Drinks, Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Panakam

panakamPanakam is a simple sweet drink prepared during festivals like Rama Navami. In my village, Thekkegramam, this drink is served to people pulling the temple chariot on Rama Navami day. Some households would keep a huge vessel full of Panakam and serve it to every thirsty passerby. It is a good thirst quencher and natural body coolant. It is healthy since jaggery is used instead of sugar. Dry ginger powder and cardamom powder used for flavoring gives it special aroma and taste. There is no specific recipe for this drink as it is very simple and can be made as per personal preference.

Ingredients:
Jaggery – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Cardamom powder – a pinch
Dry ginger powder/chukku, soonth – 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice (optional) – 2 tsps or to taste

Preparation Time: 5 mins
Makes 2 glasses

Method: Add water to the jaggery and let it melt. Add cardamom, dry ginger powder, and lemon juice. Mix well. Use a strainer to filter it out. Chill and serve.

Tips: You may add few Tulasi (basil) leaves for garnish. You can also add a pinch of pepper powder to jazz it up.
You may omit lemon juice. Just the cardamom and dry ginger gives a wonderful flavor and taste.
This is a default item that we make at home after we have finished making jaggery coated banana chips. A lot of jaggery, dry ginger powder, and elaichi remains in the vessel in which the chips are made. So just add water to the vessel and make a drink.

Breakfast, Drinks, Vegan

Apple Beet Carrot Juice

beet carrot juiceA simple and healthy raw juice packed with goodness. Best to have any time of the day. Some beneficial substances in beet are lost when cooked so having beet raw provides maximum benefits. Raw beet has many desirable side effects. To list a few, it helps fight cancer, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes blood vessels. But don’t be surprised if your stool and urine turns red! 🙂

Ingredients:
Beetroot – 1 small or 1/2 of a large one
Carrot – 1 medium
Apple – 1/2
Ginger – 1/2 piece
Mint leaves – 5-10
Rock salt/kala namak (optional) as needed
Water as needed

ingredients

Preparation time: 7 mins
Making time: 5 mins
Makes 1 large glass

Method:
Peel and dice beetroot and carrot. Cut the apple into medium size pieces. Peel ginger.
I do not have a juicer and hence made it in the mixer. Place all ingredients in the mixer and process until liquefied. Pour the contents of the mixer into a large strainer and collect the strained juice in a vessel. Process the strained pulp once again in the mixer adding small quantities of water.
Repeat the straining process.
Enjoy fresh and healthy beet juice.

Drinks, Everyday Simple Recipes, Vegan

Almond Milk Mango Smoothie

Before the mango season is over, here is a vegan protein-rich mango smoothie.

Almond milk

Almond milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk and a healthy component for a smoothie. I am not sure if almond milk is available in the Indian markets. I followed instructions in this web site to make almond milk.

Ingredients:
Ripe mango – 2
Almond milk – 1 glass
Sugar – 2-4 tbsp. (per preference and as per sweetness of the mango)
Vanilla essence (optional) – 2 drops
Cinnamon powder – a pinch

Method:
Peel and slice the mango into cubes and put in a blender. Add sugar and blend till smooth. You could use honey to make a non-vegan version. Add almond milk, vanilla essence, and blend again. Pour into a vessel and refrigerate. Before serving, sprinkle cinnamon powder on the surface. Serve chilled.

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Breakfast, Chutneys/Thogayals/Dips/Podis, Dosas, Drinks, Snacks, South Indian, Tiffin

Amba Bhavan

Amba Bhavan Coffee Club | click to enlarge

No, it’s not the name of a dish. “Amba Bhavan Coffee Club” is a simple, unpretentious eatery in Matunga, Mumbai, one that was started way back in 1934. Whenever I visit Matunga, (which is around 15 km away from where I live, but in Mumbai, 15 km is not a big deal) I make it a point to visit Amba. The taste of their sada dosa and sambar is a major pull, and you just can’t ignore this simple, no-frills place, which still has an old-world charm. Amba is managed and run by down-to-earth people who serve food that your palate will never forget!

Amba doesn’t have a very elaborate menu, just the usual sada dosa, rava dosa, mysore masala, ghee sada, idli, etc., etc. The special items that they serve are kela bajji (raw banana dipped in besan batter and fried), kadi vada (lentil vada soaked in a yoghurt-based curry), and rasam rasam vada

vada (mixed lentil vada soaked in spicy hot rasam). My personal favorites are ghee sada, rava sada, and rasam vada. What is unique about Amba’s dosa is the use of methi seeds in the batter, which no other restaurants use. The methi seeds add to the wonderful flavor of the dosa. This combined with the sambar that has JUST enough jaggery to neutralize the pungent taste of tamarind without spoiling the spiciness is nothing short of yum! The amount of jaggery in sambar is where, I feel, the normal Udupis in Mumbai fail. They just don’t get it right. I would much rather eat a sandwich from a Mumbai Udupi than order a dosa and be forced to eat it with the sweet sambar or worse eat the chutney that is full of pottu kadalai (roasted split peas dal). But the sambar at Amba is like no other, and if you are a frequent customer, the waiter would even give you some molaga podi (gun powder), sometimes even without you asking for it! The gun powder is another one of their masterpieces.

filter coffee

South Indian filter coffee is something every coffee lover goes gaga over. So it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t say anything about Amba’s filter coffee. Well, what about it, you might ask. Try it once and you will know! Its one of the best I have tasted. But more than anything, I love the way the coffee is served – in two stainless steel tumblers, one big and one small. Which one should you drink from is entirely up to you. Mix well till the sugar dissolves and then take that first sip, which is what I would call the ultimate coffee experience! Well, at least for me, it definitely is.

