Sweet notes…

I don’t seem to get through my second chapter. The various drafts of the second chapter  which I had to submit some ten days back seem to be staring at me. While various names of sweet and sweet anecdotes dot the footnotes of the chapter, I struggle to find the thread that binds them together and I am back to blogging.

Reason – a book that is close to my soul and will find its way in many references in my dissertation. I take a little pride in the fact I have followed the author’s work and his book The Taste of Conquest is a must read for all those who want to want take a spice trail across three fascinating cities. I had discussed the book sometime ago in this blog.

Here’s the link https://itiriti.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/spice-trail-journey-through-venice-lisbon-and-amsterdam/.

Michael Krondl’s (2011) latest work Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert again takes you through a fascinating tour across India, Middle East, Italy, France, Vienna, U.S.A. In his words, he begins his leg of journey with India- “where sugar was first refined, to the Middle East where it was enthusiastically adopted in the later years of the first millennium, then to Europe and finally America” (pp13). Krondl discusses in detail the sacredness around sweets in India and takes you back and forth across North, East and Southern India through a chronicle of sweet spread prepared from milk (mainly chhana, khoa. After the Indian trail of Modaka, Laddu, Rosogolla, Sandesh the reader is taken into the workshop of Baklava factory in Istanbul and the genesis of Baklava is traced back to some Arabian desserts. Similar to India, Gods of Ancient Mesopotamia were also offered sweets. Krondl writes, “To feed their appetites, confectioners were attached to temples. They specialised in making sacred cakes, which were consumed in large numbers during religious rituals” (Krondl 2011:85). The dessert tour of Middle East takes you through Baghdad, Iran and finally concludes with a lovely recipe of Qatayif. The third chapter on Italy takes into the enchanting tales of how cultures merge and shape culinary delights. Venice in particular played a strong role in the spice trail and Krondl alludes to the ways in which cinnamon and sugar was used in abundance in Renaissance Italy. The fourth chapter is dedicated to France, followed by Vienna and U.S.A.- each with detailed description of the unfolding of the nation’s obsession with desserts and the ways in which the cultural encounters forced confectioners to embrace techniques, and create new inventions.

The ways in which certain commodities were responsible for labour migration does not go unnoticed by the food historian. As he recounts the tales of introduction of desserts there is an undertone of the history of sugar plantation labour. In his own words, “Sugar was the prime mover of the transatlantic traffic in human beings”. (pp4) The sweetener i.e., sugar which has been responsible for the success of confectioner’s art and artistry is celebrated across the chapters along with the desserts which makes this book an interesting read and an important book in food history. The role of dessert in food history is significant and yet from a biological standpoint it is “frivolous, unnecessary” and this is precisely why Michael points out that “when you talk about dessert you step away from analyzing basic human needs to a conversation about culture” (pp3). The book precisely explores those cross cultural linkages and connections in this mapping of desserts.

Book Review : Krondl,M.2011. Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.


From Rabri to Paan Masala and beyond…

(Itiriti – I invited Dripta Piplai to pen down her food trail in one of her favourite cities in India, a place she calls her second home- Varanasi /Banaras. By training, she is a socio-linguist at Delhi University and by passion; she is also an independent researcher on musicology. She takes you in the narrow by-lanes and some of the relaxing places in this timeless “city of lights” ( a phrase I borrow from Diana L. Eck’s work Banaras : City of Lights) and gives us a glimpse of what gastronomic delicacies the city has to offer. Welcome aboard! She blogs at http://www.dripta.blogspot.in/)

The city beckons me time and again. I listen to the call and rush back to this timeless city. Yes, I am talking about Varanasi/Banaras- the city that wakes up and sleeps with the Ganges. I see the whole of India at the bank of Ganges. The architecture of different ghats takes me to Nepal or Bihar or Karnataka. Benaras is my second home, and I return to my second homeland again and again.

