In Memory of P.G.W. Canteen

I have been thinking of writing a post dedicated to P.G.W Canteen that was an integral component of my everyday life as a student in Delhi University from 2000-2007. Yesterday, a friend called me and she fondly exchanged notes over how she has managed to crack the recipe of Chini Parantha (Parantha layered with sugar) that she and I used to have in P.G.W Canteen. P.G.W Canteen is the abbreviated version of Post Graduate Women’s Hostel Canteen. The Canteen once known for paranthas, tea and was the lifeline for many female students in that vicinity if they wanted a packet of biscuits, Maggie or even Sanitary Napkin has died a slow death.

The slow death of this canteen calls for a closer self reflection of the ways in which spaces in Delhi University have been subject to surveillance and how rationing of food in girls’ hostels is part of the University Culture. Rationing of food in the name of wastage has always troubled me.  My first tryst with a Chicken meal in a P.G. Accommodation in North Delhi was somewhat like this. Two pieces of Chicken stared at my face from a bowl that could have been used to serve vegetables and a bigger serving bowl brimming with gravy… It was not only aesthetically unappealing but also reflects how public eating cultures assume “women” to be small eaters. This pattern continues in the university hostel rationing cultures where there is a cap regarding the number of slices of bread one could take, to a person dedicated for serving Milk to ensure “equitable” (?) distribution and a choice between fruit and egg? I wonder if our male colleagues in Hostels for men are subject to such rationing in their mess halls. Some hostels do not allow women residents to carry food to their rooms and special permission is to be sought if one intends to do so.

Such surveillance run deep and the food rationing practices is one of them. So, for people who felt hungry and want to skip meals in their respective hostels ( Meghdoot Hostel, Miranda Hostel, DUWA hostel) and female students and teachers dropped by in P.G.W Canteen for their daily bites which could have been breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. Since it was within a girls’ hostel premises where there are timings of entry and exit for visitors and residents; female students were supposed to leave by 8pm. Yet, we did not complain because of lack of “canteen” facilities in our respective hostels as P.G.W Canteen was our saviour.

P.G.W Canteen was a legend and institution and for reasons best known to the authorities it closed down. The owner of the canteen whom we fondly called Dipu Bhaiya shared a love-hate relationship with the students. The Canteen best known for parathas with various stuffings (potato, cauliflower, onion, radish, potato-onion,) served with a spicy pickles of cabbage and onions was a hit among students from North Campus. The Chchole Batura of P.G. Canteen was also a favourite and if the people at the kitchen were in a good mood they would also give a helping of the Chchole with paratha. The parathas priced between Rs 5-10 were cheap and affordable. The vegetable toast and their special tea was the evening snack most of us gorged on. For some of the students, their bread roll was appealing as well. Most importantly, if you did not want to trek down to Kamala Nagar or Kingsway Camp you could walk down to P.G.W in your shorts, and pack food for dinner.

When I was in college we also got food packed for our 24 hour journey train ride. The food never went bad. Everyone of us had their own favourite pick. And anybody who frequented the place would remember the famous Maggie they served. A friend told me that she has managed to recreate “P.G.W Maggie” and it’s a favourite with her family. Most importantly, it was a place where a student could indulge in comfort food within Rs 20.

Many such memories haunt me every time one sees the closed shutters of the P.G.W Canteen. Such closed shutters dot a University space that seems alien to people like us who stepped in this university a decade ago. With the familiar spaces gone, what remains are such anecdotes…

©itiriti

On a Nostalgic note: Re-tracing “Shagun” moments

Sometimes you don’t notice the obvious. Such is the way of life.  As I finished my meal at Shagun Restaurant a restaurant that has been witness to my many a hunger pangs, irritation, anger and happiness I wondered why it did not feature in my Eating Out Column.

For all those who are not familiar with the geography of North Campus, Delhi University Shagun Restaurant is located slightly ahead of Patel Chest.  My first meal in Shagun dates back to 2005 when Z had taken me there. The dimly lit restaurant did not impress me and I was comfortable enjoying my dinner in Zee’s Kitchen ( a restaurant offering cheap, greasy  tandoor food).

Cut to 2010 when Noodles ( a popular restaurant in Kamala Nagar) closed doors Z took me to Shagun and ordered for Pork Steamed Momos. As I took a bite into the juicy Momos I did my visual calculation of how many momos I should settle for and asked Z to order another plate.  I rediscovered Shagun.  Though the dim lights were still there I didn’t mind till I could savour my Pork Spare Ribs and Juicy Momos.  For a long time I kept on savouring their Pork Spare Ribs till Summer of 2012 when I fell in love with another dish Shanghai Stewed Noodles ( a gravy noodles dish mildly spiced).  There have been times when one has ordered some Burmese dishes and they didn’t disappoint me. Best part is one could walk down enjoy your lonely meal within Rs 150. What more do you need to enjoy a little luxury in the mundane Campus Life?

