Saturday, May 02, 2009

Worshipping Ghatothgaja

Have you prayed for the best meal you could ever have? Ever wish for a feast of a lifetime? In between the mundane’ness of meetings and rigor of daily work schedule, I have been getting these hallucinations of great dishes appearing and disappearing right before my eyes. Things have become so bad that I decided to sit down and make that list. A list that comprises my wish list for the best meal ever. And just to be clear the scope of the meal is limited to a range. The lower limit or starting point is that of a good feast and the upper limit tends towards a marriage lunch/dinner level extravagance. This is with an intention to keep it all real.

Now before we get into the list, some philosophizings. Elders often rebuke us for praying to god only when the going gets tough. "Aha! so you think of god only when you need him, only when it is convenient". They are right for wrong reasons. They should be saying "only when it is inconvenient". And that brings us to this post's central topic. When things are inconvenient, our prayers are focused. We ask for one single thing to solve the immediate problem and forget to ask for many beautiful things that are far more important. For example - we don't pray for Extra Ghee Special Roast Masala Dosai the day before the last campus interview of our college life. It is the author's firm belief that one should - occasionally - pray for simple pleasures of life. I also think we are praying to the wrong gods. For example, if I wanted a sumptuous meal, asking Lord Rama for it is not a smart plan. I will get an austere meal that will make me wonder why I love food in the first place. Lord Nrihasimha on the other hand might end up feeding my small intestine with somebody else's small intestine.

When Gadorgajha announced himself, he was unsubtle and direct. He was about food. He was going to get it no matter what. He was in a Bazaar and he sang about food. And I pray to him. I get up everyday and list my favorite meal to him. More importantly I advertise it to everybody I know so that when people invite me they know what to feed me. I will walk into people's house with the same swagger that S.V. Ranga Rao shows in the song below. Probably laugh even louder and sit down. A song will be there in the heart. I may not actually sing aloud a glorious song like the one Ranga Rao sings. His song became an iconic song in thamizh/telugu cinema, crossed over generations and ensured that songs inspired by food are better than those inspired by love.

For starters, the meal has to be served in banana leaf. And I will devour it with my bare hands. I may struggle with the rasam. Rasam is like the free spirit, it wants to run away from the rice and so quickly finds a way out of the banana leaf. One has to do the tedious job of ring fencing it with barracks of vegetable, kootu and rice. And the further protect the boundaries by folding the edges of banana leaf. Inspite of all this banana leaf rocks. And that is how I want my food. I want the sliced banana with sugar smeared on it as the first item in my leaf. No one knows why that is the first item but it is good and I want it.

Since we really don't know what "Angaara" bajji and "singaara/junthaara" sojji is that Ranga Rao is raving about. We will skip that. Tomato soup, masala pappad, masala kadalai and roasted cauliflower, and vegetable spring rolls will kick start the appetizers section. Vadai should be crowned as the prince of appetizers. Both sambar vadai and thayir vadai. A touch of onion sprinkled over sambar vadai and boondi sprinkled over thayir vadai is what is required to get a good meal on its foot and running. Tiffin follows next. And let us be a little shy here as we want to save space for the main course. Ranga Rao suggest Poori/Kizhangu and let us allow for that. But beyond that we really want to see a full ghee roast masala dosai. People must really try this in marriage reception dinner. It works well. Rounding this off with onion utthappam should be okay. Now we move on to the vegetables section. Potato is as important as water here. Roast potato that glistens with oil is what we are looking for. Kothavaranga Paruppu Usiyal comes next. It is an amazing dish and one can write several poems about it (which I'll save for a separate post). Seppan Kizhangu, Aveeyal, cabbage kootu and roast vendaikka (okra/ladies finger) follows. These vegetables should surround the banana leaf like palm trees stand around the kerala coast.

Now to the rice dishes. Two varieties of kuzhambu is what we are looking for here. 'Aaraichu vitta' Onion sambaar is key. We all know that. So let us not dwell on the obvious. We also need onion vattha kuzhambu as an alternative. This vattha kuzhambu must have boiled peanuts in it. Very important. Then you have Puliyodharai (boiled peanuts here too), thengai saadham (more peanuts), bisi bela bath (cashews baked in it. yes thank you!) and vegetable pulav that acts as the interval between the two main rice dishes (sambar & rasam). We certainly need raitha (onion and capsicum), chips (nenthrangai & potato), and appalam as side dishes for these. Then comes Rasam or as the iyengars call it (pazha)-saatru-amudhu. Tomato rasam pazha-saaru is the amudhu under question here and we want loads of it. This essentially rounds off the rice variety. Rasam may sound simple to make but only certain hands have the ability to make a great rasam.

