, spices and meats that were slow cooked in hot buried pits which were dug out at meal time. While biryani may very well have been part of a war diet, there was always a certain romance associated with it.

Perhaps, the fact that Mumtaz, the inspiration behind India’s most celebrated monument and symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, had something to do with it! It is believed that Mumtaz once visited the Mughal army’s barracks and was dismayed by the dire conditions and poor nutrition endured by the soldiers. She ordered the cook to prepare a wholesome meal that blended meat and rice. And thus, they say, the biryani was born…

moradabadi-biryani-img_0217

The stories may be apocryphal but there’s no doubt that the Mughals played their part in the popularity and dispersal of the biryani across their vast dominion. Whether it was the Nawabs of Oudh (Awadh) in Lucknow or the Nizams of Hyderabad, the biryani blossomed into regional variations wherever it went. Take Moradabad, founded in 1625 and named after Murad Buksh, son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

When Mohammed Yar Khan, hailed as the founder of the Indian brassware industry, migrated from Afghanistan to India in the 1860s, locals not only picked up techniques of brass making but also the nuances of biryani. The Moradabadi Biryani is typically low on spices and high on flavor and there’s no better place to taste it than Alam biriyaniwala on Galshaheed Road.

img_0190-sahils-main-bawarchi-shirazuddin-khan-dilliwale

While the journey of the biryani from Persia to India via the Mughals is an incredible one, the way it was Indianized into different variants across the subcontinent is equally amazing. Patronized by royalty, every region, community or socio-geographic condition led to minor modifications and refinements. The Hyderabadi dum biryani developed under Asaf Jah I of Hyderabad. Arab nobleman Mir Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi, appointed by Aurangzeb as viceroy of the Deccan between 1713 to 1721 laid the foundation of the Asaf Jahi dynasty after the death of the Mughal emperor.

As per legend, while on a hunting trip, the first Nizam was offered some kulcha (oval Indian bread) by a holy man. Asked to eat as many as he could, the Nizam ate seven kulchas and the seer prophesied that seven generations of his family would rule the state. The prophesy came true as seven Nizams ruled Hyderabad for two centuries from 1724 to 1947.

hyderabadi-biryani-img_1908

Inspired by Persian society and their Turko-Mongol Mughal overlords, the Nizams patronized art, literature, culture and cuisine. It is said that the khansamas (royal chefs) of the court could prepare over 50 types of biryani using shrimp, quail, fish, deer, hare and their signature saffron infused rice. Another speciality was the delicately flavoured Doodh ki Biryani cooked with creamy milk, roasted nuts and aromatic spices.

However, the quintessential Hyderabadi dum biryani is made with basmati rice, spices and goat meat in a style known as kachchi yakhni or kachche gosht ki biryani. The marinated meat is cooked along with rice layered with fried onions, chilies, mint leaves and sprinkled with kewda, rose water and saffron. The dish is left on slow fire or dum (steam) and sealed with dough for a fragrant and aromatic flavor.

img_2212_biryani-anurag-mallick

It is often accompanied by a boiled egg and raita or mixed salad. While Paradise may have opened branches in other cities, locals swear by smaller establishments for the real taste of paradise – Hotel Shadaab near Charminar, Parvez Hotel at Nampally, Hotel Sohail in Malakpet and Cafe Bahar in Basheer Bagh.

One variant called the Kalyani biryani, often dubbed the ‘Poor man’s Hyderabadi biryani’, originated in Bidar in North Karnataka during the reign of the Kalyani Nawabs, who migrated to Hyderabad after Nawab Ghazanfur Jang married into the Asaf Jahi family. The Kalyani biryani was served by the Kalyani nawabs to guests who came from Bidar and visited their devdi (mansion) in Hyderabad.

kalyani-biryani-img_5502

After the privy purse was abolished and the nawabs went into decline, some of their illustrious cooks set up their own stalls and introduced the Kalyani biryani to the local populace. The Kalyani biryani is characterized by small cubes of buffalo meat flavoured with ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chili, cumin, coriander powder, lots of onion and tomato, made into a thick curry and then cooked in dum style along with rice.

While the Hyderabadi biryani uses ground masalas, the Awadhi or Lucknow biryani is characterized by whole spices and yellow chili powder for a mild, flavourful dish. The rice is cooked separately in spices and marinated chicken is added later. The ambience may not win any Michelin stars, but locals queue up at Lucknow’s legendary hole-in-the-wall eateries like Lalla biryani at Chaupatiya Chowk, Wahid biryani in Aminabad and Idris ki Biryani at Patanala near Kotwali Chowk Bazaar.

img_5220_biryani-anurag-mallick

The Calcutta biryani, a Lucknowi variant, evolved when Awadh’s last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 to Kolkata. Settled in the suburb of Metiabruz, the nawab brought his personal chef with him. It is said the poorer households of Kolkata that could not afford meat, supplemented it with potatoes, which became a local specialty. The subtle biryani uses nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, cloves and cardamom in the yoghurt based marinade for the meat which is cooked separately from the rice.

This combination of spices gives it a distinct flavour as compared to other styles. The rice is flavoured with ketaki water or rose water along with saffron to give it flavour and a light yellowish colour. The usual accompaniment is raita and kosha mangsho (thick mutton curry), best ordered from biryani bastions like Arsalan and Nizam’s. In nearby Barrackpore, at Dada-Boudi Biryani locals buzz around like bees to take away biryani by the boxfuls as large vessels simmer in the back alley.

calcutta-biryani-img_4622

As far as the original Mughlai biryani goes, one can still find the authentic taste in the crammed alleys and bylanes of Delhi. Tempered with saffron and enriched with nuts, the mild flavourful mughlai version has many takers, whether it is Al Jawahar near Jama Masjid or Nasir Iqbal in Nizamuddin. The legendary Karim’s, started in 1913 by Haji Karimuddin and ranked by Time Magazine as one of the best non vegetarian restaurants in Asia, trace their origins to the Mughal court.

After the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar was deposed and the British crushed the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, many royal cooks fled from Lal Qila and sought shelter in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. In 1911, when the Delhi Durbar was held for the coronation of King George V, several moved back to Delhi to cater to the crowds flocking for the coronation. Starting with a small dhaba serving rumali rotis with alu gosht and daal, Haji Karimuddin established the Karim Hotel in Jama Masjid’s Gali Kababian in 1913 with the lofty aim to serve royal food to the common man.

img_2067_biryani-anurag-mallick

Over time, the biryani has criss-crossed the cardinal directions of the country and imbibed spices and flavours from each region, to create extraordinary versions, iconic to places or communities. Of the dozen odd styles found in India, surprisingly most variations can be found in the south!

While the spicy Andhra Biryani is popular across South India be it RRR Mess in Mysuru or Nagarjuna in Bengaluru, the local Donne Biryani is quite the rage, served piping hot in a donne (arecanut palm leaf cups). Share elbow space with die hard patrons at the Gundappa Shivaji military hotel in Bengaluru or Hanumanthu’s in Mysuru. Biryani purists may scoff that these are technically pulaos and unless it’s layered it ain’t biryani, but the proof of the pudding lies in eating it!

donne-biryani-img_5238

Mysuru is also known for its Tahari Biryani, perhaps a corruption of tarkari or vegetables. Beans, carrots and potatoes are cooked along with rice to create a tasty vegetarian dish that was popularised during the reign of Tipu Sultan and attributed to the austere vegetarian book-keepers in Tipu’s administration. Wherever there was a high Muslim population, the biryani gained tremendous popularity.

A popular variant in recent times is the Ambur biryani, first introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot and spread by their royal cooks in Ambur and Vaniyambadi villages of Vellore district in north-eastern Tamil Nadu. The most famous among them was Hasin Baig, who opened a small eatery on NH4 (Bengaluru- Chennai highway) that has grown into a powerful brand a century later. Ambur’s legendary Star Biryani now has branches in Chennai and Bengaluru and serves 7 types of biryani including a Chicken 65 Biryani!

img_5211_biryani-anurag-mallick

Ambur regulars however swear by Hotel Rahmaniya. Authentic Ambur biryani does not use any garam masala powder or coriander powder with the spice and the taste coming from the red chili paste. It has a distinct aroma and the moderate use of spice and curd as a gravy base make it easy to digest. It also has a higher ratio of meat to rice and is typically served with dalcha, a sour brinjal curry or Kathirikai Pachadi (Khatte Baingan).

Another legend in the galaxy of stellar biryani makers is Dindigul’s Thalpakatti biryani. What started off in 1957 as a humble betelnut shop and a 4-seater Anandha Vilas Biriyani Hotel, is today the first non-veg South Indian restaurant to open in Paris! Its founder Nagasamy Naidu sported a thalapa (traditional turban) and hence the hotel’s popular name Thalappakatti.

bhatkal-mutton-biryani-img_4668

Such was its taste that Tamil star Sivaji Ganesan often made a ritual stop at Dindigul for the Thalappakatti Biriyani while visiting his farmhouse at Soorakottai nearby. The Dindigul Biryani uses flavourful Parakkum sittu or Seeragasamba rice, top quality meat sourced from the cattle markets of Kannivadi and Paramathi, besides curd and lemon juice for the signature tang. Mutton bones are boiled and brinjal, potato and pulses are added to create an accompaniment called dalcha.

Many of the biryani varieties found on India’s eastern coast can be traced to Arab traders who sailed to port cities in the Konkan, Karavali and beyond. Malabar, Kerala’s northern region stretching from Kasaragod to Kozhikode, has long attracted Arabian sailors who came to India’s Spice Coast for trade. Over time, they married local women and a new Muslim community called the Mappilas (anglicized to Moplah) was formed.

img_5333

Thalassery, Malabar’s culinary capital, is known for its delectable biryani made with local spices, ghee and the small-grained fragrant kaima or jeerakasala rice. The meat and rice are prepared separately and layered together for a final dum, sealing the lid with maida or dough and placing red hot charcoal or flaming coconut shells above the lid.

Very little chili or chili powder is used, leading to a subtle dish served with raita, mango or date pickle and coconut-coriander chutneyAnd it’s no secret, you get the best Thalassery biryani in Paris. No, not the Eiffel Tower, Louvre or Arc de Triomphe Paris, but a tiny shack on Thalassery’s Logan Road called Paris.

img_2063_biryani-anurag-mallick

When cooks from Thalassery moved to Calicut, it led to a new coinage – Kozhikode or Malabar Biryani! We went backroom into the kitchen of Paragon restaurant to see a large vessel of chicken being stirred continuously into a thick gravy. Another man was cooking rice in cauldrons. A third deftly heaped steaming small-grained rice over a generous piece of chicken, as platefuls of Paragon’s famous biryani rolled out of the assembly line.

Besides meat, local cooks also turned to the bountiful sea to make fish or prawn biryani, sometimes made with a variation of vermicelli, instead of rice. Ayisha Manzil, a heritage homestay at Thalassery teaches the nuances of Moplah cuisine in gourmet cooking holidays.

malabar-seviyan-biryani-img_0540

In Mangaluru, the South Canara trading community of Bearys (derived from the Tulu word ‘byara’, meaning trade or business) have their own distinct cuisine. Just like Mangalorean food, they use coconut, curry leaves, ginger, chilli and spices like pepper and cardamom. The dum style Beary biryani is subtle and delectable. Further up the Karavali coast, the Navayaths of Bhatkal have a Bhatkali or Navayathi biryani.

Navayaths are migrants predominantly from Arabia and Persia, who married into local Jain trading families to form a new community called Navayaths or the ‘newly arrived’. Like their language Navayathi, their cuisine too is an amalgam of Persian, Arabic, Marathi and Urdu with Konkani as its base. The biryani often has a vermicelli version instead of rice and is served with accompaniments like baingan ka khatta (tangy brinjal curry) and sirke ka pyaz (onions in vinegar).

bhatkal-shayya-biryani-img_4685

The biryani alters in taste and appearance as one travels up the coast. But have you ever heard of a biryani without rice? The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect of the Ismaili branch of Shias residing mainly in Mumbai, Gujarat and western India. Like their language – a dialect of Gujarati mixed with Arabic and Urdu – their biryani is also unique, made from colocasia leaves normally used for patrode. The Bohri patra biryani is flavoured with a lot of tomatoes and the best place to have it is in Mumbai’s Bohri Mohalla. Firoz Farsan dishes out a limited quantity every Sunday, though Ramzan is a great time to savour other delicacies.

There’s a Sindhi Biryani as well, with a pleasing bouquet of flavours using scented spices, roasted nuts, slivers of green chillies and a tang imparted by sour yoghurt and Aloo Bukhara (plums). The Memons of Gujarat-Sindh have a spicy Memoni biryani made with lamb, yoghurt, fried onions, potatoes and fewer tomatoes than the Sindhi version. They also use less food colouring, allowing the rich colours of the various meats, rice, and vegetables to blend in an appearance that is pleasing to the eye, as it is to the palate.

mangalore-beary-biryani-img_5380

Even far flung Assam has its own version called the Kampuri biryani, where chicken is cooked with peas, carrots, beans, potatoes, and yellow bell peppers before being spiced up with cardamom and nutmeg and mixed with rice. The outcome is a tasty, simple dish with meat soaked in fresh flavours of local vegetables.

