Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Why South Indians are different from ‘Punjabis’

10 May 2014

The differences in the mindset of South Indians and North Indians has been the object of much fascination and in no small measure, pride and envy. The stereotype of the rough, rugged, aggressive, foul-mouthed, back-stabbing, money-minded, itching-for-a-fight “Punjabi/Bhaiyya/Bihari” stands in stark contrast to the soft, docile, introverted, passive, friendly “Madrasi”.

The reasons usually trotted out for this obvious gap are the rougher terrain in the north, the inhospitable climate with extremes of summer and winter, and the number of wars and invasions at the hands of the Mughals and the British, not to mention the bloody Partition at the middle of the last century.

These factors, it is assumed, has made the North Indian tougher, hardier, and in their absence, South Indians have become somewhat soft and namby-pamby.

But could it also be that we are what we eat?

New research by American and Chinese scientists shows that there are psychological differences between people in rice-growing and wheat-growing regions, which, according to The Telegraph, Calcutta, “could also explain certain cultural differences between similar populations in India.”

“The study suggests that people in rice-growing provinces [in southern China] show higher levels of holistic thinking and loyalty to friends or relatives and appear less prone to conflict than people in northern wheat provinces.”

The study, which will appear in the US journal Science, shows that farmers who cultivate rice need to cooperate with neighbours to cordinate flooding and dredging of paddy fields. Cultivating wheat takes only about half as much effort as rice—and the lighter burden of wheat allows farmers to look on their own plots without relying on neighbours.

“Rice agriculture provides a disincentive for conflict,” Thomas Talhelm, a psychologist and research scholar at the University of Virginia says. This makes people in rice cultures avoid conflict, while people in wheat cultures can afford to be individualistic and less resistant to conflict.

The study shows that rice-growing and rice-eating people were more interdependent and holistic in their thinking and display higher levels of loyalty. The scientists also found differences in divorce rates—the rice-growing south had lower divorce rates than the wheat-growing north.

So, next time you chuck a rice baath and order a roti, guess what you are doing to yourself?!

Or guess what the growing appeal of idli and dosa is doing to them?

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Are north Indians lawless?

5 reasons why South India is better than the North

Ram Guha: Would war have made South Indians different?

Why aren’t more South Indian firms on the Sensex?

Anna-sambaar to the American on the Blackberry

When the heart pines for panneer butter masala

Zen and the art of eating the Mysore masala dosa

The runaway kid who runs an idli-dosa empire

29 October 2013

From The Telegraph, Calcutta, the story of Jayaram Banan, the son of a bus driver in Udupi who ran away from home to Bombay as a boy, and now runs a chain of south Indian restaurants in the north under the brand name Sagar Ratna.

“I worked as a serving boy and then manager in small-town restaurants before moving to Delhi, where I turned entrepreneur,” he recalls. Banan opened a canteen-style idli-dosa outlet in Delhi’s defence colony market in 1986. He called it Sagar.

“The butter chicken-loving Delhi lapped up his southern fare. Apart from the Sagar Ratna chain, Banan runs Swagath for south Indian coastal cuisine. Launched in 2001, it now has 10 outlets.

“Some of Banan’s restaurants are exclusively owned, some are parnerships and some franchisees. “We plan to double our turnover and the numbers of restaurant in the next five years,” he says

For the record, even today Jayaram Banan stands outside his very first Sagar Ratna™ outlet in defence colony and welcomes guests for half-an-hour every day at 7 pm.

Vir Sanghvi wrote:

“I discovered that he has never once sat at a table and eaten at one of his restaurants. Most days he eats at the Defence Colony Swagath but takes the meals in the kitchen. I’ve known him to drink the odd whisky but he will not touch liquor at one of his restaurants. As far as he’s concerned, the restaurants are places where he is meant to serve, not enjoy.

“His dedication and drive are also exemplary. He leaves home at 9 am every morning and rarely returns before 11.30 pm, trying to visit as many of his restaurants as he can. On Sundays, he leaves at 7 am and visits all 29 restaurants in the Delhi area. There is no other way of maintaining standards, he says.”

Photograph: courtesy Growth Institute

Read the full story: Bon appetit

Also read: How V.G. Siddharth built Coffee Day cup by cup

Why Vasudev Adiga wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

A feast for the stomach—and a feast for the eyes

20 September 2013


From Mukhwas, a just-published book on Indian food through the ages, by Alka Pande:

Kanteerava Narasaraja (Wodeyar) of Mysore (1638-49) enjoyed tasteful bites served by charming women. The women had to possess certain qualities of beauty to serve the fastidious king.

“‘Their faces had to shine like the full moon with coryllium sparkling in their eyes. Bells were tinkling around their waists and bangles jingling on their wrists as they served food. The women were enchanting, with anklets ringing sweetly announcing their arrival, swaying their wide hips and slender waists’.”

Photograph: via Wikipedia

Also read: Mudde, mutton saaru and mutton chops with the Maharaja

Is the answer to India’s hungry stomachs, chikki?

14 May 2013

The food security bill is the next big social welfare item on the UPA menu as it hurtles towards elections. The idea is unexceptionable, to use India’s surplus and rotting foodgrains to feed the poor, hungry and malnourished. And the hope is that like NREGA, free food and direct cash transfer will win a third term for the Congress-led coalition.

Except that food is a state subject, except that the opposition isn’t playing ball, except that it can get all very messy. Also, in a large and diverse country with differing tastes every mile of the way, there is the question of what to give the needy. The economist Ashok V. Desai suggests chiki or chikki, what passes off as kadalekaayi mithai in Karnataka.

He writes in The Telegraph:

“We need an eatable that is durable, light and solid. The only such Indian eatable I know is chiki. It is common in Maharashtra; as trains run between Bombay and Poona, young men cling to the windows and sell packets of chiki to passengers. The chiki they sell is peanuts or sesame seeds embedded in gur (unrefined sugar).

“One gets variants of chiki all the way north; in Delhi, they are a seasonal ware sold in winter by rehriwallahs (hand-cart pushers) who sell murmura (parched rice), chana (parched gram) and bhel (a mixture of dry edibles mixed with chillies, chutney, sweetened tamarind water, etc).

“A round biscuit of chiki with water is an adequate, nutritious and balanced meal in the absence of normal food. It can be standardized into an industrial product.

“The government should subsidize — that is, give a negative excise duty to — this standardized chiki. To do so, it will have to license chiki factories; it should ensure that they employ the most efficient, mechanized technology. As long as they meet the standards of technology and quality, there should be no limit on the number of factories; the number of hungry poor will limit the production.