Shagun has been witness to many a campus romance, birthdays, breakups and lonely sad lunch and dinners. As every generation walk in and walk out of Shagun’s doors when you start leaving a generous tip and waiters ask you if anyone is going to join you that comes as a warning signal that you have been around in Campus for too long and it’s time to bid adieu.

As we enjoyed our evening meal of Chicken Momos, Pork Momos, Pork Pepper Chilly and Shanghai Stewed Noodles (all for Rs 825!!!!!) a group of college students were having their farewell meal. As they fought over two momos I remembered how I longed for restaurants to change their servings so that we could have equal shares and I would not have to wait for some generous soul to come to my rescue or how quickly we slipped into making wishes about handsome husband/ boyfriend before digging into the “last momo” on the plate. I am sure places like these exist in every campus.

So, all of those who want to savour delights available at Shagun you can choose from my favourite picks:-

  1. Chicken/Pork steamed Momos
  2. Pork Spare Ribs
  3. Shanghai Stewed Noodles (Non-Veg)
  4. Burmese Chicken Curry
  5. Mee- Goreng
  6. Chicken thentuk

Next time you are in Delhi University (North Campus) stop by this place.

For Menu, Location details check the following link on Zomato

 

http://www.zomato.com/ncr/shagun-vijay-nagar-delhi

 

©itiriti

 

Gastronomic experiences from KL…

( Comment : By profession, Sayak Bhanja is a Chartered Accountant and by self certification an ‘uber -omnivore’. He brings to Itiriti readers his notes on his gastronomic experiences from his days as a ‘traveling’ consultant. Happy Reading !!!)

It has been some time since I’ve bid adieu to my days of being a consultant of

the traveling kind, although it would be a lie to admit that I don’t miss it sometimes! Living out of a suitcase, like everything else, has its pros and cons, ups and downs, highs and lows (you should get the drift by now). Quite high on my list of, well, ‘highs’ is ‘food’.

Being a self-certified uber-omnivore and limited only by the ever-tightening waistline of my trousers, my travels across lands near and far have introduced me to a myriad of cuisines and dishes.

When my friend, Itiriti asked me for a ‘guest post’ (ahem), I did what most good, honest, hardworking consultants do…copy…and paste!

Originally ‘published’ in a periodical in my former organization, this post features the cuisines from my then ‘base of operations’…Kuala Lumpur .

Petronas

Food in Malaysia is as rich and colorful as the country’s culture with each cuisine reflecting the fusion of the three main sub-cultures (Malay, Tamil and Chinese), while at the same time retaining its distinct ethnic flavor.

Venturing out into the streets of Kuala Lumpur, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what and where to eat.

From hawker food courts to high-end restaurants, food options prevail in abundance and suit every budget.

Nasi or rice as it is known here, tends to be the staple food of the country, with Nasi Lemak, (a mouthwatering concoction featuring rice steamed with coconut milk and served with fried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard boiled eggs, and a spicy chili paste known as sambal) ruling the roost as the ‘national dish’!!!

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak

For a more ‘substantial’ meal, Nasi Lemak can be served with a choice of Ayam (chicken) or Kambing (mutton) curries, or a spicy mutton or beef ‘stew’ called Rendang

Noodles-based dishes are also very popular and not without reason!!!

With a myriad of varieties, my personal favorite is the Char kway teow, a meal in itself, prepared by stir-frying flat rice noodles with soy sauce and your choice of meat and / or seafood…!!!

Char Kuay Teow

Char Kuay Teow

Some of the best Sino-Malay cuisine is available in the numerous Peranakan or Nyona restaurants in the city…if you’re looking for cheap, street-style Chinese grub, head over to Petaling Street in China Town…go for the Curry Laksa, you won’t regret it!!!

Curry Laksa

Curry Laksa

 

I would also recommend stopping by at a local Mamak (a local term for ‘Tamil Muslims’) stall to partake in the vast expanse of the buffet spread (where you pay for what you eat) and be introduced to some of the finest examples of fusion food that I have ever come across!!!

My meal of choice at a Mamak joint? Parathas (Indian flat-bread) with Mutton Curry and Teh Tarik (literally, ‘pulled tea’), the ‘national drink’!!!