The recipe to a good biryani is often a closely guarded secret handed down generations, be it in homes, royal kitchens or local restaurants. Hidden in the layers of rice, spices and succulent meat, are little stories of nameless and famous people who have contributed gems to the culinary treasures of India. The adventurous will continue to drool and explore the dazzling range of biryanis on offer while others will seek out the old haunts for time-tested familiar tastes, tinged with nostalgia. Today, preparing a biryani almost has a celebratory connotation. It is a complex culinary creation that requires love and patience above all other ingredients. Otherwise, the world would be happy with fried rice!

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared as the Cover Story on 16 October 2016 in Sunday Herald newspaper.

Pulp Fiction: Mango Mania

Standard

With a history of over 4000 years, the mango remains the undisputed king of fruits, inspiring poets, musicians, architects and designers for centuries. ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY indulge in a bit of mangolomania…

Sindhura DSC05322_Anurag Priya

It is with good reason that the gold-skinned mango is regarded as the fruit of the gods. According to Puranic lore, goddess Parvati playfully covered Lord Shiva’s eyes one day, plunging the universe into absolute darkness. To atone for her transgression, she performed great austerities. She fashioned a lingam out of sand under a mango tree and worshipped Lord Shiva ardently. Pleased by her unwavering devotion, Shiva relented and Kamakshi, the lovelorn goddess was reunited with her lord under the same mango tree. The temple that commemorates this incident is called Ekambaranath – after ekya (united), amra (mango), nath (Lord) – and a mango tree still stands in the compound of the Shiva shrine in Kanchipuram.

Though the original 3,500-year-old tree has withered and a portion of its trunk is on display behind a glass case in the temple hallway, its offshoot in the central courtyard is unique. Its four branches bear fruits of four different shapes and tastes, which supposedly represent the four Vedas. This legend highlights not only the significance of the mango since antiquity, but also suggests the art of grafting was known in ancient India.

Kanchipuram Ekambranath Temple Mango Tree-Anurag Mallick

The mango has been around for over 4000 years in India with nearly as many varieties. The mango is to Indians what chocolate was to the Aztecs. Associated with Kama the god of love, the heavenly mango is hailed as the messenger of spring, a poetic perch for cuckoos and the eternal fruit of seduction. From Kalidasa to Khusrau, poets and writers have waxed eloquent about it. In Ritu Samharam (An Account of Seasons), Kalidasa describes spring thus, ‘Intoxicated by the nectar of mango blossoms, the cuckoo kisses his mate happily in love, the lovely mango shoot is his choicest arrow, the swarm of bees is his bow string. ‘Ambua ki daari se bole re koyaliya’, is the most popular bandish (set of words tied together in a raga) in Raag Bageshwari.

Revered in scriptures and lauded in literature, music and poetry, the mango’s resonating imprint can be found everywhere. From leaf to seed, the mango has been celebrated in textiles, jewelry and architecture across India –the gold zari borders of Kanjeevaram saris, the block prints of Rajasthan, the paisley motifs of Kashmir or Kantha embroidery in Bengal. As an auspicious symbol, mango leaves are hung outside homes and temples during festivals and around a kalasha (urn) for ceremonies. The sacrificial fire is not complete without dry twigs and branches of the sacred mango tree.

Mango rice made with Totapuri DSC05369_Anurag Priya

Since Vedic times, raw boiled mangos, cumin, sugar and salt was a remedy for dehydration and combating heatstroke. Ironically, a product of summer, it is also an antidote for it. In Ayurveda, tender mangoes with salt and honey helps aid digestion. However, it wasn’t until the middle of last century that the mango was taken to another level by its connoisseurs.

If the mango is the undisputed king of fruits, it is an irrefutable fact that it was the kings who elevated the mango to what it is today, offering it royal patronage across the country. Chausa, originally produced in Sindh and Multan, was popularized by Sher Shah Suri after his victory over Humayun at the Battle of Chausa in 1539. To commemorate the event, he named his favorite mango ‘Chausa’ and helped propagate it throughout the subcontinent.

Mallika DSC05405_Anurag Priya

In 1704, Murshid Quli Jafar Khan, the first Nawab of Bengal, transferred his capital from Dacca to Murshidabad in West Bengal. Until the British defeated Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, many hybrid varieties were developed under the patronage of the Nawabs. Even today, Murshidabad is home to over a hundred varieties of mangoes – Dilpasand, Mirzapasand, Gulabbhog and Kohitoor to name a few.

In Bihar, the Maharaja of Darbhanga got a German botanist Charles Maries to develop exclusive hybrids. Varieties like Durga Bhog, Sundar Prasad and Shah Pasand can still be found in the private orchard of the Maharani’s residence in Darbhanga – Kalyani Niwas. Maries stayed in Darbhanga from 1882 till the death of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh in 1898 and even named a mango after his patron –Lakshmeshwar Bhog. Maries’s unpublished treatise ‘Cultivated Mangoes of India’ and a volume of his drawings are kept at the Royal Botanic Garden archives at Kew, London.

Assorted mangoes DSC05365_Anurag Priya

Andhra Pradesh’s large golden yellow mango Baiganpalli, popular across South India, hails from Banganapalle, the capital of a princely state from 1790-1948. The success of the Dussehri or Dashehari can be traced to the Nawabs of Lucknow and a 300-year-old tree in the village of Dussehri. The property of the Nawabs of Lucknow, the mangoes of this tree are never auctioned or sold. The fruits are handpicked and taken to the Nawab’s family who incidentally stay in ‘Dusseheri House’.

Legend has it that Mirza Ghalib had tried all of 4000 varieties of mango prevalent in India during his time. ‘Aam aur Ghalib’, a literary circle dedicated to the appreciation of mangoes and Mirza has met in Lucknow annually for the last 30 years. The mango has inspired many a tale. If the Neelam featured extensively in David Davidar’s ‘The House of Blue Mangoes’, across the border Mohammed Hanif found inspiration for his political satire ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’. In Nagarjun’s gripping book ‘Balchanwa’, a child recalls his father trespassing into a private orchard in Darbhanga to take two kishenbhogs and is ultimately lynched by the feudal owner. To think an army officer could shoot a child for pilfering mangoes a few years ago goes to prove how little things have changed…

2016-05-05 16.44.43_Anurag Priya

In the story ‘Gulab Khas’, famous Urdu writer Abul Fazal Siddiqi describes a mango contest held every five years in which the northern aristocracy judges the best new cultivar. When a dispute breaks out between two leading mango growers of the region, the arbitrator feels that “the eyes of the whole subcontinent were riveted on him,” and that his task is “fraught with historical import.” In the end, the cultivar grown by a humble female gardener—the gulab khas—wins the prize, leaving the landowners outraged and baffled. While touching upon the prevalent feudal tensions in India at the time, Siddiqi masterfully describes the taste, blush and textures of various mangoes.

When Urdu poet Akbar Hussain Rizvi, better known by his pen name Akbar Allahabadi, sent a box of the legendary langda mangoes to Muhammad Allama Iqbal in Lahore, Iqbal acknowledged it with a couplet. “Asar hai teri aijaz-e-masihaee ka ay Akbar, Allahabad se langda chale Lahore tak pahunche.” ‘Akbar, this is the miracle of your healing powers like a Messiah, langda the lame travelled from Allahabad to Lahore!’ Last year, it was the turn of Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif to send crates of chausa to Indian PM Narendra Modi!

Alphonso sliced 2_Anurag Priya

India’s legendary mango belt of Lucknow-Allahabad has varieties people swear by – from Dussehri, Fazli, Lucknowa, Jauhari, Safeda, Amrapali to Husnara. Malihabad alone produces 1.5 lakh tonnes of mangoes every year worth Rs.150 crores, earning a mention in the Hrithik Roshan movie ‘Lakshya’. After nearly half a millennia of innovation, mango farmer and Padmashri Awardee Haji Kaleemullah Khan of Malihabad continues his relentless exploration and experimentation with his beloved fruit. Though growing dussehri mangoes had been a family tradition for three hundred years, his fascination for mango grafting started when he heard about cross-bred roses as a child. In the 20-acre Abdullah Nursery he inherited from his father, Kaleemullah’s legendary tree Al Muqarrar has borne over 300 varieties on its branches.

From Glass, Prince and Anarkali to the heart-shaped Asroor Mukarar, each specimen has a story – Karela looks like a bitter gourd while Aamin Lamba is so long it almost touches the ground. His nomenclature is a barometer for the fluctuating fortunes of Indian cinema, sports and politics where each new variety is named after a celebrity who’s the flavor of the season. So there’s Aishwarya, Sonia, Sachin (a unique hybrid of Gudshah and Chausa) and Akhilesh– like UP’s young CM, the tree bore fruit at a tender age of five! Predictably enough, now there’s a Modi aam too. A cross between Lucknow’s dussehri and Kolkata’s Husn-e-aara, it has crimson streaks that give it a rare and appealing hue!

Alphonso in crates for shipping_Anurag Priya

Of the 23 million tonnes of mango produced globally every year, nearly 56% comes from India, making it the largest mango producer in the world, an industry worth $360 million. With the onset of summer, the heady procession of various varieties of mangos begins. The season starts in April with early varieties like Bambaiyya, Pairi and Banganapalli, Alphonso and Dussehri in mid-June and late-maturing Fazli, Neelam and Chausa in July-August. The list of regional stalwarts is impressive – Kesar and Valsad of Gujarat, Fernandina and Malcorada (Mankurad) of Goa, Malda, Himsagar and Kishenbhog of Bengal, Gulabkhas of Bihar, Langda of Banaras, Totapuri from Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu, Raspuri from Mysuru, the small green kaad mangay (wild mangoes) of Kodagu’s forests and the king of mangoes, the Alphonso or Hapoos of Ratnagiri.

The legendary Alphonso is named after Afonso de Albuquerque (1453-1515), the second governor of Portuguese India. Enamoured by this tropical fruit, the Portuguese experimented with mango grafting using European methods. On the many forays between their colonies, they took some saplings to Brazil and one of the grafts provided a perfect fruit. The variety was baptized Affonse and came back to India in the 16th century as Alphonso. Locals mispronounced it as Aphoos in Konkani and by the time it spread from Goa to Maharashtra and Gujarat, it was called Hapoos.

Ratnagiri Mangoes _Anurag Priya

Astute Gujaratis know that as summer ends, so will the supply of mangoes, so they bottle it up in various forms – from marmalade, preserves, pickles to bell jars of aam ras, consumed with puris, parathas or as is. The mango mania is most apparent at Valsad and Navsari districts. Each variety has its uses. Totapuri, shaped like the beak of the parrot, makes for a great snack with salt and chili. The small but fleshy Sindura, named after its striking red rouged skin, is perfect for milk shakes. Chausa is good as it is – usually rolled between the palms to loosen the pulp, nipped, squeezed and sucked straight from the fruit.

Atithi Parinay at Kotawde, a charming homestay run by Medha Sahasrabuddhe midway between Ratnagiri and Ganpatipule, offers mango tourism – unlimited mangoes during summer. The orchard of 25 trees has mostly hapoos besides Kesar, Neelam, Dudh peda and Vanraj. Follow the mango trail down the Konkan coast to homestays like Pitruchaya near Devgad and Dwarka Farms near Malvan.

2016-05-05 16.47.35-2_Anurag Priya

In Bangalore vendors line the wide footpath of Palace Road as commuters stop to pick up the season’s catch. In Mumbai, mango aficionados are ready to travel to the wholesale APMC Market at Vashi in Navi Mumbai (if not all the way to Ratnagiri) to buy them by the crate. All of Delhi eagerly waits for the International Mango Festival in July to have all wonderful varieties under one roof.

With a long hot summer and over a thousand recipes waiting to be prepared, it won’t be long before every fruit that dangles like a luscious golden bauble from its leafy branches is harvested and devoured. The mangophiles are already swarming the marketplace like mango flies around a fruit basket…

2016-05-05 16.45.25_Anurag Priya

FACT FILE: A-Z of Mangoes

Alphonso/Hapoos
Origin: Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
Golden yellow when ripe with firm, fibreless orange pulp, not very fragrant

Amrapali
Origin: Uttar Pradesh
Hybrid of Neelam and Dussehri with reddish orange skin and pulp

Banganapalli
Origin: Andhra Pradesh
Large sized, sweet, also called safeda, because of the whitish colour of the pulp

Chausa
Origin: Pakistan/North India
Small golden yellow when ripe, rich aroma with sweet, juicy pulp, great sucking mango

Dussehri
Origin: Malihabad, UP
Medium sized fruit, with pleasant flavour, sweet, firm fibreless pulp, thin stone

Fazli
Origin: Bangladesh/East India
Sweet juicy pulp, low fibre, large fruit (almost a kilo), late maturing variety

Gulabkhas
Origin: Bihar
Rosy flavor, gorgeous blush, non-fibrous pulp great for mango desserts

Himsagar
Origin: Bengal
Thin-skinned with smooth, extremely sweet silky flesh and sugary pulp

Kalapahar DSC05375_Anurag Priya

Kalapahar
Origin: Bengal
Small green variety that’s so delicate it’s kept on a cushion of leaves

Kesar
Origin: Gujarat
Green-skinned, irregular shaped with intense aroma, bright orange flesh and very sweet and tart.