“If the government ensures the elimination of hunger by chiki, it will no longer have to buy millions of tons of foodgrains, give out billions in bribes, and bring prosperity to trillions of mice. And it will have a readymade solution for famine anywhere in the world; all it will have to do is to buy a few thousand tons of chiki and ship them to Bottomlessland.

“Maybe the rest of the world will develop a taste for some brands of chiki, and it will become a sizeable export. It will go towards bridging India’s yawning payments deficit. The finance minister should persuade his boss to take this idea seriously.”

Read the full article: Guidance for the robber

Image: courtesy Taste a Bite

Mudde, saaru & mutton chops with the Maharaja

15 December 2012

Photo Caption

What other people eat—and how, and how much—has long been an object of human fascination; increasingly so in the age of the modern media, where food is the new sex, something you can ogle at, ooze over, fantasise and salivate about, all with your clothes on and without once touching or coming close to the piece de resistance.

The former India Today and CNN-IBN journalist Neha Prasada nee Seth has just done a lavishly produced coffee table book on how the blue blooded amongst us, i.e. the Rajas and Maharajas, did what every mortal must. Titled ‘Dining with the Maharajas‘ (Roli Books, Rs 4,000), the book captures the social history of the royal culinary traditions.

# Like, how the maharani of Tripura liked four different types of cuisine at one meal.

# Like, how the Nizam of Hyderabad, a lover of jalebi, had the size of his poison increased three times when advised by doctors that he could consume only three of them due to diabetes.

# Like, when Motilal Nehru was sent to Allahabad jail by the British, Mohammed Amir Ahmad Khan of the Mahmudabad princely family sent him biryani with a bottle of champagne to keep him going during his imprisonment.

At the hands of Neha Prasada and the photographer Ashima Narain, the high tables of the kingdoms of Hyderabad, Kashmir, Jodhpur, Mahmudabad, Patiala, Rampur, Tripura, Sailana and Udaipur are laid out. Also starring is the royal family of Mysore, in which Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar waxes eloquent on bisi bele baath. Excerpts:



As you travel to the south of India, your route will take you through dense plantations rich with fragrant cardamoms and cloves, spicy peppercorns, pungent red chillies, aromatic cinnamon, and bay leaves. This trail heavy with spices will lead you to the state of Karnataka, which boasts of one of India’s largest spice industries and at one time was part of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore.

This ancient land rich in tradition and culture has been ruled by the Wadiyar dynasty since 1399. Interestingly with each change in regime, Mysore’s palate has changed and imbibed new flavours.

From the second century to the third century AD, the state predominantly had a cuisine particular to the ruling Buddhists. Power changed hands when the Buddhists were defeated by the Jains in a debate and the Kannada Jain community held sway over everything including food habits in Mysore.

Finally it was in the tenth century that Hindu kings wrested power under the leadership of Shankaracharya and have continued to rule the kingdom.

The present representative of the Wadiyar Dynasty, Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja wadiyar explains, ‘With new influences coming in through foreign traders like Arabs, coupled with the decline of Vijaynagara, Muslim flavours were introduced and adapted by us. We added non-vegetarian dishes and new styles of cooking to our cuisine.”

New flavours were imbibed under the cultural influence of the Bahmani kings who were of Persian descent and rulers from Tamil Nadu who controlled the Deccan at different points in time….


The Mysore royal family with its over 300-year-old food tradition has always treated food as much more than mere sustenance.

Says the 59-year-old custodian of this ancient family, ‘The basis of our food philosophy is that the five elements of nature which include the sky, wind, water, earth, and fire are involved in growing food. The human body needs these elements to keep functioning, thus food is the fuel of life.’

Ancient texts like the Paka Shastra, which elaborate on the art of cooking, were followed by the chefs of the royal kitchens. This knowledge was further passed down to future generations that served in the royal household.

‘These texts did not just tell you what to eat but how and when to eat it. For example, the vessels that were used to make the food had to be made of certain metals, which have beneficial properties when mixed with food,’ says Wadiyar.

Food was cooked and served in vessels made of copper and brass. Interestingly copper was also a safeguard for the royal family because if poison were added to the food, the copper would turn green. These texts also outlined the properties of each herb and spice that went into every recipe.

He explains, ‘We had separate cooks for the zenana or female quarters of the palace and separate for the mardana or male quarters because of recipes and ingredients prescribed in the texts were different for men and women.’

While ingredients like green cardamoms were used liberally in dishes prepared for women because it increased their fertility, mace was added to the recipes for the men because it boosted virility. Then there are recipes, which were medicinal in intent.

‘Curd and rice was recommended for cooling the body. Even now when elephants are in heat, this is included in their diet,’ he explains.

The palace kitchens were staffed with 150 chefs who cooked only vegetarian dishes and 25 chefs who cooked only non-vegetarian dishes. Each group was further divided into Muslim and Hindu cooks with their own special skill sets.

There were another twenty Brahmin cooks who had a separate kitchen, which was kept clean from meat, fish, poultry, and tamasic vegetables like onions and garlic. These Pandit chefs prepared the food for all religious ceremonies.

‘These cooks continued to serve the family loyally generation after generation. I believe that not even the best cooking school in the world can match up to the knowledge and experience you imbibe when born in a family of cooks,’ observes Wadiyar. He adds, ‘The cooks had their work cut out for them. Every day at least twenty people at in the mardana and twenty-five in the zenana. Also a minimum of twenty-five different dishes had to be served at any given meal’ .


In comparison, his diet is meagre and restricted to fruits and steamed ragi balls on most days. Wadiyar who is a self-confessed foodie has become extremely health conscious over the past few years and is particular about keeping his weight in check.

However, once in a while he does like to treat himself to local Mysore cuisine and his favourites include masala chops, cold mutton roast, and bisi bele bhat (rice cooked with lentils and vegetables).

Wadiyar remembers his thread ceremony, which is one of the most important rituals in a young Hindu boy’s life as he enters adulthood. He was ten years old at the time.

He recalls, ‘Two thousand visitors came from all over for my thread ceremony to Mysore, besides the 3000 local guests. The celebrations went on for three days where on the first and second day pure vegetarian food in great variety was served. Finally on the last day two banquets were organised. There was a reception for the foreigners in the Lalitha Mahal Palace where the menu included European food, while the second banquet was for the Indian rulers where local delicacies were served….


During the summer months between April and May, the family would move to Fernhills Palace in the hill station of Ooty. The highlight of the season was the famed fox hunt organised by the Mysore royals, which was attended by royal families across India and British officers.

