Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 16, Tuesday, April 19, 2011

 

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD

Lunch blues

By Kaniska Chakraborty

What do you do when you suddenly figure out that you have a completely free weekend? And if the weekend happens to be in Colombo? I was pleasantly surprised upon my checking in on Saturday morning in Colombo that all work will only begin on Monday.

I was staying with the wonderful Henri and Asoka De Saram, otherwise known as Uncle and Aunty De Saram. Trust me, if you meet them, you will also call them Uncle and Aunty.

This posed a problem of plenty. There are so many things to do, as in any city I might be visiting, that I was really spoilt for choice.

First call of action, a deep sleep. I travelled for 12 hours and through the previous night. I deserved the sleep. Nay, I needed the sleep. Sleep was well aided by Aunty De Saram's wonderful breakfast. Toast, scrambled eggs with tomato and shallots, little chicken sausages and some of that famous tea.

Woke up fresh and hungry. Did not want to disturb the De Saram couple. Resorted to texting my friend in Calcutta for some numbers. He came here recently and spent some wonderful time eating.

He sent me the number of Raja Bohun, a Sri Lankan restaurant. Apparently, it is famous for its lunch buffet. Raja Bojun is on the wonderful stretch of road called Galle Face Road, bang opposite Cinnamon Grand, a boutique hotel. I took a trishaw to get there.

I do not shy away from a good game of bargaining and the trishaw driver looked like a prime subject. As I started haggling over the fare, he gave me a lesson in philosophy. He said that he was a local and sure, I could flag down any passing trishaw and get a little cheaper ride, but what he offered was peace of mind. If I, by mistake, left something in his trishaw, I could be assured that it would be there if I came looking for it later. I could not argue with that.

As a reward, he took the scenic route. A lane that led straight to the ocean side, the Marine Drive.

With the first right turn, the ocean kept our company. My heat and dust battered soul was drinking in every iota of the saline, moist air. My cement and glass tired eyes were greedily drinking the placid look of the water. A pizza delivery guy zoomed by on his motorcycle. A lonesome man walked by the seaside. A narrow gauge rail line carried a train on its way to Galle. The world was an ok place.

The entrance to the place was very deceiving. I have never seen a more corporate looking walkway, lined with small water bodies, large glass doors, and a black corridor. A few turns takes you to a large glass double door. You walk in and are amazed.

You face a huge bay window, overlooking a very placid Indian Ocean. A rail track passes by. A large space with well spread out tables. Nicely air conditioned, despite the fierce sun beating down through the windows. Part of the ceiling is also of glass.

A large wooden elephant stands guard, while I, the mere mortal, marvel at this newfound wonder. A silent thanks to my friend and I was off inspecting the spread.

Red rice, fresh looking salads, emerald hued sautéed greens, crab, fish, chicken, assortment of chutneys, various sambols, fried shallots, curried yams, creamy yellow daal and a veritable spread of desserts led well by the king of the heap, watalappa.

And there was a live hopper counter. A chef was at it, heating the pans, pouring batter into them, carefully covering and heating them to a mellow point, expertly breaking an egg in each of them. I have seen it all before. I have loved it all before.

What really caught my attention was the curious way the chef was heating up the empty hopper pan and then bringing it close to his ears. I was told that he was looking for the telltale “singing” of a perfectly heated pan. The heat made the metal make a very low hum and that's how the chef knows the pan is ready for a batter bath.

I was sitting in an almost empty restaurant, nursing a cold ginger beer. I was making multiple trips to the buffet table. I was staring at the ocean. I was being won over by the serenity, the simplicity of the setting, the warmth of the waiters who by mistake got me two consecutive glasses of hot water and smilingly corrected themselves each time.

Was the food authentic? Who cares when you are that happy, that relaxed? And I'll tell you one thing. The ocean looked very authentic.


SPOTLIGHT

Those tangy treats

One of the fondest memories that I have of my grandmother is when I used to give her a hand in spreading out the 'boroi' and 'jolpai' on the terrace for drying, running about and merrymaking with the thought of devouring her special 'aachar', the enticing aroma already fresh in my senses.

Although my tender taste buds back then were yet to develop the acquired taste, it was the preparation process and the festivity that allured me the most about making pickles, more than tasting the outcome eventually. It seemed that the whole objective of visiting 'dadubari' every year somehow concentrated on this very point, where we got to spend quality time with our extended family, while doing something that has been running as a tradition for longer than I can remember. But as 'Dadu' passed away, what was left behind was only the 'bari', and the frequent visits came to a halt.

The ritual of pickle-making came to an end as well with my mother being too busy trying to juggle her work and family life. Even cooking three meals a day seemed like a huge pressure to put on her. With age, just like how one loses the excitement of wearing new clothes on Eid or having a grand birthday party for friends, I lost that childhood enthusiasm for pickles.

