MONSOON TREATS: Have butta, Manglorean buns (a better option to sliced white bread) or even kebabs from the kebab festival on at the Goa Marriott currently, with tawa se pattar ke kebab, harabhara kebab, kadhai se chicken Russian kebab, seekh nilofari, tandoor se mahi tikka, tandoori aloo, etcetera

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

WHAT is it about the monsoon and the pitter-pattering rain which inspires ravenous thirst/hunger for foodie delights! Sorry, that’s how it works for me even if I frown and tell myself the monsoon months are traditionally, and in Ayurveda, the season to be cautious, detox body beautiful, be extra pious and fast more rather than get carried away by feasting and then regretting! Also remember  with the monsoon rains mahadeo takes over the reins of running the world in Hindu religious lore and he is after all also the lord of destruction, taking a keener look at folk who need a helping hand or not. Perhaps they’re suffering too much and it’s time to relieve them from tiresome, joyless living.

One more statistic going to wherever we go after life, I’m not sure. The monsoon season more than any other season weeds out the unfit from the fit, somewhat like being served notice, as in you, you or you, better wind up whatever last wishes you may have by way of giving away your material wealth to loved ones or the unloved ones will take it away through default (just by being there at the right place at the right time or something like that). I see it happen so often around me. For example, a sister who ignored the travails of her older sister for years on end, when informed of her sister’s death, arrived from abroad, sold off all her sister’s property, banked all the money to her credit and then varnished abroad. Funny, there was no love lost between these two sisters!

Comes news that yet another friend living all alone in a rented flat at Caranzalen passed away, all alone, undoubtedly listening to the music of the falling rain outside her windows. I don’t mind mahadev calling me away to the sound of falling rain! I suppose it’s all this morbid thinking along goodbye, cruel world lines which is making me more thirsty and hungry to go check out the festival of kebabs on at the Waterfront restaurant at the Goa Marriott Resort or walk down Miramar beach to invest in the fleeting happiness of a sigdi-roasted hot corncob (butta) smeared with salt, red chili powder and lemon juice (it takes me to my years in Mumbai, that was Bombay)… and there’re the charms of a fresh hot soft Manglorean bun which I’ve recently discovered.

HEY, how did this Manglorean bun come to Goa, it’s a Karnataka favourite and I’m convinced it’s better food than the usual fried puri! Both are fryums but the so called “bun” or “bhubhus roti” are fluffy soft brown affairs and very delectable when it comes from the frying pan fresh and hot. For a  long time I’ve been aware of it in small time eateries in Mumbai and Panjim but never ever ordered it. Then recently while up at the CMM hospital at Altinho I discovered it in the attached small canteen on the ground floor one early morning while looking for tea. Since some nursing staff here were relishing this lovely looking bun I too asked for one and was charmed by the flavour. I asked a few questions and found that the soft sweetness was courtesy a mashed banana in the bun dough.

The Mangalore bun is from the Mangalorean culinary tradition and specifically an Udipi favourite, or so I’m told. It’s easy to make and one may I suppose bind the dough and keep it overnight in the fridge. Use half and half wheat flour and maida, some say use half maida, half all-purpose flour.  I Googled and watched the recipe unfold. A Preetha Srinivasan mashed a ripe banana with her hands on a stainless steel thali, then added a tablespoon of sugar and mashed some more till there was a liquefied mash. Then add half cup flour, knead some more, add a pinch sweet soda, a tablespoon cumin seeds, half cup curd, finally the remaining flour. Sticky mass there but work with it with your hands and it becomes moldable. Rest the dough for two hours or till a finger pressed in offers resistance.

That’s it. Make balls, roll out the puri and deep-fry, dipping the puri in the oil gently. When golden brown remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen tissue to absorb residual oil. Bun is deep fried but leaves little oily fingers, it tears off easily, and is scrumptious. Better than fried puri any day! Though if there is banana in there why add sugar? Try making a Manglorean bun for breakfast/tea-time. It’s quite a filler. Or savour it at Café Real in Panjim where there a pretty hefty bun (`20) which comes with coconut chutney.

Ever since I discovered the Mangalore bun or puri I’ve been looking for it at other places. Order it with filter coffee if you wish, that’s enough for me (skip the coconut chutney because I feel it’s not fresh coconut milk-rich chutney. In some places they milk the grated coconut and use dry stringy leftover choora to turn into a lousy coconut chutney with messy phodni). The hot soft bun is fine as it is and even the not so hot bun is edible. Don’t be snooty because Mangalore bun is seen as down-market native food, something the migrant labour from Karnataka eat in Goa!

Neighbouring Karnataka has some great breakfast fare and not all of it is fried stuff (think of all the many kinds of steamed idli — the usual rice/urad dal batter ones, rava idli, Kancheepuram idli, mini roly poly idli laced in desi ghee and “gun powder” (divine molhapudi chutney powder) …gunda idli in jackfruit leaf cones, ragi idli, poha idli, kulith or horsegram idli, there’s also “kuzhi paniyaram”…the words linger in the mind tantalizingly. One may find all these idli varieties in the Udipi cafes mid-town Matunga/Sion/Chembur belt in Mumbai that was Bombay. Real honest stuff at Madras Café/Mysore Café or my favourite Ramashraya at Matunga (East) station.

(Sigh) Come the monsoon season I miss my old home town of Mumbai. Okay, not town (in a manner of speaking) but big city or three cities rolled in one mega city, as I always say. Over 30 years being a big city girl seeped into my blood or so to speak. Goa? I live in Goa just to breathe!

MY GOA Marriott Resort & Spa friend (actually Samantha Nunes, who’s desserts super chef but is stepping in for Executive Chef Gulati who’s moved onto some other kitchen adventures) called to tell me about their ongoing sizzling kebab and grills festival at the Waterfront Terrace & Bar restaurant. But kebabs are a non-vegetarian affair, I said, and my monsoon style is basically to go very veggie. She sniffed, there are veggie kebabs, and I laughed, that’s like saying there is vegetarian biryani. Don’t play with your words, Samantha retorted. If she knows me I’ll inhale all the kebab aromas wafting in the air and quickly order their mahi fish tikka!

I’m not so fickle, I tell Samantha, and I’m not a kebab person although I may turn up and check out their veggie  kebab temptations one of these rainy days when I’m moon mooning over some yesteryear Hindi film song to do with Nutan or Meena Kumari or Guru Dutt or Raaj Kumar (which reminds me in my 20s in Mumbai. Early in my journalism career, I’d met Raaj Kumar at the Naval Golf Course at the end of Colaba Causeway for an interview, and he was the perfect gentleman. Of course I had a crush on him)…but this is about the kebab festival at the Goa Marriott, maybe I will go taste some veggie kebabs after all.

Interestingly, cottage cheese or paneer makes for some terrific kebabs and anything from the tandoor served up with fresh green mint chutney is fine with me on a rainy, misty, blue  evening, when I feel like life may come to a stop tomorrow, so I better feed myself to the gills today by way of some afterlife insurance.

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