Thursday, 26 May 2011

Restaurant Review–Village, Surat

I will never get bored of Village. Maybe because it is such a fun place. Maybe because the food is so yummy there. Village gives you a experience you won't be disappointed with. Its interiors made up to look like an actual village, the staff dressed up like cute, local village folks and the music and dhol to go in the background. A fantastic way to experience the true, traditional Gujarat.

You are greeted by the jovial staff at the entrance, who will politely ask you for Rs. 250 per person (the entrance charge is fixed and you get to eat unlimited food inside!). A second staff member is collect your coupons and put blue ink stamp on your hand as a token. A lady staff, dressed in ghaghra welcomes you with the thali and tilak (the Indian way!). A dash of colour and music hits you as soon as you enter. A ‘banyan tree’ stands right in the middle, with a bangle seller, a mehendi designer and a jyotish (palm reader) with a fancy laptop sits below it. The banyan tree is decorated with colourful and glittery crepe paper. When there is reasonable crowd, the staff comes up with a dhol and garba (the traditional dance of Gujarat) music. The music is irresistible for garba lovers and the several customers join the staff members to dance around the banyan tree. Heaven knows that we just need an excuse to do garba!

You are made to sit on low cane chairs at wooden tables and served water in brass tumblers. Colourful posters of actors and film posters adorn the walls.

Several food stalls are lined along several portions of the walls. Stalls offering a wide range of delicious food items make your willpower go weak and you give in to the magnetic pull of Gujarati delicacies. Chats, Sweets, Sugarcane juice, Chana, Southindian dishes, Chinese (Yes, Chinese too), Pav Bhaji – all invite you to their stalls. You may choose to try a little bit of everything because it is hard to say no to ANYTHING. You are required to go to the stalls, order to the cooks and pick up your food but the staff is more than willing to help. And, oh yes, masala chai wala and chaas wala will also come round to your table on their cycles!

The main course consists of Gujarati and Rajasthani dishes. The vegetables keep changing but the Kheechu, Kadhi, Dal-bati and khichdi are the standard items because they are staple gujarati dishes each meal is incomplete without. These dishes can be had with different types of rotis – Tandoori, Naan, Chhapati or Bhakri – my favourite. The cherry on the cake is always bhakri with ghee-gud (jaggery). Wind up the meal with yummy cool falooda or hot, melt-in-mouth jalebis or the irresistible gulabjamuns. Or, the favourite Indian drink – Masala Chai (Spicy tea) and you conclude only one thought – Heaven must be serving food like this.

Village is economical and fun. Go here for the whole experience, not just the food. The place can get noisy, with the dhol and music and the excited, hungry customers. Best for big groups, parties and gatherings and good for people with voluminous diets!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

My Journey With Food–The Cartoon Phase


Coming back home is like going back to childhood every time. Every little thing reminds me of my wonderful childhood. Food has a special place in my childhood memories.

My earliest memory is sitting along with my teenaged maid, near the washing area, and watching her finish the food given to her by Mum. My sis was very small that time and I spent a lot of time with the maid, Shaanti and later, Manju. Mum used to give her left-over rice in the same vessel in which it was cooked and she made sure she finished the whole thing. She would proudly show me the empty vessel and say – See, not a single grain of rice left. I thought of my messy plate and decided to leave my plate clean, too, henceforth. And hence, also developed the fascination of eating from the vessel in which food was cooked.

I also remember having Cerolac which Mum made for my sis, who was a baby that time.

Mum has been a strict with us as we grew and did not allow us to have junk food like Maggie, biscuits and cold drinks, especially when we were in primary school. Tiffin for school included Roti-Achar, more often than not. Other kids brought sandwiches and biscuits to school, which were a strict no-no for us.

Amid Mahabharata, Duck Tales and Tom & Jerry, Sunday morning breakfast included soft, fluffy Sabudana khichdi with lots of curd, Upma, Poha, Onion-Ajwain Parantha, Egg fry or Boiled eggs along with Maltova milk, of course. How we hated milk! I used to sit with the glass of milk for hours, till it became ice cold and changed it color. Mum would re-heat it and I would sit with it for an hour again. We demanded Bournvita (looked like it was some yummy, ‘foreign’ thing from the ads) but of course we weren’t allowed that too. Apprarently, Bournvita was ‘unhealthy’ because it was only flavour and no nutrition. Horlicks and Complan were more nutritious. And, of course, Maltova. I can’t say which one was the worst. We enjoyed eating Horlicks powder, though.

We were curious minds. We wanted to know EVERYTHING. So, we wanted to have tea. We weren’t allowed of course. ‘You become dark on drinking tea’, was Dad’s answer, to which we always asked back ‘Then, why do you drink?’. ‘Oh, we can have. You are kids.’ was his unconvincing answer. To keep us happy, a beverage called Chai-dhoodh was created. That is, milk passed through just-used tea leaves. It gave slight flavour of tea to milk and we were quite happy with that arrangement.

We could perhaps be renamed as ever-hungry, starving little monsters. We couldn’t wait till lunch was ready. We made trips to the kitchen every now and then to find out if lunch was ready. We peeped into the vessel cooking on the gas stove. I don’t remember Mum shooing us away with the belan but I won’t be surprised if she did. We would finally sit at the table, ready with our plates and bowls, in anticipation of food, our hungry eyes screaming ‘WE WANT FOOD’. Rotis soaked in home-made ghee or white butter with tasty vegetables and dal would finally satisfy our hunger.

Because of our inability to control hunger, some pre-lunch/dinner snacks were invented - Roti-ghee-namak and Bread-butter-jam.

I was always fond of non vegetarian food. I remembering sitting on the floor of the kitchen gulping down almost the entire tandoori chicken made by Mum. Eggs were a must too. I thoroughly enjoyed fish and prawn on our trips to Goa. Till today, I cannot live without eggs and non vegetarian food.
My sis and I were the ideal sisters pair. I, being the elder one, bullied her. She doted on me and aped me blindly. She did everything I asked her to. We played together for hours. We fought. And yet, we couldn’t live without each other. Everything we had got divided into 2 equal parts - Chocolates, biscuits, fruit pieces. If anything was an odd number, one piece went to Mum! I was usually the one who did the distribution. Sometimes, greed overpowered me. I would hide some pieces behind me and divide the remaining into half. My poor little sister never suspected anything.

Summer vacations meant a long trip to my Maternal grandfather’s place at Bombay. The big city had lots more to offer us. Nana happily brought for us Amul Cheese spread (no, it still hadn’t arrived in my little hometown), Mangoes, Wibs bread and fruit buns and rock hard light yellow boondi laddoo. Wibs bread was so much better than the bread we got at home. My Aunt made for us fruit custard and mango milkshake with mango pieces. Talk about being pampered.

Summers at home meant Aam Pana, Chaas and Roohafsa. And yes, Rose Milkshake. I confess, I never liked it. In fact, I used to drain it down into the sink or in the garden when I thought Mum wasn’t looking. Well, she didn’t because I disclosed this to her only recently and she was..... well, she hadn’t known!

I was keen to move on to Maggie and Tea and Coffee. Little did I know that this was going to be the best phase of my life.