Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chicken Kaathi Kabab Roll

Kaathi Kabab Roll is a relatively new food to Pune and the first time I had discovered it was while interning for an industrial design company way back in 1991. We had just designed a sexy, stand-alone Dollops ice-cream parlour that stood outside the original Chinese room on East Street in Camp. It was a really boring job, having to supervise the labour with little or no contribution from yours truly. Just the way I like it. My then boss asked me if I was hungry and then suggested that we should get a Kathi Kabab roll. I didn’t know what it meant, but anything with the word kabab in it was cool with me. We got onto his cream coloured, fairly dented Bajaj Super with broken indicators and flew past Kayani Bakery to the corner of the block right opposite Victory talkies. A journey that took all of 30 seconds. As a rule, in Pune, walking is not only frowned upon, but ridiculed, too. At the corner of Central Bank stood a rusty, old, overloaded cart that was clearly a traffic violation in numerous ways. Divided into 3 parts, one housing tandoori chicken, one half cooked rotis and one with a rather huge tawa protruding out of two sides of the cart. It was 4:00 p.m. on a hot April day. In addition, the heat from the kabab cart made it unbearable. We stood in line and ordered two chicken tikka rolls with 2 cups of tea provided by the adjacent cart. Although it was much too hot for that kind of food, the smells from the cart were just too delicious to care. Our orders arrived on soggy paper plates that could barely hold the bulky rolls. They were however, a big improvement to the newspaper dishes provided by bhel vendors. Needless to say, my first bite of a Kaathi Kabab Roll was an out of the world experience. Although, many more carts dishing out the same fare mushroomed all over the city, this would be the cart I went to over and over again, even long after the design company I worked for went out of business. And, thanks to the incompetent road construction techniques employed by the PMC, the ice cream parlour that we once built is now almost at ground level and in a complete state of disrepair. Not to mention the parking situation makes it impossible to even get near it. The Kathi Kabab Wala, however, is doing extremely well and from what I hear has an even bigger cart with more traffic violations. God bless him.


For Roti
2 cups Wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp oil
Water to knead

For filling:
6 Chicken Drumsticks
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala (Click for recipe) or available readymade at all Indian stores
2 tbsp yoghurt
1 tsp ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp Chili
1/2 tsp Turmeric

3 Eggs beaten
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1 Thinly Sliced Onion
1 Thinly sliced Tomato
1/2 cup Tamarind and Date Chutney (click for recipe)
1/2 cup Mint Chutney (click for recipe)

Knead all ingredients into a smooth dough and leave aside for an hour.
Make Rotis and leave them aside half cooked.

Make a marinade out of the Tandoori Masala, Ginger, Garlic, Chili, Turmeric and Salt and Yogurt.
Make it runny by adding a little water
Marinate the Chicken legs in the marinade
When marinated for a while, cook either on a grill or broil in the oven till the surface is crisp.
Pull flesh off the legs and place it aside.

Making the Roll
Heat a tava (skillet)
Roast the roti on one side and flip it
Pour 1 tbsp egg on the roti
Spread it around as the other side of the roti cooks.
Flip roti so that egg side touches the skillet
Allow egg to cook.
Remove from skillet once egg is cooked and place on a plate egg side up.
Place Tandoori chicken on the roti in a generous single line
Add onions, tomatoes and cilantro.
Drizzle a little lemon juice, tamarind date chutney and mint chutney
Roll tightly into a wrap
Slice diagonally
Garnish with cilantro.

Serve with hot with mint chutney

(You can substitute chicken for any meat or fish, potato or paneer.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gulab Jamun

I remember of a simpler time when there was no flyover on Deccan Gymkhana, no Stock Exchange above the P.M.T bus stop and Chitale Bandhu was just a milkman. That’s right, Chitale bandhu had just a humble little store selling milk and milk products nestled snugly between Hong Kong lane and an HP petrol pump. Living in Pune, Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale is an integral part of life, especially on holidays and during festivals. The smiling face of the 'kobra" Chitale behind the counter is still fresh in my memory. It has been in the family for many generations, but recently they have branched out into franchises. It was inevitable with the vagabond younger generation of Chitales. (They are friends of mine so I can say that).

I remember that the line for sweets would stretch from Chitale all the way up to Lucky restaurant the day before a festival. Young and old alike would stand in the sweltering heat with tins to take home a litre of Basundi. I also remember celebrating the mediocrity of my SSC and HSC results among the local junta with some rather expensive Pedhas from Chitale. Today Chitale is not just the little family owned store, but a big brand. Whenever I go home, I always return to the US with a few staples from Chitale Bandhu. Bakarwadi, Coconut Burfi, Batata Chivda and Pedhas. One of my other favourites from Chitale are the Gulab Jamuns. I have tried to get my California bred girlfriend (and now fiancé) to like Gulab Jamuns. We have tried many varieties and different restaurants all over New York, but so far the appeal of a calorie filled, deep fried ball of fat has eluded her. But I won't give up till she finally gets on board with these red balls of goodness.