I can write pages after pages for this city. I can write about different types of journey- boat rides, walks and many more…

Dear friend Ishita asked me to write about the culinary delights of my Benaras tour this time. And I happily accepted her request 🙂

Whenever we talk about food of Benaras, the first thing we do is talk about the kachori-jalebi-rabri of the Dashaswamedh area. In fact, the kachori which is usually served with a aloo-nutrela or mixed sabzi, is widely available at Benaras, be it Gadhauliya crossing, or tiny shop at Manikarnika ghat. The charge is rs 7-10 per plate, and you can have a cheap brunch with this. If it is winter morning, have a big cup of tea at any ghat, to my surprise, Ram pyare chai (apparently a tea vendor by the name Ram Pyare used to sell tea and the tea vendors christened tea as Rampyare Chai) is not widely available at Benaras nowadays.

Benaras offers a variety of Indian food all over the city. The narrow alleys have a number of South Indian snacks shops-where you can have a meal for Rs.10-35. The choices are Sambar-vada, Uttappam, Rasam vada, served with filter coffee. Near Bangalitola, a small Biryani shop suggested by a foodie friend remained unexplored this time. A small restaurant at the ground floor of the Bengali delight Dashaswamedh boarding is serving cheap Bengali thali, the shop just next to it is offering Rajma chawal and chole- why shouldn’t I call the city a mini India?

Though I am talking about the different types of foods of the city, I want to share with you two restaurants that are widely recommended and visited

Dolphin rooftop restaurant is widely recommended by the traveller guides, may be because of the grand view of Ganges. But this clean restaurant at Man Mandir ghat offers a wide variety of Indian non-veg dishes. Tried Akhnir pulao with Mutton Rogan-josh, which was overpriced, but good. They do have a number of kebabs and tandoori dishes, along with some good vegetarian delights, Aloo Banarasi is recommended for the vegetarians.

But the grand and exotic discovery for a foodie at Benaras is the Lotus Lounge located at the Mansarovar ghat. I was specifically nostalgic, as the restaurant is located near the house which was rented by our family in the late 40s.


Lotus Lounge

Lotus Lounge

Lotus Lounge offers an excellent range of continental dishes, which are uniquely Indianized in some cases. They have elaborated breakfast menus made with yak cheese, for example. They have a good range of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian soups (the tomato-based cold soup was heavenly). And what was extremely good about them is that, the proportion of meat and vegetarian item is absolutely measured in their dishes. Dinner with braised chicken with orange and butter sauce usually is served on a bed of potatoes and beans, but they quickly served it with buttered spinach as they didn’t have beans on the day I had visited. The dessert menu is quite nice (I settled for Fruit salad). You will enjoy the cozy seating arrangement of the shop and the Ganges view at the not-so-populated ghat.

In fact, a number of small restaurants all over the city serve food from different parts of the world. You will spot a small Japanese joint at a small lane near the holy Viswanath temple. Korean cafés and Italian restos dot the city. The availability of different kinds of food at a same place is quite amazing.

I cannot wrap up this entry if I do not talk about rabri and peda of the Viswanath gali. The small shop at the left hand there is the amazing shop of Rabri and malai (served with milk). Small bowl of rabri costs Rs.30 (for 100 gms), and I am sure that you cannot stop with just one serving.

If you want to have a different type of dessert, you might want to try some pista-badam sherbet? The other choices are: lassi, or badam- sherbet or khus-gulab sherbet.(Available at the Dashaswamedh crossing, beside the state bank ATM.)

After finishing your meal, you must try out the best paan shops that the city offers .Visit any one of the small masala shops at or in front of Viswanath Gali. You can try the famous pan masala (betel leaves with a mixture of chopped or coarsely ground areca nuts), or something simpler, like pudina goli, adrak pachak or aam pachak.

The food-tale and food trail of Banaras is never ending.  All I can say is that, you have to come back to this place, may be for the photographic charm, for the tunes of Banaras gharana, or in search of the Captain Spark’s room, or in search of good food.

Photo : Dripta Piplai


Gastronomic delights from across India- Street Food Festival 2012

The past few days have a gastronomic delight.  While I was walking down from Campus and complaining about the cancelled music class, A called. A asked me to join her at Patel Chowk, Metro Station as she was going down to Street Food Festival 2012 with two of her other friends.  National Association of Street Vendors of India has organised a three day street food festival in the Constitution Club. It is located at a 5 min walking distance from Patel Chowk Metro Station on the Yellow Line ( Jahangir Puri- HUDA City Centre) .