Kishenbhog
Origin: Bihar/Bengal
Medium to large sized, with pleasant sweet flavour and firm, fibrous flesh

Langda
Origin: Varanasi, UP
Mildly fibrous with a distinct pine taste of turpenoline

Malgova
Origin: Tamil Nadu
Large green fruit with crimson blush, very fleshy with spicy sweet yellow pulp and small stone

Mallika
Newer hybrid of Neelam and Dussehri named after its beautiful appearance, honey sweet with notes of citrus and melon

Mankurad
Origin: Goa
Derived from Malcorada, large fruit with fibreless, firm flesh

Neelam
Origin: Hyderabad
Late maturing variety, large, juicy and very aromatic, bright orange pulp but named after its blue-green skin

Kesari DSC05394_Anurag Priya

Pairi
Origin: Goa/Coastal Maharashtra
Oval-shaped with fibreless texture and spicy aroma, great for juicing

Raspuri
Origin: Mysore, Karnataka
Oval-shaped, reddish yellow skin, excellent flavour and juicy, hence the name

Shah Pasand
Origin: Bihar
Small, yellow, kidney-shaped

Totapuri
Origin: Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu
Curvaceous mango with typical parrot-beak shape, crunchy and tangy, often pickled or eaten raw, along with its skin

Vanraj
Origin: Vadodara, Gujarat
Oblong with blush of jasper red

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the June 2016 issue of Discover India magazine.
 

Jampot of Plenty: Jamshedpur’s legendary food joints

Standard

They came, they cooked and they continue to conquer Jamshedpur. The story of the Steel City’s zany food and folk, as told by local boy ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

Fakira Chanachur Jamshedpur IMG_6949

Fakira ka Chanachur, Hari ka golgappa, Swamy ka dosa, Bauwwa ji ka Chai, Lakhi Rolls, Bhatia’s Shake, Ramesh Kulfi, Kevat ka litti… Jamshedpur’s mouth-watering delights can give any Indian city a run for its money. These institutions have served entire generations, with culinary secrets passed on from father to son, recounting stories of struggle and success. Signature dishes bear their names in proud proclamation of their craft. Anyone returning to ‘Jampot’ undertakes a culinary pilgrimage of its old haunts. Such multi-cultural fare can be traced to the very foundations of the Steel City…

It all began in 1900. Visionary industrialist Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata went to Pittsburgh and asked geologist Charles Perin to help build India’s first steel plant. After scouring the harsh terrain of Chhotanagpur for 3 years, surveyors stumbled upon Sakuchi village near the confluence of the Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers. Close to water sources and abundant in minerals the ‘black soil’ country of Kalimati was perfect. In 1907, TISCO (Tata Iron and Steel Company, today Tata Steel) was floated and construction of a township started a year later.

But to build this city, one needed more than rock and roll; one needed people. All were welcomed with open arms as they poured in from every corner of India to gain employment. Marwaris, Marathis, Madrasis, Adivasis, Punjabis, Parsis, Gujaratis, people from the eastern states and distant Burma and China, all came together in the cultural cauldron of Jamshedpur; each imbuing the city with distinct flavours from their native lands. Forged into a common identity, the city developed its own unique palate and quirky lingo!

Bhola Maharaj imarti Jamshedpur IMG_6622

The Early Birds

Among the early visitors was Bhola Ram Gautam who came from Vrindavan in 1909. Bhola Maharaj started a ‘shuddh desi ghee’ sweet shop in a humble jhopdi (hut). Over a century later, his time-tested sweets like Balushahi, Gujiya and Chandrakala still sell like hot cakes. His son, septuagenarian Jagdish Gautam took over after Bhola Maharaj’s death in 1936. Renovated 20 years ago, the shop bears sepia images of Bhola Maharaj, keeping watch as faithful customers return for motichur laddus and sweets. Jagdishji said, “We never compromise on quality. The key to our success is trust.”

The city’s initial development also drew in many foreigners. From English and German engineers to American pastors, the city saw several influential personalities shaping its landscape. In 1922 Abdul Subhan Midda opened Calcutta Bakery in Dhatkidih to cater to the western palate. It supplied rich plum cake and German bread to the gora sahibs in Kaiser Bungalows. Abdul Hamid Midda opened Howrah Bakery in the 1930s. His son Alam stroked his white flowing beard and lamented about the disappearance of old sweets like ‘Papa ladua’. “The people who made them are either dead or gone.”

Midda of Howrah Bakery Jamshedpur IMG_6792

Old-timer Ramchandar Shrivastava recounted how it was literally a jungle those days. Directors of Tata Steel visited the steel plant atop horses and elephants! Before the swanky Bistupur, the city’s oldest markets were Burma Mines, Jugsalai and Sakchi. People took bullock carts to Sakchi’s rice, palang (bed) and loha (iron) markets. Below anda (egg) line, local hooch like mahua, gudki and saunfi was sold, made from mahua flowers, jaggery and fennel. There was even a “Ganja Hotel” because bhang was sold nearby! Gaslights lit up the streets as shops opened before dawn. The old well has long been covered while the Sabji mandi opposite Sitla Mandir sits on an erstwhile lake.

Sarkar Building and Lal Building were among the earliest structures in Sakchi. The latter, built in 1927, houses Gupta ki Mithaiyan, a crumbling cubbyhole serving delicious milk sweets. Before opening this shop, founder Jagannath Gupta sold rabri and malai kalakand to workers from a khatiya (cot) outside the Tata gate. Oblivious of the red building’s heritage value, his grandson Ganesh Gupta plans to raze it and erect a tall building for himself and his brothers.

Gupta ki Mithaiyan Jamshedpur IMG_6345

Angry Young Men

Not all came with a plan. Some came in a huff, a surprisingly recurrent motif in the city’s timeline. LN Krishna Iyer from Lakshmi Narayanapuram near Palakkad ran away from home after his mother hit him with a broom! The angry teen took a train to Tatanagar in the early ‘30s and after odd jobs and cooking at a mess, saved enough to launch The Madrasi Hotel in 1935. Till date, it is the only place in Jamshedpur serving a full South Indian meal and excellent filter coffee.

His daughter-in-law Sushila and grand daughter Gayatri shared classic anecdotes of how partygoers nursing a post-Saturday night hangover, landed up on Sunday morning to line their stomachs with greasy Ghee Fried Idlis sharing elbow space with devout Christians coming straight from mass; both united in their love for good sambar! Today, the hotel serves over 65 varieties of dosas. Just across, Anand is also a local favourite.

South Indian fare at Madrasi Hotel Jamshedpur IMG_6890

Another breakaway, Bartholomew D’Costa came from Goa to Mumbai via Igatpuri before finally anchoring here in 1919. It was a historic year. Lauding the city’s contribution of steel rails in the WWI, Lord Chelmsford visited the plant and christened the city as Jamshedpur in honour of its founder. During WWII, much of Tata Steel’s output was diverted to make armaments, shells and an armored vehicle called Tatanagar. Being a high value target, the city echoed with regular sirens and air raid drills. When ‘Yellow signals’ were sent from Calcutta warning of impending Japanese air raids, Bartholomew held the contract of creating smoke screens above the city by setting fire to huge tar pits.

An enterprising contractor, he set up a hotel in 1940 to lodge Allied troops. The Boulevard Hotel, quirkily located on ‘Plot No. Nil’, was built hastily and its restaurant-cum-bar often witnessed drunken brawls between American GIs and British troops. “Many of the surviving chairs have found a place in the hotel including bricks from my grandfather’s kiln marked DC”, chuckled his grandson Ronald D’Costa, who now runs the place. The old bakery, now revamped into a cool café with brick interiors, is called Brubeck Bakery, though locals mispronounce it as burbak (fool). Dave Brubeck might be turning in his grave but Ronald loves the local Jamshedpur touch. The restaurant, Chopsticks, remains the city’s rare dining space serving Goan, Parsi and Anglo Indian cuisine with classics like Roast Pork. Frank’s, the only other joint in town to serve pork, is run by the Liao family. They introduced real Chinese cuisine to Jamshedpur, long before the world discovered Maggi!

Ronald D'Costa Boulevard Hotel Jamshedpur IMG_6772

Jamshedpur was a magnet for dreamers, entrepreneurs and runaways. Smarting after a quarrel at home, Ramesh Prasad took the first train out of Jasidih and came to Jamshedpur in 1966. He knew nothing except how to make kulfi. From humble beginnings in Jugsalai, he pushed his cart to Bistupur and gained popularity outside Natraj Cinema. Heckled by goons and guards, he soon became a crusader for workers’ rights. When he got wind of a possible opening for a canteen near the Court, he floored the District Judge with just 12 singadas and 12 kulfis, earning a space to open Ramesh Kulfi in 1972.

Defying the Emergency, he sold his singadas for 30 paise instead of 15 paise, the fixed price. In a public taste challenge, his singadas proved tastier with a single piece outweighing two from the market, thus silencing his detractors. His meat-chawal shack nearby retraces his roots to Devghar, legendary for its ‘mutton, chawal, dahi and meetha’. ‘Atthe’, a thick mutton gravy cooked in ghee, onion and hand-ground masalas is divine. Since no water is added, it withstands long train journeys. Ramesh claims that people headed for Vaishno Devi eat his mutton all the way from Jamshedpur to Katra!

Ramesh Kulfi Mutton Atthe Jamshedpur IMG_6703

Sourcing country goat from weekly haats at Chandil, Balrampur or Haldipukur, they use each part judiciously – gurda (kidney), kaleji (liver), fefda (lungs), godi (trotters), mundi (head), chusta (nalli), magaj (brain). “Baal chhod ke sab use hota hai” (Everything except the hair is used), he joked. The meat is served with choice of rice – usna or boiled rice, finer arva or long-grained Dehradun. Hyderabadi Mutton (Palak Sag) is a special Sunday delicacy, besides khichdi served with aloo chokha, fries, pickle and ghee.

Mahesh Pradhan came to Jamshedpur as a boy from Delang, a small village near Puri, after a bitter spat at home. Remorseful, he decided to spread sweetness in people’s lives through his magical mocktail. Maa Tarini Cold Drink, popular as Regal Masala Cold Drink opened in 1979. The glass of fizz blended Gold Spot, Citra and Thums Up with a secret spice mix of elaichi, laung, mulethi, jeera, ajwain, kala namak and salt. When Regal Cinema was at its peak, they sold 100 crates a day (each with 24 bottles). After Mahesh passed away last year, his younger brother Raghu continues his legacy.

Regal Masala Cold Drink Jamshedpur IMG_6559

Unity in Diversity

Bang opposite the Regal Ground or Gopal Maidan is Bharucha Mansion, built by Khursheed Bharucha, the first Indian chief cashier of Tata Steel. Buying surplus steel girders meant for Howrah Bridge, Bharucha built the colonial mansion in pre-fabricated style in 1935. It briefly served as a Parsi lodge, eventually becoming a cinema hall and office space. We bumped into his great grandson Varun Gazder who recently renovated the common dining room on the second floor into the old world Café Regal; with lights, fans and seats salvaged from Regal Cinema! On Sundays, it serves authentic Parsi cuisine gleaned from the recipes of his great grandmother Gulbai Khursheed Bharucha.

For a true taste of Bengali fare nothing beats Jamshedpur Boarding, established in 1942, by Puleen Chakravarty. In its grimy interiors with rickety tables, patrons feast on kosha mangsho (mutton in thick potato gravy), chara pona (baby rohu) and various fish curries – rohu, hilsa, tengra, pabda, katla. A helpful Indian Railways Time Table graces one wall and the ambience instantly transports you to a Kolkata backlane.

Jamshedpur Boarding IMG_6927

No trip to Jamshedpur is complete without a ritual visit to the banyan tree sit-out for a glass of Bauwa ji’s Chai, infused with fresh-pounded cardamom and strained with a deft twist of a red gamchha (towel)! Shri Ram Vilas Gupta from Chhapra set up a tea and snack stall in 1942, naming it after his youngest son Laxmi Narayan Gupta, endearingly called ‘Bauwwa ji’. In those days, alu chop sold for an anna.