I don't know when the tradition began or what the reason for this tradition is. But the sweet variety is served immediately after rasam and just before curd rice. It may have something to do with after taste and so on but I generally think it is a fantastic idea. So we move on to what the iyengars call thiru-kanna-amudhu section. Or as the rest call it - 'paayasam'. Akkaravadisal is the esoteric dish that has been hidden from the rest of the world by these conniving 5-ngars. No song or words are adequate enough to express the beauty of Akkaravadisal. It has a massive taste explosion that probably renders the mouth too weak for anything else. Let me promise you - a well made Akkaravadisal is not just amudhu for thiru kannan himself but for the akila jagadh bhaagavathas. Then comes Jaangiri, Sarkarai Pongal (with ghee dripping), Kesari (again maximum ghee), samiya paayasam, rava laddu, laddu, and a pinch of maanga pacchadi. We then put the 'mangalam' on the fantastic meal with a bagela bath. Now this curd rice concoction is not the usual one. It has to have 'more molagai', raisins, and cashews all baked into it.

At the end of it all one should dust off one's hands and settle down on a good "thinnai" wih 4-5 beedas. After chewing the fat out of all topics under the sun, we set ourselves to sleep for a good 3 hours in the afternoon. A good sleep after a sumptuous meal is a sign of awesomeness of the meal under question. Now if someone were to serve me such a meal - I would probably not need my hands. I would sit down like my favorite god Gadorgajha and simply let the food flow into my mouth. sigh..



P.S: people who have similar lists. Consider yourself tagged. Let me know and I'll link the post.

Tags

1. LKS provides an invaluable guide to veggie food in the US.

41 comments:

aniramzee said...

Poduma? Ivulo kammiya sollarenga. Valarara pulla vairu naraya saapta thane nalladhu. Ipdi porupe illena endha vyadhi vara pogudho. Malnutrition vandhu saava vendithan.

Rajlaxmi said...

i am foodie n completely related to ur lovely n apt rendition of an almost perfect southie food song :) Your elaboration is amazing.

Mambalam Mani said...

bayangara masakai

Anonymous said...

Iyengar names are so confusing! Once at an iyengar wedding I ended up asking the maama for more aravani kazhisal. You must do a post with an Iyer-Iyengar glossary.

Anonymous said...

dei

usuppu ethi vidriyaa. you are eating carrots, salads and veggies everyday and dreaming about feasts.

now i am reading your post and feeling hungry. idhu nayayama.

Valli Doll said...

Masakai ungalukka, unga wife ka?

rads said...

What a post, and what an iconic song, performance! :)

Maybe I will post after all.

on a side note: I missed Surabhi drama company's Maya Bazaar playing at Music Academy last Sunday,but managed their Paatala Bhairavi, which was just mind-blowing. Now I wonder how they'd have done this scene..

BSK said...

That banana-leaf maneuvering of payasam reminds me of the innumerable embarrasments i had to endure in many "viseshams". It just is not my cup of payasam.

YOu want me to have payasam. Ok. Give it to me in a tumbler, I say.

Anonymous said...

I do not know... but ya i certainly hate you for making me crave for all the food >:P

Anonymous said...

I do not know you... but ya i certainly hate you for making me crave for all the food >:P

Gradwolf said...

exhaustive list! I don't think I can do better than this. All theeni potu valandha kudumbam(mine i mean). I would replace onion uthappam with a scoop of pongal. I know it's rice and breakfast material, but what the hell. Pongal and filter coffee sappalena brahmine illa...

MLC said...

few days bck u worshipped kumbakarnan .... now its gadorgajha .... aduthadhu yaaro? but yr list was something else! esp. iyengars oda specialities-a oru iyer-a irundhu ippadi puttu puttu vekkareengaley:-)

Anonymous said...

There is a temple for Gatotghacha in Manali, H.P. My son asked me who he is and I was about to say S.V. Ranga Rao. I only know him through the song.

Idling in Top Gear said...

I think my cholesterol shot up 200 points just reading this list!

Anonymous said...

You forgot appalam & vadam..

Gradwolf said...

@MLC:

Err, isn't B iyengar?!

Jairam said...

Damn you for putting up this post, and curse me for reading it bang in the middle of a working day.

The closest I can get to a Kalyaana Saapadu right now is hoping that one of my cousins decides to tie the knot, and I make the long trip from Hyderabad to either Palakkad or Chennai or Thrissur or wherever my cousin picks his bride from to the wedding.

