Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting addicted; the ‘fooding’ experience

Street Food in Calicut

The first time that I tried, rather was forced to try this place was three days ago as I and Vinodettan went in search of some food parcels with our Gond artist friends (Everything else was closed by that time). Then after, Nanma, I and Jinu went for dinner there, day before yesterday. I had lunch and dinner here yesterday. If not addiction, what else do you call it?
‘Fooding’ here is an experience. It gives you a feeling of community eating. They have large round tables around which at least ten can sit. For me, a stranger intruding into your dining table (this often happens in small hotels) is uncomfortable. But here, for reasons unknown I was very comfortable with nine strangers around me. May be it was the night, the crowd, the ambiance, the highway alongside, the bright lights, the sharp smell that the place smells of, or may be all of it, I don’t know what.     There were conversations, jokes and much more, which brought us all to a common ground. The ‘ritual’ of an old man (that’s the case almost everywhere) trying to get the attention of the vehicles on the highway with a hotel signage in his hand is followed here as well. However, the difference is that it’s an easy job for him as he gets unnoticed against the bright light, life and energy of the place which automatically drag people in.
Dont go by this picture. Its from my phone which does not have a flash

On the first attempt, we parceled some chicken 65. However, the ‘fooding’ here is incomplete without the ambiance. So sorry, ‘chicken 65’!, you are not being reviewed. After all, there is bird flu in the air.  With Jinu and Nanma, we tried Chicken Sukka and Porotta. ‘Correction, Jinu had Baji and Porotta! Its Advent.’ All these dishes appeared to be wrong choices to me as they somehow didn’t fit to the setting. (The air smelled fried and more fried). Moreover, it was a good excuse for a revisit. And to top it up, our friend Kiran, who visited us during dinner was curious about our review.  
It was new information for me that the place is open for lunch. The lunch as such is on a low key, but the specials, as they call it, adds flavor, a lot. Mantha (Sole Fish) which was the add-on was a lunch in itself. It reminded me of the classic fish and chips. I went back for dinner at the same place despite the distance (Anything for ‘fooding’). All highway joints have certain similar dishes to offer, all fried with fried marinade topping. This joint also offers almost all of them. However, a vegetarian innovation that I found here is ‘Pavakka Masala’ (Bittergourd Masala). I got a portion parceled to be tried at home. On a second thought, to confirm the taste, I asked for a morsel. The end result; two portions were parceled. Koonthal (Squid) masala also tasted great.
By the way, this place is on the Trissur Highway ,a few meters further ahead from Thondayad junction. Trust me, you won’t miss it and if you do, you really are missing an experience.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Brunch at Brown Town

Brunch at Brown Town Every once in a while who doesn't like catching up with their colleagues for a light brunch. Heavens know I do. A late morning chatting and catching up session is essential for our sanity.

Saturdays when we have early morning Staff Meetings, is perfect opportunity for such outings. Hena, my colleague and I, use this time to rant and unwind. It's a great stress buster. What has been adding to our experience is the great fare at Brown Town, Paragon Group's new bakery.

Let 's start with dessert. So the Cappuccino Mudpie is like an all time favorite but we have also recently added their Chocolate Ganache and Apple Pie to our list. Their pastry chef is out of this world, you need to try it to believe it.



While they don't have much choice with main courses I do vouch for their Chicken Club Sandwiches which is accompanied by Potato Chips and a Salsa Salad. Their regular Cappuccino and Fresh Lime Mint Juice are perfect accompaniment to this dish.


We wait each Saturday to splurge at Brown Town and am sure after this post you would too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Punjab Di Rasoi

Nirmal Reporting...

Every time I visited Delhi I was given strict instructions by Jinu to pack Chaat Papadis and Aloo Chaat on my way back. I used to buy leak proof boxes of Chaat which would then be frozen overnight and taken through the stringent airline security to finally reach Calicut. And then Punjab Di Rasoi happened and I am now a free man.

Finally, Calicut has a genuine North Indian vegetarian place.
We have tried a lot of things here. In fact my wife is constantly found here during lunch hour with her office colleagues. She vouches for the North Indian Thali priced at Rs. 120/-. She also occasionally goes there in the mornings for breakfast (faults of having a good eating place near a foodie's office). They serve classic Madras fare in the mornings - Dosa, Idli, Vada, Poori Bhaji and the like.