Proximity to institutions like XLRI and Loyola School ensured a steady footfall of students. Regulars, XLRI alumni and senior Tata executives drop by for a Sunday morning tea and smoke. Bauwwaji proudly displayed a photo with local celebrity Imtiaz Ali, who penned Jab We Met’s dialogues at this adda (hangout) over endless cups of tea and helped Vikramaditya Motwane shoot his coming-of-age movie Udaan in the city.

Bauwaji ka Chai Jamshedpur IMG_6294

RS Trivedi came from Gopalpur near Kanpur and opened Nabjiban Kulfi in 1948; drawing inspiration from a nationalist newspaper. Remarkably, the 93-year-old man still sits at his shop. His time-tested recipe of reducing buffalo milk, adding crushed cashew, almonds and pista, filling it in plastic cups to be frozen in a handi with salt and ice, is unchanged. Temperature is maintained at almost -35 degrees with regular swirling. “It won’t freeze even in 5 days unless you keep swirling it. Do it for 45 mins, and the kulfi is ready” revealed his son Bharat Bhushan Trivedi. Narayan next door makes great kulfi as well.

Flavours of Punjab

For Jamshedpur, it was a case of Furious Forties. Barely recovering from wartime frenzy, the city had to brace another cataclysmic event – the Partition. Forced to leave Pakistan, many Punjabis migrated to Jamshedpur, adding to the significant Sikh populace employed in thekedari (contractors) and transportation. The city’s Refugee Market stands testimony to this event.

Bhatia Jalebi Wale Jamshedpur IMG_6639

Located between the Macchi (fish) and Murga (chicken) Line, is a warren of roadside shops selling jalebis, laddus, sakarpara and snacks. Bhatia ke Jalebi, a 65-year-old fourth generation shop churns out hallmark glossy jalebis that remain fresh for 3-4 days. Current owner Satbir Singh’s grandfather Dayal Singh, arrived from Sheikhpura in present-day Pakistan and began selling jalebis on a thela (cart). His small hut soon became a landmark. “If you got off at Tatanagar railway station and asked somebody to take you to the jalebiwala, he’d bring you here,” Satbir Singh smiled.

This was the only jalebi shop in the area until a decade ago. Now it had became Jalebi Line! Satbir Singh, who has seen forty summers at the store, is an inventor of sorts. Crazy about watches and cars, he designed a unique clock in 2007, which runs anticlockwise but gives the right time! Press clips and quirky signs embellish his walls. “Udhar denge par 80-90 umar se upar, aur unke ma-baap se pooch kar” meaning ‘Credit will be given to those above 80-90 years, but only after seeking their parent’s permission’.

Bhatia Milk Shake Jamshedpur IMG_6831

Armed with a 1st division in Urdu and Farsi from Lahore University in 1945, Surjit Singh Bhatia came to Jamshedpur from Pakistan after Partition. He tried his hand at odd jobs, selling lottery tickets, wholesale clothes to biscuits. Being a teetotaller, he decided to focus on healthy food and started Bhatia Milk Shake 45 years ago. His only pursuit was quality, not money. His son Rajinder Singh Bhatia, helping out since class 5, recalled how his brothers “groaned the day they had to grind badaam (almonds) for the shake.” His hefty frame seemed an outcome of all the exercise.

When a friend invited his father to England, he declined saying ‘Yahi hamara England hai’ (This is my England). Sadly, Surjit Singh passed away last year. Rajinder rued “Hindustan mein daaru ki kadar hai, doodh ki nahi. Jis din doodh ki kadar badh jayegi, koi daru ko nahi poochhega.” (India has respect for alcohol, not milk. The day they respect milk, people will shun alcohol!). The Bhatias source local buffalo milk, langda mangoes from Bihar, juicy pineapples from Siliguri, litchis from Muzaffarpur and rose petals from Howrah flower market to make natural juices and flavourful shakes sans essence. As people gulped the frothy shakes, it was evident they came purely for the taste.

Karnail Restaurant Jamshedpur IMG_6498

Singara Singh came from Amritsar and worked in TISCO, while his son Karnail Singh entered the food business in the 60s. He started Karnail’s from a small hut in Sakchi where country chicken, mutton and liquor were sold, but switched to veg fare in 1985 after taking guru deeksha. Karnail Singh’s son Inderjit Singh, locally known as Bhola Babu, proudly displayed the old slate where customer’s tabs were chalked with table numbers and short codes – SD (Sada Dosa), RT (Roti), CD (Cold Drink). The building flaunted a cement flower-shaped crest with ‘1969’, its year of construction inlaid with glass marbles by Singara Singh.

Manohar Singh came from Punjab and vended Amritsari style chhole and Punjabi kulcha for 2 or 3 annas on his pushcart, way before his son Pappu Sardar was born. As a youngster Pappu ran away from home for 4 months and sold milk on the platform of Mughalsarai station. Maverick Pappu took over Manohar Chat in 1996. Part Bollywood fan, part restaurateur, part social activist, Pappu has adopted kids at a Cheshire Home, gets destitute girls married and during Ramzan, opens the restaurant only after feeding the devout. His quirky invention ‘Mixed Chat’, a tangy, sour, sweet and salty dish was an evolutionary step between a fruit salad and chat comprising samosa, chana, chips, grapes, banana, topped with mixture. One plate could easily serve 3 people!

Manohar Chat's Mix Chat Jamshedpur IMG_6401

His philosophy is simple. “It’s all teamwork. When a guy strolls in and says ‘Ek singada dena’ he doesn’t realize how many people and processes came together to make it. The farmer, potato seller, chili ginger guy, oil vendor, utensil seller, gas guy and us, so many homes benefit from one singada.” Much has been written about Pappu’s Madhuri Dixit obsession, his restaurant’s poster girl. He has been celebrating her birthday since 1996, besides launching a calendar beginning on 15 May. He secretly hopes the Government announces a holiday on her birthday and a day to honour Bollywood. He makes donations on Madhuri’s behalf for calamity relief and built a room for pilgrims in Ajmer. His deification is mentioned in the book Public Hinduism. Invited to Mumbai to meet Madhuri, Pappu turned down offers to join films. “Fans have a duty towards their favourite artist. She has tied rakhi and regards me as her brother. No brother should use his sister as a rung to progress in life. I don’t need to be in Mumbai; I can do something for Bollywood selling chat in Jamshedpur.”

Softy Corner, an ice-cream parlour by a petrol bunk, is another iconic joint. Ved Prakash Soni of Rawalpindi concocted his own recipe for the softy. His son Surender Soni recently converted the drive-in to a parlour with seating at a gas station on the opposite side. For decades, this was Jamshedpur’s favorite fix after a night drive.

Novelty spread Jamshedpur IMG_6539

Novelty Restaurant, run by Rajinder Kumar Soni for over 42 years has braved many challenges – from selling chicken curry for 50 paise to handling unruly customers at its old bar. Some would jam a knife on the bill and refuse to pay! Back then Jamshedpur was lawless, like a frontier boomtown. Today, the multi-cuisine restaurant has a South Indian counter, an ice-cream parlour and a bakery, added by his son Dheeraj. Being a price sensitive city, rates are competitive. NRIs from Jamshedpur who return for the Original Butter Chicken compliment how its taste has remained unchanged.

Some shops are so famous they don’t need a nameplate, like the chaanp stall opposite Basant Talkies. Arriving from Amritsar in the 1960s, Balbir Singh ran his roadside charcoal grill for half a century without a name. After his demise in November last year, his son Harjinder Singh named it Balbir Fried Chicken as tribute. Here, a quintal of chicken is consumed everyday. The recipe is vintage Amritsari with chicken marinated in curd for 12 hours with green chili, ginger and garlic, grilled on a wire frame and served with a generous squeeze of lime and hari (green) chutney. For chicken pakodas, he first fries the chicken chunks, chops it and fries it again to save cooking time. “Punjabi technology”, he laughs.

Balbir Fried Chicken  Jamshedpur IMG_7078

Bhujwalis and Chanachur walas

Tucked in the bylanes of Bistupur is Mewa Lal Bhuja Bhandar in Bhuja Line. Hailing from Machhlishahar near Jaunpur, Mewa Lal belongs to a hereditary line of ‘bhujwalis’ who have been roasting bhuja (chana, peanuts, chuda, rice) for over a century. Against the clink of groundnuts being roasted in a cast iron dish with river sand, Mewa Lal explained “Bhuja khane se pet ekdum clear aur chabane se munh, kaan, naak sab tight ho jayega” meaning ‘Eating roasted fare clears the stomach and the chewing facial exercise tones the skin!’ The store was stacked with traditional items like sattu, gajak and chikkis with sesame and jaggery besides til patti, badam patti, ramdana laddu and the intriguing gud cigarette, a crunchy jaggery stick. We discovered how jaggery and sesame (til) were hand-pounded (kut) using an iron pestle and shaped into disks called tilkut.

Fakir Chand Gupta travelled from Ghazipur, UP to work at Tata Steel. Bored with his job, he began a mixture business 60 years ago from a simple khumcha (mobile stand) near Regal Maidan. His offering of 5 items – sada chanachur, jhaal chanachur, meetha, sonpapdi and sev, sold for an anna or two. The plethora of educational institutes was a godsend for hawkers. Since each school had different timings, Fakira created a circuit from DM Madan, KMPM to Women’s College.

Fakira Chanachur Jamshedpur IMG_6947

Following his death, sons Raj Kumar Gupta and Ashok Kumar Gupta expanded Fakira Chanachur’s repertoire of snacks. As old and new customers line up to buy packets in bulk, an instant mix of chanachur with onion, ginger, chili and lime is tossed and served in a thonga (paper pack) as a free munch! “Earlier onions cost Rs.2 a kilo. Even when it shot up to Rs.80 we didn’t stop adding onion,” Rajiv said, as he fed pigeons from his hand. Their popularity prompted them to start couriering their packets! With grandsons Rajiv, Ramesh, Anup and Anil handling multiple branches, Fakira’s legend lives on…

Girish Chanachur, started 50 years ago by Girishbhai Nanubhai Patel from Devrajia village in Gujarat, is another local favourite. Beginning his chanachur sales on a thela, he opened a shop in Machhi Market and made sweets during festivals. Marketed as ‘Sreshth’, they have 9 kinds of sonpapdi and 35 assorted mixtures. Path-breaking sweets like Kaju sanpapdi, Gulabpak and Mango (amavat) Chocolate have created a sweet storm. When Gulabpak debuted, one customer bought the whole stock before it could be displayed!

Jamshedpur IMG_6220

Snack Attack

Few people in Jamshedpur don’t know Swamy ka Dosa. M Masalamani (aka Swamy), originally from Vellore, worked in TISCO’s Town Office canteen in the 1960s. After 8 years, he opened a stall outside KMPM College, selling dosas for Rs.1.50 and 2 idlis for 25 paise. He moved to Beldih Club near Loyola School and brisk business ensued. When years of standing took its toll on portly Swamy, his sons Ganesh or Tambi (younger brother) and Murthy took charge in 1994. Tambi introduced innovations like onions, butter and cheese. Shunted from Beldih School and Kalibari, he’s now near Northern Town T.O.P. behind a souped up thela with a triple burner… though the taste remains the same.

Jamshedpur’s phuchkas are a class apart and none can compete with the wizardry of Hari ka Golgappa. Forty years ago, when there were barely three golgappa walas in Telco, Hari Rajak arrived from Simultala near Jamui to sell 20 golgappas or 24 papadis for a rupee. On a good day he made 10 to 20 bucks. His work starts at 7 am – kneading dough, making puris, boiling gugni and potatoes, besides hand pounding masalas. Dunking puris in spicy tamarind water and placing it in our sal leaf cups, he humbly attributed his popularity to technique. “It’s all in the hand. Some work hard on the masala, some don’t.” His gentle demeanor is a bonus. “People who came here as kids have grown up and, return with their children. I’m either Baba, Chacha, Uncle, Bhaiyya… I can’t place everyone, but they recognize me. It feels good”.

Lakhi Egg Rolls Jamshedpur IMG_6522

After trying out various jobs without much luck, Lakhi Kant Mahapatro started Lakhi Egg Rolls on 15 August, 1982. Being Sunday, it seemed a good day for a new beginning. Lakhi’s has been on a roll ever since! From selling rolls for Rs.2 in a tin shed, it now has a 30-seater restaurant on the first floor. His wall-size menu includes different variations and Chinese items. People return for old times’ sake as it literally popularized the culture of rolls in the city.

Surendar Kewat opened his litti stall in 2004, but has become a household name within a decade. Mentored by his wife’s uncle Bhola Kewat, who ran his father’s 50-year-old stall near Ranchi Court, Kewat’s modest litti grew from Rs.2 to Rs.20 apiece. Made with wheat flour and a filling of sattu (toasted red gram flour), littis are roasted on an iron griddle, dunked in desi ghee sourced from Patna and served with tangy tomato chutney and aloo chokha (potato mash), perfect for wintry evenings. Thanks to Surender’s enterprising spirit, his protégés from the Kewat clan have struck out independently.