In Malaysia, people with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed either – ‘must-haves’ are Cendol (‘a million calories of heaven’) and Sago Gula Melaka (tapioca pearls with coconut milk and palm sugar)

Sago Gula Melaka

Sago Gula Melaka

If you have the tendency of counting calories (not a good idea when in a Malay restaurant) or are looking for ‘lighter’ options, step into a Kopitiam (a traditional breakfast and coffee shop).

Here you can treat yourself to some Kaya Toast (Kaya being a jam of sorts made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk) and Kopi-O (aka Coffee black with sugar.

Kaya toast and kopi-o

Kaya toast and kopi-o

Being in the tropics, fruits of various shapes and sizes abound. Enjoy snacking on jackfruits, rambutans and dragon fruits and if you’re the daring kind…. the Durian <cue Jaws theme>.

Durian

Known more for its penetrating odour (many have compared it to ‘fermented diapers’) than it’s ‘almond-flavoured custardy’ taste (I for one agree with that definition), this ‘King of Fruits’ is banned in most hotels and means of public transport!!!

‘Must-visit’ places on your gastronomic itinerary while in KL should include Jalan Alor, a street (Jalan) lined with hawker stalls. I recommend the grilled sting ray and the stir-fried sea shells (despite my near-death experience in discovering that I was allergic to the latter!!!) Also visit Madam Kwan’s, a one-stop shop for some of the ‘top-ranked’ dishes from across Malaysia. The food courts in Suria Mall in the KL City Centre (KLCC), Pavilion Mall and Lot 10 Mall on the hip Jalan Bukit Bintang (JBB) are also quite nice with both domestic and international food choices.

Starhill Gallery on JBB (‘Bukit Bintang’ means ‘Star Hill’ btw) has some amazing (and pricey) restaurants. I strongly recommend the garoupa preparations at The Fishermen’s Cove!

I could ramble on about eating out in KL but all this typing has made me hungry!!! While this post does not cover any significant percentage of the wondrous offerings Malaysia has in the field of gastronomy (Durian deserves a dedicated blog all by itself), I hope reading it has got your taste buds all tingly with anticipation! So until next time…happy eating!!!

Photo : Sayak Bhanja

©itiriti

Rendezvous with Smita Singhal, Head Pastry Chef, Cupcake&Co.

Trading for livelihood, designing for love and baking with passion sums up Smita Singhal , the owner of Cupcake &Co. 

Smita

Smita’s story is inspiring as she wears many a hats- that of a single mother, a successful entrepreneur and of course a prolific baker.  Itiriti brings to you the profile of a baker, anecdotes from her life at Le Corden Bleu and much more….

Smita’s journey before and along with Cupcake &Co…

As soon as I meet Smita at her office overlooking the GKII market she kicks off the conversation by sharing her professional journey. After Graduating in Commerce, Smita went off to pursue her studies in FIT, New York.  After an eight year long stint in advertising, post pregnancy she quit her job and joined a section of her father’s Chemical business and is in charge of the trading. She also has a small Company called Raya which she kicked off in 2007 where she designs costume jewellery. She retails her products through exhibitions. She also works as a freelance designer for an export house. And seamlessly she also had a passion for baking. She recounts the days when her mother used to bake.

“My mother influenced me a lot” and baking for son…

She is a self proclaimed foodie and loved to bake. She started baking in college and it used to be primarily for fun. She recalls Mala Bindra’s influence who was the first successful home-based baker in Delhi. Till 2009, she did not consider baking seriously till her son wanted to have a chocolate cake. From then one she went on to preparing chocolate cake to banana cake and carrot cake.

red velvet

No one was doing cupcakes …

No one was doing cupcakes back then.  She is a self confessed you-tube student. She recalls fondly her fondant learning lesson from youtube. While she was self tutoring , she also felt the need to learn some skills as her housewarming gifts of cupcakes  and small catering orders ranging from requests from family and friends to a Christmas party was gaining popularity.  She even received orders for a Christmas party and the collaboration continues this date. At this juncture she was using techniques which was self taught, and depending on fancy supplies which friends from abroad got for her. She felt the need to train herself beyond her “ How to …..?” lessons

Life at Julia Child School…

After a review of the options available to her, she chose to apply to Le Corden Bleu Paris.

In July 2012 she got selected for the one month programme which specialises in pastry making in the prestigious Le Corden Bleu, Paris. She weighed her options of studying in Bangkok and settled for this course.  Out of a class of 40 odd students there were 35 female students, 5 male students.  Smita was one of the five Indian students ( two were Chandigarh, one from Bombay and one from Bangalore).  And of course the students were from diverse backgrounds. “Average age was 27 and I was oldest”- recalls Smita fondly.

