I was chatting with a colleague about driving all the way to Fahaheel to eat at Saravanaa Bhavan and realized that I’ve had lunch there in three different countries. They’re turning into the Mc Donalds of Tamil Nadu I guess.
My family and I went there for Friday lunch since the Special Thali is very popular. Waiting for a table on a weekend might take 10 minutes or so but once we sat down we were served very quickly. Food tasted great and service was quick considering the overall crowd at the place. It just cost us 9.750 KD for 5 persons which is a great deal considering you’d pay 3 KD for an Onam meal in some places in Kuwait.
Recently I watched Heston Blumenthal’s “In search of perfection” series for like the millionth time and was eager to try out making the perfect burger on my own. I used to think that a perfect burger would require exotic cuts of meat like Black Angus or Wagyu but since it all boils down to the freshness and quality of the meat I tried it with fresh Indian beef (chilled, not frozen).
The new City Center in Dajeej has a really good meat section and the guy there will adjust the meat:fat ratio based on your requirements. The pre-ground trays were all extra-lean with 95:5 so I asked him to portion out a piece of lean rump (I think it was rump or shoulder) and add approximately 20% fat. Fat, as I understand is what gives the patty a juicy and soft texture. Meat that is too lean will end up in a patty that’s too dry and tasteless.
As much as I love cooking, the thought of writing all these notes is a pain in the neck. Now without going into too much boring detail into the making of the patties, I’ll list some of the things I learned in the process. Click to read more for pictures and video;
I was on my way back from work Friday night when I called home asking what everyone wanted for dinner. Through some coincidence the options came down to either ‘I Like it Spicy’ or ‘Khyber’. Since I was in the area I went straight to Khyber and ordered Spicy Tikkas, Puris, Parathas and Dal Makhni.The place is rather small but neatly maintained, I don’t recall having actually dining there when I was kid since we usually got takeout on weekends. The place hasn’t changed much in all these years and I hope they stay just like that.
In case you didn’t know, the portion size is a quarter piece of chicken and you get the option of breast or thigh. I went with both and ordered enough for the whole family. Be aware that these tikkas can be rather spicy and the average person may have some trouble finishing off two whole pieces unless there’s some soothing lassi or beer to calm your burning tongue.
So long story short, I brought the chicken, dad got the beers and the whole family had a nice evening. My recommendation at Khyber would be to get the spicy Tikka, Dal Makhni and Parathas. They tasted great back when I was a little kid and they taste just as great now.
Khyber is located on Fahad Al Salem Street, opposite Gulf Bank. If you’re coming from Sheraton circle or Muthanna area, keep driving straight ahead till you see Gulf Bank on your left. Khyber will be in the small alley right off the main road. Parking can be a problem during weekdays.
Fahad Al Salem Street – 22454255 Ras Al Salmiya – 25724907 – 25716620
Update: I was checking my old posts and just realized that its been more than 4 years since I last ate from Khyber. I’m gonna make it a point to visit this place at least once a year from now on.
Note: all the pictures are from my Instagram account, that’s why they’re all 1:1 aspect ratio.
Earlier today a friend of mine wanted to know if there was a ritual involved in handling an Onam Sadya (feast). To the untrained eye, the arrangements on your leaf and the pattern in which the servers ladle the various curries and ‘kootans’ on your table might look like chaos but there’s a specific order that has to be followed.
As long as you maintain a steady pace and know what to expect you’ll be fine and won’t run into any trouble. My first experience with a proper sadya was at a Hindu wedding in Trivandrum and the caterers ran like a well oiled machine. They were so perfect in the delivery of each section of the feast that I had to skip out on the third section as I was too slow to keep up with the others.
If you’re not from Kerala or don’t know how to tackle a traditional Onam Sadya these steps might come in handy.
The feast is served on a plantain leaf. Traditionally you’ll be sitting crossed legged on the floor with the leaf placed in front of you. Guests will be sitting in rows so that the people serving you can make their way through the group easily. The narrow end of the leaf will be pointed to the left side and if you’re a Keralite Christian it is customary to fold the left edge of the leaf. You can take a nibble of some of the fried banana chips while you’re waiting for the rice to be served.
The rice will be served in 4 separate phases. The initial serving may be the largest and for some people it may be enough to last you till the end of the feast. The main thing to remember is not to eat too much rice till the sweets are served. You may separate the rice on your leaf into 4 smaller portions to go with each phase. What follows below is the order (as far as I know) in which the meal is to be consumed;
1. Rice with Parippu/dal (this is a curry made from lentils) accompanied by a generous spoonful of clarified butter on top
2. Rice with Sambar
3. Rice with Rasam
4. Contrary to usual meals, the desserts are served in the penultimate stage and you must leave some space if you want to finish the last round of rice. Usually two different kinds of Payasams are served. More elaborate weddings or luxurious feasts will feature four kinds of sweets.
5. Rice with Moru (spiced buttermilk)
6. Congratulations if you’ve survived this far. Now pat yourself on the back, finish off that banana and wash it down with the glass of herbal tea. When you’re ready to leave, gently fold the leaf away from you and place the glass on top of the leaf so that they can clear it away.