Surendar Kewat's Litti Jamshedpur IMG_7005

Late Ramchandra Gupta introduced Goli Soda over 60 years ago and his son Rajendra Gupta has been running the stall for three decades. “Nobody knows my name; they only know my face and my Goli Soda!” A cola or orange drink, a little lime, salt and carbon dioxide does the trick. The old soda machine is functional but the glass bottle is a relic on display. When gas was filled the goli (marble) would rise until the bottle was popped with characteristic whistle. Rajendra has switched to a plastic bottle, which lets him serve 6 soda glasses instead of two. In a hot place like Jamshedpur, the math made sense.

Inspired by the royal lifestyle of Lucknowi nawabs, Arvind Singh of Pratapgarh opened Lucknow Pan Bhandar in Sakchi 50 years ago. Gleaming brass utensils with an assortment of ingredients and fresh Kalkatta, Banarsi and Maghi betel leaves in platters, dominate the tiny shop front. Seated behind the counter is his son Pankaj Singh. “No cigarette, gutkha or pan parag is sold here; only pan. So lots of families drop by,” he says. “We make our own cherry and gulkand and sit here 18 hours a day. Our kids can’t sit for even an hour! But we won’t abandon our father’s legacy. We’ll sell pan till we are alive…”

Lucknow Pan  Bhandar Jamshedpur IMG_6445

Further up, the landmark Tinkonia Hotel started by Rajendra Prasad Shukla 48 years ago stands at the apex of a triangular plot. With counters on both sides, locals congregate for affordable short eats and sweets. Jamshedpur has a sweet tooth; a fact confirmed by the glut of mithai shops – from Gangour, Chhappan Bhog, Sakchi Misthan Bhandar to Shukla Sweets in Telco’s Azad Market. Ledikeni, a sweet tribute to Lady Canning, is locally called pantua. But the highlight is gud ka rasgulla, made from khajur gud (palm jaggery), available only during winter between November-February.

For a tiny place like Jamshedpur, its culinary diversity was mind-boggling. From Marwari basa in Jugsalai to Murga anchar (Chicken Pickle) at Howrah Bridge and bhancha-ghar (curry house) style ‘Nepali ka Chicken’ behind Voltas House to food stalls near Muslim Library and Jubilee Park churning out evening snacks at a frenetic pace, there was much to devour…

Tinkonia Hotel Jamshedpur IMG_6464

Somewhere in the streets, a dosa guy clattered his iron tava in his trademark thak-thak-thak. Inside food trucks, Nepali boys furiously tossed noodles in seasoned woks. The smell of food mingled with the slag and fumes of the steel furnace, creating orange skies. Bursting at our seams with a belly full of stories and savouries, we realized that to withstand Jamshedpur’s mammoth assault of flavours, we needed stomachs of steel…

FACT FILE

Getting There: Jamshedpur is 140 km from Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi, the nearest airport (3 hrs by NH-33). Tatanagar Railway station is well connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata (290km, 4 hrs by Steel/Ispat Express).

Where to Stay: Most of the decent business hotels are located in and around Bistupur like Sonnet, Centre Point, Ginger Hotel, Ramada, The Alcor and the old-world Boulevard Hotel.

What to Eat:

Tambi ka Dosa Jamshedpur IMG_6194

Tambi ka Dosa
Owner: Ganesh
Near Petrol Pump, CH Area Ph 9031321485
Must try: Plain Dosa (Rs.30), Masala Dosa (Rs.40), Butter (Rs.50), Cheese (Rs.70), Idli (Rs.15 for 2)
Timings: 7 am-11am

Hari ka Golgappa
Owner: Hari Rajak
Road No.26, Durga Puja Maidan, Telco Colony Ph 8521631635
Must try: Golgappa/Papdi chat (Rs.10 for 5)
Timings: 5:30pm-10pm

Bauwwa ji ka Chai
Owner: Shri & Laxmi Narayan Gupta (Bauwwa ji)
Behind Petrol Pump, Northern Town T.O.P., CH Area
Must try: Ilaichi wali chai, singada
Timings: 7 am-3:30 pm

Bhola Maharaj
Owner: Jagdish Gautam
111, Bhola Maharaj Lane, Sakchi Ph 0657-2230011
Must try: Motichoor Laddu, Balushahi, Gujiya, Chandrakala, Kaju barfi, Santra Kadam, Motipak
Timings: 8 am -10 pm

Gud ka rasgulla Jamshedpur IMG_6305

Gupta ki Mithaiyan
Owner: Ganesh Gupta
143, Lal Building, Sakchi Bazaar Ph 0657-2430400
Must try: Rabri 100 g (Rs.30), Rasmalai 100 g (Rs.25), Gud rasgulla (Rs.10), Lassi (Rs.25)
Timings: 9am-9pm

Lakhi Egg Roll
Owner: Lakhi Kant Mahapatro
H.No.38, Sakchi Market, Near Basant Talkies, Sakchi
Ph 0657-2439168, 2421302, 9431113568
Must try: Rolls (Rs.25-60), ½ Plate Chowmein – Chicken (Rs.70), Veg (Rs.40), Chili Chicken (Rs.100)
Timings: 11:30am-3pm, 5:30-10pm

Manohar Chat
Owner: Pappu Sardar
Near Basant Talkies, Sakchi Ph 9006769797
Must try: Mix Chat (Rs.40), Chana Chilli (Rs.50), Sambar Vada (Rs.30)

Bhatia Ji ki Jalebiyan
Owner: Satbir Singh Bhatia
Purani Jalebi Dukan No.11, Refugee Market, Sakchi Ph 9204793324
Must try: Jalebi (Rs.100/kg)
Timings: 8 am – 9:30 pm

Goli Soda Jamshedpur IMG_6369

Goli Soda
Owner: Rajendra Gupta
Next to Lakhi Rolls, Opp Basant Talkies, Sakchi
Must try: Cola, orange, nimbu soda (Rs.20)
Timings: 10:30 am – 10 pm

Hotel Karnail
Owner: Inderjit Singh
Jalebi Line, Sakchi Ph 8083875594
Must try: Butter Tadka, Mah ki Dal, Paneer Butter Masala, Paneer Kurma, Mixed Veg, Aloo Paratha
Timings: 7-11 am (breakfast), 11am-3pm (lunch), 4pm-8pm (snacks), 7pm-10:30 pm (dinner)

Lucknow Pan Bhandar
Owners: Madan & Pankaj Singh
Dhurandhar Singh Market, Sakchi Godown Mill Area, Opp Shiv Mandir, Sakchi Ph 9308082813
Must try: Chilled Meetha Pan (Rs.15)
Timings: 8 am – 1 am

Tinkonia Hotel
Owner: Mahendra Pratap Shukla
Behind Basant Cinema, Sakchi Ph 9430721596
Must try: Singada, aloo chop, kachori, pyaji, pakodi, chai
Timings: 6 am – 10 pm

Ramesh Kulfi
Owner: Ramesh Prasad
Court Canteen Ph 8541977545
Must try: Mutton Atthe (Rs.220), Hyderabadi Mutton (Palak Sag) on Sunday (Rs.220), Kaleji (Rs.180), Dehradun Rice (Rs.80), Prawn meal (Rs.200), Fish meal (Rs.100), Khichdi, Kulfi (Rs.50)
Timings: 11 am – 11 pm

Ramesh Kulfi Mutton Atthe Jamshedpur IMG_6714

Girish Chanachur
Near Masala Patti, Churi Line Ph 0657-2428447
Shreeleather Lane, Next to Bhola Maharaj, Sakchi Bazar Ph 0657-2230256, 9334757888
Must try: Kaju ki sanpapdi, Gulabpak, Mango chocolate
Timings: Namkeen 8:30 am – 9:30 pm (sweets after 10 am)

Anand Veg Restaurant
Owner: Jayesh Ameen
No.7, J Road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2249058, 2909530
Must try: Thali (Rs.160), Khichdi Thali
Timings: 8 am-10pm

The Madrasi Hotel
Owner: Mrs. Sushila Iyer
10, J road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2249964 http://www.themadrasihotel.com
Must try: Dosas (Rs.45-100), Ghee Fried Idli (Rs.45), Filter Coffee (Rs.23), South Indian meal (Rs.100)
Timing: 8am-3pm, 5:30-8pm

Bhatia Milk Shake
Owner: Rajinder Singh Bhatia
Shop No.8&9, C-1, Fruit Market, Bistupur Ph 0657-2423173, 2320173, 9334838192
Must try: Cold Coffee, Chocolate, Mango, Mixed Fruit, Pineapple, Khus, Jamun, Orange (Rs.50)
Timing: 9am-10:30 pm

Mewalal Bhuja Bhandar Bistupur Jamshedpur IMG_6863

Mewa Lal Bhuja Bhandar
Owner: Mewa Lal Gupta
Bhuja Line, Bistupur Ph 9709111930
Must try: Bhuja, Layi, Sattu, Til patti, Badam patti, Til laddu, Ramdana laddu, Gud cigarette (jaggery sticks)
Timing: 8:30am-10pm

Softy Corner
Owner: Surender Soni
Tiwary Bechar BP Petrol Pump, Main Road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2249495
Must try: Softy Rs.30
Timings: 10am-11pm

Novelty Restaurant
Owner: Rajinder Kumar Soni
Regal Mansion, Near Gopal Maidan, Kharkai Link Road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2249827 http://www.noveltyrestaurant.in
Must try: Chicken Tikka Tawa Masala, Original Butter Chicken, Crispy Chicken
Timings: 10 am-10:30 pm

The Boulevard Hotel
Owner: Ronald D’Costa
Tata Hata Main Road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2425321/22, 8501100788 http://www.theboulevardhotel.net
Must try: Roast Pork (Rs.190), Roast Chicken (Rs.165), Pork Vindaloo (Rs.150), Gravy chowmein (Rs.165), Mutton Cutlet (Rs.160), Baked Yoghurt (Brubeck café)
Timings: 10:30am-10:30pm

Chopsticks fare The Boulevard Hotel Jamshedpur IMG_6778

Fakira Chanachur
Owner: Raj Kumar Gupta
Main Road, Traffic Signal Light, Kamani Centre, Bistupur Ph 0657-2320542, 9334351075
Must try: ½ kg Chanchur (Rs.80), Soya sticks, Banana/potato chips, chatpati, moong dal, badam pakoda, badam patti, petha, gathiya
Timings: 10am-10pm

Maa Tarini/Regal Cold Drink
Owner: Raghu Pradhan
Next to Petrol Pump, Regal Maidan, Bistupur Ph 9431522959
Must try: Masala Cold Drink – Fanta-Thums Up, Sprite-Thums Up, Mazaa-Sprite, Mazaa-Fanta (Rs.20)
Timings:

Calcutta Bakery
Owner: Midda brothers
Dhatkidih Market Area Ph 0657-2228990
Must try: Cake, pastries, Veg Patty, Chicken Patty, Plum Cake, Jam Biscuit, Tiranga, Nankhatai, Besan Biscuit, Khara Biscuit, Coconut Biscuit, Walnut biscuit, Methi Biscuit, Shahjeera
Timings: 8 am-1pm, 3pm-9pm

Surender Kewat ka Litti
Owner: Surendar Kewat
9 No. Bus Stand, Kalimati Road, Sakchi Golchakkar (Near Gurudwara) Ph 9931114842
Must try: Litti chokha chutney (Plain Rs.15/plate, Ghee Rs.20/plate)
Timings: 5pm – 10 pm

Surendar Kewat's Litti Jamshedpur IMG_7019

Nabjiban Kulfi
Owner: Bharat Bhushan Trivedi
106, Sakchi Bazar Ph 0657-2424793
Must try: Kulfi falooda (Rs.40)
Timings: 11am-9pm

Balbir Fried Chicken (BFC)
Owner: Harjinder Singh
Opp Basant Talkies, Sakchi Ph 9955352461
Must try: Chicken chaanp (Rs.200), 250 gm Chicken Pakoda (Rs.80)
Timings: 5am-10:30pm

Jamshedpur Boarding
Owner: Sanjay Chakravarty
N Road, Bistupur Ph 0657-2321484
Must try: Bengali meals – Chicken (Rs.190), Mutton (Rs.200), Fish (Rs.150), Veg (Rs.80)
Timings: 12:30-3pm, 8-9:30 pm

Café Regal
Owner: Varun Gazder
2nd Floor, 35 Bharucha Mansion, Bistupur Ph 8102514777
Must try: Cold Coffee (Rs.130), Chicken pasta in white sauce (Rs.240), Sunday Parsee Special (Rs.370)
Timings: 3pm-10pm (Mon-Sat), 1pm-10pm (Sun)

Cafe Regal Jamshedpur  IMG_6979

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unedited version of the article that appeared in the March 2015 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine.

