Kheema Pao- Like the ones at the Irani hotels.

I am a very happy man as i write this post.

That  sort of happiness that you get when you achieved something after multiple attempts. What did I get? Well, I cracked the code for recipe for Kheema Pao or simply mince and bread. I know its not that difficult to make mince and bread. We Mangalorean have a recipe we make all the time and so do the Goans. I like those as well; but honestly, I love eating mince the way it is prepared at the Irani hotels. I first tasted this way back during my college days. I studied at St. Andrews College in BAndra. Now, Bandra is blessed with some lovely options for eating. Right from high end, plush five stars to non-descriptive place that you would enter if you you were to go by the eye. A few furlongs away from college was one such Irani hotel. With the meagre resources at our disposal those days, eating out was a luxury. But this Irani hotel was one place we visited once on a while, to  celebrate a birthday in the group or simply the fact that we had cleared our semester without any backlog. Truth be told, i don’t really remember how, when and why I ordered Kheema Pao the first time (I wasnt a food writer) but i remember falling in love with the way it was made. There was something about it; nothing earth shattering but something warming and comforting. See, that is it about food being simply cooked; it touches your soul.

Post college, life happened. I for quite a while worked at Churchgate, Mumbai’s CBD and home to quite some Irani cafe’s. We would step out for lunch ocassionally and at times a mid morning snack. Quite often, I’d tuck into the kheema pao. Surprisingly, the dish seemed quite similar except for a slight variance in spices. A few attempts to create the similar dish at home failed. I was advised  by folks at home to stick to the mangalorean recipe which was  best. But thats also because we Mangaloreans are a grumpy lot when it comes to recipes. Any other recipe than the one you or your mother has is bound to be an absolute failure.

Now, some days back I happened to be in Bandra and I passed the Irani hotel. I was delighted to see it still there and doing brisk business. I decided to grab a bite more out of nostalgia than hunger. What did I order? Well you could take a guess. Did it taste the same. Of course. Nothing has changed. I tried my luck and called the guy who attended me. I wanted to know the secret of this recipe. “Is mein kyaa masale padte hain?” (what masalas do you put in this) I questioned. He gave a blank look, then looked up to the ceiling fan moving slowly as a protest at being made to work in his old age. Finally, he answered vaguely “Sab masalo ka taste aana maangata hai” (You need to taste every masala). Well, not entirely, but some part of the riddle had been solved. I was competent enough to try it out once again. One thing that I observed, in common is the garnish of fresh ginger and green chillies. I loved the sharpness from the ginger and the heat from the chillies. Its not really a very spicy dish. The spices are more supporting actors to the medley of mince and onions.  Please don’t skimp on the oil, you need to have that circumference of oil around your mince. That is where the real taste lies.

It was a very simple dinner but I went to bed a very happy man. I also kept some aside for the next days breakfast and boy, my day was made.

One more request, please have it with bread and only bread. Anything else, would kill the romance of this dish.


Kheema Pao

  • 450 grams mince (I used chicken. You could use mutton or lamb)
  • 100 grams green peas (optional, I didnt use)
  • 100 ml unflavored vegetable oil
  • whole masalas ( 4 cloves, 4 cardamom, 3 sticks of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cumin)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Powder Masalas (1 tbsp red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric/ 1/2 tsp garam masala/ 1 tbsp corriander [for garnishing])
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of half a lime
  • For Garnish (A Few sprigs of corriander, finely chopped/ 1 1/2 piece of ginger and 2 green chillies, roughly chopped)


  • Heat oil in a pan. When it is medium hot, add in the spices and let them splutter.
  • Once the spices begin spluttering, add in the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook till fragrant.
  • Add in the onions, and let them sweat till translucent. Dont entirely cook the onions.
  • Once the onions are slightly pinkish, add the tomatoes and cook till soft.
  • Add in the mince and the green peas (if using). Cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Take some water in a small mixing bowl, add in all the powdered masalas and add it to the mince. Give it a good stir and mix well so that all the masalas and meat integrate well.
  • Add in the salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 8-12 minutes.
  • Check once if the meat is done. If done, add the corriander powder and give it a good mix.
  • Once meat is cooked. Add the lime juice, and the corriander leaves.
  • Add the chopped ginger and chillies and serve with toasted bread (if you like)
  • Done. 🙂


Cheesy Chicken Rolls and a Sunday potluck with my foodie friends.

In the words of the great Julia Child, “People who love to eat are the best people“. Being an ardent foodie myself, I have been blessed with a number of friends who are food lovers; with blogging, that wonderful circle has only increased. Some of whom have moved from being friends in the virtual world to friends in the real world. Each one is so unique in his or her own way. Be it cooking style, writing, or demeanor. I had mentioned in my post on the Kitchen Ninjas Challenge about a Whatsapp group created by food bloggers. A  few of us meet offline.  Needless to say, when foodies meet there is lots of food and even more fun. Here is what happened when Shanti Padukone from Riot of Flavours, Renita Mascarenhas from Culinary Zeal and I decided to meet over a potluck lunch (at Shanti’s place) last week.