Relates Wadiyar, ‘For three generations my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my granduncle had the distinction of being the hunt masters for these meets. Each day at the beginning of the hunt a lavish breakfast would be organised at Fernhills Palace. After a day of chasing the fox, the participants would ride back for a late lunch where both local Indian and European food was served.’

The family’s hunting camps were famous and attracted many keen sportsmen from the royal families of India.

‘We would set up camp for almost 600 people at our hunting lodge in Kakanakote. Every evening after a day of hunting, banquets were organised for the participants by the palace staff. Two separate tents were put up to host these dinners, which included the first class tent for the heads of state, while the second class tent was for the accompanying officers on duty,’ remembers Wadiyar.


In the midst of all this activity, we are also invited for lunch to the private quarters of the family in the Bangalore Palace…. In a sunlit courtyard of the palace the chefs have set up their stoves and chopping boards. The trays of spices are a study of what sets apart Kannada cuisine from the rest of India especially the north.

Fiery red Badige chillies, vibrant green curry leaves, kokum (sour fruit native to western India) as dark as ebony, dried brown tamarind, mounds of snowy white coconut, and golden yellow turmeric powder add colour to the mosaic of spices like cardamoms, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Explains Wadiyar whose cooking skills are limited to whipping up a decent omelette, ‘We grow a lot of our spices like tamarind, kokum, and coconut on the palace grounds.’ His cooks have ground together special masalas and secret potions that have been passed from cook to cook, to go into the rich curries that are stewing in antique copper vessels.

‘The Mysore garam masala includes equal portions of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon unlike the north Indian garam masala, which is made up of many more spices. Then we use something called the hatti masudi, which is a mixture of chillies and spices from the Nilgiris.’

The basic flavours in Kannada cuisine are that of coconut, jiggery, tamarind, and fragrant spices, which give the food a balance of sweet, sour, and spicy undertones. The locals who are predominantly rice eaters prefer BT rice which has more bite than a Basmati, while another popular cereal is ragi. Even the oil used for most dishes is rice oil. ‘Unlike north Indian cuisine we use oil sparingly which is why our food is much lighter,’ he adds.

The lunch is served in the family’s private drawing room where the walls are rich with the oils of European masters. The multi-course lunch includes spicy lamp chops masala a favourite of Wadiyar; an unusual horse gram curry called uili saru which is also prepared with mutton; country muddiya muttai made with mutton mince and eggs very similar to scotch eggs; a light fish curry meenu tanginakai saru; jhat phat fowl jhal frezi (quick and easy shredded fowl), and Anglo Indian classic; a coconut milk rich vegetable stew served with fluffy appams and baby appams (fried rice and gram cakes); and finally two rice preparations puliyogare or tamarind rice and bisi bele bhat. For dessert there is a creamy saabaki payasam made with sabut dana (sago) and milk to round off the meal.

As a devout Hindu the Mysore family observed every festival and puja in the Hindu holy calendar. This meant thousands of people were fed at such ceremonies in the palace.

He says, ‘We have ancient recipes that can serve one or multiples of hundreds. At any given religious ceremony at least a thousand people used to be fed. For our big festivals like Dussehra sometimes the numbers would go into lakhs.’

Even today the head of this dynasty has at least two havans or ceremonies every month and thirty-one priests are on his permanent payroll to observe these religious rites. Wadiyar explains, ‘I have only come so far in life by holding on to these traditions and culture.’

(Excerpted with the permission of the publishers)


File photograph: Srikantatta Datta Wodeyar (right)performs ayudha pooja at the Mysore palace on the eighth day of Dasara in Mysore in October 2012 (Karnataka Photo News)


Read reviews of the book: Vir Sanghvi, Sourish Bhattacharya

Buy the book here: Roli Books, Amazon, Flipkart

When the Taj group stole cooks from Amaravathi

30 September 2012

Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times:

It was in Bangalore – and not, sadly enough, in Hyderabad -– that I first encountered fiery-hot, non-vegetarian Andhra food at such restaurants as Amaravathi and RR. I had my first Chicken 65 – a dish unknown north of the Vindhyas in that era – in Bangalore, the city where it was invented. And the South Indian vegetarian food at small restaurants and some larger establishments (Hotel Chalukya, for instance) was a revelation.

I wondered if any of the dishes I encountered in Bangalore would ever make it on to the menus of more up-market restaurants or whether they would make it to Bombay at all. Clearly I was not the only one to have had the same idea because in early 1984 when the Taj group opened the Taj Residency (now called Vivanta), Camellia Panjabi put many of the dishes I came to Bangalore for on to the menu of Southern Comfort, the hotel’s coffee shop.

It was, as far as I know, the first five-star-hotel restaurant to serve appams; the first to serve Andhra dishes, including a biryani and the first to give Chicken 65 the recognition it deserved. Southern Comfort did some Goan food too, which was fair enough, because the Taj had a strong Goan presence. But as for the rest, it came from cooks stolen from the best local joints, lured to the Taj with fancy five-star salaries.

Eventually, the owners of such restaurants as Amaravathi began to warn P.K. Mohankumar, the Residency’s food and beverage manager, of dire consequences if he stole any more cooks. But by then, it did not matter. The Taj had begun to understand South Indian food itself and its own chefs were mastering Mangalorean dishes and promoting such previously unfashionable fish as Kane.”

Read the full article: Bangalore diary

Shhh: India’s best mango pickles come from here

17 September 2012

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: This small, Mangalore-tiled house is a landmark in Sagar in the Malnad region of Karnataka. Seetharama Bhat, who is famously known as Uppinakayi Bhattru has been selling the best Appe Midi Uppinakayi—pickles made from tiny mangoes—from this address for over 40 years.

Almost anyone in Malnad can make Appe Midi. But nobody can beat Uppinakayi Bhattru at the craft.

He does everything on his own, he chooses his own ingredients, and his recipe is a closely guarded secret. And, on top of it, Bhatttru is not your typical pickle maker. Sometimes his fearful moods keep people away; he even refuses to sell his appe midi pickles to people whom he does not like.

During April-May, he scouts for the best mangoes in and around Shimoga district. Normally, he gets it from Rippon pete (a small town between Sagar and Thirthahalli). If he does not get it there, he goes to Sringeri, Koppa, Sirsi and even Hassan. And he buys the best red chilly from Byadagi in neighbouring Haveri district.

There have been occasions when Uppinakayi Bhattru has made no pickles due to shortage of good appe midi or red chilly or both.

On an average he makes over 10 quintals of Appe Midi every year. Most of his clients are regular buyers. Half his appe midi produce travels to the middle-east and the United States during monsoon. Professionals can learn the art of water tight/air tight packing from him.

