Posts Tagged ‘Sambar’

On the Sambar Trail…


Are you pining for yellowish brown lacy pancakes, puffed white elliptical flying saucers or crunchy toroids served with coconut dip. And your mind is whirling, whirling.. Where do you, where do you go? Like a stuck CD your mind is playing this infernal music while flashing hot, humid, raunchy flashes of crisp Dosa’s, voluptuous Idlis and sizzling Vadas. To escape this vortex of temporary amnesia you check out gastronomique. Voila… There you are…

The infinite wisdom of tailrace coughed up the following. Gurgaon has restaurants galore that serve South Indian… Sanskriti, Naivedyam, Coco Palm – these are the specialists. Then there are the generalists that serve everything under the sun from sweets to Kulcha to Dosa to Manchurian to Dhokla to Vada Pav – Om Sweets, Shyam Sweets, Haldirams, Bikanerwala, they fall in this omnifarious category. Of course none can beat, in price or in taste, the mouthwatering fare served at the nameless South Indian restaurant/ takeaway located next to Maruti Vihar “OUT” gate. This not just an opinion, it is a fact, an axiom, a divine decree. Are you scratching you head and cursing tailrace for throwing this multiplicity of choice at you, already. Sorry, can’t help it. Facts are facts.

There is an easier way out. Check out Tripti. It may be a long way or a short way from you. I do not know. Depends on where you are. At least you have to be in Gurgaon. And you need to know where Qutub Plaza is. If you are still in doubt refer the attached map. If you are lucky the terrain will match it. Can’t say these days. Construction, you know, morbid, rampant construction. Reminds me of the movie, Dark City. Anyways, You can’t miss Tripti with that violent green neon sign announcing its presence. You might be a little addled, but you are not blind, are you? Then you shouldn’t be reading this any further. Full Stop, Period. Sorry, the sign is not written in Braille. Hey, I didn’t mean to disparage you or anything. Just stating the facts. Bored? Are you bored? Goddammit, I have this incorrigible habit of being too verbose. Carried away by words, you see. Dangerous, The habit is. Need to learn to keep my mouth shut. 

Well, so you have reached the restaurant! Wow, Am glad. Now you are standing under the glare of its massive, fluorescent green lettering and gazing through the glass door at the yellow walls (assuming you don’t have x-ray vision like superman in which case you would be seeing through it into the next door hair dresser? well I don’t remember), snake skin chairs, fibre tables on steel legs, the large illuminated framed picture of Sai Baba, the ceiling, the split A/c, Deepak – the restaurant manager, …. Blink, blink, blink. I say you have a keen eye for detail. You have pushed through the door; kicked the fly frying machine with an ultraviolent gleam; that whines constantly and sputters occasionally as it incinerates a desperate flying insect whose departing soul haunts your imagination for a Pico-second. Eh, you have sat down already! Deepak is at your elbow with the menu. What does it have, let me have a look? Oh, you are going for Vada Sambar, too traditional, I would say; and what else? Paper Butter Masala Dosa and Onion Rawa Masala Dosa. Hey, it’s gonna be too much for you, I’m warning you. What? Get Lost? Leave you ALONE? You want to eat in PEACE!!! Dammit, this is how you treat me for showing you this new place. Is this gratitude? O Tempora! O Mores!

The gracious gastronomique’s comments:

Vada/ Sambar: Three crisp Medhu Vadas served on a steel plate overlaid with plantain leaf, accompanied by large bowl of Sambar and tiny cups of tomato n coconut chutney. Delicioooous… Slurrrp…Emptying the Sambar Katori…

Paper Butter Masala Dosa: Same serving pattern as Vada/ Sambar. The paper roast is jutting out like a torpedo on either side of the plate. I attack it from one end while my wife burrow from the other heading for a collision around the middle of the Dosa. After an eternity, with Dosa bits stuck around our mouth, we are surprised to see each other. An MGR hit song bursts into our collective consciousness, we entwine our Masala encrusted fingers and croon. This Dosa is perfect for the romantically inclined. Follow the same modus operandi and you’ll be surprised at the end result. I want to add this recipe to the 10 best ways to rekindle your love life list.