The three of us planned a potluck, but unlike a regular potluck, we thought it would be more fun to cook together rather that carry the food across. Renita being the dessert expert decided to (with some insistence from me 😉 ) make a Mango and Mint Pavlova and Shanti took over the main course with Pasta in Mushroom Cream Sauce and I would be making the starters. So now you see how the Cheesy Chicken rolls came to being 🙂 .

When the big day arrived, the usually confident me was a bit nervous. You know those slight niggles in the tummy just before the first date. Renita took first strike, her pavlova needed to be baked for an hour, so we gave it the TLC it needed. In the process,I learnt a bit about beating egg whites and about taking the proverbial over the head test. When I will try beating them? may be time will tell. I decided to go next, mine was a long drawn recipe. I got help to cut the chicken and with the remaining steps. We talked, joked and poked puns at each other.  As we worked on the chicken, Shanti worked on the pasta. It got done much like a Rahul Dravid hundred, robust and substantial; bursting at the seams with flavour. Meanwhile, I too got the rolls done. The girls tasted the rolls and thankfully it passed the muster. My heart thanked the heavens. Lunch was good fun too. I must confess I am not too much of a Mango lover, but i gobbled up a huge chunk of the pavlova. It was that sinfully delicious.

All in all, it was a super Sunday afternoon. I loved each moment. As rightly said,  that when someone gives you their food, they also give you their heart. That sunday afternoon, i realised why.. 🙂

Cheesy Chicken Rolls

Picture Courtesy: Isaaq Petiwala

 Cheesy Chicken Rolls

Ingredients (for the Chicken)

  • 500 grams boneless chicken- refer instructions below on how to cut.
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 50 ml oil
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • salt to
  • Oil- for frying
  • Sufficient number of tooth picks.

For the stuffing

  • 200 grams regular processed cheese
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped (use more if you like it a bit spicy)
  • 150 ml green chilli sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste (pepper goes well with cheese and cheese is salty so use judiciously)


  • When you buy the chicken, ask the butcher to give you one whole piece. Preferably, the breast piece. Wash and pat dry the piece. Then using a sharp knife (at a 45 degree angle) cut chunks of the breast with gentle but decisive strokes to chunks, roughly about the size of a scallop. Then, using either a meat hammer or a pestle gently flatten each chunk. This will give the chunks a roughly circular shape. Even if all the chunks are not of the same size, dont worry. Once done, keep aside.
  • To make the filling, grate the cheese in a bowl and add the chillies, salt and pepper and give it a good mix. Keep aside.
  • Before proceeding to fill in the stuffing, make sure each chunk is dry. Take one chunk, evenly spread some chilli sauce on it. Then stuff it with the cheese mixture and roll the chunk. Once rolled, secure it with a tooth pick. Repeat for all the chunks.
  • Heat oil for frying in a pan. Till the oil is heating, prepare an emulsion by adding the remaining oil, red chilli powder, turmeric and the lime juice in a bowl.
  • Roll each chicken chunk in this emulsion and add to the frying pan which would be hot by now.
  • Fry each side till it turns nice and golden brown.
  • Serve hot.


  • If you want to prepare a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with thin slices of brinjals or zucchini.



The Soul Satisfying Dal and a mention on Peri’s Spice Ladle.

Very often, a small appreciation and an encouraging word from a friend or loved one can help you get your mojo back. Both happened to me yesterday. Let me tell you how.

My last post on the ‘how to cook that series‘ was almost a month ago. I did try to write in the interim. I cooked and clicked, but somehow, my laptops keyboard and my mind were not on talking terms. I tried writing, but thoughts just didn’t become words. As I sat wondering what to do, my phone notifies me of an new post from one of my favorite blogs, Peri’s Spice Ladle. The title was intriguing. The post was very different from what Peri usually writes. It was a post where she writes about a few of her favorite bloggers. Well, I was chuffed to see my name featured there. Peri’s words just about motivated me to write. Then towards the evening, I was generally chatting with a close friend who reminded me that my last post was about a month ago and that I should write immediately. It felt nice to hear someone egging you on to blog. And so, here I am all set to begin and I promise to write more often.

So what did I make? Well, I made something that is present in almost every lunch and dinner. The humble dal. In terms of Indian cuisine, the dal is one dish that has a dichotomy to it. It is simple to make yet has a certain sanctity to it. So, one might ask. What is it about the dal that makes it so special. Almost everything I’d say.

Want something comforting at the end of a long working day- come home to bowl of soul-ful dal

Convalescing from an illness-  Doctor recommends dal

Feeling like eating something warm on a cold winters day- try the dal

I can go on and on about the role and importance of dal in Indian cuisine. But that’s not the point. The point here is about a dish that we can safely say is like a ‘One size fits all’ and that is what makes it special. I have had the good fortune of travelling across the country and believe me I have never seen a dal being repeated in terms of taste and texture. If I was seduced by the rich kaali (black) dal of the north, the Mangalorean dalitoy had me weak kneed, then cholar dal of Bengal had me intrigued with the complexity of flavours. See, that is what dal does to you. Once you boil the lentils, its almost like an open canvas use your imagination and play with the sweet and sour flavours or go on add any vegetables that you may like. The marriage will work. My word.