The last time we were at Punjab Di Rasoi (together), we tried Lassi and Paav Bhaji.
The Lassi here is a perfect blend of taste and texture. They have two variants, Malai and Mango. Malai is our family favorite. Our cousin Dafy, who was visiting from Delhi had Lassi with us here and agreed to its authenticity. Mind you, one glass of regular Lassi can really fill you up. Nanma, the little foodie loved it, as is evident from the picture.

The Paav Bhaji took me back to my Nasik days. Perfectly buttered bread (paav) with tangy-spicy bhaji and a sprinkling of raw onions and lime juice...yummmm.

They also have some smashing desserts like their paan-flavoured Rasmalai. In the evenings they serve a variety of Chaats and other variants of street food. The Northern-style Pickle, Vinegar-ed Onions and Pudina Chutney platter - a mainstay of all North Indian Hotels- is also available on demand.

Though there is no other food joint in Calicut of the order of Punjab Di Rasoi, we have seen an evident deterioration in the ambiance of the place over time. However, the food experience remains. Adjacent to the hotel is their new Sweets Store which offers you a wide variety of North Indian sweets, otherwise rare in Calicut. A must  try!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The bottled hospitality.

Beware this trap awaiting you on the hotel tables..
It’s said that the aesthetics of the dining space positively contributes to one's appetite. It’s quite common these days for hotels in Calicut to have a bottle of ‘packaged drinking water’, placed on the table. The placement is so inviting that it gives a hospitable feeling to the patron. Well, how wonderful an idea is that to have a bottle of water ready for you (ranging from the ones directly fetched from the source of the Ganges to the ones which push your adrenaline in one single sip) as you walk in thirsty and hungry.
Bearers of course used to ask if you need bottled water earlier as well. However, this query was mostly meant for patrons from abroad.  These days, they don’t even ask but leave a bottle on the table prompting you to grab it. You have to ask for plain water, if you want it so.
As a policy, I try to avoid ‘mineral water’. This means that most the time, I have to ask for plain water. Now here lies the crux of the story. The moment you ask for plain water, many hotels in Calicut get you warm water. Please don’t do the mistake of asking for chilled water. “You will have to buy the bottles for chilled water”. Sorry, the steel jugs with condensed water on its surface are extinct. (Please don’t mistake me for generalizing, but it’s a fast emerging trend).
I am angry as I write this. I wonder how much of profit a bottle of water could fetch. Does that compensate the cost on compromising the warmth of Calicut’s hospitality?
Hoteliers of Calicut, I would suggest, please don’t buy this idea of ‘Water sale”

This photograph was taken from Marina Residency in YMCA Cross Road. They of course served us cold water on demand. We tried the Seven Seas Restaurant in Marina Residency. The premium version of this restaurant in the same hotel seems to be closed. Well, sorry to state that it’s a poorly air-conditioned space. We tried Harira soup. I have no complaints, but my taste buds did not seem to be enthused by the idea of this Moroccan soup.  The ‘Prawns Pulimunchi’ was just BAD.   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The chef who is a 'labourer'

The Govt of Kerala estimates that there are approximately 2.5 million migrant labourers in Kerala. It is unarguably true that this supports the labour base and thus the economy of Kerala. Often they are referred to as a ‘system’ wthat handles the labour side of the economy. Individuals are not important here, even names are not. ‘Bengali’, ‘Punnadan’, Assami, Hindiwala and Bhai in common, well..why should we  care for more?
Rooba restaurant in Malaparamba runs it show with an extremely talented ‘migrant labour’ chef. Munna is from Bengal and he cooks everything from Nadan to Chinese.  This is a typical fast food (where you get the food fast) place which offers you   dishes worthy in terms of cost and taste.  This has been a regular eat-out place for us for a long time when we used to live close to this place. 