When I relate this story of mine, I don't just speak for myself but for millions like me who have seen this great art lose its footing and

die away. With the advance in the economy and a much appreciated change in the social structure, women today have greater roles to play in moulding our nation.

And this means lesser time for unnecessary luxury, and unfortunately spending one's valuable time making pickles falls under this category. But, when grandma's exquisite recipes for these sweet and sour condiments were being tarnished at an ever increasing rate, it was the commercial sector that came to the rescue.

'Aachars' are undoubtedly an integral part of Bangladeshi cuisine, and hence their demand has always been steady throughout time. But when the legacy of home-made 'aachars' were meeting its dead end, companies like Pran, BD, Ahmed, Nicobena and many more took this opportunity to fill the gap in the market.

“Although picking up your favourite 'aachar' from the shelf of your nearby retail store is way easier and less time consuming than making it by hand, the taste is never the same,” says Moshfeqa, a university student.

But Shahin, a corporate mother, expresses a contrasting opinion by saying, “Bottled aachars probably taste better than they would have if I made them. Moreover, I don't think that it is worth spending those extra hours in your kitchen which you can use to take care of more pressing concerns. To me, these companies are doing a great job in mass producing pickles and I will confess to being a satisfied customer.”

Indira, a home maker said, “I wish I could make aachar as well as my mum did, but still I try making some 'chatnis' by hand on certain special occasions.”

One common fact is revealed by these varied opinions - the chain of transferring the knowledge of 'aachar' making from one generation to the other has been broken, along with the point of infeasibility. The consumption of store-bought 'aachar' is so widespread nowadays that companies like Radhuni are investing in widespread campaigns and hosting cooking shows to discover rare talents who can really make 'aachars' the way they were once made.

Regardless, given below are some recipes which are personal favourites and can be sampled if time and energy permit.

Shobji Achaar (Vegetable Pickle):
You can use tough vegetables like carrot, cucumber or cauliflower for this purpose. The recipe is for 1 kg of vegetables.

First wash the vegetables and steam-boil them. After the boiling is half way through, dry the vegetables using a paper towel and set them aside. Pour a cup full of mustard oil into a pan and let it heat for a while. Then add 'pachforon', de-seeded and dried red chillies, and garlic to the oil and fry them until brown.

Then add the vegetables and salt to taste. Keep churning the mix for 5 minutes and then add half a cup of vinegar, half a teaspoon of methi powder and sugar to taste. Mix and serve.

Lebur Aachar (Lemon Pickle):
Take 10 fresh and juicy lemons and peel off the outer green covering. Take a glass jar and fill it up with half a kg of salt. Add the lemons to the salt in the jar. Set the jar in the sun to dry for at least 20 days and serve afterwards.

Moricher Aachar (Chilli Pickle):
Take 250g of fresh red chillies and wash them with water. Dry them using a paper towel and make sure there is no moisture residue left. Then add four cups of vinegar to a glass jar and a tablespoon of salt. Add the chillies to the mixture and put the jar in the sun for 15 days. Then brace yourself to taste the final product.

By Afrida Mahbub


READER'S CHIT

Las Vegas - what happens there, stays there

Nicknamed Sin City, Las Vegas is the most populous city of the U.S. state of Nevada. A major tourist destination, the city attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year.

Las Vegas is famous for its hotels, resorts and casinos - 15 of the world's largest hotels and resorts are located in this city. The architectural beauty of some of its luxurious hotels might leave you with your eyes and mouth wide open.

The New York-New York Hotel & Casino, for instance, was built to bring to mind the famous New York City (NYC) skyline. From a distance, this hotel will give you the feeling of standing in the bustling New York City. The hotel's towers were built in likeness of NYC skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. A replica of the famous Brooklyn Bridge graces the front of the hotel; there is even a 150-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty, the iconic symbol of freedom, right in front of this New York-New York Hotel.

Hotels and resorts like Luxor and the Venetian evoke Egypt and the Italian city of Venice respectively. Named after the Egyptian city of Luxor, the Luxor Hotel was constructed in the shape of a pyramid; Luxor is often regarded as the world's third-largest hotel.

A replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza in front of the hotel continues to mesmerise the Las Vegas visitors. The Venetian Resort, Hotel & Casino, on the other hand, will take you from America to Italy. You can enjoy the famous Gondola rides of Venice right on the artificial water body created in front of this hotel. The hotel also boasts a re-creation of the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.

Famous and infamous for adult entertainment and gambling, this city of sin never goes to sleep. Walking on Las Vegas strip at 1 a.m. is not too different from strolling along it in the early evening or afternoon. One sees people of different cultures and ethnicity all over this Entertainment Capital of the World. Also renowned for fine dining, some of the finest chefs on the planet work for the city's various hotels and resorts. Small wonder that a meal at a gourmet restaurant may cost one a fortune.