Today’s recipe then is found in most restaurants. Though personally, I find its made better in the warm comfort of home. The Lehsuni Dal. Simple dal cooked with minimal ingredients and flavored with sauteed garlic. Paired with stemed rice and a dollop of your favorite pickle. Hmmmm… Gourmet deconstructed.

Lehsuni Dal

Lehsuni Dal.

Ingredients for the dal.

  • 200 grams, yellow lentils (commonly called toor dal)
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 3 medium chillies, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 small piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt- to taste
  • 400 ml water

Ingredients for the tempering

  • 3 tablespoons oil (or ghee if your feeling indulgent)
  • 10 pods of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large red chilli (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon, mustard seeds
  • 1 small sprig of curry leaves.
  • 2 small sprigs of corriander leaves- for garnishing


  • Wash the dal under running water until the water runs clear.
  • Next, combine all ingredients mentioned under the heading ‘ingredients for dal’ in a pressure cooker and cook on a medium flame till you hear about 3 whistles. This should take roughly about 15 minutes.
  • Once done, take off the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Then use a spoon and roughly mash up the lentils.
  • For the tempering, heat oil in a sufficiently large pan and add the curry leaves and the mustard seeds. Once the seeds start spluttering, add the red chilli, cumin and garlic. Stir gently till the garlic gets slightly brown. Don’t over do this as the garlic may get bitter.
  • Then, slowly add in the cooked dal and stir till the dal has begun to simmer.
  • Check for seasoning, garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice, roti or phulkas.

Honey, Chilli and Garlic Noodles- Kid’s Special Recipe


Movies many a times reflect life. Life as it is. Life as it should be. I recently happened to watch the movie “The Lunchbox”. A deftly made movie, in which the both the male and female protagonist don’t meet; they communicate with each other through a series of notes sent through a “dabba” (lunchbox) that has been wrongly delivered. The Lunchbox hits the right spot when it so gracefully touches the trials, tribulations, fears and hopes of the people of Mumbai. There are many problems that the female protagonist tackles in the movie. One among them is the eternal question of what to pack in her husband’s and daughter’s lunch box. Trivial as it may seem, this is one of the more pertinent questions faced by most mothers today at least in this city. On one level, in a vastly commercialised junk food world, it is about keeping the kid interested in the lunch. Then, at another level, it is about maintaining the nutrition level. Add to it, kids these days are well informed; if you fail to convince them about something on the plate, be rest assured that it won’t be eaten.

So then, what’s the solution we may ask? The way out to me would be to have the kids menu designed in a manner that appeals to them. Few thoughtful touches would make a huge differences, abundance of colours, shapes could do. Another thing could be done is involve them in the kitchen, time permitting small jobs for example, buttering the bread could be theirs.

And so, here is one recipe that should definitely appeal to all kids and as well as adults. Yes, a noodles recipe. Most kids love noodles and I have kept it very simple, incorporating the basic flavours. The good thing is it came of well. Just the chillies and honey to suit juniors taste. Another suggestion is try not to break the noodles when cooking them. There is a certain pleasure in slurping the long noodles.

Hope you like this one and when juniors home, I do hope you get the response that is a famous ad running on TV these days “Dhabba Khaali; pet full”!


Honey, Chilli and Garlic Noodles


  • 400 grams noodles of your choice
  • 80 grams garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons, soya sauce
  • 3 teaspoons, oil
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 40 grams, red chilli flakes
  • 3 tablespoons, honey
  • 1 tablespoon, sesame seeds


  • Cook the noodles as instructed on the pack till they are al dente (75% done). Once cooked, keep them under running water for a while and add a teaspoon of oil to prevent them from sticking. You could add salt now to the noodles.
  • Whisk the soya sauce and lemon juice together in a bowl and add the red chilli flakes. Keep aside.
  • Now, heat the remaining oil in wok or a heavy pan and add the garlic. Cook on a high flame for 2 minutes or till the garlic is reddish brown and has started releasing a pleasant aroma.
  • Once the garlic has browned, add the soya sauce and lemon emulsion and give it a quick mix.
  • Add the noodles in small batches tossing well each time.
  • Once all the noodles are well coated with the soya sauce, and the honey and toss again for a final time.
  • Garnish with the sesame seeds and serve hot.


Simple Butter Cake!

Walnut Butter Cake
Its been a while since I posted a cake recipe on the blog. Nearly a year almost.Why haven’t I baked in all this while…. Well call it my bane. The proverbial Achilles heel.  After a couple of baking attempts went put; I thought it would be better if I could focus on eating a cake, than baking one.The plan worked, till a reader wrote requesting if I could post a simple butter cake recipe. I discussed with a few friends who bake and they said it was pretty simple. I tweeted to another round of encouragement from folks. I wrote back to the reader saying I’d post the recipe. The good thing, there was time on hand. So, I searched for a simple recipe that would fit the brief. I was so spoilt for choice that I didn’t know which to choose. I narrowed down one and sent it to a friend for authentication. He sent it back with recommended changes.