Onion Rawa Masala Dosa: Well, didn’t really have a stomach for this one. But you don’t argue with your tongue or tummy. That’s a cardinal sin. Will haunt you to the wrong side of the coffin.  Never, never commit it. Promise? This Dosa remained within the confines of the plate. Same potato Masala. Same Sambar, same chutney. Only it looked different, all perforated like crochet. Yummy, all the same.

Vada – Sambar: Rs. 50.00
Paper Butter Masala dosa: Rs.70.00
Onion Rawa Masala Dosa: Rs.65.00
Yo, Ho! It’s less than 200 bucks. Hey, I would call that a bargain in this city of diminishing returns.
The delectable’s: No VAT, No Service Charge, Prices all inclusive. That is justice for once.

Rating: 7/10.
Ambience is nothing to talk about. Food is good. Service is prompt. 
Worth the money.

Tripti South Indian Food
N-11, Qutub Plaza Market, DLF City – I, Gurgaon
Contact: 0124-4221992/ 3/ 4/ 5
Free Home Delivery within 3 KM radius. Minimum Order – Rs.150.00
Tripti menu on Foodiebay: Click Here (Sorry, Not Yet Featured on Foodiebay!!!)

Categories: Gastronomique

Sariska – Return of the Stripes

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Waking up on a chill December morning is an ordeal. It was still dark and cold when we loaded up sandwiches and water in the car and headed for Sariska at dawn. 50 km down NH-8 to Dharuhera, we took the left turn to Bhiwadi; 10 km further realized that we were probably going in the wrong direction, made enquiries, veered around and came upon the turn to Alwar. A few shoe shops, a juice vendor, a tree and this road inside. That was it!  No signage! At a junction further ahead we stopped again and asked for directions, turned right and took the road beside Ashiana village, another left and an immediate right and we were on Alwar Bypass. It struck us that while driving on Indian roads “SPOKEN DIRECTIONS” are far more reliable than written ones. Signages are few, often misleading, either plastered over with posters or well concealed from view. The best thing is to ask pedestrians or bystanders when in doubt.

Driving down the sunlit country road flanked by glorious yellow-green mustard fields shrouded in early morning mist was sheer pleasure. At Kurd Chawandi near Tijara we stopped to breakfast on ‘garam-garam’ Aloo-Pyaz, Mixed Paranthas and hot tea, at Chirag restaurant – a shudh shakahari, pavitr hotel. The single lane road was practically traffic-free. Aravali hills formed a corrugated backdrop against panoramic vistas of emerald green fields.

Mid morning, after a brief wait at a railway level cross near Alwar, we took the right turn from the second roundabout, passed over another railway crossing and sped along the road immediately to the left. At a fork we took the uphill road on the right which led straight to Sariska, 40 km further on.

The blue signboard announcing Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel was easy to miss. The narrow, badly maintained road to the palace wound along an ancient aqueduct; bordered by eucalyptus trees, gooseberry orchards and lush green fields. Heavy traffic of motorbikes, Jugaads and jeeps on the road frequently forced us off the tarmac. There were several eating joints beside a large pool at the point where the road climbed towards the palace hotel. Inside the compound, there was just enough space to park about 10 cars. The palace which was built by Maharajah Vinay Singh of Alwar in 1845 as a hunting lodge have recently been converted into a heritage hotel maintained by RTDC. We paid the entrance fee and climbed up to a balcony. Down below, the azure lake lay shimmering in the clasp of grubby, fractured sandstone hills; tinged yellow along the brim by mustard blossoms. There were birds along the lake edge; near the shore an old man in white ploughed the field with a white bullock; we could see villages in the distance. A strong wind ruffled our hair and bent potted plants kept along balustrades where guests sunned themselves. We sat sipping tea on the balcony for a while, taking in the idyllic setting. Back at the car park, we found clean, spotless toilets close by. Refreshed, relieved we resumed our journey to the sanctuary.