Here the chef and his kitchen greet you before the receptionist does (cash counter in other terms). And at least for us this adds to our food experience as Munna offers a warm smile as you walk in. “Bahut Din Baad Aa Rahe Ho?” (Seeing you after so many days). This is Munna’s regular welcome note for us. Two days before as we walked in he said “Mein Bhai se Pooch Raha Tha ki Un ke friend to bahut din se dekha nahi” (I was asking Brother (referring to me) that he did not see his friend (referring to Jinu) for many days). He adds a smile to all the dishes he serves you. However, we can’t assure you that he does this for all.
Rooba has offered us good food almost always we have dined there. The servings  for almost all dishes here are large. This place won’t create a hole in your pocket. However, they serve pretty high in oil and masala. So it’s not suggested as a regular dining out option.
We tried butter chicken and porotta the other day, which was tasty but heavy in oil.  We also had 'Nice Pattiri' for the little foodie (Nanma our eight month old toddler)
However, I should add that this place usually does not disappoint us.  You got to be a bit wise in the choice of your dish and I am sure you will have a happy dine-out.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Here comes the rain...

Monsoon season is almost upon us. Rain in Calicut often means big puddles, waterlogged roads, dirty feet and with it a cool freshness that lends the coastal air a special zing. 

When I was in Wayanad, my favorite activity on a rainy day was to snuggle with a good book, enjoying a hot, steaming plate of good old Maggi. I am sure everyone has a food memory attached to rain. There are those who have stood outside college and feasted on hot Pakoras from the roadside vendor on a cold, wet day. There are of course some other friends (like Rani), who have enjoyed walking in the rain, eating cold Ice Cream. There are still others who would vouch on a Masaledar Bhutta (Corn) to make their day, during monsoon.

So, in Calicut, at the onset of monsoon let me guide you all to Noufal Cholayil's Shop. From Mavoor Road when you turn right to enter the RP Mall Parking, his stall is right there on the side. He sells Cauliflower Bajis and Chilli Bajis. From the cozy, air conditioned mall, out into the sun or the rain, Noufal's Pakoda Trolly seems to be rightly placed to help you absorb the shock. The spicy, tangy  flavours, subconsciously takes you back to your childhood, where you cherished freshly stolen, raw mangoes with salt and chilli powder (from my mango stealing stories, Jinu now perceives any mango tree in Kerala to be social property; so stealing a mango is not stealing as such, at the least it is dignified stealing).

Now back to Noufal's Bajis...we have tried bajis in other streets of Calicut as well but Noufal stands out for his unique presentation, heart-load of Calicut hospitality and near-perfect location. He serves his bajis neatly on a piece of banana leaf laid over a steel plate. He has Gobi (Cauliflower) Baji, Mulagga (Capsicum) Baji, Parippu Vada and Roasted Peanuts. Both the Bajis taste extremely good but we have had better Parippu Vadas else where.

To sum it up...

Tasty Tasty ???? Yes Papa
Costly Costly??? No Papa
Healthy Healthy ??? Who Cares Papa

Friday, May 30, 2014

Maniyettan's Naadan Oonu (Read as Mani (Bro's) Traditional Lunch)

A blog on Calicut food and good hotels in Calicut

Traditional Lunch Houses (Mess Houses as they are called) are places which are considered to have fresh lunch on a daily basis. They manage to be pretty close to our home made preparations and thus are considered to be safe. Usually open only for lunch they see heavy footfall from the average office crowd. Calicut's Amma Mess is a pretty popular place and is heavily crowded on almost all days.
Two Mess Houses that we have found interesting are the Brother's Mess in Chelavoor (though they call it Brothers Hotel) and Chaithanya (hope I have got the name right) at Vengeri Junction in the Kannur Bypass Road. But the best of all has been Maniyettan. Maniyettan, is a local chef who cooks for our 'rarely rare' official lunches and dinners. He is sort of a freelancer, if the term applies to catering as well (he does not run a hotel, but cooks for parties) and is a master in his own right. 
A one-line review on Maniyettan's Naadan Oonu, would be, "Its home made in its real sense".

Naadan Oonu Traditional Kerala Lunch

Chicken Curry Naadan Oonu


Sambar Naadan Oonu

Koottu Kari Naadan oonu

Thanks for the photographs Arun!!!