So, preps done and I now was ready to face the music. I started whisking the butter gingerly, much like Sachin Tendulkar’s nervous edge down to third man to get off the mark. But as I covered the steps in the recipe, the confidence in process and myself start to increase. You need to love baking, experienced and professional bakers told me. I was now beginning to love the process. I did see the batter coming out just as my friend described it would.  I was happy. The tin was dusted and prepared. In went the batter. I had a few walnuts that I had saved from an earlier dish and felt they would give a nice crunch to the cake. In they went. But now was the true test. Waiting for the cake to bake. Believe you me those thirty five minutes seemed like and endless Rahul Dravid innings. Finally, the timer went off and I dashed off the oven as if my life depended on it.  It passed the skewer test. Now too wait for another few minutes, till it cooled completely. It finally did.

As I cut through each slice, the delicate cake was perfect. You will have to excuse the pictures, since it was a quick photo shoot. Trust me, the cake was inviting.

We enjoyed the cake with coffee. And yes, I did send the recipe to my reader who wrote

Dear Elson,

I did try the cake recipe you sent me. It was heavenly. Sheer buttery goodness.

Guess I will now use this cake to show off to all my friends that I too can bake. Thanks a lot for the trouble.

Shall also be trying the Fish Coastal Biryani soon. I’ll write and let you know how it turned out to be.

Do keep satiating our hungry souls till then.

It encouraged me to start a series for readers request recipe. Should you have a recipe that you want me to feature on the blog, please feel free to drop in a line on my email address or stop by at my facebook page. There’s a lot happening there too.

Meanwhile, here is the recipe for the cake.

Simple Butter Cake
  • 150 grams butter, (preferably unsalted)
  • 125 grams, powdered sugar
  • 125 grams, all purpose flour
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 1 teaspoon, baking powder
  • 15 ml milk
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • Some extra butter and flour for lining the tin
  • 8-10 drops of flavoring essence of your choice (Optional, I skipped this)
  • A handful of mixed nuts- for laying out on the cake.
  • Brush an 8 inch baking tray with butter; then dust if with sufficient flour and keep aside.
  • Next, sift the flour and baking powder together at least 3 times and keep aside.
  • Preheat oven at 100 C for about 10 mins
  • Using an electric mixer on a high speed cream the butter till it changes its colour to off white.
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and start adding the sugar in small batches. Continue this till the sugar and butter have combined well.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time and continue mixing.
  • Now, stop the mixer and start folding the flour in small batches, like we did for the sugar. Combine well using a spatula. Add the milk and vanilla essence.
  • Gently pour this batter in the prepared tin, spread out the nuts on top of the batter and bake for about 30 minutes. Use the tooth pick/ skewer test to check for the doneness
  • When its entirely done, allow it cool for another 20 minutes.
  • Enjoy with a hot cup of tea or coffee


Please note that 30 minutes is indicative. The baking time may increase or decrease, depending on your oven’s brand.

Black Chickpeas and Ivy Gourd Fugadh


Nutty black chickpeas cooked in spicy gravy; accompanied by the sweetish Ivy gourd and gently tempered with coconut and jaggery. This is one dish that is close to my heart, the one that takes me back to my childhood every single time, with the taste still lingering in my memory forever.

Though my mum makes this dish often, she confesses to learning it from her mother.  My dear grandmother at whose place I’ve spent many a happy holidays. Even to date, whenever my mum gets black chickpeas; I know for sure what’s on the menu. Every step of the recipe is magical, right from the moment when the chickpeas are pressure cooked to when the masalas are being sautéed and then finally the coconut garnish; food porn if I could call it that. And that’s not all, there is a bit of tradition involved as well.  The 8th of September, is a special day; where Christians celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This day, the menu is special and is called ‘Noven Jowaan’ roughly translated to ‘new meal’; the new signifying that the meal has been prepared from the new harvest as a thanksgiving to the almighty for his graces. The dishes are prepared in series of odd numbers and this one definitely makes it to that spread.

Somehow, very honestly, I had long wanted to post this but somehow didn’t get to do it. It was the only the other day when I headed to a meeting outside office and had to eat a restaurant. I ordered this one and believe me, the beauty of the dish had been massacred. Seriously, nothing pains me more than Manglorean food gone wrong. I decided to come home and  get it done. 

So then, here is a family recipe. Like its made at my home. Try it, garnish it with spices, temper it with coconut and serve it love. My family loves it, I’m sure yours would too.