Bhat, a native of undivided Dakshina Kannada district, came to Sagar almost 50 years ago. He became a disciple of a famous ayurvedic doctor and astrologer Govinda Pandit and worked with him till his guru’s death.

Result: lots of people even today come to Bhattru‘s house for astrological consultations. But he entertains only four clients on a first-come, first-served basis. Sometimes, when he is in the mood he asks customers, who have come for the pickles, to reveal their date of birth, year etc and predicts their future.

At times, he may even ask them to show their palms. If they are lucky, they can go back with a pack of appe midi in hand!

Whenever he is in a good mood, he also repairs watches and wall clocks.

He is also aware of Italian traveler Pietro della Valle‘s comments on the unmatched skill of the people of Sagar in making the best mango pickles.

Pietro travelled through the domains of Keladi Nayaks and even spent six months at Ikkeri (the second capital of the Keladi rulers, which is 6 km from Sagar town). He wrote that the rulers of Gerusoppa and Ikkeri ate a large quantity of rice and ghee with spicy mango pickle, thrice a day.

Uppinakayi Bhattru has helped sustain a grand tradition across the globe. If you couldn’t read the phone number below the name plate, it is 9242839837.

Why Adiga’s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

21 May 2012

Vasudev Adiga, whose parents started the legendary Brahmins’ Coffee Bar in Chamarajpet, wants to take the Adiga’s chain beyond Bangalore, take it beyond the South, and take it to the highways—and standardise South Indian vegetarian food like other fast food joints.

Saritha Rai throws light on his delectable plans in the Indian Express:

“For generations, instinct and experience have guided the cooks who prepare the dosa batter and sambar mix. But a determined Adiga wants his brand in India’s metros by 2018. He wants the Adiga’s sign to beckon travellers on major highways, though McDonald’s and KFC have already preceded him there.

“So, conquering his twin fears of losing control and of outsiders meddling in his business, Adiga has brought in venture capital (Infosys co-founder N.S. Raghavan’s VC firm New Silk Route has invested in the chain.)

“South India’s idli-vada-dosa restaurants have remained largely standalone or single-city brands. Their owners’ ambitions have been thwarted by the challenges of standardising recipes and sourcing ingredients. For example, the dosa batter, a ground mixture of dal and rice, depends on such variables as the quality of water, grinding time and fermenting time, besides the quality of the dal and rice….

“But all that cannot see him through the risks of expanding countrywide, acknowledges Adiga. He is hiring a chief operating officer to take charge of the expansion. The chain is corporatising on many others levels. Like the multinationals, all sourcing will be centralised, except for perishables like vegetables and milk.

“The back-end will be automated by bringing in industrial-style machines to chop vegetables and wash dishes. Just like the MNC chains, which get outside agencies to dice the potatoes just so, Adiga’s too wants to “outsource” such tasks.”

File photograph: The BJP’s Ananth Kumar dives into a plate of idli-sambaar in Basavanagudi while campaigning in the 2009 elections (Karnataka Photo News)

Read the full story: Sambar, extra tangy please

Also read: Real-estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

Ayyo, Amma, Mama, Maami, tea is national drink?

25 April 2012

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Planning commission deputy chairman Padma Vibhushan Montek Singh Ahluwalia has declared that tea would be accorded national drink status next year.

Those native to the south of the Vindhyas may ask why tea, and why not coffee?

Or, maybe, a Kashmiri may say why not kehwa?

In a country where dietary and culinary diversity is of continental proportions, is it fair to simply zero in on a particular beverage and link it to nationhood? Especially when India has had its share of bitter disputes over so-called national symbols like language. Hindi’s imposition on non-Hindi speaking states still ruffles feathers among many Indians.

Proponents of tea may say a majority — according to Ahluwalia, 83% — of Indians prefer the brew over everything else. But are numbers sufficient reason to do what Ahluwalia is seeking to do?

By that argument, should we declare roti or tandoori chicken as a national dish?

Ironically, Ahluwalia’s announcement has been welcomed by tea growers in the Niligiris. But will they dare go to Madras’s Mylapore and ask the mamas and maamis to give up their kaapi and take to tea?

Or go to Bangalore’s Basavanagudi with their campaign?

We haven’t heard a response from the Coffee Days and Baristas so far. Wondering if V.G.Siddhartha will use his pop-in-law S.M.Krishna‘s influence to stop Ahluwalia in his tracks.

Also read: If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not?)

Who’s to say filter coffee OK, Starbucks yaake?

When coffee-tasting gets a whole new meaning

Look, who’s ordering by-two coffee at Wipro

A picture that’s not suitable for non-Kannadigas

11 December 2011

To paraphrase two-trick pony Rahul Gandhi, there are two Karnatakas. One eats avocados; the other eats avare kayi. For parochial connoisseurs of flat beans, the doors of paradise are beginning to slowly open in Basavanagudi in the city of baked beans aka Bangalore. For geographically less fortunate folk, there are always online huli recipessaaru recipes or kurma recipes to gawk at. Or hurugaalu.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The shortest route to a man’s heart is through…

27 August 2011

In theory, some Lucknow maulvi has issued a fatwa against “politically motivated” iftars. In practice, that is an edict that is meant to be violated flagrantly; the breaking of the fast at the end of the day during the holy month of Ramzan providing secular lubrication for the social intercourse that is so palpably lacking.

From the president to the prime minister, from Congress to the JDS, iftar parties are on in full swing across the country.

The former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and his brother, H.D. Revanna, and their JDS colleague, P.G. R. Sindhia, do the honours at an iftar in Shivajinagar in Bangalore on Friday. The gentleman in the middle is the former Union civil aviation minister, the vachana-spouting C.M. Ibrahim.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A Hindu iftar for a good Muslim doctor at work

CHURUMURI POLL: One dish, fewer guests by law?

19 April 2011

Following the Bogus Austerity Drama of 2009, when ministers began flying “cattle-class” after S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor were caught in five-star hotels, the Union food and consumer affairs minister K.V. Thomas has floated the latest UPA kite: a one-dish law at social gatherings to prevent wastage of food.

“We have received many suggestions to control food wastage at social functions. A member of National Advisory Council (NAC) has recommended imposition of Pakistan’s one-dish law. We will look into that law and similar legislations of other countries,” Thomas told reporters.

On paper, few will deny the logic behind the move. Our weddings and social occasions are exercises in ostentation. Enormous quantities are made, eaten and also wasted. In a country where huge numbers of people go without food—India stands at No. 63 on the hunger index—it provides a sharp contrast.

Yet, is a new law with all its attendant issues the way to go about creating social conscisouness? Should the Guest Control Order, which also limits the number of people who can be invited, be revived? Or is this just pressure tactics, NAC-style, after having failed to convince the UPA government on the right to food clauses?