As you enter the constitution club you have to buy Rs 20 pass to enter and then buy food coupons. Well, we had gone on 14 December 2012 around 6.30pm. Remember to pick up the list of food stalls with food items on offer before you head towards the food pavilion. We decided to check out the  food stalls( 44 ) offering street food delicacies from Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha.  The prices of food items were between Rs 10-50. We started off our leg of street food tour with Jhal Muri(a Mixture of puffed rice with onions, chillies, mustard oil  and special spices) and pakoras  (Mocha Chop and Dim Chop). Well that was just the starter. Following our leg of research we settled to buy food coupons worth Rs 120 and settled to buy Mutton makhan Wala with Roti from Karnataka (Stall No 34) all for RS 40.  While we were having mutton a friend bought himself Litti with meat (Rs 30) which was splendid.  Needless to say it was from Bihar’s food stall which had the following delicacies to offer : Meat ( Mutton of course! )Rice @ Rs 35, Litti chokha for Rs 20. There was another stall by Bihar selling piping hot Jalebi and Rabri and Raspua for RS 30.  All four of us decided to vote for Bihar ( Stall No 36). We loved the plain and simple Pongal with Adirasam from Tamil Nadu (Stall No 38)and Dal Baffle from Madhya Pradesh ( Stall No. 28).  A must try for all the vegetarians!!!

In case you want to opt for takeaway you can pay them Rs 5 extra and they will pack it for you. Incase you are planning to indulge on a nice spread of street food from few states across India here is an opportunity to indulge in the vegetarian and non vegetarian delicacies on offer. The street food festival comes to an end on 16 December 2012; 10pm. There is still time to head to Rafi Marg.

We should have such events more often … Ah what a gastronomic delight!!!!

Venue : Street food Festival 2012, Main Lawns, VP House, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

Nearest Metro Station: Patel Chowk.

For more details regarding National Association of Street Food Vendors visit http://www.nasvinet.org.


The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe @ Shahpur Jat, New Delhi

Last week, during my several attempts to write an introduction of a chapter I ended up surfing through http://www.zomato.com( my latest addiction after Flipkart) and bumped onto two excellent reviews of The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe @ Shahpur Jat. I was even thinking of applying for the position of Content analyst in Zomato. Occupational Hazards!!!! Well, I had already made plans of Cafe Small Talk for Sunday so decided to catch up with Sa and explore Potbelly- a restaurant which was also recommended by a very close friend quite some time back. We decided to settle for dinner.

Potbelly is located right behind UCO Bank ATM in Shahpur Jat and the narrow flight of stairs  leads you to this wonderfully lit place with bright interiors. The decor is quite interesting and pleasant. Innovative use of Chai Glasses to lit up the place. Used Wine Bottles serve as flower vases and the warm colours of the upholstery is a pleasant change. For some lovely pictures you can visit the following blogger’s link (http://www.archi-star.net/2012/05/hangout-potbelly-cafe-shahpur-jat.html). Their cutlery could have been a little more innovative but I admired the wonderful share of Longpi pottery mugs and starter plates in which they served their tea and starters.

Well, take a wild guess about the cuisine they serve. BIHARI FOOD! Yes, the very mention of Bihari food will remind you of Litti Chokha (wheat balls stuffed with Sattu) but trust me it is much more than that. Despite the zomato reviewers giving a thumbs up for their GolMirch Chicken Platter (Boneless Chicken In Creamy Pepper Preparation served with tawa mirchi lachha Parantha and saboodana pakoras) I decided to settle down for the good old Litti Chokha while Sa settled for Madhubani Thali (Traditional Alu Chana Dal served with assortment of sattu puri and onion puri. Aubergine Raita which tasted sweet was the final punch). They have a non-vegetarian option as well where Littis are served with Khada Masala Chicken and Aubergine Chokha. We began our meal with Baggia Basket ( pockets of rice  stuffed with lentils) which came with a fresh chutney and nice masala chai followed by our main course.  We had a perfect dinner break before busy Friday.

As I write this review I have a wish list of things I have to try next time I am there. And of course I will go back during lunch time to enjoy the sunny afternoon on a chilly weekend.

So, in case you have not planned your weekend, you might like to reserve yourself a nice cosy corner for Sunday lunch @ Potbelly.