Black Chickpeas and Ivy Gourd Fugadh


  • 200 grams, black chickpeas, refer cooking instructions below in the procedure
  • 100 grams, Ivy gourd, cut length wise
  • 50 grams fresh coconut, grated
  • 50 grams jaggery, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons corriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoons, black pepper corns
  • 1 tablespoon, cummin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon, mustard seeds
  • 7-8 Whole red chillies
  • 1 small teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 Sprig Curry leaves
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 300 ml water
  • Soak the black chickpeas in 300 ml water overnight or atleast 6-8 hours. Wash them under running water till water runs clear.
  • After washing, pressure cook for about 15 minutes or till you hear about 3 whistles. Retain the water if you wish to have some gravy
  • Dry roast the corriander seeds, pepper corns, cummin seeds, and red chillies till they give out a nice aroma. Once done, cool for a while and then, grind to a fine powder. Keep aside.
  • Heat the oil in a pan, add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. Wait till the seeds splutter.
  • Add the garlic and let it . Then add the onions and saute till the onions turns translucent.
  • Now, add the coconut, turmeric and the powder. Saute, till the oil has started leaving the sides
  • Now, add the chickpeas and the Ivy gourd and mix well.
  • Add the salt, jaggery and tomatoes and give it a good mix. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes.
  • If required, add some water from the boiled chickpeas.
  • Serve hot with rice or chapattis.

Pork Chilli!


I am absolutely overjoyed as I write this post. More, because I cooked this dish is my own and when I began, I had absolutely no idea of how it would turn out. But look at the pictures and they will tell what a good job I did. I have written earlier on the blog on how pork is every Mangaloreans comfort food and no big or small occasion is ever complete without it. Though, pork chilli may sound an authentically Chinese dish but this one is genuinely Mangalorean. Let me make my case

Every Mangalorean wedding has an interesting function preceding it. This function is called ‘Roce’. For the seekers of the truth, this is a function held on the day before the actual wedding. This is where coconut milk and oil is applied to the soon-to-be- bride or groom; the bath following the ritual symbolizing the last bath as a singleton. It is a very fun event and I seriously recommend you to attend one if you happen to be invited. And yes, how can I tell you about a roce and not tell you about the food? In the olden days, when food was traditionally cooked at home usually consisting of rice, variety of vegetables along with mutton polov and pork chilly. It also depended on how much the host could afford. With the passage of time, the menus started getting creative and contemporary fare started showing up. Two things remained constant though, the mutton polov and pork chilly. Like friends, who had sworn to stand by one  another through the test of time. I will do another post on the virtues of the mutton polov; for today, we shall focus on the pork chilly. Doesn’t the name ‘…… Chili’ make it sound it sound very Chinese.  It does. For a while I too, was misled to  imagining that this was another produce from across the border. But, I frankly haven’t seen this version being served anywhere else than a Mangalorean roce. The other thing is unlike other Mangalorean recipes, this one is not easy to find. I have found different versions as well; probably attribute it to the caterer. That made it difficult to ascertain one texture and base for the meat. After every roce, I’d come back home much more determined to try the pork chilli. With no proper recipe to back me, I knew I had to fend for myself to get this one right. The one that would make both the Chinese and the Mangalorean grannies proud. So I started researching for the recipe. On a recent trip to Mangalore, I even picked up a book, known to be the bible of Mangalorean cooking. A must have for every new Mangalorean bride. I was disappointed. The book didn’t contain the recipe.

Then, a few months back I went to another roce function. The pork chilli was there. This one was slightly different from the ones I had, there was something different. The texture soft and flavors though predominantly Chinese had that hint of extra chilli a typical Mangalorean trait. This not only gave it that extra bite but served as a nice cushion against the crisp but superbly cooked meat. For me, it was the dish of the day. I walked up to the caterer and complimented him firstly putting up a winner. I then quizzed him on the texture and cooking. Thankfully, unlike other Mangalorean aunts who hold their recipes close to their chest, he was pretty fort right and told me that he preferred baking the pork for some time to give it that contrast in textures. Another trick he told me is to get meat with some fat; that would help in marrying the flavours.

With a base to begin, I was now looking at the opportunity to cook. I thought it would be nice if I could marinate the meat for a while. I love the aroma of marinating meat. It somehow takes the flavors of the meat to another level. Marination done, I carefully laid the pork pieces on a baking tray and aligned the settings. Twenty minutes down and the house almost smelt divine. Baking the meat proved to me a master stroke. Later, as the bits started falling into place (or should I say into the gravy), I realized that this was that one dish I had been waiting for.  I guess, I more or less made it the the caterer.

Dinner that night was bliss. Pork to me is not sorpotel or vindaloo anymore. As I ate, I recollected something I read. It said that the poet and pig are appreciated only after their death. Not sure about the poet, but i can surely agree about the pig. 