Also read: The Top-10 austerity moves India really wants to hear

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should SUVs be banned?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Sure, austerity begins at home, but not at my home

Is the Indian media losing touch with reality?

Swalpa bevu, Swalpa bella and a happy new year

4 April 2011 wishes you and your family a very happy Ugadi. May all your dreams, hopes, prayers and fantasies come good in the year ahead. And may the best kaayi holige of your life come your way today—or a 50’x50′ site for 50 rupees if it doesn’t!

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


Ugadi 1940: A 50’x50′ site for 50 rupees only!

Ugadi 2010: Deepavali in the skies of Ugadi below

Ugadi 2008: Greetings to the world’s youngest CEO

Ugadi 2007: The solar eclipse on the new year day

Ugadi 2006: Mavinakaayi chitranna in 5 easy steps

The 13 who stopped and supped at Indra Bhavan

18 August 2010

Venkataramana Pandit Krishna Murthy alias V.K. Murthy, the Mysore-born cinematographer, the first to be chosen for the Dada Saheb Phalke award, on being felicitated by his alma mater Sharada Vilas college, on the Quit India movement anniversary:

Star of Mysore: What made you join the freedom struggle?

V.K. Murthy: Among the fondest of my childhood memories was the inspiration I derived from Mahatma Gandhi. India was fighting for its freedom and Gandhiji was a constant source of inspiration for many youngsters like me. I still vividly remember being arrested and sent to jail. In fact I remember that day so well as if the canvas is there in front of me.

Star of Mysore: … and you found yourself in jail! How did it happen?

VKM: In my student days I was very enthusiastic. I was ready to do anything for the nation. During the 1942 Quit India movement, Tulasidas Dasappa and H.Y. Sharada Prasad were arrested one day.

The next day sheepishly I along with a group of some 65 students on a cycle went in front of the police chowki (jail) shouting, ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai, Bharath mata ki jai.’

The guard standing near the jail entrance stopped and told us to meet the jail superintendent. I replied that we are not his slaves and instead asked him to come and meet us.

The Jail Superintendent came out and requested, ‘Please come inside.’ The anti-climax was that when I turned to seek my supporters, there were only thirteen left ! And we entered the jail.

I was thinking they would release us by evening, but we were kept inside prison for three months. The jail superintendent, an Indian named Sheshu Iyer, was a kind-hearted person who often got us eatables and coffee. He even took us to Indra Bhavan (on Sayyaji Rao road) on our way to the Court where we were taken once in 15 days. By the time I was released I had put on 5 pounds weight.

Visit the website: Star of Mysore

T.S. SATYAN: Once upon a time during the Quit India movement

M.V. KRISHNASWAMY: Memories of another day

Pongal, puliyogare, pizza or Pattabhi bun for Ajji?

16 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji told me she wanted to go on a padayatra from Venkataramana Swamy temple to Chandramouleeshwara temple on temple road in Vontikoppal in Mysorre, a distance of two furlongs at the most.

Ajji! You are not used to walking such long distances, especially after recovering from dengue last year. Why do you want to do a padayatra now? What do you want to prove?”

Saaku muchcho, Ramu. This padayatra is to highlight illegal mining in our State—and the lack of a footpath on temple road. I want to convey this message to our mayor who goes by the name Sandesh Swamy and to city corporation commissioner, Raikar.”

Ajji’s indomitable spirit surprised me. She is bent almost at right angle at the waist. From where does she get the spunk, I wondered.

Ajji!  Your second issue is more laudable. But isn’t there a footpath on temple road?”

“There is. It’s mostly used by vegetable and fruit vendors; pani puri and gobi manchuri vendors; dosa and idli-vade camps and churumuri gaadis; barbers, legal autorickshaw drivers, illegal CD sellers, and stray cattle. Sometimes due to overcrowding, the whole team spill over to the road.”

“Ha, ha! Nobody seems to care for pedestrians here!”

“That’s true. Couple of years back Mayor Ayub Khan and commissioner Raikar came for an ‘on the spot inspection’. It is in the same state as before! They too had to walk in the middle of the road!”

Ajji! Why don’t you invite former CM Dharam Singh to join you? He was the one Congress leader who could have done with the Bangalore to Bellary walk against illegal mining, but he was the one Congress leader missing.”

“Dharam Singhu beda, Karam Singhu beda. I don’t want anybody with me. The last two weeks I saw what happens when too many leaders do a padayatra together. They were jostling for attention and space as they do at the time of portfolio distribution. They were fighting to be at the centre, right of centre, left of centre. They were creating space for their wives, girlfriends, children, etc. It was ridiculous.”

Ajji! This is bound to happen when they are all fighting for recognition from the same master than fighting for the same cause. Each and every leader is video-recording the whole thing so that he/ she can show it to Madam later.”

“I don’t know whether Gandhi’s Dandi March was ever recorded.”

“Gandhi had no sycophants to do that. His enemy and rulers, the British, recorded the entire procession.”

“Ramu, I want a pair of goggles for my padayatra.”

Ajji suddenly bowled a doosra at me.

“For God’s sake! Your walk at most will take 15 minutes or half an hour. The weather is fairly cool and nice. What do you want goggles for?”

“I should look good when they take my video. I don’t want to look like a monkey!”

Ajji! Believe me. You are OK just as you are. You will certainly look like a monkey if you ape others. You don’t have to produce your padayatra as proof to anybody. Why do you want a video?”

“How about my lunch? Will you send me something to eat? Hayagreeva or some seekarani?”

Ajji! Next you will be asking for biryani. Saak-saaku, you will get sakkare pongal as prasada at Venkataramana swamy temple, your starting point. When you finish at Chandra Mouleeshawra they will give puliyogare anyway. If you really get hungry, you can eat a pizza or some bun or bread at Pattabhiraman‘s bakery. If you want coffee, you can stop at Barista or get some yelneer. I can arrange for that.”

Sadhya! At least you are prepared to do that much for me. How will I come back?”

“You are not Deshpande or Deekeshi to have so many options like flying back home or driving down or taking a special train. You are not like Reddy brothers or B. Sriramulu to send for a helicopter. You will do a padayatra all the way back home, another two furlongs to reach home. It will do a lot good  for your constitution.”

“I will be the first person to do another padayatra after finishing one, I guess.”

“That’s true. Only concession you will have is instead of climbing the stairs, you will come up by a lift to reach home. By the way when are you starting?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

“Just tell me whether you want your pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut, so I can arrange for them to wait for you  in front of their shop. With a bottle of Coke or Pepsi.”