Las Vegas also boasts some of the best shopping malls of America. The big brand names and upscale department stores have their outlets in the city. Half an hour spent inside The Crystals gave me goose bumps the merchandises offered by Gucci, Prada, Versace and Fendi were stunning but their prices made someone like me spin on her toes.

Most of these stores do not even have price tags on their products; I realised that people who shop at such stores have no time and interest for prices. Money is what they have in abundance.

Visitors bump into celebrities in this city. There are live performances by big and famous stars all through the year. David Copperfield was doing his magic shows while we were in Vegas. City billboards were promoting upcoming live shows of Celine Dion, Seinfeld and others.

So yes, Las Vegas is a mind-boggling city. It did not garner nicknames like 'Sin City', 'Entertainment Capital of the World' and 'Glitter Gulch' for no reason. There are so many things to do and to see that three or four days will never seem enough. Besides, one also needs a fat wallet in order to enjoy what this magnificent city has to offer.

By Wara Karim


NEWS FLASH

Howzat!

The increasingly cluttered city life often leaves no space for children to indulge their passion and interests. The recent cricket World Cup has undoubtedly created new waves of cricket fans, most of them children. To cater to the needs of young fans who unfortunately do not have the outlet to express their passion and love of playing the game, and also to keep that passion alive, Kentron Edutainment has brought out Chokka Char, a cricket board game that should keep fans busy for hours.

Kentron Edutainment, a concern that believes in `education through entertainment', has introduced this game for children of six and older. The board game consists of a two feet by two feet board, 11 'players' for each side, 4 die -- two each for the bowler and batsman -- and two sets of umpire cards called Hitz and Howzat.

The two die for the batsman are the Hitz dice (with numbers on five sides and the word 'Hitz' on one) and the Colour Zone dice (which determines into which colour zone the ball is hit). The two die for the bowlers are the Howzat dice (with five of its sides containing the letter R and one side containing the word Howzat) and a Colour Zone dice similar to the batsman's.

The match begins with a toss. The bowling team arranges their fielding positions covering the whole ground with those 11 tiny players. The field is covered with small circles in different colours, with the colour zones demarcating the different fielding positions.

Once all is set, the bowler throws the dice that has the letter R on all sides except one, which has the word Howzat. If the dice lands with R on top, then the batsman hits the ball by throwing both the Hitz and Colour Zone dice. The batsman throws his batting dice. Bowler targets to get quick wickets, while the batsman eyes for Chokkas (sixes) and Chars (fours) to score a handsome target.

If the dice lands with Howzat or Hitz on top, the bowler or batsman takes a HowZat or Hitz card and follows instructions overleaf. The game comes with a detailed set of instructions, which will make the players familiar with the rules and therefore able to enjoy the game to the full.

With detailed scorecards, the Chokka Char cricket game will allow cricket lovers to indulge their passion without having to break into a sweat.

For more information call: 01711472367

-LS Desk


TIPS

For a healthy summer

Now that the rousing celebrations of our Bengali New Year are over, what we are left with is a touch of festive hangover and, much more significant it now seems, the heat. Boishakh and Joishthho are the months that usher in summer, and summer in Bangladesh is oppressive, with the heat and humidity combining to sap all our energy. But the world does not stop for anyone, and staying in the shade just because its hot under the sun is not an option for today's jetsetters. Here are a few tips on surviving the ravages of the season, especially for those who have to do a lot of walking as part of their daily routine.

Rehydrate yourself
First and foremost concern is dehydration. The blazing sun means that sweating profusely is inevitable which means you will be dehydrated which in extreme cases, may cause you to faint. So, carry a water bottle and make sure you drink plenty of water.

Protect yourself from the sun
The sun is indeed very cruel in our country during these months, be it on the skin or on overall health. If you do not want to get sunburns put on some sunscreen before leaving the house. Also carry an umbrella so that you do not get a heat stroke. Keeping wet wipes is also a good idea for instant refreshment.

Outfit and make-up
Try to wear cotton clothes, be it a sari, kameez or panjabi. Wearing materials like silk, georgette in this heat will definitely not be a good idea because they will just make you feel hotter in all the heat.

Avoid excessive make-up because all of it is going to be smudged in an hour or so anyway. Eyeliner and lipstick should suffice for the occasion.

Accessories
If you are one who likes to walk, wearing heels may become quite painful by the middle of the day. Wear flat sandals or low heels which will save you the pain of blisters and swollen feet.

Try to carry bags that are not too big or heavy as this will only cause you to spend some extra energy carrying them. Pick a small purse and take only the bare essentials with you.

By Karishma Ameen

   
 

 

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