Tides of Yuletide: Christmas in Goa

Standard

Far from the beach parties and all night raves, Christmas is an enchanting time to be in Goa, with its mix of tradition, Portuguese legacy and Konkani flavour, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

Christmas in Goa DSC04491_Anurag Mallick

As a slight winter chill descends on Goa, preparations for the festive season begin weeks in advance. Locals can be seen ferrying gigantic star shaped lanterns and decorations. Others simply strip the frayed decorative paper covering the bamboo frames of last year’s Christmas star and re-clad it. Most houses display a small crib depicting classic Biblical themes – King Herod’s Palace, the nativity scene of Mother Mary and Joseph watching over infant Jesus or ‘Soro jivak boro,’ the first miracle of Jesus turning water into wine.

Most visibly, Santa Claus makes his appearance in cribs across Goa’s wados in strange avatars – on a fishing boat casting a net, paddling a canoe, at a railway crossing, on a plane, riding a bike or climbing a coconut tree. This old tradition of building cribs is supposed to have been started by St Francis of Assisi who erected the first crib in a forest clearing, until his followers elevated it into an artform. In Goa, face-offs take place between local clubs like ‘Tender Boyz of Falvado, Arossim’ or ‘Mexico Boys of Costa Waddo, Cansaulim’.

Christmas in Goa DSC04483_Anurag Mallick

Long before the big day, Goan households start preparing rum dunked plum cakes, puddings and traditional Christmas sweets like marzipan, neureos (like a gujiya or sweet fried dumpling filled with coconut), dodol (sticky toffee like pudding made of coconut milk, jaggery and rice flour) and kalkals, fried sweets made of flour, eggs and coconut milk. Children of the house are roped in to lend a hand in fashioning the dough on the tines of a fork or a new comb to give it the typical ‘butter curl’ appearance. These are deep fried and coated with a sugar glaze that gives it a crunchy exterior and a soft core. Similar to the Portuguese Christmas sweet Filhós Enroladas, these sweets are called Kidyo (worms) in Konkani. The popular name kalkals (always referred to in plural form) is believed to be onomatopoeic, from the rattling sound they make when shaken in a bowl of sugar syrup. Often given a multi-coloured appearance, kalkals are an important item in the Kuswar, a collection of Goan Christmas treats distributed among neighbours or taken on visits to friends and family a week in advance.

Typically, Catholic families had as many as 22 different treats as part of kuswar. However, due to the laborious method of preparation, the number of items on the sweet platter has dwindled, or people prefer to outsource them or improvise. Besides Bebinca, the famous layered baked dessert made of flour, sugar, coconut milk and ghee, there’s Perada (Guava cheese), Chonya Doce or Doce de Grao (barfi made of Bengal gram, coconut and ghee), Bolinhos (coconut cookies with markings on top), Baath or Batk (moist semolina coconut cake), Nankaties (baked desi biscotti, better known as nankhatai), Kormolas (sweet coconut pastry shaped by hand into flower buds), Pinaca (sweet cutlets of jaggery and crushed rice), Tuelinnas de Coco (sweet made from scraped coconut), Mango Miskut (mango pulp and sugar confectionary), Suspiros (lemon rind and almonds), Bolo de Nozes, (made of coffee, nuts, brandy and breadcrumbs), Bolo de rei (made of semolina, almonds and butter) and pasteis da santa clara (cashewnut and almond dumplings). To the uninitiated Nachidos, Mandares, Pinagre, Cocada and Batica might well seem like names of Portuguese footballers! Which is why, over the years, many delicacies like the Pasteis de nata (milk and egg cream dumplings), Bolo Bebedo (made of biscuits, dried fruit, brandy and custard), Girgilada (made of sesame seeds) and Coscoaroes (made of flour) have disappeared…

Christmas in Goa DSC02923_Anurag Mallick

Undoubtedly most of these Christmas treats, like the festival itself, can be traced to Portuguese rule in Goa that lasted for nearly five centuries. For the longest time, Christmas in Goa was a fairly conservative affair with midnight mass, sacred sermons, carols and hymns commemorating the birth of Christ. However, its evolution from a religious festivity to a more secular season of merry-making can be ascribed to the hippies…

In the 60s, after migrating from the beaches to the hills and traipsing all over the country, most westerners came back to Goa to celebrate Christmas, as it was visibly the most ‘Christian’ state in the country. The revelry often extended to New Year and beyond, with music on the beach and full moon parties. In a way, this laid the foundation of the future Goa ‘scene’ and December party season.

Christmas in Goa DSC03851_Anurag Mallick

As Christmas approaches, youngsters form little troupes and visit Catholic homes in their locality singing carols. It’s the only time portly guys are in great demand – so that they can be dressed up as Santa! The groups carry a box to raise funds, which is usually donated to feed the poor or the underprivileged. Most homes get a Christmas tree and all the members get involved in decorating it with baubles, festoons and paper cut lights. People exchange Christmas cards, usually displayed at the crib. Everything is in place by Christmas Eve and by midnight most Goan Catholics flock to the local chapel or parish church for Midnight Mass, which commemorates the birth of Jesus at midnight.

In the old days, no self-respecting Goan Christian would be caught dead partying on the night of December 24. They wear new clothes and exchange greetings, hugs and kisses with their family and friends. Everybody gets a present, normally stacked under the Christmas tree. The celebrations kick in later with a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner; whose centerpiece is usually a succulent, roast suckling pig with wine soaked crackling, downed with copious quantities of red wine or feni.

Goa cuisine IMG_5390_Anurag Mallick

The lavish Gaulish feast may also include roast chicken, stuffed crab, fish fry reichado, chicken cafreal, beef, Goan sausage with baby potatoes and shallots, wedding pulao, tendli curry (for the chance vegetarian) and an assortment of sweets. There’s also sannas and sorpotel (pork offal)! It’s believed that the name comes from ‘sarapatel’ or confusion, perhaps alluding to the mixture of strange ingredients – heart, liver and the customary pork blood, which is mashed and mixed into the curry!

To quote an anonymous poem steeped in Saudades (that supposedly indescribable feeling of nostalgia): ‘And Oh! For Christmas dinner don’t you think it would be swell/If by some freak of fortune or by some magic spell/We could, as they have in Goa a bottle of the cajel/And toddy leavened sannas to go with Sorpotel!’ Quintessentially Goan eateries like Souza Lobo in Calangute, Martin’s Corner at Betalbatim and Fernando’s Nostalgia in Salcette dish out Christmas spreads, smoked barbeques, roast duck (turkey is too passé), red snapper on banana leaf, lamb curries and sweet-sour spicy prawns. Dessert can range from gooey caramel pudding and homemade rum cakes to more exotic fare – Teia de Aranhas (literally ‘cobweb’ in Portuguese) that’s made of tender coconut strips dusted with castor sugar, Dedos da Dama (marzipan fingers coated with burnt sugar, literally Lady’s Fingers) or Sans Rival, a layered confection of buttercream, meringue, coconut and cashew that literally means ‘without compare’!

Goa cuisine IMG_5174_Anurag Mallick

Though most five-star hotels and luxury resorts have their Christmas bashes and treats, a great place for a Goan Christmas banquet is Hotel Mandovi at Panjim. In existence from the time that Goa was still a Portuguese enclave (it was set up in 1952, almost a decade before India wrested control), the hotel is known for its annual celebration ‘Jantar de Natal’ on Christmas. Many old-time associations like Clube Nacional and Club Vasco da Gama organize their traditional Christmas Balls on the night of Christmas, usually very formal affairs with strict dress codes.

Festivities and visiting people go on even after the big day, often 10 days beyond Christmas. On New Years night, children sit with an effigy of an old man on the roadside, and collect funds from passers-by. They burn him at midnight, which symbolizes of putting the past behind and ushering in the future. Officially the Christmas season ended on January 6 with the Feast of the Magi, marked by a Church service and a symbolic procession of the three kings at three places in Goa – Reis Magos, Chandor and Cansaulim.

Christmas in Goa DSC04592_Anurag Mallick

The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated with great reverence and devotion in Cansaulim. Three young boys, usually around 8 to 10 years old, are chosen to enact the role of the Three Kings from the villages of Cansaulim, Arossim and Cuelim. All through the year there’s great excitement and curiosity as to who will be the chosen one. Outsiders cannot claim this privilege, as the boys must be from these three villages only. Being a king, even for a day is serious business, and the boys take great care of themselves. Dressed up as monarchs, they travel on horseback through three different paths and meet near the chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies) atop the hill at Cuelim, founded in 1599. They carry gifts of the original trio to pay obeisance to the infant Jesus – gold, frankincense and myrrh – and proceed to the chapel together. Meanwhile, huge crowds gather for the Mass, a glimpse of the three kings and the big jatra (fair) on the hilltop.

In recent times, with a sizeable Russian presence in Goa, the festive season has only got stretched. Besides a break from the freezing winter back home, Russians get to celebrate Christmas twice – once on December 25 and again on January 7, the Russian Christmas. Leading five star hotels like Taj Exotica at Benaulim and Grand Hyatt besides other party spots host Christmas bashes on both dates. After all, this is Goa, where the party never stops…

Goa cuisine IMG_5843_Anurag Mallick

NAVIGATOR

How to reach
By Air: Dabolim Airport is 30km/45 min from the capital city Panjim. There are regular flights every day from Mumbai (1 hr, GoAir 12:15 PM, IndiGo 12:20 PM, and Bangalore (1 hr 10 min, IndiGo 12:55 PM, Air Asia 3:10 PM)

By Rail: Thivim Railway Station, an ideal stop for beaches of North Goa, is just 9km from Mapusa while Vasco da Gama is 27km south of Panjim. Margao or Madgaon Railway Station, more suited for beaches of South Goa, is 7.5 km east of Colva. From Mumbai, Jan Shatabdi Express (12051) leaves Dadar at 5:25 AM and reaches Thivim at 1:50 PM and Mandovi Express (10103) departs from Mumbai CST at 7:10 AM to reach at 6:50 PM. The overnight Mangalore Express (12133) leaves CST at 10PM and reaches Madgaon at 7AM while Konkan Kanya Express (10111) departs from CST at 11:05 PM to reach Thivim at 10:45 AM.

By road: Goa is almost equidistant from Mumbai and Bangalore. Panjim is around 540 km from Mumbai by NH-66/NH-17 and 590 km from Bangalore via NH-4.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the December 2014 issue of Discover India magazine.

Berry to brew: The Story of Coffee

Standard

ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY spill the beans on the story of coffee, the world’s most popular brew

Coffee berries DSC05899_Anurag Priya

It was Napolean Bonaparte who once grandly announced, “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless.” Sir James MacKintosh, 18th century philosopher famously said, “The powers of a man’s mind are directly proportional to the quantity of coffee he drank.” In The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, when TS Eliot revealed, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” he hinted at the monotony of socializing and the coffee mania of the 1900s.

German musical genius JS Bach composed the Coffee Cantata celebrating the delights of coffee at a time when the brew was prohibited for women. “If I couldn’t, three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat,” cried the female protagonist! French author Honoré de Balzac wrote the essay The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee to explain his obsession, before dying of caffeine poisoning at 51. Like Voltaire, he supposedly drank 50 cups a day! So what was it about coffee that inspired poets, musicians and statesmen alike?

Fresh roasted coffee beans IMG_9631_Anurag Priya

Out of Africa

Long before coffee houses around the world resounded with intellectual debate, business deals and schmoozing, the ancestors of the nomadic Galla warrior tribes of Ethiopia had been gathering ripe coffee berries, grinding them into a pulp, mixing it with animal fat and rolling them into small balls that were stored in leather bags and consumed during war parties as a convenient solution to hunger and exhaustion! Wine merchant and scientific explorer James Bruce wrote in his book “Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile” that ‘One of these balls they (the Gallas) claim will support them for a whole day… better than a loaf of bread or a meal of meat, because it cheers their spirits as well as feeds them’. Other African tribes cooked the berries as porridge or drank a wine prepared from the fermented fruit and skin blended in cold water.

Historically, the origins of the coffee bean though undated, lie in the indigenous trees that once grew wild in the Ethiopian highlands of East Africa. Stories of its invigorating qualities began to waft in the winds of trade towards Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East, Persia and Turkey by the 16th Century. The chronicles of Venetian traveler Gianfrancesco Morosini at the coffee houses of Constantinople in 1585 provided Europeans with one of the foremost written records of coffee drinking. He noted how the people ‘are in the habit of drinking in public in shops and in the streets – a black liquid, boiling as they can stand it, which is extracted from a seed they call Caveè… and is said to have the property of keeping a man awake.’