Pork Chilli


  • 500 grams pork, cut into bite sized cubes- Refer note below
  • 120 grams bell peppers, cubed – Suggestion is use 1 each of green, red, yellow 
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, mince
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon, red chilli paste
  • 1 teaspoon, white pepper powder
  • 4 tablespoons, tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons, soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoons, oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons, vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons, oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 70 ml water to make a slurry
  • Salt- to taste
  • Wash the meat and pat it dry. In a bowl, whisk together half the soya sauce, vinegar, white pepper powder and some salt. Add the meat to this marinade and mix well. Make sure the meat pieces are well coated with the marinade.
  • Preheat the oven to 100 C
  • Line the meat pieces on a baking tray and bake in a the oven at 180 C for 40 minutes. Depending on the type of your oven, you may need to increase or decrease the baking time. But, generally 40 minutes is good enough. Once meat is done, remove and keep aside to cool.
  • Heat oil in a pan on a medium flame. Add the ginger, garlic and saute till garlic has turned brown, but not burnt.
  • Add the onions along with the greens with  and saute for a minute. 
  • Now, add the red chilli paste and give it a good mix. If the paste is sticking to the pan, sprinkle a few drops of water.
  • Add the tomato ketchup, remaining soya and the oyster sauce and mix well.
  • Now, add in the bell peppers and coat them well with the gravy.
  • Lastly, add the pork pieces, salt and mix well.
  • Now, add the cornflour slurry and give it one last mix. 
  • Garnish with spring onion  and serve hot with fried rice.

Of Chicken 65 and Rajnikanth Flicks

Today’s dish Chicken 65, is the second best thing to come out from Chennai. The first being Rajnikanth.  And just like Rajnikanth, it is humble, is unassuming, has a huge fan base, and above all, manages to quietly steal the show from everything else at the table. There is a bit of history thrown in behind the invention of the chicken 65, which goes something like this.

Many years ago, a customer walked into a small little restaurant in Chennai and asked to be served a meal. Now, it was around closing time; but not wanting to send back a hungry customer, the owner ordered the chef to quickly prepare something from whatever was available in the pantry. The chef did and the customer left with a grateful heart only to come back the next day and ask that the same dish be served to him. This went on for a couple of days and then, the owner decided to feature the dish on his regular menu. The  menu already had 64 items and this went on to become the 65th item, thus prompting the name “Chicken 65”. 

Another story goes back to the pre-Independence era, when the British soldiers who frequented the military café in Chennai. They had a favorite dish whose longish name they couldn’t pronounce and there ordered it by saying “Chicken 65”. The 65 apparently rhyming with the last name of the dish. Sounds interesting right?

Food does becoming interesting when there is a story to back it up.  But this dish is not just about the story behind it. It is about its simplicity in every aspect making it a case in point for cynics who don’t buy the argument that simple dishes can be tasty as well. Picture this, you marinate the chicken, cover it with batter and fry it, toss it in the sauce. Not too difficult, right? Yet, every bite will make you swoon, towards the end you will be full, but not satisfied and in all probability will have you asking for more. Pretty much like a Rajnikanth classic flick where you know you cannot go wrong.

I had initially not planned to make Chicken 65. I had boneless chicken in the fridge and in all probability would have gone in for a Chinese meal, but as the proverbial twist in the tale, the majority voted against Chinese and I decided to make Chicken 65. The only real effort was staying away from the crisp fried chicken and proceeding to the preparation of the gravy. I was pretty thrilled at the result simply for the fact that I got it right in the first go. My suggestion is don’t make it with a lot of gravy; it just enough to coat the chicken pieces  and yet give you that feeling of it lingering on your pallete.

The feeling of ecstasy and satisfaction you will derive be unparalleled I derived from it was unparalleled. Try it, I’m sure you enjoy it as well.



Chicken 65


For marinating the Chicken 

  • 550 grams chicken, cut into medium sized pieces (you could either use boneless or with bone)
  • 2 teaspoons, red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon, crushed pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste

For the batter

  • 6 tablespoons, rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons, cornflour
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Oil, sufficient to fry the chicken pieces

For the gravy:

  • 100 grams, Greek yoghurt, whisked well
  • 2 teaspoons, garlic paste 
  • 1 teaspoon, ginger paste
  • 3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 Sprig, Curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon, garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon, corriander powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons, oil
  • Salt- to taste


  • Wash the chicken, pat it dry and marinate it with the red chilli powder, turmeric powder, pepper and lemon juice. Do not add the salt at this time. Keep it aside for an hour.
  • Sieve together the rice flour, and corn flour and the salt and keep aside. Beat the egg well.
  • Now heat the oil on medium heat. 
  • Line two bowls one with the rice flour and corn flour and the other with the egg.
  • Add the salt to the chicken pieces and mix well. Take each piece of chicken and coat well with the egg and the flour mixture (in that order) and fry in the oil till each piece stands out separately and is golden brown in colour.
  • Take out and drain on a absorbent paper. While we proceed to make the sauce.
  • In a deep bottom pan, heat the oil (mentioned under the heading “for the gravy“).
  • Once it heats up, add the curry leaves and the cumin seeds and allow them to crackle.
  • When the curry leaves release aroma, add the ginger, garlic paste, green chillies and saute well.
  • Add the spice powders and mix well. Sprinkle a few drops of water so that the powders don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Now, add the yoghurt, salt and mix well to integrate the spice powders.
  • Finally add in the fried chicken pieces and mix well so that the yoghurt gravy is fairly dry and the chicken pieces are coated well.
  • Transfer to the serving plate, sprinkle lemon juice and serve hot.