1lb Khoa
(Make Khoa by kneading evapourated milk and dry whole milk powder in a 2:1 ratio till it is a stiff mixture. Wrap khoa in Muslin and steam for a few minutes. Allow to cool and sour for a few hours. However, if you live in India, this can be purchased at most sweet stores or a dairy)

3/4 cup Maida (All Purpose Flour)
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
4 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Cardamom powder
Few Strands of Saffron
2 Cups Sugar
Ghee for deep frying

Make thick sugar syrup with sugar and water.
The syrup should make strings (dhaga) when a dipped spoon is removed

Crumble and mix Khoa, flour, baking soda, cardamom, saffron and knead it in to a dough using milk to soften it.
Make little balls about 1” in diameter and keep aside
Heat the ghee and reduce to a low flame
Start frying the balls till they become reddish brown evenly
Drop the balls in the sugar syrup while it is still somewhat warm

Allow the syrup to soak in the Jamuns. These do not need to be frozen.
Microwave 5-6 in a bowl for 30 sec before serving.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sabudana Vada

Long before Bhandarkar Road was mauled by malls, there was only one block with any commercial activity on the entire 1 km strip. It was the block opposite Sane Dairy and consisted of 6 completely unrelated stores. A food store named Ruchira. A tea house the name of which escapes me. A store that was split into two smaller businesses: M/s Joshi (the granary) and Snacks (the grocery). The Prince laundry. And then there was a bicycle repair shop and a car garage. In spite of this weird juxtaposition they all served the community in perfect harmony. Ruchira was the new kid on the block and had added a few extra items to his daily inventory to compete with the older, well known Snacks. The owner of Ruchira was a generously proportioned man with pitch black skin (and only partially visible at night), with an extremely cheery disposition. He would wave to you from behind the register whether you knew him or not. His offerings in terms of fresh ready-to-eat foods were very humble. A tray each of Batata Vada, Sabudana Vada, Kachori and Khamang Dhokla covered with a netted dome to keep the pesky flies at bay. Although this was 25 years ago to this day, his was the best Sabudana Vada I have tasted. Crisp, hollow and way too delicious for it’s own good. As Pune grew and fast food places mushroomed all over, the ready-to-eat food at smaller stores like Ruchira lost their allure. Later the Sabudana Vada I so cherished was discontinued at Ruchira. Maybe the sales dwindled, maybe the cook died or maybe the owner just didn’t care to compete with the likes of the ‘food mall’ that has sprung across the street. And now that Pune has transformed into a bustling metropolis, I miss little city that I grew up in just as much as I miss Mr. Ruchira and his crispy sabudana vadas.

1 cup Sabudana (Tapioca/Sago) soaked overnight
2 Potatoes boiled
2 /3 Green Chilies chopped
1/4 cup Roasted Peanuts.
2 tsp Coriander chopped
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
Salt To taste.
Oil for deep frying

Mash Sabudana, Potatoes, Chilies, Peanuts, Coriander, Cumin Seeds and Salt till it is a homogenous mixture.
Make round balls from this mixture and then pat them down to flatten them like patties.
Heat oil and reduce to medium heat when it is hot.
Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown.
Serve hot with yoghurt.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


I just returned from a short trip to Pune. It had been a long three and a half years since my last visit. No matter where your life takes you, it’s always nice to come back home, even if it’s for a short visit. Of course, having to pass through Mumbai traffic makes you question your return immediately. This time, however, I was shocked and disappointed to come home. Pune has changed beyond recognition and is no longer the city where I grew up. Huge buildings have replaced the small bungalows. And a lot of the infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. The air is intolerable, the noise unbearable and the traffic situation — let’s just not go there. And what is up with the ringtones people? Isn’t there a phone that rings like one? I guess we can’t go back after half a decade and expect things to be the same. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it? In spite of all the change I tried to visit all my favourite spots — at least the ones that are still standing. But no matter how much it changes, Punyanagri will always be home.

Of course, the one thing that hasn’t changed in Pune is the taste of my mother’s chaklis. She made me a huge container of chaklis for the auspicious occasion of my arrival. And although, I consumed the entire tin with some fresh dahi and a couple of bottles of Gelusil, it was worth every second of heartburn.


1 cup Besan (Chick Pea Flour)
1 cup Jowar Flour (Sorghum)
1 cup Rice flour
1 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Butter liquefied (Reduce to 1/2 cup if needed)
2 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp Ajwain seeds
2 tbsp Sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Mix ingredients except oil and knead into a thick, smooth dough adding water
Cover and place aside for an hour
Using a chakli mould create raw chaklis on butter paper
Heat the oil and deep fry the chaklis 2 –3 at a time
Drain on paper

Serve with fresh yoghurt