Coffee at Lake Forest Resort Yercaud 005_Anurag Priya

It was only a matter of time before the exotic flavours of this intoxicating beverage captured the imagination of Europe, prompting colonial powers like the Dutch, French and the British to spread its cultivation in the East Indies and the Americas. Enterprising Dutch traders explored coffee cultivation and trading way back in 1614 and two year later, a coffee plant was smuggled from Mocha to Holland. By 1658 the Dutch commenced coffee cultivation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The word ‘coffee’ is apparently derived from qahwah (or kahveh in Turkish), the Arabic term for wine. Both the terms bear uncanny similarity to present day expressions – French café, Italian caffè, English coffee, Dutch koffie or even our very own South Indian kaapi. A few scholars attribute ‘coffee’ to its African origins and the town of Kaffa in Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia. However the plant owes its name “Coffea Arabica” to Arabia, for it was the Arabs who introduced it to the rest of the world via trade.

As all stories of good brews go, coffee too was discovered by accident. Legends recount how sometime around the sixth or seventh century, Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd observed that his goats became rather spirited and pranced after they chewed on some red berries growing in wild bushes. He tried a few berries and felt a similar euphoria. Excited by its effects, Kaldi clutched a handful of berries and ran to a nearby monastery to share his discovery with a monk. When the monk pooh-poohed its benefits and flung the berries into the fire, an irresistible intense aroma rose from the flames. The roasted beans were quickly salvaged from the embers, powdered and stirred in hot water to yield the first cup of pure coffee! This story finds mention in what is considered to be one of the earliest treatises on coffee, De Saluberrima Cahue seu Café nuncupata Discurscus written by Antoine Faustus Nairon, a Roman professor of Oriental languages, published in 1671.

800px-A_Turkish_coffee_house_on_the_Bosphorus._Edmund_Spencer_(capt.)._Travels_in_the_western_Causasus.1838._cover

Flavours from Arabia

Coffee drinking has also been documented in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in South Arabia. Arabic manuscripts dating back to the 10th Century mention the use of coffee. Mocha, the main port city of Yemen was a major marketplace for coffee in the 15th century. Even today, the term ‘mocha’ is synonymous with good coffee. Like tea and cocoa, coffee was a precious commodity that brought in plenty of revenue. Hence, it remained a closely guarded secret in the Arab world. The berries were forbidden to leave the country unless they had been steeped in boiling water or scorched to prevent its germination on other lands.

In 1453, the Ottoman Turks brought coffee to Constantinople and the world’s first coffee shop Kiva Han opened for business. As its popularity grew, coffee also faced other threats. The psychoactive and intoxicating effects of caffeine lured menfolk to spend hours at public coffee houses drinking the brew and smoking hookahs, which incited the wrath of orthodox imams of Mecca and Cairo. As per sharia law a ban was imposed on coffee consumption in 1511. The Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el Imadi was hailed when he issued a fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee, by order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I in 1524.

Though subsequent bans were re-imposed and lifted at various points of time according to the whims of religious politics and power, coffee pots managed to stay constantly on the boil in secret or in the open for those desirous of its potent influence. Given the fact that Sufi saints advocated its uses in nighttime devotions and dervishes and Pope Clement VIII even baptized the bean to ward off the ill effects of what was regarded by the Vatican as ‘Satan’s drink’ and the ‘Devil’s Mixture of the Islamic Infidels’ till the 1500s, it is easy to see why coffee is nothing short of a religion to some people.

Baba Budan Giri_Landscape_Anurag Priya

Coffee enters India and beyond

Surprisingly, India’s saga with coffee began in 1670 when a Muslim mystic, Hazrat Dada Hyat Mir Qalandar, popularly known as Baba Budan, smuggled seven beans from Arabia and planted them on a hillock in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The hills were later named Baba Budan Giri in his memory. From here, coffee spread like bushfire across the hilly tracts of South India.

In 1696 Adrian van Ommen, the Commander at Malabar followed orders from Amsterdam and sent off a shipment of coffee plants from Kannur to the island of Java. The plants did not survive due to an earthquake and flood but the Dutch pursued their dream of growing coffee in the East Indies with another import from Malabar. In 1706, the Dutch succeeded and sent the first samples of Java coffee to Amsterdam’s botanical gardens from where it made further inroads into private conservatories across Europe. Not wishing to be left behind, the French began negotiating with Amsterdam to lay their hands on a coffee tree that could change their fortunes. In 1714, a plant was sent to Louis XIV who gave it promptly to the Jardin des Plantes at Paris for experimentation. The same tree became the propagator of most of the coffees in the French colonies including those of South America, Central America and Mexico.

The importance of coffee in everyday life can be gauged by the fact that its yield forms the economic mainstay of several countries across the world; its monetary worth among natural commodities beaten only by oil! It was only in 1840 that the British got into coffee cultivation in India and spread it beyond the domain of the Baba Budan hills.

Nature Nirvana near Chikmagalur _Anurag Priya

Arabica vs Robusta

Kodagu and Chikmagalur are undoubtedly the best places to know your Arabica from your Robusta and any planter worth his beans will trace coffee’s glorious history with pride. The strain that Baba Budan got was Coffea Arabica and because of its arid origins, it thrived on late rainfall. Despite its rich taste and pleasing aroma, the effort required to cultivate it dented its popularity. The high-altitude shrub required a lot of tending, was susceptible to pests and ripe Arabica cherries tended to fall off and rot. Careful monitoring at regular intervals affected production cost and profitability.

Till 1850, Arabica was the most sought-after coffee bean in the world and the discovery of Robusta in Belgian Congo did little to change that. Robusta (Coffea Canephora), recognized as a species of coffee only as recently as 1897, lived up to its name. Its broad leaves handled heavy rainfall much better and the robust plant was more disease-resistant. The cherries required less care as they remained on the tree even after ripening. Its beans had twice the caffeine of Arabica, though less flavour, which was no match for the intense Arabica. It was perceived as so bland that the New York Coffee Exchange banned Robusta trade in 1912, calling it ‘a practically worthless bean’!

Narasu's Coffee popular brand in Tamil Nadu IMG_9634_Anurag Priya

But in today’s new market economy, the inexpensive Robusta makes more commercial sense and is favoured for its good blending quality. Chicory, a root extract, was an additive that was introduced during the Great Depression to combat economic crisis that affected coffee. It added more body to the coffee grounds and enhanced the taste of coffee with a dash of bitterness. Though over 30 species of coffee are found in the world, Arabica and Robusta constitute the major chunk of commercial beans in the world. ‘Filter kaapi’ or coffee blended with chicory holds a huge chunk of the Indian market. Plantations started with Arabica, toyed with Liberica, experimented with monkey parchment and even Civet Cat coffee (like the Indonesian Luwak Kopi –the finest berries eaten by the civet cat that acquire a unique flavour after passing through its intestinal tract), but the bulk of India’s coffee is Robusta.

As the coffee beans found their way from the hilly slopes of the Western Ghats to the ports on India’s Western Coast to be shipped to Europe, a strange thing happened. While being transported by sea during the monsoon months, the humidity and winds caused the green coffee beans to ripen to a pale yellow. The beans would swell up and lose the original acidity, resulting in a smooth brew that was milder. This characteristic mellowing was called ‘monsooning’. And thus was born Monsooned Malabar Coffee.

Colonial touch at Lake Forest Yercaud 008_Anurag Priya

Kodagu, India’s Coffee County

Currently, Coorg is the largest coffee-growing district in India and contributes 80% of Karnataka’s coffee export. It was Captain Lehardy, first Superintendent of Kodagu, who was responsible for promoting coffee cultivation in Coorg. Jungles were cleared and coffee plantations were started in almost every nad. In 1854, Mr. Fowler, the first European planter to set foot in Coorg opened the first estate in Madikeri followed by Mr Fennel’s Wooligoly Estate near Sunticoppa. The next year one more estate in Madikeri was set up by Mr Mann (after whom the Mann’s Compound is named). In 1856, Mr Maxwell and Mcpherson followed, with the Balecadoo estate. Soon, 70,000 acres of land had been planted with coffee. A Planters Association came into existence as early as 1863, which even proposed starting a Tonga Dak Company for communication. By 1870, there were 134 British-owned estates in Kodagu.

Braving ghat roads, torrid monsoons, wild elephants, bloodthirsty leeches, hard plantation life and diseases like malaria, many English planters made Coorg their temporary home. Perhaps no account of Coorg can be complete without mentioning Ivor Bull. Along with District Magistrate Dewan Bahadur Ketolira Chengappa (later, Chief Commissioner of Coorg), the enterprising English planter helped set up the Indian Coffee Cess Committee in 1920s and enabled all British-run estates to form a private consortium called Consolidated Coffee. In 1936, the Indian Cess Committee aided the creation of the Indian Coffee Board and sparked the birth of the celebrated India Coffee House chain, later run by worker co-operatives. With its liveried staff and old world charm, it spawned a coffee revolution across the subcontinent that has lasted for decades.

Indian Coffee House Kannur IMG_9668_Anurag Priya

Connoisseurs say Coorg’s shade grown coffee has the perfect aroma; others ascribe its unique taste to the climatic conditions and a phenomenon called Blossom Showers, the light rain in April that triggers the flowering of plants. The burst of snowy white coffee blossoms rends the air thick with a sensual jasmine-like fragrance. Soon, they sprout into green berries that turn ruby red and finally dark maroon when fully ripe.

This is followed by the coffee-picking season where farm hands pluck the berries, sort them and measure the sacks at the end of the day under the watchful eye of the estate manager. The berries are dried in the sun till their outer layers wither away; coffee in this form is called ‘native’ or parchment. The red berries are taken to a Pulp House, usually near a water source, where they are pulped. After the curing process, the coffee bean is roasted and ground and eventually makes its journey to its final destination – a steaming cup of bittersweet brew that you hold in your hands.

South Indian filter kaapi served in a dabrah 309_Anurag Priya

The Kaapi Trail

In India, coffee cultivation is concentrated around the Western Ghats, which forms the lifeline for this shrub. The districts of Kodagu (Coorg), Chikmagalur and Hassan in Karnataka, the Malabar region of Kerala and the hill slopes of Nilgiris, Yercaud, Valparai and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu account for the bulk of India’s coffee produce. With 320,000 MT each year, India is the 6th largest coffee producer in the world.

Recent initiatives to increase coffee consumption in the international and domestic market prompted the Coffee Board, the Bangalore International Airport and tour operator Thomas Cook to come together and organize coffee festivals and unique holiday packages like The Kaapi Trail to showcase premium coffees of South India. Coffee growing regions like Coorg, Chikmagalur, Bababudangiri, BR Hills, Araku Valley, Nilgiris, Shevaroy Hills, Travancore, Nelliyampathy and Palani Hills are involved in a tourism project that blends leisure, adventure, heritage and plantation life. At the Coffee Museum in Chikmagalur, visitors can trace the entire lifecycle of coffee from berry to cup. In Coorg and Malnad, besides homestays, go on Coffee Estate holidays with Tata’s Plantation Trails at lovely bungalows like Arabidacool, Woshully and Thaneerhulla…

Doorbeen Road at Tata Woshully Bungalow DSC05846_Anurag Priya

The perfect cuppa

Making a good cup of filter coffee traditionally involves loading freshly ground coffee in the upper perforated section of a coffee filter. About 2 tbs heaps can serve 6 cups. Hot water is poured over the stemmed disc and the lid is covered and left to stand. The decoction collected through a natural dripping process takes about 45minutes and gradually releases the coffee oils and soluble coffe compounds. South Indian brews are stronger than the Western drip-style coffee because of the chicory content. Mix 2-3tbs of decoction with sugar, add hot milk to the whole mixture and blend it by pouring it back and forth between two containers to aerate the brew.

Some places and brands of coffee have etched a name for themselves in the world of coffee for the manner in which coffee is made. The strength of South Indian Filter coffee or kaapi (traditionally served in a tumbler and dabrah or bowl to cool it down), the purity of Kumbakonam Degree Coffee, the skill of local baristas in preparing Ribbon or Metre coffee by the stretching the stream of coffee between two containers without spilling a drop… have all contributed to the evolution of coffee preparation into an art form.

Meter coffee IMG_0722_Anurag Priya

With coffee bars and cafes flooding the market and big names like Starbucks, Costa, Barista, Gloria Jean’s, The Coffee Bean, Tim Horton’s and Café Coffee Day filling the lanes and malls in India along with local coffee joints like Hatti Kaapi jostling for space, it’s hard to the escape the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee. And to add more drama to the complexities of coffee, you can choose from a host of specialty coffees from your backyard – Indian Kathlekhan Superior and Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold, or faraway lands – Irish coffee and cappuccino (from the colour of the cloaks of the Capuchin monks in Italy) or Costa Rican Tarrazu, Colombian Supremo, Ethiopian Sidamo and Guatemala Antigua. And you can customize it as espresso, latte, mocha, mochachino, macchiato, decaf… Coffee is just not the same simple thing that the dancing goats of Ethiopia once enjoyed.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as Cover Story on 21 Sep 2014 in Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald.