Beef Roast (Goan Style)

I had a few friends over for dinner over the last weekend. The menu preference was pretty simple, Sorpotel and Sanna.

While extolling the virtues of the sorpotel and the provenance of the slain pig, one of my friends asked the question that would have pricked the heart of any Mangalorean, “What’s better  Goan  Cuisine or Mangalorean cuisine”? All eyes turned to me… I felt as if the answer to world peace lay in what I was to reply.

Was there ever something we called “Goan Cuisine”?  I wondered. Lots of fish, beef and pork, I’d presume. Vegetables? Could be..  I had always been seen as the preacher ultimate for Mangalorean cuisine and now I was to explain something that I always thought had been derived from us Mangloreans..I did check, a couple of Google pages and a few phone calls later I had my answer. Well, more or less…

From a bird’s eye view, it would be easy to believe that Goan cuisine begins and ends with sorpotels, vindaloos and balchaos; thankfully, it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot and more to be explored. Classified as Goan Hindu and Goan Christian it largely deriving largely from the influences of their erstwhile colonial masters, the Portuguese. All you need to do is visit Goa, and allow your nose to lead to a myriad of flavors of a cuisine that is complex and intriguing but something that needs to be cherished and loved.

To be honest, you would be hard pressed to find a restaurant that serves an authentic Goan meal. The kinds that would remind you of mum and of home. Like in Mangalore, the recipes are handed down from generation to generation and in the constant danger of being lost in the  quickly spinning wheel of time.

The question for me then was what dish do I prepare for the post. I didn’t need to search long and hard. My mum quickly gave me a recipe she’s aced and perfected for almost a decade now. I remember having this Beef Roast even as a kid. It’s not quite like a dry roast, not really a gravy but somewhere in between. The best thing is that it’s pretty easy to make and the only time it really take is for the marinating. So, this is something my mum made and like a good student I watched and made notes while she expertly went about her chores. When she finally opened the pressure cooker there was an explosion of flavours that would make any food lover go weak kneed.

As we were at the table, my mum did give a small tip we could use for all recipes- to make a perfect dish pay attention to all the ingredients, but don’t forget the huge scoop of love that you will need to add the very beginning.


Goan Style Beef 

  • 500 grams beef (preferably 1 large piece)
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 3 large red chillies
  • 1 tablespoon, red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon, turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons, coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons, cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons, crushed pepper
  • 1 tablespoon, garam masala powder
  • 60 ml, Goan Vinegar (or any vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 100 ml water (or more as may be required to cook the meat)


  • Wash the meat well and pat it dry. Do not cut the meat at this point.
  • Use a fork and gently prick the meat on all sides. Now, rub the spice powders, salt and vinegar all over the meat. Keep aside for at least 3-4 hours; if you can keep it overnight, better.
  • Once the marination time is up, take out the meat and cut it into 1 inch cubes.
  • Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add the red chillies and potato cubes and cook for a while
  • When the chillies begin to crackle add the meat and give it a stir. Add the water, some salt only if required and close the lid of the pressure cooker and allow it to cook for about 30 minutes. Please note that cooking time may differ, depending on the quality of meat.
  • Serve hot

Coastal Style Fish Biryani

If ever there was a dish that unites and divides us Indians it is the Biryani. Rarely in the history of mankind has dish, not native to the land, come in a made a place for itself in the heart of its people. We all know that biryani came to India courtesy the Mughals. Today, centuries after Mughals have long gone, the Biryani still continues to rules our hearts and palletes. I have often wondered what is so unique about this combination of rice and meat. The answer is simple. Across the length and breadth of this country, the biryani has integrated with the local flavours and suited tastes. You will not find a similar biryani anywhere in the country. So, while on one hand you have the gentler, more of  meat, oil based ones in the north, Lucknow to be precise where it is known as the “Pakki (fully cooked) Biryani”.  The cooking process here involves cooking the marinated meat and rice separately and then layering it together and cooking it on dum (steam). You then have the larger than life, biryani from Hyderabad where you would come across the “Kachchi (raw) Biryani”. Here, the rice (which is cooked al-dente) and meat are layered together and then given a dum. Move eastwards, towards Kolkatta and you will find the Kolkatta styled biryani, easy on the spice, generous helping of potatoes and with a lower proportion of meat.  Here, the biryani will be more often than not be accompanied by the chap or rezaala. In, Mumbai, on the west coast you have the spicier variety with varying degrees of meat and rice to suit the Mumbai taste. 

The true test of a biryani is how the rice is cooked. It is essential to keep a hawk eye on the rice while it is being cooked. The usual method is to cook it till it is about three-fourths done and done while it cooks on dum, you have each grain proudly standing out, vying for attention and wanting to tell you a story. The meat is usually marinated in curds before cooking. This forms the perfect bite when you take in a morsel of rice, covered in the masala and then melt in the mouth meat. Truly, this is a moment  that needs to be savoured.