She recalls being part of the group of ten from diverse backgrounds. Most of them were backed by food industry. Some of them were food stylists, some were taking the course as part of extended programme etc. One has to submit a business plan along with the application form.  She also took a five week home tuition on French from somebody at the French Embassy in Delhi.

“I hardly saw Paris…”

Can you imagine it was a three month programme squished into one month. “Our days began at 8.30 am and we wrapped up by 9.30pm.  We woke by 6.30 am and we had to get ready by 8.30 am in class. We had lockers where our uniforms were kept”.  We had to wear the uniforms and be seated in class by 8.30 am. The school, she recalls had a microscopic gaze and they kept a check on every move of the students. Points were deducted if one did not cover their head or wore an untidy uniform to the class.  Apparently two students were thrown out before their completion of the programme because of their late attendance.

Le Corden Bleu, Paris houses 4 kitchens two dedicated to cuisine and two dedicated for pastry. A batch of ten students took turns to do practical and theory classes on rotation basis to accommodate 250 students.

On an average, 3 recipes (theory and practical) were taught to the students who undertook the programme. In practical classes, French Chefs came in to demonstrate a recipe and a translator used to translate his demonstrations to English.  Smita recalls, “You had to be attentive. Since they never repeated any step, if you missed a step it was your loss. You had to take notes while you were watching. You had to keep a close eye. During the course of these classes I learnt a lot of French words for ingredients like butter, sugar etc…”.

“I hardly saw Paris. We did the bakery scene. We explored the restaurants, bakeries. Food was on the go. We did not have time to cook after we got over with our classes at 9.30pm. It was very intensive . Worth it”.

Smita was one of the top 12 students in her batch. She graduated in August 2012.

Life after Le Corden Bleu.

She interned with Olive Beach at Chanakyapuri. She was interning in the pastry section. He stint here helped her to understand how a kitchen works. She recalls with full admiration the kitchen staff she encountered in Olive who learned on the job. She recollects her colleague who taught her to how make breads and was self taught and learned on the job. After her stint here she formed Virtual Bakery in September 2012.

christmas 2

Cup Cake &Co… And the concept of virtual bakery

“I wanted to see the response of my products”. She emphasises that while she knew her skills, it is important to know what your clientele want and if there is a clientele for your products. Virtual bakery concept provided her with an option to explore the first stage of business with no over head costs.  Within ten days orders started pouring in…

Life as a baker…

“Starting from batter to baking, I do it all”. She proudly points out that she has been trained in a school which emphasises using hands on skills. “In my school, we were taught baking with hands. That’s what French tradition is about …so from preparing batter to whipping cream it had to be done with hands”. She is in charge of stocking up supplies, following up on orders to preparing the deliverables. She says “ Thanks to my stint in advertising I know how to multitask. You had to handle 6 different portfolios, different clientele..”. She has recently bought food processor and added an oven to her kitty of kitchen appliances. While we share our mutual admiration for old ovens we move on to discussing the varieties that Cup Cake & Co. Offers.

Menu on offer

As she gears up to bake two deliveries she shares with me her experience of having a savoury stall at Australian Spring Fair: Sun Dried Tomato Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Sumac Spiced Potato Puff Pastry, Cajun Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry, Chicken Taco Tart, Mushroom and Caramelised Onion Cheese Tart.

French Apple Tart

Her favourite recommends:-

Apple Walnut with brown sugar butter cream

Caramel Fudge Cake with white chocolate

Carrot Cake

Future Plans of expansion

She dreams of opening her retail outlet with a “rolling and loyal clientele”. She says her kitchen floor would be clean and she would not offer more than two to three formats in her shop. It is important to have less to maintain quality, taste and loyalty. She plans to hire a kitchen space and shift out of her home.

Vanilla with lemon and vanilla frosting

Collection of books related to food…

She is an avid reader and has a collection of 250 books starting from cookery books to fiction. She tells me two to three fiction where the authors have woven recipes with the narrative…

Favourite Movies

Chocolat, Ratatouille and The Feast

Baking tips for Itiriti Readers!!!!

  1. Always measure to the “T”.
  2. When you want to layer your cake, please refrigerate for sometime before cutting.
  3. When you are making a dough for pastry, refrigerate it for half an hour before rolling it out.

Contact Details :

Cupcake & Co: A virtual bakery based out of Delhi.