The road became progressively worse as we neared Sariska. For a kilometer or two within sanctuary limits we were forced to grind along edges of cavernous potholes in low gear. Entry tickets were available from the Project Tiger counter located on the main road, 500 meters from the sanctuary gate. We could either take our car or hire open air Maruti Gypsies run by the forest department. We chose to drive ourselves. At the sanctuary main gate we had to provide vehicle and driver name for records. The sanctuary rules prohibited us from straying off the main road. Playing music on car stereo was not permitted. Under no circumstances were we to step out of the car.

The asphalt road within the sanctuary was in bad shape. Possibly intentional – it helped to limit speed within the stipulated 30 kmph. We drove along at a snail’s pace scanning the the jungle on either side of the road. My wife was the first to catch sight of a wild boar. It seemed quite unconcerned by our presence and continued to munch grass. Uncharitably, the first image which flashed across my mind was that of Obelix grilling wild boar over bonfire. Further down the road we spotted groups of peafowl, Sambar, Nilgai and Chital. They peered at us curiously but did not pay us much attention when we stopped close by. Trees closed in as we moved deeper into the jungle. This was dry deciduous forest and foliage was not very dense. At several places it opened up into savannahs of brown grass. Occasionally a Sambar or Chital streaked across the road. Sometimes they paused to stare before vanishing into the undergrowth. A pack of jackals, brownish, with ears perked up, strolled along the road. Grey Partridges waddled about picking at the ground and jumped inside thickets as we approached. Peafowl were everywhere, on the road, under the shade, top of trees; the peacock easily spotted because of its fluorescent blue green feathers. Several parrots roosted on a bare tree, giving it a transient pale green foliage.

Signboards along the road announced the distinguished residents of Sariska caracal, leopard, tiger! In 2005, the sanctuary earned the dubious distinction of being a tiger reserve sans tiger. Three tigers have since been reintroduced and are reported to be faring well. We were fortunate to spot this one!!!

Langurs – black faced and long tailed stalked the road in groups, hoping to be fed by visitors. On one occasion we stopped the car to feed them and got mobbed by the gang. They climbed over the car, stuck to the windshield, perched on side mirrors and tried to insert fingers through windows.  Later, forest officials reprimanded us for feeding them. We understood that instead of helping them, we were harming them. By giving them food we discouraged animals from foraging which was ultimately detrimental to their well-being.

The main road ended at Pandupol temple, dedicated to Hanuman. Langurs and Rhesus monkeys walked about unmolested, under the auspices of the monkey god. According to legends, Pandavas spent part of their Vanavas here. The stone arch over a cascade is reputed to have been created by Bhim by smashing his mace (Gada) on the rock. We parked our car near the temple entrance and walked a little way inside. Water trickled over large smooth boulders, there were silver fish in stagnant pools, a Sambar stared at us from inside a palm groove, squirrels scurried about, a kingfisher sat perched on a palm tree, all around it was quiet except for the rustle of leaves. Back at the temple there were a group of cacophonous pilgrims. Near the sign which exhorted to keep the temple premises clean, a man performed his daily ablutions. A visit to the stinking toilet and the litter was sufficient for us to drop the idea of having samosas from nearby shops.

The sanctuary gate was close to 25 kms from the temple. It was getting late, the slanting evening sun rays had withdrawn to cliff tops.  We turned left from the sanctuary gate intending to return via NH-8 instead of Alwar. A dilapidated fort over looked Thana Gazi  town where we stopped to fuel. A short snack break at Virat Nagar and we hurried on to Shahpura where the road met NH-8. Driving on the pitch dark country road with oncoming vehicles on high beam was extremely difficult. We breathed a sigh of relief as we touched the highway. NH-8 was choke full of trucks which necessitated frequent lane shifts and weaving through traffic. It was late night when we reached Gurgaon, braving traffic jams, rogue drivers and wheezing trucks.