Usually, when there is talk of a biryani, the combination is usually that of rice and meat. You would not associate something as delicate as fish with such an elaborate method of cooking. While I was discussing with a friend the other day the concept of a fish biryani, he joked that fish biryani would probably have been invented in a coastal area like Kerala or Goa. I so wanted to add Mangalore to the list, for obvious reasons you see. Some research and bit of experimentation, I finally cracked the code to a fish biryani; what I also managed to do was integrate into it some coastal flavors. Usually, curd is used to marinate the meat and as a base for the gravy. I substituted  the curds with another coastal staple, coconut milk. The end result was a creamy and sturdier gravy. The coconut milk also helped balance the spice giving it a nice even taste. Another change I made was not marinating but gently frying the fish. That helps to give the fish a slightly firmer texture that helped when cooking the fish in the gravy.

In all earnest, which ever biryani works for you, the best thing to do is go through the entire process of cooking the biryani, whilst doing so savour the aroma and once done, dig in and enjoy a meal fit for royalty.

Coastal Styled FIsh Biryani1

Coastal Styled Fish Biryani


For the rice

  • 2 cups long grained rice
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 1 Inch cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  • 3-cloves
  • 3-4 pepper corns
  • 1 black cardamon
  • salt to taste
  • A pinch of orange food colouring mixed with 20 ml water or milk.

For the Biryani Masala

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped (Increase the quantity if you want it spicier) 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste 
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons Biryani Masala Powder (I used Everest Biryani Masala) 
  • 1 tablespoon tumeric powder (haldi) 
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala powder 
  • large tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 200 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch of corriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Bundle of Mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste

Grind to a paste

  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 10  cloves garlic
  • 2 green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 3-4 pepper corns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander leaves 

For frying the fish:

  • 5 pieces of any firm fleshed fish (I used kingfish)
  • plain red chilli powder to taste 
  • turmeric powder
  • Juice of one lime 
  • salt
  • Oil for frying

For the Garnishing

  • 2 large onions, sliced finely
  • 10-15 cashews, slivered
  • 5-10 almonds, slivered
  • 10 -12 raisins
  • Ghee/ Oil to fry
  • Few Mint leaves
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Salt


To prepare the fish:

  • Wash the fish and pat it dry.
  • Add the lime juice, salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder to the fish and rub well. Keep aside for an hour or so.
  • Now, heat oil in a pan and fry the marinated fish for about 3 minutes a side. You don’t need to entirely cook the dish at this stage.
  • Once done, remove and drain on absorbent paper and keep aside.

To prepare the rice:

  • Heat 4 cups of water in a large vessel and bring to a boil. Tie the whole masala in a small muslin cloth and drop in the boiling water.
  • Soak the rice in water for about 15 minutes. Then wash under running water till the water runs clear.
  • Add the rice to the boiling water and cook for sometime till you see fluffy grains of rice. Don’t stir the rice at this time since you may end up breaking the grains. Add salt and cook till the rice is cooked al dente (75% done)
  • Drain the rice using a colander and make sure the rice is completely devoid of any moisture. Leave it open in a dry place and do not cover the rice
  • Take about a handful of rice in a seperate vessel. To this, add the water in which we had mixed the food colouring and mix well so that the rice absorbs the colour entirely

To prepare the garnishing:

  • Heat oil in sufficiently large frying pan on medium heat.
  • Add the sliced onions and give it a mix so that the oil covers the onions well. Add the salt.
  • Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes till the onions turn reddish brown in colour.
  • Take out from the heat and cover and drain on an absorbent paper.
  • In the same pan, add the cashews, almonds and fry till they turn reddish brown. Once done, take out from heat and drain on an absorbent paper

To prepare the biryani masala: 

  • In a large vessel, heat the oil and add the whole spices, curry leaves and allow them to splutter. 
  • When the spices begin spluttering and releasing aroma, add the chopped onions and let them cook till they turn golden brown. Add the ginger, garlic pastes along with the chillies. At this point add half the onions that we had fried. We will retain the other half for garnishing.
  • Once the onions are done, add the chopped tomato and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and limp.
  • Add the green paste along with very little water. Saute this on a medium flame till the oil begins to leave the sides.
  • Lower the heat and add the coconut milk and mix well. Once the mixture has integrated well add the spice powders. Mix well.
  • Add the fish, and stir gently so that we don’t break the fish fillets/ pieces.
  • Once done, add the chopped corriander and mint leaves.

To assemble the biryani:

  • Line a large vessel with ghee/ oil.
  • Add the gravy mixture. Now add in one half of the onions we had fried earlier and some of the fried cashews, almonds and raisins.
  • Layer the gravy mixture with the cooked rice. Sprinkle the surface with the rice that was mixed with food colouring.
  • Finish the layering with the remaining fried onions and dried fruits.
  • Cover the vessel with a lid that fits perfectly. Or you could cover with aluminium foil so that no steam escapes.
  • Place the vessel on a tawa and cook for 30-40 minutes on a medium flame. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes  after you’ve turned off the gas.
  • Serve hot with raita.