Everybody loves a cheap, vegetarian thali–II

6 August 2010

While the nation gets titillated this week by Suresh Kalmadi‘s ravenous appetite, last week by the Reddy brothers’, the previous week by Sharad Pawar‘s (and his adorable daughter Supriya Sule‘s), the week before that by Lalit Modi‘s, the fortnight before that by Madhu Koda‘s, Thiru Andimuthu Raja‘s in the one before that etc, spare a thought for how little food inflation seems to exercise the grey cells of our neta-babu log.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee managed to assuage Parliament by dipping into jargon like “adverse inflationary pressure” to explain what’s happening to prices. But if there’s one reason why the fattened calves of our demcoracy do not “get” what burgeoning food prices are doing in a nation where half the nation lives below the poverty line–836 million Indians get by with less than Rs 20 a day—it’s because they have little or no exposure to it.

The latest issue of India Today carries the menu card of the Parliament canteen, and it’s a reflection of the dream world our MPs and MLAs inhabit.

Tea: Re 1

Soup: Rs 5.50

Dal: Rs 1.50

Curd rice: Rs 11

Vegetable pulao: Rs 8

Rajma rice: Rs 7

Tomato rice: Rs 7

Fish curry: Rs 13

Chicken: Rs 24.50

Rice: Rs 2

Dosa: Rs 4

Kheer: Rs 5.50

Fruit cake: Rs 9.50

Vegetarian thali: Rs 12.50

Non-vegetarian thali: Rs 22

Chicken birnai: Rs 34

Chicken curry: Rs 20.50

Butter chicken: Rs 27

This, when the average worth of each MP is Rs 5.1 crore.

This, when the average salary of each minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet is Rs 7.5 crore.

For the record, price of rice between 2004-08 shot up by 45 per cent and the price of wheat went up by 60 per cent in the same period. Below are the 2009 rates published by Indian Express to show how much unparliamentary “food inflation” has caught up with Parliamentarians in the Parliament canteen.

Vegetarian thali: Rs 12.50

Non-vegetarian thali: Rs 22

Sada dosa: Rs 2.50

Masala dosa: Rs 4

Dal (assorted): Rs 1.50

Soup with one slice: Rs 5.50

Four chapatis: Rs 2

Boiled rice: Rs 2

Of course, on top of free food, MPs also get plenty of free phone calls, free air line tickets, free railway tickets and a little pocket money in the form of MPLADs to play around with. Plus, on the last day of Parliament they also vote themselves another hike in their meagre salaries.


* Photograph used for illustration purposes only. The temple of democracy reserves the right to add, alter, switch items without prior notice depending on the day of the week.

Also read: Everybody loves a good, cheap vegetarian thali—I

Everybody is a student of khara & kesari baath

9 May 2010

Just when and how (and why) a pokey little hole-in-the-wall restaurant became a must-stop-shop on the photo-op route is unknown. But Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar holds the title with aplomb. From former vidyarthis with point-and-shoot cameras to serving chief ministers with professional cameramen in tow, everybody troops to the hoary 64-year-old vegetarian joint when in need of good Basavanagudi oxygen.

On Sunday, it was the turn of the beleaguered Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa to do the honours to a plate of chow-chow baath to the pop of the flash bulbs, with son and parliamentarian B.Y. Raghavendra Vijayendra (extreme right) in tow.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Once upon a time, life as it was in Basavanagudi

Once upon a time in Bangalore, on route number 11

Ratna Rao Shekar: A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

Jaitirth ‘Jerry’ Rao: The yellow-dal chutney a la R.K. Narayan

When coffee tasting gets a whole new meaning

14 March 2010

India Coffee House, the pokey little hole on M.G. Road, next to the offices of Deccan Herald, has been shifted to Church Street. But addicts and aficionados of caffeine still get a chance to sample the fare at the old location as part of the informal promotion for the new one.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: A doctorate for MTR boss?

25 February 2010

After a brief spell of sanity under governor T.N. Chaturvedi, the business of Universities awarding honorary doctorates has now reverted to the familiar, well-trodden cycle of rewarding sychophants, chamchas, ideological blood-brothers, drinking buddies and worse.

First, the Karnatak University in Dharwad ran afoul of the secular brigade when it decided to hand a D.Litt. to the editor of Vijaya Karnataka, Vishweshwar Bhat. After Transparency International got into the act raising serious questions, Bhat withdrew citing “personal reasons”.

Now, Tumkur University has decided that the man who runs the legendary Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) restaurant, Sadanand Maiyya, deserves to have the “Dr” honorific attached to his name. For the record, Maiyya did not set up MTR, he inherited it. Although he played a key role in expanding MTR’s packaged food brands, he sold it to a Norwegian company in 2007.

Question: Doubtless, MTR is a fine restaurant and MTR products have earned the undying gratitude of homesick Kannadigas across the globe. But do Maiyya’s stellar achievements demand a doctorate? Is he the only homegrown entrepreneur who came to the University’s eye? Is running a restaurant of repute credentials enough? Is giving the doctorate to young, fresh faces a good idea or are we devaluing it beyond redemption?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

18 September 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting began although the chairperson Sonia Gandhi was yet to arrive.

Since it was already past lunch hour, the “Kitchen Cabinet” decided to have a working lunch.

Just as the stewards of the Parliament canteen were getting ready to serve the heavily subsidised lunch, finance minister Pranob Mukherjee aka Pranab Mukherjee put up his hand and asked them not to serve him anything.

“I should practice what I preach,” said the affable FM as he opened his lunch box, the size of a geometry box, and took out pieces of Rui maach (carp fish) marinated in pungent mustard along with a small matka of mishti doi.

“This should keep me going up to evening when I am ready for tea,” Pranabda said, pointing to his hip flask which had two salted biscuits stuck with adhesive tape.

The Prime Minister opened his Jalandhar cloth bag and out came a caserole containing Hilsa fish curry with aloo and pudina parathas wrapped in silver foil.

“Pranabda, don’t look at me like that,” the PM said as the FM’s eyebrows shot up when he saw very expensive hilsa in Manmohan’s dabba.

“The Hilsa fish is free and it is due to the courtesy of Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia from Bangladesh. She keeps sending me two to three refrigerated cans of Hilsa every month due to the rising prices of hilsa here. I have not spent any money for this lunch except for the parathas which my wife Gursharan Kaur made last week. Since they were kept in the freezer, they are still fresh.”

The home minister, used to rava idli with chutney from Sivaganga and thairu sadam, and lemon pickle from home, took out a plastic packet and opened its contents, a hamburger with an apple and an economy size cola.

