City View Bar – Cochin

Every time I’m in Kerala I get to meet my brother and have a nice long chat over some good food and Kingfisher beer and in the process explore more new places. Read about my previous visit to the Harbor View Bar [here]. This time around we weren’t near MG Road but on the way to Kaloor we came across Presidency Hotel.

It was almost 3 o’clock when we got there and most of the restaurants were closing their lunch orders. We asked the front desk if the bar was still open and he guided us to the top floor. Once there, we had to go through a Japanese restaurant and finally walked into the bar. It looked like the bar was closed too but the friendly waiter on seeing that there was just two of us asked us to have a seat and brought the menus.

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Saravanaa Bhavan – Kuwait

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.

Saravanaa Bhavan, Fahaheel Kuwait
Humoud Towers,
4th floor, (Above Centre Point)
Gulf Road,
Ph : 965 239 29 099
Website [link]
Menu [link]

Fear Factor – Kerala Edition

Over the past few months there’s been an increasing number of reports of people falling sick from stale food served at restaurants in Kerala. So much in fact that reading the news and watching the video reports is like watching an episode of Fear Factor.

As a resident of Trivandrum its no secret that some joints reheat and serve dishes thats been around for a few days but the latest reports of live worms and cockroaches found in cakes, fried chicken and curries is just crazy.

I think it all started in July this year when a young man died after being poisoned by stale shawarma, this was followed by shops being shutdown after raids by the food inspection departments. The latest in the new is the fried worm meal that was served to a customer at KFC in Trivandrum. Here’s the [link] to the news reported in Hindustan Times.

IBN News Youtube [link]
Photo from India Times [link]

Making The Perfect Burger

The works

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;

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Khyber Chicken Tikka revisited

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 lunch

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.

Media Rotana – Dubai

Well this is not much of a hotel review and even though I stayed at the Media Rotana for 6 nights I didn’t actually spend much time in my room or even in the hotel itself, besides the mandatory 10 hours a day of meetings and training sessions.

From what I saw, Tecom area appears to be the suburban party district of Dubai. Every evening you’ll find droves of couples streaming into the various hotels scattered around the area. Byblos and Nelsons seem to be popular among the Brits in town and on most evenings our hotel literally had a ‘British Invasion’ after 7 PM. I didn’t do much partying in the hotel but I did spend some time at two of the hotel bars with colleagues.


This place is an English style sports pub much like the ones you’d find in Bangalore. Last time I was there a Eurocup game was on the TV and my friends and I were surrounded by blood thirsty football fans. This time around it was much quieter as we popped in for a pint right after our afternoon meeting and we could actually hear ourselves think.

The Terrace

This is one place that I really liked, its an open air bar thats right next to the swimming pool and I would’ve marked a daily attendance in the register if the weather was cooler. Sitting outside in the humid Dubai weather is bearable only until the chilled beer lasts. Once your mug is empty your brain will ask you “what the frack are you still doing here?” signalling its time to get back to some air conditioned comfort.

Channels Restaurant

Most of our meals, heck ALL of our daily meals were provided by the company at the Channels restaurant. As with most hotels they have the standard breakfast buffet which I’m a big fan of but lunch was kind boring for me and after day 2 I was craving a simple burger or even a felafel sandwich. Desserts at Channels are pretty good though, I had a slice of their house Hummingbird cake and went back for seconds, something which I don’t usually do for desserts.

The hotel has a tiny little open air swimming pool which was half the width of my neighborhood pool in Kuwait. I didn’t go swimming daily but on the days that I did, I had to swim carefully to avoid bumping into people.

A couple of years ago I would never have dreamed of going to the gym while on holiday but I guess my outlook has changed now. I went there a couple of days (when I didn’t have a massive hangover). I went there at 6 AM and there were only about 4 of us and I didn’t have to wait in line to use the treadmill. They also have a couple of kettlebells but even the heaviest of them was just 10KG whereas I’m used to working with a 16 or 20.

Media Rotana is a nice place to stay if you don’t mind the long commute to and from the city. The rooms were neat, beds were comfortable (although I wouldn’t know since I was so bushed at the end of each day I would’ve slept on the floor and still felt good). I just hope next time the office puts me in a hotel closer to the city.

How to handle an Onam Sadya

Onam Sadya

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.

Your plate:
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.

Main course:
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]

Saravana Bhavan – Dubai

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.

Saravana Bhavan [homepage]
Shop # 6 & 7, Abdul Aziz Mirza Bldg,
Karama, Dubai – UAE
Ph : 0971 4 334 52 52 /00971 4 336 91 09
Fax : 00971 4 334 71 74

Beginner’s Guide to Baking Bread

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.

An Olympic Diet

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.

See the whole slide show on this [link]