Tea Junction: History of chai in India

Standard

From mythology, legend, local preparations to tea-growing regions, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY chronicle the journey of tea in India from leaf to cup

Image

According to Buddhist folklore, when Siddhartha sat in meditation on his path to enlightenment, he kept falling asleep. Infuriated at his lack of self-discipline, he plucked out his eyelashes and flung them to the ground. At the spot where his eyelashes fell, there arose a plant blessed with the magical properties of banishing sleep. The plant was Camellia sinensis or Chinese Camellia, more popular as tea.

The Chinese connection is attributed to a story that recounts how few leaves from a Camellia bush fell into a pot of boiling water by mistake and the brew was served to a Chinese Emperor who hailed its rejuvenative powers. It is suggested that the Tang Dynasty made tea the national drink of China and coined the world ch’a for tea. While these legends may be apocryphal, documented evidence establishes that tea was being consumed in India as early as 750 BC. Not surprisingly, the country today is the highest consumer of tea. Yet the evolution of tea as a drink of Emperors and colonial rulers into a daily beverage of a man on the street began with an epic story of deception and industrial espionage.

Image

During the 1800s, Europe, particularly England became obsessed by the magical brew of the Orient. China held sway over the world trade and production of tea remained a fiercely guarded secret for centuries. In a shocking clandestine corporate heist, the British East India Company sent a faithful Scottish botanist and plant hunter into the heart of Imperial China to steal the secret of tea. Robert Fortune, the chosen hero for this near impossible mission, went to China disguised as a mandarin armed with a ponytail and a crummy pistol and explored the region for four years (1848-1851). How the humble botanist risked his life fighting off Chinese warlords and pirates to return to India with a clutch of precious saplings, seeds and meticulous documentation on how tea was traditionally prepared, is the stuff of legends; inspiring books like “For all the tea in China” by Sarah Rose and even a movie “Robert Fortune: The Tea Thief” by Belgian filmmaker Diane Perelsztejn.

Until then, Britain filled its coffers with silver earned from Chinese tea in exchange for opium grown in India. However, after the two Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-58), China broke Britain’s stranglehold over opium trade by becoming the world’s biggest producer of poppy! By smuggling saplings of the most prized black and green tea into India and spawning nurseries in Assam and Darjeeling, Fortune literally changed the fortunes of the British Empire forever and made the world wake up to tea.

Image

Interestingly, indigenous wild tea bushes were found growing in Assam even prior to 1823. It is said Bessa Gaum, a Singhpo tribe chieftain served a unique dark beverage to Robert Bruce, a Scottish officer in the British army! It was his brother, Charles Alexander Bruce who propagated and popularized Assam tea by establishing the Assam Company, the world’s first tea enterprise. Prince Dwarkanath, Rabindranath Tagore’s grandfather was on its elite list of Board of Directors in 1839. In 1841, Dr. A Campbell became the pioneer of tea plantations in Darjeeling, when he launched a trial seed planting experiment using Chinese tea seeds at an altitude of 700ft. Several Europeans besides Bhagatbir Rai, a local resident, followed his path and numerous tea estates took root across the hilly slopes of Darjeeling.

By 1866 nearly 39 estates spread across 405 hectares were producing tea, making Darjeeling synonymous with the now world famous export. Soon, engineer W O’Brien Ansell introduced the first power-driven tea rollers and sorters and installed turbines, revolutionizing the whole process of tea manufacture in factories through mechanization by 1872. Tea connoisseurs across the globe attribute the combination of unique soil, altitude, temperature and weather to the delicious ‘muscatel’ aroma of Darjeeling tea, earning its tag as the champagne of teas.

Image

After the unfortunate hanging of local Maniram who defied European entrepreneurs by planting his own tea in 1858, Rosheswar Barua became the first Indian to establish and own six tea estates. The popularity of the golden brew gained momentum and profit, luring enterprising traders from faraway lands to stake their claim in the business. Soon Marwaris like Senai Ram Lohia set out on camel and foot from Ratangarh in Rajasthan to Dibrugarh in Assam in 1861 on learning about the “gold growing there”. A year later, motivated planters like James White set up a tea plantation in the Terai region sparking off similar estates in the Dooars.

As numbers swelled to 13 plantations, the British set up Dooars Tea Planter’s Association in 1877 followed by the Indian Tea Association in 1881 to represent North Indian planters. This was no proverbial storm in a teacup; it was a stirring of a business frenzy that has lasted for more than a century – across the north, east and south of India from Assam to the foothills of the Himalayas in Kumaon and Kangra, Kullu and Garhwal to the slopes of Nilgiris, Munnar and Anamalai in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Image

The southern wave of tea was triggered around 1832 by Dr Christie’s early trials with tea cultivation in the Nilgiri region. Mann the first planter to manufacture Nilgiri teas, founded a tea plantation near Coonoor in 1854 that became renowned as Coonoor Tea Estate. Around this time, another planter, Rae, set up Dunsandle Estate near Kulhatty. In 1878, James Finlay & Co. pioneered tea cultivation in hilly tracts of Kerala. Munnar is home to some of the world’s highest tea plantations and the tea owes its uniqueness to the distinct geographical conditions and altitude. By 1893, the United Planters’ Association of Southern India was established to represent those in the south.

From the meditative art of Japanese tea ceremonies to the idea of culinary elegance and etiquette for Afternoon tea, High Tea and garden tea parties introduced by Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, to the simple everyday way of life phenomenon of chai in India, the art of tea drinking has transformed over the decades from region to region.

Image

An extract from Lu Yu’s definitive classic on tea, Ch’a Ching, the world’s first book on the subject, says the best quality tea must have –
The creases like the leather boots of Tartar horsemen,
Curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock,
Unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine,
Gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr,
And be wet and soft like
Earth newly swept by rain

Lu Yu simplified the whole process of manufacturing tea bricks, which were steamed and dried for storage as: “All there is to making tea is to pick it, steam it, pound it, shape it, dry it, tie it, and seal It.”. In the ancient days, tea bricks were so valuable that they served as currency in parts of China, Tibet, Mongolia and Central Asia. They were often compressed with fascinating designs and imprints and were also consumed as food during hunger and as a cure for cough and cold. Today the practice of using tea bricks is uncommon but the sheer range of tea available in the market leaves one speechless.

Image

It’s hard to believe that the 3000 different varieties of teas available in the world come from the humble Camellia sinensis or Camellia assamica plants, varying only by the region it was grown, the season it was picked and the processing method of leaves. However, tea can be broadly categorized into four types namely, Black, Green, White and Oolong tea. India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tea. Together with China, we contribute 2,338,000 tonnes to the world’s total tea production! In 16th Century India, tea was used to prepare a vegetable dish using garlic and oil and a drink was made using the boiled tea leaves.

There’s a quirky lore about an Indian brand called Rungli Rungliot. On his quest for the perfect tea, a Buddhist lama wandered across mountains, valleys and passes of the North East. Deadbeat after his long journey, he stopped at a point between Gangtok and Darjeeling, where the road twists high above the Teesta river. He uttered the words ‘Rungli Rungliot’ meaning ‘Thus far, and no further’. As luck would have it, he discovered the perfect tea right there, giving the place and brand the name!

Image

Customized to a Tea

Today, Indians have given their own spin to the art of making tea. While a majority of tea drinkers prefer to sip tea with milk or cream and sugar, many Indians add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, herbs like basil, mint, liquorice and ginger for additional flavor. So we have milk tea or masala tea and the strongly brewed kadak chai served in hilly tracts of northern India; the malai mar ke chai, a full-bodied brew with a fat dollop of cream scooped into the cup; the eco-friendly railway matka chai served in red clay cups; Kerala tea laced with peppercorns and nutmeg; the stiff sugar rush of Irani chai or “khade chammach ki chai (literally, standing spoon tea) which refers to a light brew with a layer of sugar at the bottom that is so thick it could keep a spoon upright!

For those who like a large dose of lactose, the milky concoctions of dust tea served around the old Fort St George in Chennai and the cow belt of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are a must. For a dash of exotic, try the mild flavors of Kashmiri Kahwa, an aromatic green tea that is boiled with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, crushed Kashmiri roses and sweetened with honey and crumbled walnuts and almonds. The strange salty pink Sheer Chai or Noon Chai is another offering from Kashmir besides the famous Gud-gud Chai – a buttery salty local tea served in nearby Leh and Ladakh.

Image

Mumbai’s “Cutting chai” or Bangalore’s “By-two” chai are economical urban alternatives where one cup of tea is halved or shared between two people. Kerala’s Meter chai is a skillful display of mixing tea contents and providing a head of froth by deftly pouring hot tea between two containers drawn about one meter apart! The Arab-influenced Sulaimani Chai or lemon black tea, is a delightful refreshment served commonly at biryani parlors and cafes.

When it comes to great highland teas, the aromatic Darjeeling tea still wears the crown with its original orthodox manufacturing process which involves five stages after picking the sacrosanct formula of “two leaves and a bud” – withering, rolling, fermentation, drying and storing. The dark Nilgiri Tea with its intense aroma and rich flavor rules the south. Export quality, hand-sorted, full-leaf versions like Orange Pekoe clearly target the affluent lot. “CTC” an acronym for Curl, Tear and Crush method is the more modern type of manufacture adopted in the plains and lowlands like Assam. More recently, ‘Organic tea’ or tea grown using natural manure and eco-sustainable farming practices without chemical fertilizers and pesticides and healthy ‘Green tea’ with its rich anti-oxidants, medicinal benefits and slimming properties is fast gaining popularity.

Image

Types of tea
White Teas are the purest and least processed of all teas. This loose-leaf tea brews a light color and flavor. Green Teas are a popular beverage across Asia. Sometimes scented versions of loose green teas are prepared using flowers like chamomile, jasmine or fruits. Oolong Tea is full-bodied with a flavorful sweet aroma and is often served in Chinese restaurants. Black Tea is an old favourite used in tea bags and iced teas. Herbal Teas often called tisane, often do not contain actual tea leaves and come in 3 types: Rooibos teas or red tea made from a South African red bush, Mate teas which possess an unusual coffee taste made from leaves and twigs of the Yerba mate plant and Herbal Infusions made of pure herbs, flowers or fruits which are served hot or chilled.

Blooming Teas (also known as artisan or flowering teas) are the designer brews which are hand tied by tea artists. They can be flavoured or scented and actually blossom as they steep, to create beautiful designs. Hence, they make lovely gifts and souvenirs. Tea Blends are most popular as they offer a delicate mix of the best of premium teas to give the best combination of colour, flavor and aroma.

Image

Tea holidays in India
Tea tourism has burgeoned rapidly across the country and tourists are encouraged to experience plantation life in colonial style tea gardens, heritage bungalows and liveried staff on call. The best way to know your oolong from your pekoe is to witness the journey of tea from leaf to cup through the elaborate manufacturing process from tea plucking to tea-tasting sessions besides nature walks and adventure activities. Tea-picking season lasts from April-October, making it a good time to visit tea estates and factories. Plan your trip to catch the picking and production season – First flush (March-May), Second flush (June- July), Monsoon/Rain flush (Aug-Sept), Autumnal Flush (Oct-Nov). Winter is generally a dormant time for tea.

The topography, temperature and terrain make it ideal for tea cultivation in several areas of our country. Tea grows in warm, humid climate with well distributed rainfall and long days of sunshine. From the dark fragrant Nilgiri Tea to Munnar’s full-bodied Kanan Devan tea, the bright and bold maltiness of Assam or the finest Darjeeling the color of Himalayan sunlight, India’s tea growing regions are diverse.

Image

Head to Kurseong, home to the world’s first tea factory set up in 1859 where you can savour Silver Tips Imperial (the most expensive tea) while staying at homestays run by villagers at Makaibari Estate. Become a tea taster at Jorhat’s Gatoonga Tea Factory while staying at Heritage North East’s Burra Sahib and Mistry Sahib bungalows. Wild Mahseer, an 1875 British angling bungalow and former residence of the tea-estate manager have been transformed into a classy resort. Stay at the Darang Tea Estate to get a real taste of Kangra tea. Carpeting the Palampur hills by the British since 1882, the aromatic brew has a weak colour, but the Dhauladhar range’s microclimate lends a certain aroma after it is sun dried.

In South India, stay at The Tea Sanctuary in Munnar and drop by at the Tea Museum. Or relax in the colonial comforts of Briar Tea Bungalows at Meghamalai. Experience tea-themed cuisine and bison in the bush at Tea Nest Coonoor. As a spoonful of tea leaves steep silently in a pot of fine bone china, the cinematic sight of waves of rolling green tea gardens and tea pickers busily tucking fresh leaves into their baskets returns as a lasting reminder of how it all began.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 22 June 2014 in Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald.