Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Rasam Button- Oh what a thought!

So its been raining quite a bit. The monsoon is in its peak. This is the view from my room. Its cloudy, misty, the sky is gray, the clouds are low, the rain is heavy and the visibility is low.
While this weather is about garam chai and samosas, it is also the season many Mumbaikars come down with colds, cough and other scary things like malaria and Jaundice.
 I luckily just came down with a cold and cough. I've been pretty clogged and my head has been feeling really heavy. This picture best describes how I've been feeling.

So I was craving some hot, spicy rasam, a soup that would open up my clogged up sinuses. my taste buds were all messed up because of the anti-biotics. So I asked Jai if he knew how to make rasam. He declined. I asked mum if she knew how to make rasam and she declined. So I took matters in my hands. What kind of rasam was I craving. Spicy yes- but also wanted some crunchy vegetables in it. So I googled some recipes and combined a couple to make myself some hot, spicy and crunchy rasam.

3 tbsps MTR Rasam masala (I feel pretty lame using ready made masala, but I had an incorrigible cough, a wheezing chest and a incessant leaking nose and wanted a quick fix!)
1 small cup toor dal
1 cup tamarind water
1 large onion quatered
1-2 minced green chillies (remember I want it really spicy)
1 spoonful of ginger
1 mooli (daikon) chopped in bite size cubes
1 carrot chopped
1 tomato quatered
Salt according to taste
a handful of minced corriander
A splash of lemon juice

For the tadka:
1 spn asafoetida (heeng)
1 spn mustard seeds
1 spn cumin seeds
handful of curry leaves
1 spn red chilli pwd ( I wanted it really hot)

1. Start with boiling the toor dal in 3 cups of water till completely cooked. Mash gently. Add salt to the dal while cooking. Set aside.

2. In a frying pan saute onions and ginger and some green chillies.

3. Add a couple table spoons of Rasam Powder. I went with three to begin with. Add the chopped mooli (daikon) and carrots.

 4. Add the tamarind water. (Take some dried tamarind and soak it in hot water for 15 minutes. The tamarind breaks into a pulp and mixes with the water.

5. Let it simmer gently for 10 minutes. The tamarind water begins to thicken.

6. Add the vegetables to the hot, cooked dal. Add more water and let the whole thing simmer. Taste for salt and spiciness and add more rasam masala if necessary (In my case it was- I added another large spoonful of rasam masala).

7. Add the quartered tomatoes to the mix and let it all boil till the daikon and carrots have softened. Add the coriander leaves.

8. Prepare the tadka separately. In a frying pan- heat some oil. Add the heeng, the mustard seeds till they crackle. Add the cumin seeds and the curry leaves. Add the chili powder and take off the heat.
Add this to the rasam. Squeeze the lemon in the hot rasam.

So the hot rasam.... Eat it as is, or over some rice to make it a complete meal. My ma kindly made me some of my favourite curd rice to eat with the rasam. The rasam was perfect. It was hot and spicy and I finally felt my nose open up.

I think it was the woozy feeling of having a cold but I was quite kicked by making this rasam button. I thought it would be quite cool to have a rasam button that I could press and get some rasam at a moment's notice. Ummmm... what an idea. Create an Iphone Rasam App. Oh! Ho!

I sat by the window and enjoyed my hot rasam. The view from my window at night. The snaking Eastern Express highway in the night. I'm not sure if its the rain or the pollution that makes the sky so foggy looking. The night lights of Thane.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

55 East at the Grand Hyatt- The Grand Food Bloggers Dinner

Many of you who have been following my blog from the very beginning know that I started it during my couch surfing / homeless (more dramatic sounding) days. I was in transition; I had quit my job, broken my leg, was on intense physical therapy and was trying to decide what next. So I decided to take time out of life and travel across the US thanks to the generous kindness of my friends who let me crash on their couches in exchange for me cooking them delicious meals. Halfway through the process the genesis of this blog happened. I can't say that I documented well that exciting time of my life in this blog but you can read some of the initial posts to see what I was experiencing.

When I finally decided to move back to India, I decided this blog will be a way for me to re-acquaint myself to a city I left 13 years ago. I looked up other Mumbai bloggers. I found many but the two that caught my attention were Finely Chopped and Purple Foodie. One writes food porn and the other creates it. A few weeks into my return I had the pleasure of working with Lulu of Lulu loves Bombay and I knew I was in the right company. Slowly but surely my blogging network grew and I started following up on reviews and places to eat and what to cook.

Then one fine day last week I got invited for dinner by Rushina of A Perfect Bite (thanks to Lulu). The Venue: 55 East at the Grand Hyatt. The guests: 15 Food Bloggers and food critics.

All I could say was OOOOOOOOOOOH YES!

And guess what? The invite list numbered two of my food blog crushes. Yes, they were coming too! I was finally going to meet the Knife of Finely Chopped and The Purple Foodie- 'the size 0 baker'. And there was going to be Vikram Doctor- the food blogger who writes a food column on the Economic Times. But I was also excited to meet the others- hear their stories, know more about blogging- why they blog, where they eat and most importantly where do they find their ingredients. (Remember the ordeal I had finding Parsley). How exciting could a night like this be!?! So many foodlovers at one table, and of course not to mention with a backdrop of dinner at the Fifty Five East restaurant at the Grand Hyatt should be a blast.