Man, I simply am unable to stop visualising the Elai in front of me. I hate you for doing this to me and disturbing my gastronomic serenity.

buddy said...

brilliant.. had me drooling
and now has me fantasizing!

PS: filter kaapi would have really done it! but im not complaining...

genosign said...

I soooooo did not have to read this post after ordering for pizza!!! grrr...

But then again, I just had most of what you mentioned last week as a part of the homams ;)

laks said...

janavasam, muhoortham, reception, moonu saapadaiyum serthu illa sollarenga.

ithanaiyum saaptu pakathila irukara doctor kitta poi cholestral/ sugar testum kaiyoda seiyanam :)

Anonymous said...

I am not South Indian and have never lived in South India, yet I have seen this video in my childhood. As soon as the video started, my mind pulled up the maniacal laughter.

Why do i know it? Was it featured in some Hindi stuff too?

Maddy said...

Is there any comparable songs for " Non-Veg".. especially S.Indian.. A simple Virudhunagar Parotta with chicken/mutton curry can give me the satisfaction of S.V.RanagRao's Sumptuous meal..:-)))))

D.N.A. said...

Seriously confusing menu. It lack theme! That's what makes or brakes a meal. Banana slice...soup...roasted cauli flower...vadai....poori....rendu sambhar....pulav....raita...all on plantain leaf....WTF!

Idhellam elaila irundha, adhu raa pichakaran dhan!

Alamu said...

D.N.A

it is a common theme in marriage reception.

i think my marriage reception had cauli 65 roast, some soup, pulav, bisi bela bath etc. so i dont think it is a uncommon or new theme.

D.N.A. said...

Did it also have banana slice, vadai, sambhar too? Then, I'm speechless. I'm without speech. I have no speech.

Alamu said...

banana slice and banana leaf go hand-in-hand. I dont remember eating in a marriage that did not offer sambar, vadai, banana slice etc.

where have you been all your life?

MLC said...

@gradwolf ..

b iyengar-a? i thot i remembrd seeing his wedding photo w/ his wife wearng the madisaar pallu on her right side ... but if u're correct.. cooooooool:-p

God said...

omg--gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins--how could you????

The Talkative Man said...

Isn't it Ghatotkacha? Initially thought post was about an alligator :p

The Talkative Man said...

Souplantation anytime...

Reading Walter willet and Nina Planck makes me guess you've been paid to wipe out the desis in another 20 yrs :)

Angel's Flight said...

I loved this post...my fav so far !

Yumm....I love Iyengar weddings! ...food :))

Extra-Ordinarily Ordinary said...

http://thisdaythisage.blogspot.com/2009/05/veggie-food-trip-in-us.html

Pradeep said...

A kalavai of north indian and brahamana saapadau.. (Pulav, Capsicum Raitha,tomato soup). I somehow don't enjoy this at all. I prefer purer versions of both separately. This has been made famous in our receptions to make it a combo of modern + traditional saapadu. Nammakku aana idhu othu varalai..

inbavalli said...

Me a foodie too. But freshly arachufied paruppu thogayal with seeram-molagu saathumudhu makes me just as happy as your dream feast.

BOILED peanuts in puliyodharai? I thought it was always fried.

RukmaniRam said...

you left out thenga thogaiyal and kaapi.

5 yen gaar? zen gaar!

I said...

Nee thunrathulaye iru. Uduthu kettaan thulukkan, thunnu kettan vainavan apdingaradha thirumba prove panta.

PrakashSaptagiri said...

Want a reason for Sweet before curd rice order, as my Pati use to say , eating Sweet after curd rice will make you become a King in you next birth but will not be good for you own brother in this life, so I guess the order boils down to having a brother or not according to Pati ofcourse :)

Another important karam-amadhu you missed would be Valaka poriyal , all others sounded good though I would much prefer the use of onions to be restricted only to the level of Onion Sambar.

At the end of your virandhu, don’t forget to add a Deepavali marandu ... :)

Anonymous said...

GhatothKaja, actually!

And you wrote well :)

-suvarna

Anonymous said...

This topic was done before and better by Tilo if I remember right :-).

Rohit said...

MY GOD. This makes me miss home more than anything else. 6 months in the USA and I have had it with pasta. When i get home I will make sure I have all this and more.

I miss Bombay street food the most. Don't know about you but I would have pav bhaji and paani puri too along with some authentic made in Bombay street corner Chinese

Anu Karthik said...

Superb post! Flowing and apt and mouthwatering.