Address : The Potbelly RoofTop Cafe, 116 C, 4th Floor, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. Phone : 011-41612108

Latest Menu is available on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ThePotbelly.

Happy Weekend to all itiriti readers.

P.S. For More details on Bihari food read this interesting article by Nivriti Butalia on DNA. Here is the link:




A little twist to my breakfast

Yesterday a friend of mine(S) shared with me a little trick to cook Mushrooms. S’s friend B, an excellent cook had passed on the trick of cooking mushrooms. B’s suggestion – Remove the stalk of the mushrooms and placing the mushrooms on a hot tawa and letting it cook in its own moisture. I decided to give it my own twist for today’s breakfast.

I had exactly five mushrooms left in my fridge. And I was tired of making mushroom omelette. So, I decided to replicate S’s advice.  I rinsed the mushrooms, removed the stalk and coated the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and some Italian seasoning. I placed them neatly on the hot fry pan and after it was half way cooked I turned them upside down and added my favourite ingredient, i.e, Garlic. I had finely sliced the garlic and added one slice of garlic to each mushroom and let it cook.  I thought of giving my usual crisp toasts a miss and settled for the beans and peas. I blanched the beans and peas and once the mushrooms were done I removed them from the fry pan and added the beans and peas to infuse the flavours. To finish it off I added pumpkin seeds.

Now comes Plating .I recollected how the renowned Chef Vineet Bhatia in one of the episodes on Twist of Taste aired on Fox Traveller(the episode on Amritsar) had neatly arranged the jalebi sticks in rectangle shaped rows. Inspired by that, I neatly arranged the beans in a rectangle format with two columns. I placed the mushrooms inside the columns and poured over the green peas and toasted pumpkin seeds. And this is what it looked like.

Mushrooms with a twist

Mushrooms with a twist

A little twist to my usual breakfast tasted refreshing on a freezing morning. So, what twist did you add to your breakfast? Try out this  recipe, give it your own twist and share it with us.


Cafe Small Talk @ Hauz KhasVillage

The small luxuries of the Delhi chill are when you wake up to a bright, sunny morning on a Sunday. For a long time, I had promised K to take her out to Hauz Khas Village (HKV). While I still believe that the first visit to HKV should begin with a hearty plate of Yeti Momos and other delights this time I thought to take a slight detour because K loves Italian food. So, I decided to do a zomato search (www.zomato.com- the online portal with listings of restaurants, menu and you can even make your table reservation) and decided to head for Cafe Small Talk.

Cafe Small Talk is nestled in one of the by-lanes. As the staircases lead you to the first floor you will be welcomed to a twenty seater restaurant overlooking the by-lane. If you like quite places and want to catch up with a friend for a long conversation this is the place.

A Glimpse of the interiors

A Glimpse of the interiors

The place is tastefully done. The bright coloured upholstery complements the white interiors and the white rimmed tables. Wine bottles with pretty laces on the table are a welcome change. Tissues are neatly rolled in brass glasses with pink and white laces. Before laying our eyes on the menu we decided to gaze at the lovely interiors waiting for our cup of Cappuccino we had ordered the moment we stepped in. As the two cups of Cappuccino arrived, the white cutlery with floral engravings were the perfect beginning to the grand lunch we had. Though I had made up my mind to order for grilled chicken in lemon butter sauce K and I decided to settle for crostini platter, grilled chicken with lamb and thyme sauce, spaghetti bolognese with chicken and finished off our meal with gooey chocolate.

Crostini platter

Crostini platter

Grilled Chicken with Lamb and Thyme Sauce

Grilled Chicken with Lamb and Thyme Sauce

The portions that arrived were huge and we struggled to finish the last bit . They have an interesting menu and next time I plan to try out their prawns and strong tiramisu. Interestingly, the prices on the menu are inclusive of vat and they charge a 10 % service on the total bill. A welcome change from what you see and what you end up paying.

Cafe Small Talk is worth a try because of its value for money food, “pretty” and cosy interiors – the perfect way to unwind a sun-kissed winter afternoon. Check out the menu on www.zomato.com and venture out for a lunch @ Cafe Small Talk.

Address: Cafe Small Talk, 14, First Floor, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi.

All Day Breakfast , Lunch and Dinner -1.00pm-11.00pm

Photo courtesy : Kamalika Sen