So let me take you through the night. I will list all the people I met at the end of the blog. Do visit their blogs. Each one is unique and has a different angle to food. So here is to citizen journalism!

Presenting 55 East at the Grand Hyatt. The interiors are designed by this Japanese firm called Super Potato.

As Anupam, the guy behind making this evening possible explained the walls are laser cut, with light being projected and further reflected with the help of mirrors creating this kaliedescope of light effects. It was quite magical like walking into an Alice in wonderland. It helps you forget about the city outside and you are in the mood for a glamorous night ahead.
The concept behind 55 East is large open kitchens where you can see the chefs prepare your meals for you. You can ask them to customize the dishes according to taste or you can try what they make. There are various cuisines being cooked up in the kitchen, mediterranean, sushi, thai, Indian and continental. Finish it all with a lovely desert selection.
Oh Yes! I am going to walk you through the various kitchens.
The kitchens were beautifully organised with the top of the line cookware. They were clean enough to eat off the floor. 
I started with the Sushi
Freshly made Sushi by a Japanese chef who kindly cut me some fresh salmon and rolled it into lovely rolls. I LOVE Sushi. I was so happy to enjoy these rolls.
Oh yes that is Ocra Sushi. Crunchy ocra with sticky sushi rice.

I love loads of Pickled Ginger on my Sushi. I was in Heaven.

Moving on to my next favourite cuisine- Thai. What I loved about transitioning from one kitchen to the next- there were palate cleansers. Like these fried, crunchy, salty rice crackers. Each kitchen counter was decorated with relevant dinnerware- lovely copper, cast iron utensils and the raw ingredients used essentially in their cuisine- chillies in the case of Thai. Check out the lovely chopsticks. 55 East truly plays with all your senses.
Yummy fish curry with sauteed greens. Served up with some spiced soya sauce and jasmine rice. Also tried some of this lovely spring beans, carrots and mushrooms
Drama in the Kitchen. Oooh exciting- that chef totally did that when he saw me take his pic.. I think we had a connection there. (just kidding)
Moving on to the Indian cuisine- cleansing palette with some Papad. I tried some spicy fried Prawns. The rest I just took pictures of. The ambience was set by piles of tomatoes and lemons and dried red chillies.
Pickled Pumpkin seeds and onions relish
The dishes
Deep Fried Spicy Prawns on banana leaves. 

I was so ready to eat that I rushed through the continental section. Next is a picture of a cut of steak with rosemary and grilled green and yellow squashes. 
I loves this lovely cast iron gravy holder. They also made tenderloin to order and many different kinds of steaks. I was more into the Thai and Sushi so I went back to try that out.
The set up from the other side.
 Ok I know this is a long post. But I have to share with you the dessert counter.
Meringues in jars, chocolate and strawberry sauces, beautiful copper-ware all beckoning you to submit to these sinful pleasures. I love the styling of this place - i wonder who did it. Its a lovely play on your senses.
 I think that is Marshmellows in the jars at the back. Oh why did I not ask them for S'mores.
Making a fresh crust to the creme brulee with some sugar on some velvetty custard. My absolute favourite- a thin crust of crunchy, burnt sugar to break into a soft creamy custard.
yes fresh figs made into this delectable fig pie served with custard or icecream
And they made you crepes as well. Fresh cherry compote and a side of ice cream

And finally the true stars of the evening. The fantastic blogger. Forgive me for the less than wonderful photographs... the lighting was dim, everyone was busy interacting and I was too excited for my own good.
Snigdha, Rushina and Shaheen.
Javed and Simran
Mangal and Anupam
The Knife (kalyan) taking a pic of me taking a pic of him.
Snigdha, Simran, and Mangal
The Lovely Lulu, Rushina and Kalyan
Atish- the Animator
Nitin, Nikhil (hidden), Poonam, Shaheen and The Vikram Doctor
Poonam and Shaheen
Anupam who was our kind host
And finally an incredibly excited me in the presence of the people who I look forward to read.

I unfortunately did not capture everyone there. I missed this amazing blogger that I met that night probably becasue she was also busy taking pictures. Harini- of Tongue Ticklers. She is a working mom, romantic, writer and maker of vegan recipes (a concept that is slowly catching on in India)

I would like to thank Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal-  writer, food consultant. Thanks for including me in this wonderful band of merry bloggers.
A list of the food writers and bloggers. Read up and I promise you won't be disappointed!

Now Cooking - (member of APB team)
Vikram Doctor  -
Finely Chopped (Kalyan- the Knife) - 
Purple Foodie (Shaheen) -
Lotsafood (Shanky) -
Homemade Happiness (Poonam Joshi) - 
Eating out in Bombay - 
Lulu loves Bombay (The Lovely Lulu) - 
Sunshinemom of TONGUE TICKLERS (Harini) (
Nonchalant Gourmand (Nikhil Merchant) -
Ifoodee (Nitin Raghani)-
Bombay Foodie (Simmi Sareen)- Foodzone Blogspot
Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal- A Perfect Bite
Snigdha Binjola - Life on a Simmer