Although we couldn’t spot the star attraction of the sanctuary, it was a delightful experience. During the visit, we noticed several people step out of their vehicles violating the sanctuary rules. People flung tea cups out of the car and littered several spots.  We were ourselves guilty of feeding animals, for our pleasure and for the fantastic photo op.

I hope we all realize that the wildlife sanctuary is the home of animals – they are born and raised there, that’s where they live and die. As guests enjoying their hospitality and goodwill it is our responsibility to respect the animals and their environment instead of spoiling it. We should stop being selfish, at least for the while we are being with them.

RTDC Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel

RTDC , New Delhi
1st Floor, Bikaner House
Pandara Road, New Delhi – 110001
Tel: +91-11-23383837, 23386069, 23381884

RTDC Hotel Bookings:

Chirag Hotel (Shudh Shakahari, Pavitr Hotel)
Kurd Chawandi near Tijara
Mob: 9982448744

Sri Ganapati (Sweets & Gud Wallah) – Virat Nagar
For hot Gajar Ka Halwah and Moong Dal Halwah
Mob: 9829861527

Viratnagar ke Prasidh Pakode Awam Dahi Wade wale
For those unforgettable pakora’s and mirch bajji’s
Mob: 9636057950

Note: Preferably carry food and water. Once inside the sanctuary, nothing will be available until you reach the Hanuman temple. The food available near the temple is not clean or hygenic.

Warning: Entry to the reserve is free on Saturdays. But noisy pilgrims throng the temple.  Hords of schoolchildren descend on the sanctuary. Buses honk you off the road. In my opinion, avoid visiting Sariska on Saturdays.

Photo Courtesy: Subha Varma/ V P Vinod

Categories: Totternama

Serendipitious delights

October 27, 2009 3 comments

Sometimes the best things in life are discovered entirely by chance. Like yesterday night when we came across this tiny shack near the rear exit of Anzal Plaza in Sector-22, Gurgaon. All of us were in a mood for a quick bite and that was probably why “Vada Pav” caught my eye so quickly. “Vada Pav“, a native of Maharashtra is a rare sight in Gurgaon. So, it was pure ecstasy to find it tucked away in this remote corner of the universe.

We were delirious with anticipation as we approached and immediately spotted the Vada‘s from far away. We rubbed our eyes and pinched each other to make sure this was no mirage. The Vada’s were definitely there for the taking, but Pav, nope, Pav was exhausted. We were heart broken but decided to try the Vada anyway. Soon, steel plates with Vada’s swimming in coconut chutney and red chilly paste were passed around. My god, amazing Vada‘s, authentic Mumbai flavour mouth watering Vada. We nearly exhausted the restaurant’s Vada inventory. My friend in the meantime couldn’t resist a chicken soup which he later claimed to have tasted a bit like Sambar! There were many more alluring items on the menu like chicken lolly pops, varieties of soups and momos. The food was warm and hygienic. The setting was informal; sweet chill of incipient winter was in the air, and steaming Vada‘s melted in our mouth.

The owner was thin, dark and pleasant faced. He was a Shetty from Mangalore. He asked if we were Malayalee’s and as we nodded in a semi trance induced by Vada, he told his story. He had come to Gurgaon, 11 years ago and had never returned to his native town. He could understand Malayalam, but could hardly speak the language, though he had many friends from Kerala. The shack primarily catered to students from nearby colleges and he was doing brisk business. We could see that. Even at this late hour there were a group of students chatting away at a corner over tea and momos. He had plans to expand the set up to cope up with the demand. He was particularly attentive to us. Compared to his, our lives were easy. Yet, he was optimistic and cheerful at the end of the day. Probably he has to wake up at 4 AM and start over.

Our nocturnal adventure was coming to an end. This was another instance of chance triumphing over well laid plans, reinforcing my belief in serendipity. I vowed to be more open to chance and its unexpected delights as we drove away.

Where to find Ashva’s Fast Food

It’s on the lane next to Anzal’s Plaza in Sector – 22, Gurgaon. Shetty can be reached at 9718559669.

Categories: Gastronomique