Aren’t you glad this happens only once a year?
Onam Sadya [wikipedia]
Some more information about the Sadya can be found [here]
My friend Hareesh left a comment on my previous post on how much he enjoyed his meal at Saravana Bhavan and that’s when I remembered a post that I had drafted about my lunch at their Karama location. The weekend thali seems to be a popular item at Saravana Bhavan so I ordered it when we went there for lunch on Saturday.
I usually stick with the mini thali so I can try out a variety of items in the same plate and there’s not much food going to waste as the portions are enough for medium appetites. My mini thali contained; Mini puris and potato bhaji, Sambar rice, (it was excellent and I considered asking for seconds) Curd rice, Vegetable pulao, Carrot and Cabbage stir fry, sweet dal payasam, pappadom and pickle.
All this may sound like a lot of food but like I mentioned, the portions are just enough so that you enjoy the variety but not so much that you feel heavy afterwards which was good since we were headed out to Tecom to check-in to our rooms that the company had booked for us. Which reminds me that the Media Rotana post I had drafted is till unpublished. I’ll get to it sometime this week.
Based on my experience in Dubai I’m really looking forward to trying out the place in Fahaheel. I only wish they had a branch closer to home.
During the long Eid holidays I tried my hand at making bread and after a couple of attempts I got a final product that met my expectations.
Searching online I found that our very own ‘Vah Chef’ had a recipe for milk rolls and I also found an Italian video for the same rolls but with a small difference in the finishing stages. I used both videos for reference but used my own flour combination to get the texture I wanted. If you look online you’ll find a lot of resources to help you make the perfect loaf but here I’ll list a few of the things that helped me to bake my perfect bread.
Flour choice: Most of the American recipes call for ‘bread flour’ which is a combination of refined flour and a small amount of whole wheat flour. I initially used 100% whole wheat but that ended up in bread that was too tough. My second attempt was with 100% all purpose flour but it was too pale and soft. I finally went with a 70/30 split of all purpose/whole wheat and got my desired texture.
Kneading/developing gluten: I initially used a food processor with the dough blade to Knead the dough but it wasn’t as good as doing it by hand so I applied some elbow grease and spent approximately 10 minutes Kneading and folding the dough. You’ll know the dough has reached the proper state when the dough can be stretched without breaking. This is when the gluten has formed in the dough and gives it the desired texture.
Proofing: Letting the dough rise is important for it to be soft and airy. The proofing can be done in two stages. After Kneading the dough leave it in a damp warm area to rise to at least double its size. I coated the dough ball with oil and then used cling wrap to prevent it from drying out. The second stage of proofing comes in when you’ve knocked the air out of it and cut, shape it to the required sizes. Leave it on the baking tray for a further hour.
Finishing: Right before slamming it into the oven, I brushed egg-wash and sprinkled sesame seeds over all the buns. They went into the oven heated at 175-180 degrees centigrade for 25 minutes. After the first 15 minutes I took them out and rotated the tray 180 degrees for uniform heat distribution. Once the bread was done I took them out and left them to cool for about 10 minutes.
I tried making sausage rolls, stuffed buns and burger buns and they were a lot better than I expected. My next challenge might be baking a proper cake for Christmas.
Saw this photo article today about Olympic athletes from Turkey photographed along with their regular diets. Don’t look like much considering the hours of practice and enormous amounts of energy they expend.
Calicut Paragon seems to be a popular place among Keralites in Dubai and this time I wanted to find out what the hype was all about. The popularity of the place was apparent as we walked up to the entrance coz there were two rows of eager, hungry patrons in line waiting for tables. We gave the waiter our name and took a seat while they served us cold refreshing buttermilk spiced with pepper and ginger.
After about 10 minutes of waiting we heard our names being called and were taken to our table on the first floor.
A colleague introduced me to this place one night as we were walking outside our hotel looking for a place to have dinner from. We walked from our hotel towards the Internet City Metro station and then saw this little joint that had just had a couple of tables by the sidewalk and just a small counter inside.
I was skeptical of the kind of pizza that I would be getting but my colleague reassured me that I wouldn’t be disappointed.One thing that surprised me was that we got our order in about 3 minutes after we had placed it so I thought it might have been a pre-made pizza.
And boy was I in for a surprise. This has got to be, without a doubt, the best pizza I’ve ever had! Everything about it was perfect, the crust was paper thin but foldable and had the right amount of chewiness and crustiness. The sauce layer wasn’t too thick and you could actually taste the chunks of tomato. The other toppings were really thin and not overdone so ultimately you were really enjoying the perfection of the crust and the sauce.
I was so impressed by my dinner that I went to the chef inside to convey my appreciation for the fine meal and during our chat I found out that the ingredients were authentic and Italian in origin and all the pizzas were made in a traditional wood fired oven (I later found out that the oven itself was flown in from Italy!) Our meal was 45 AED (approx 3.5 KD) and was worth every fils.
Pizza Connection is run by two Italians, Andrea and Paolo. Their motto is “Italians do it better” and I agree 100%
Pizza Connection [website] and [Facebook]