“This is free and courtesy of Continental Airlines when I allowed them to frisk me. I asked them for a doggie bag and emptied my plate in to it. Though it is more than 36 hours, it still looks fresh and tastes good. That’s the beauty of Aemrican grub,” explained Chidambaram.

Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge got up and took out a crumpled paper packet from his left kurta pocket and opened and out popped a ragi mudde. From his other pocket, he took out an onion. “This was grown by me while I was busy canvassing for election. Both ragi and onion are the symbols of the aam aadmi.”

Environmental minister Jairam Ramesh took out a bushel of herbal leaves grown in Assam and started chewing with gusto. Of late he had started this both as austerity measure plus as an effort to save his teeth.

S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor, the ‘external affairs twins’ were seen sharing a one-by-two masala dose from Karnataka bhavan and puttu from Kerala Bhavan. Ever since they vacated the 5- star hotels they had begun mostly sharing their breakfast, lunch and dinner brought from their Bhavans free of charge as they are ministers from Karnataka and Kerala.

Just then the door opened, and in breezed Sonia Gandhi all flustered as she was rushing for the meeting direct from Mysore.

“Madam you please rest and have your lunch .You have had a long flight.” offered the Prime Minister.

“Bene, bene, la sono ok (I’m OK). I am ready. I had asked N.R. Narayana Murthy at the Infosys campus in Mysore to pack my lunch for the flight. He has given bisibele bath and Mysore pak. So I have not spent any amount towards lunch. This should make our finance minister happy,” she said as she opened her bag.

Just then Prime Minister’s secretary buzzed him and said the Commonwaelth President Michael Fennel wanted to have a dinner appointment with him to discuss whether Delhi would be ready for the 2010 Games.

“Oh, no! What shall we do? These people come as a delegation and they are usually used to a grand 10-course dinner,” wailed the PM.

“We will call them for our iftar party. The whole delegation can come; there is no problem. For breaking the fast, we will serve pakodas, dahi pulkiyan, chana chat and fruit juices. For dinner, we will serve mutton biryani or pulav, chicken, vegetable, kebabs and naan. For dessert, there will be kheer, ras malai, gulab jamun and sheer khurma. It will be a 20-course food park,” said health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad was entrusted with the task of organizing the government’s iftar party. It was some kind of promotion for him after his bloody bouts with state health ministers against the rampant H1N1 virus.

“There’s goes my austerity plan to the moon,” sighed the Finance Minister.

If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

12 September 2009


The plight of cigarette and liquor addicts is well known. What is not as well known is the plight of coffee lovers.  Depending on the headline of the “health brief” in the newspapers, it is their fate to get their daily lecture from mothers, wives, girlfriends, friends, flames, etc, on limiting their coffee intake.

To them all, we present Sudhakar Chaturvedi.

Born on 20 April 1897—which makes him an eye-popping 112 years old—the vedic scholar has lived through the invention of the aeroplane and the motor car, countless skirmishes including the two World Wars, the independence movement, etc, and is still doing splendidly well in the era of reality television.

A lot can happen over coffee? Try telling this dude.

On Saturday—his 41,025th day on this planet—the Jayanagar resident took a sip from the cup that cheers at a felicitation ceremony organised by the Shri Kashi Seshadri charitable trust in Bangalore.


Khushwant Singh, “the dirty old man of Indian journalism”,  who is 94, writes reveals the eight clues to happiness (which presumably is the secret of a long life), in The Telegraph:

1) Good health

2) A healthy bank balance

3) A home of your own

4) An understanding companion, be it a spouse or a friend

5) Lack of envy towards those who have done better

6) Shut the gup-shup

7) A fulfilling hobby

8) 15 minutes of daily introspection


As if to bolster the debate, the world’s oldest known living person, Gertrude Baines, who passed away a few days ago, revealed the secret of her longevity: a steady diet of crispy bacon, fried chicken and ice-cream.


Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

Look, who’s ordering one-by-two coffee at Wipro

What happens if an insect falls into a cup of coffee?

Satanic Curse upon you if you ogle at this maami

25 July 2009

There are three good reasons why we are forced to shamelessly filch such a hot picture of Padma Lakshmi from the website of a truly great paper, The Sunday Times of London, using Google™.

Reason No. 1: Because she is South Indian, 38, a Palghat Iyer, a single-child, who has managed to capture the world’s attention (and Sir Salman Rushdie‘s for a while) with a name like Padma Parvati Lakshmi.

Reason No. 2: Because by steaming up camera lenses like this, as a model, as an actress and as a TV host, she is truly a bad miss in our list of The Sexiest South Indian South Asian Woman♥, for which we beg her apology.

Reason No. 3: Because as the author of Tangy, Tart Hot and Sweet, and as the host of the American reality show Top Chef, Padma, who was brought up as a vegetarian, has put some much-needed intellectual spin on the lazily uttered cliche, “Food is the New Sex“.

“Food is very tactile and sensual. If you think about it, it’s the only way you can get into another person’s body without actually touching them.”

As a website named after a food item, that likes to sing in praise of masala dosas, mavinakaayi chitranna, Iyengar bakeries, haalu khova, Maddur vade, kodu bale, and thair-vade, we wholeheartedly agree.

Get the picture?



Photograph: courtesy The Sunday Times, London

Also visit: Maami’s Weblog

“Citizen Activism” fetches us our (sweet) bread

14 July 2009


GAUTAMADITYA SRIDHARA writes from Bangalore: In October last year, published a story by MiD-DaY Bangalore editor S.R. Ramakrishna titled ‘By-two badam haal for the lambu leggie, please‘.

oldiyengarsThe article had a picture of the famous ‘Iyengars Bakery’ in 4th Block, Jayanagar although the bakery had been shut for a couple of years after the owners had decided to call it quits.

I met the gentleman who owned the bakery a couple of days ago and he explained to me that there was overwhelming “public demand” that the bakery be reopened and requests that “the owners not be responsible for erasing an integral part of old Jayanagar”.

Owing to public demand, I am happy to report that Iyengar’s Bakery reopened last Friday, 10 July 2009, to welcome many excited patrons including me.

Can Maddur Vade usher in peace to subcontinent?

13 June 2009


RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: For the better part of the past month, one of the questions that has been bugging me is a food-related one: who made the first Maddur Vade, and why did he make it in one of the more unremarkable places on the Bangalore-Mysore road?

(It’s so artless in its looks, it has to be a he, right?)

Sexist stereotypes aside, there are two reasons—three, if you include the inclusion of Our Man from Maddur to head the external affairs ministry—why I have been thinking about the Maddur Vade—or Maddur Vada or Vadai to irritate the semantic chauvinists.