And Amba offers all these heavenly items at prices that are down-to-earth without compromising the taste. The crowd at Amba is a queer mix. You share tables with either the temple priest from Asthika Samaj dressed in his dhoti and anga vastram or you are sitting next to a bunch of chirpy teenagers out to have their fill after boring tutions. But at Amba you just do not feel odd sharing a table with strangers. Amba has wide open doors and huge windows too and is airy and leisurely.

I have always been intrigued by the names of some South Indian eateries that became iconic with time. Take Amba’s case itself. Seventy years back, who would have related the sound of Amba Bhavan with food? I wonder how they came up with these interesting names like Saravana Bhavan, Arya Nivas, Hariharaputra, and the like. Who would have imagined Mavalli Tiffin Room will be an everyday household name throughout India and indispensible in the NRI kitchen? What an unlikely name for an eatery, YEM-TEE-ARR (as a mallu would say it)!

Almost every place in South India has such a restaurant to boast about where people like my parents (who practically never eat out) are comfortable going to. Since the time I can remember, Hariharaputra is the ONLY hotel where we have eaten out. It is called the Brahmanaal Hotel (which means a hotel run by Brahmins). Palakkad has 3 such places. TNVR, Mani’s Cafe, and Hariharaputra. Their kitchen walls might look black, they might not have the cleanest of hand-washing areas, and they might not give you hand tissues, but the food served in these places have no substitute at all! I remember eating out once with my college friends in a restaurant where the waiters wore white dresses with red borders and a cap. I found it so odd compared to the friendly waiter at Harihariputra who wore a dhoti that was begging for some Ujala!

I need to be born again and have oodles of Saraswati Kataksham to be able to describe the taste of the mysurpa that Hariharaputra serves. There will be enough water in my mouth to steer a ship each time I think about their mysurpa. Same goes with the Rava Kesari (Rava Sheera) at Mani’s Cafe. Nothing short of marvellous, I say!

Coming back to Amba, just like the place, the rules of the place are also very simple. It opens at 7:00 in the morning and is open until 8:00 in the night and serves only tiffin (in other words, snacks). Amba does not have a separate menu for lunch or dinner. Though a lot of the Gujju crowd (who dig South Indian food) eats out regularly and frequents restaurants only after 8.00 PM, Amba sticks to its own set of rules and closes its doors by 8:00.

I was fortunate enough to speak to the humble and ever smiling owner of this place. He was kind enough to share some of the incidents and challenges from the time Amba was conceived until now. He also invited me to his house to meet his wife who could share lots of culinary tips.

If you live in Mumbai and are a fan of South Indian food, please visit Amba at least once to taste authentic South Indian food. If you live elsewhere, hunt down the Saravana Bhavan or the Hariharaputra of your place. If you are new to the place, just ask the elderly, and I am sure you will find a Bharat Hotel or an Amma Mess. Long live places that serve good food!

And look, Amba is on Facebook too!

Addendum: Amba is very close to King’s Circle and is in the same lane as Asthika Samaj Kochu Guruvayur temple. The address is: 373, Patel Mahal, Matunga, Mumbai, India, 400019.

I invite all my readers to share their thoughts and experiences about food or eateries that are special to their heart. I plan to have a reader’s corner very soon and all of you are welcome to share your thoughts here.

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Drinks, Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Chukku Kaapi (Dry Ginger Coffee)

Sitting snuggled up in your sofa, warm and cozy, watching the drizzle with a steaming cup of coffee in your hand; something all of us wanna do during monsoons. Imagine the coffee had a very interesting twist! Chukku kaapi (dry ginger coffee) is the perfect example of a spicy coffee that can tickle all the taste buds in your tongue.

Ingredients:
Dry ginger (crushed): 1 piece
Jaggery: 1 rectangular piece (as needed)
Tulsi leaves – 4-5
Peppercorns (crushed) – 1/2 tsp
Elaichi (crushed) – 1/2 tsp
Water – 1 glass
Coffee powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)

Method:

Boil the glass of water and melt jaggery in it. Add the dry ginger, tulsi leaves, peppercorns, coffee powder, and elaichi and let it boil for 2 minutes. Strain and serve piping hot.

This concoction tastes as good or better even without the coffee powder. So those of you who are conscious of caffeine intake can do away with the coffee powder.

Gently sip in and the sweetness hits you first. As you gulp it down the throat, the heat and spiciness hits you! Thats why it’s a coffee with an interesting twist. Gives you good relief if you have a sore throat and blocked nose. Do give it a try before the monsoons fade away.

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