Since the baker works on the miracles on her own you need to order 48 hours in advance.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/cupcake-co/menu-pricing/115642671927015.

contact.cupcakecompany@gmail.com

Photoes : Smita Dhingal

©itiriti

Tasting Organic Farm Produce @ Pabhoi Greens

While I got the opportunity to travel down to Guwahati and savour some wonderful Assamese delicacies at Gam’s Delicacy, Paradise, this time I got an opportunity to stay in Tezpur, Assam for a almost two weeks. The University Guest House in the sprawling Tezpur University Campus offered home cooked food but a friend and colleague A introduced us to his friend Neelam who runs an organic farm. He had come to the University to collect some seeds from our friend. Not only did we kept a handful of lettuce and other greens to prepare salad with our meals , we ( a group of three enthusiasts) lapped the opportunity to spend a night at Pabhoi Greens.

After a hectic day we escaped from Tezpur to explore Pabhoi Greens.  As the driver navigated the narrow roads one could see a silhouette of tea plants guiding us along the road on our way to Pabhoi.  It was pitch dark and with half sleepy eyes we could imagine the green cascade of plants that welcomed us when you reached Pabhoi. As the driver parked the car a group of 6 dogs welcomed us.

Neelam (the owner) came down with a miner’s torch and led us to the portico facing two large water tanks. We glided into the comfort of the bamboo chair and sipped Assam Tea, chuckled at the sight of fireflies and soaked ourselves in the silence of the night. The dinner beckoned us to shift to the dining hall where Manju didi had cooked a spread for us. As we entered the salad spread sitting pretty with organic farm greens was particularly exciting. The Bengali soul in me wanted to have as much Kagchi/ Gandharaj Lebu ( a variety of lemon). The salad spread was prepared of handpicked greens and vegetables from the farm.  As we made our way through the salad the piping hot Joha Rice (a local variety of rice) was served to us, followed by pulses, mixed vegetables. The stars of the meal were Maasor Tenga and Fried Chicken. The taste of the freshly caught fish is something that you crave when you stay in a city which has polluted its river beyond rescue. Fish Tenga as you might know is a sour gravy prepared of tomatoes and because of its sour taste it is called tenga( Assamese word for sour). For all those who want to prepare this Assamese delicacy take a look at the detailed step by step post by Ruprekha on Fish Tenga (http://rupascloset.blogspot.in/2011/04/assamese-delicacies-8maasor-tenga.html?showComment=1365188708469#c1848959286321035958).

For other Assamese Delicacies the following group on facebook is very interesting:- https://www.facebook.com/assameserecipes?fref=ts

This was followed by Fried Chicken. After our dinner spread Neelam took us around the farm. He introduced us to the youngest member in the cattle-shed- Daisy who wanted to break her shackles and prance round. Babu the head of the family was sober and exuded much of an interest with H.  As we were lazying around, we spotted an owl and Neelam showed us how the “well” functioned as a treatment site for the poisonous snakes. We decided to call it a day as Neelam shared anecdotes from trainings he organised for students pursuing their studies on agriculture and his trails across North East. While A asked him to show us the pictures from his previous tours, I snuggled in the comforts of the pillow with a vivid image of a bright orange butterfly with black dotes.

Realising that we have decided to call it a day, A and Neelam retired to their dens. The pitter patter sounds of the rain on the rooftop followed in an hour later with the whistling sounds of the storm. While my mind ached to sit and soak the rain kissed night my body ached for some sleep. Giving way to temptation I woke up to a bright day. H had already taken a tour of the farm and AI was getting ready as well.  Neelam gave us a guided tour of the shades where varieties of tomatoes, greens were waiting to be transferred to the field.

Neelam Dutta @ Pabhoi Greens

Neelam Dutta @ Pabhoi Greens

He told of us the various training sessions he was planning to organise with students across universities.  He also showed us the eco-hatch project he had initiated few years ago.

It was time to bid adieu to Pabhoi and head back for Tezpur after a nice creamy rich homemade curd and some toasts.

Neelam has changed the face of the farm that his father had invested some twenty five years ago. He has been instrumental in using organic methods in farming and feels there is chasm between the farm produce and its marketing which needs to be worked upon. To know more about Pabhoi Greens you can visit :- http://www.pabhoigreens.com/Services.html

Fishery Project @ Pabhoi Greens

Fishery Project @ Pabhoi Greens

I am hoping Neelam kicks of a home stay project soon so that itiriti readers could also have a taste of organic produce.

Contact for further details : Neelam Dutta, Pabhoi, Biswanath Charali, ASSAM.

neelam@pabhoigreens.com

Photos by Amiya Kumar Das.

©itiriti