Firstly, as my husband (age 41) keeps teasingly insisting these days, food is the new sex: there is some kind of voyeuristic pleasure to be had in reading about it; in thinking about it; in publicly imagining its myriad private possibilities.

And secondly, how can any self-respecting foodie in Bangalore not think of the Maddur Vade?

I mean, Mysore has its pak; Mangalore has its bajji and gadbad; Dharwad the peda; Davangere its benne dose. Even tiddly Bidadi has its “thatte idli“. If the identity of these small towns can be defined by food, just what accident of history deprived “big” Bangalore of its culinary claim to fame?

And what accident of history gave Maddur its pride of place on the gastronomic map?

The answer could be geography.

The fact that Maddur lies almost exactly mid-way (70 km) between Bangalore and Mysore could well explain its birth and growth as the must-have mid-way snack.

Back in pre-liberalised India, when the trains were metre gauge and private cars were few and far between, “Non-Stop” buses was the way to go. The buses halted for a few minutes underneath amid the coconut orchards for the men to amuse themselves.

Was that when the Maddur Vada made its brave incursion?

These days, for some 40-50 km on the 140-km stretch, from somewhere after Ramanagara to somewhere before Mandya, Maddur Vade stalks you like those picture postcard sellers do at the Taj or Gateway of India.

In a way, though, the Vade could be Maddur’s picture postcard except that you view it through your mouth and quickly eat up the evidence before the next town nears. But since the flavour of burnt onion is the defining characteristic of the Maddur Vade, the memory lingers long after.

So, you wonder who made it first and why?


download2If you are on an express or shuttle trains, the vendors haul up the buckets stuffed full with the Vade at the various stations and “crossing” points. These Vades are of varying quality, slightly thicker and a slightly more expensive than the Vades that the young boys produce at your bus window.

But it is only when you are in your own car or on a bike, that the full magic of Maddur Vade can be properly exploited and appreciated.

Reason: on public transport, the Maddur Vade is a heartless, no-fuss, commercial transaction.

On the train, for instance, the vendor serves it to you on 1/8th of a newspaper sheet and rushes off because there are 14 other compartments to serve.

If you are on the evening Chamundi Express heading to Mysore, the vendor might even affectionately persuade you to pick up a packet of three or five in a plastic cover for the family but that’s just “stock clearance” before he closes shop for the day and gets off in Srirangapatna.

If you are on the dreadful Shatabdi Express, god help you.

On the bus, the Maddur Vade is a victim of logistical inconsistency. Different kinds of bus services stop at different kinds of places, and some like the Volvos don’t even do that. Result: you don’t know where, if at all, your next Maddur Vade is coming from.

It is only when you take an express bus that you can be sure that at least in the place of its birth, the Vade will materialise at your window.

On both the train and the bus, the Maddur Vade is a functional experience. The Vade and nothing more. It’s bone-dry and convenient although the train Vade has been calculated by scientists of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) to be on average 2.3 times thicker than the bus Vade. (The Defence Food Research Laboratory has put the figure at 2.35 times.)

Downside: the vintage of the Vade is hidden by the speed of the transaction.

However, it is when you stop by leisurely at the highway restaurants—Maddur Tiffany’s on either side of the highway, the “MTR” Shivalli restaurant, Kamat Lokruchi, etc—especially when the sun is dipping, that you get to savour the experience of a warm-to-hot Vade with chutney, followed by strong coffee.

Only those who have newly bought a white elephant called the tread mill can stop at just one.

(Café Coffee Day, I am certain, is never likely to soil the muffin-coated mouths of its clientele despite its founder’s conjugal links with Maddur.)


The strange thing about the Maddur Vade despite its reasonable reputation is that there are few claimants to its discovery.

The Moti Mahal in Delhi will lay claim to dishing up the first butter chicken; Bombay’s Nelson Wang to the gobi Manchurian. But who lowered the first Maddur Vade into the boiling bandlee? We will never know.

There is a museum in Shivapura but there are no statues hailing the maker, the master-chef. Yet.

My own first memory of Maddur Vade is when I was seven or eight. Our family was proceeding to Bangalore in our old Morris Tiger early one morning. Shortly after Maddur, my father swung the car into a narrow lane which deposited us in front of the railway station. Magically, a vendor appeared and served us the goodies on l’il banana leaves.

Even now, the Maddur Vade at the railway station commands a small premium over other Maddur Vades, and old faithfuls still swear by it, resisting all overtures from the vendors on the trains, till the stop nears. But this could just be good old nostalgia.

For me, the Maddur Vade has held its charm for one key reason: it was the rebel among vades in our joint family kitchen. My mother, Sharada, now 75, never ever made or attempted to make it at home. Uddina vade she did, masala vade she did, but Maddur Vade was a strict no-no.

There was something “street food” about it.

So, falling for its charms not only became a matter of the stomach but an expression of the heart. Nothing about it suggests good health. Not the oil, not the semolina, not the deep fried onions.

But the fact that they didn’t make it at home was reason enough to hog regardless of the time of day. A deep fried vade first thing in the morning on the way to work may not be what the doctor prescribes, but what’s medicine got to do with the palate when geography beckons?

Speaking of which, will Prema Krishna put Maddur Vade on the MEA menu  when the “dialogue process” begins with Pakistan? And could it usher in peace between our two countries in our troubled subcontinent?

If the shortest route to a man’s heart is through his stomach, can even Asif Ali Zardari resist the Maddur Vade‘s naked attraction that has melted millions from different parts of the country?

It’s pure fantasy, of course, but you can almost hear S.M. Krishna sitting at the high table, nodding in agreement with himself as he delicately pushes a plate of Maddur Vade towards his guests from across the border: “Here, try some of these with some gatti chutney….”

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How V.G. Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

By-two badaam haalu for the lambu leggie, please

Mane Adige recipe: Maddur Vade

TQM* as delivered somewhere in Chamundipuram

28 March 2009

The television crews are homing in on Mysore’s food as if it’s going out of business.

Kunal Vijayakar of Times Now manages the impossible—sitting space in Gayatri Tiffin Room® (GTR)—to sample the Mysore masala dosa©, and then walks down to a nameless 60-year-old restaurant in Chamundipuram where the owner, Mahesh, delivers a piece of wisdom which the TV channels might like to try at some time. The restaurant is open only for four hours every morning, he said, to maintain *quality. And, then Vijayakar goes to Guru Sweet Mart™ to hear the story of the origin of the iconic Mysore sweet, the Mysore pak©.

Also read: Zen and the art of eating the (Mysore) masala dosa

A good dosa is like your first love♥: unsurpassable