Friday, June 27, 2008
Appa is a word for father in many Indian languages. But for a true Punekar, there is only one ‘Appa’ and he owns the canteen that is part of the Deccan Gymnkhana, nestled snugly in a tiny lane between the cricket ground and the tennis courts, at the Eastern end of the long billiards hall. Appa’s canteen needs no introduction as it has been in the same spot since days of the Raj. A humble place made up of one small room divided into two tiny sections, the dining area and the kitchen. There is usually a machine making some sort of batter in the door between the kitchen and dining area. The dining area seats 8 people at a time. As a result most of Appa’s goodies are consumed out on the street on the back seat of a scooter or car. Appa’s canteen boasts a minimal menu of 3-4 dishes a day and menu items are set by the day of the week. Only a true Puneri can recite the menu by what day it is. If it’s Sunday, this must be idli-sambar. Some of the most famous items on this menu are idli sambar, kanda poha and khichadi kakadi. Appa, a man with a cheery disposition and skin darkened by years under the Indian sun always greets his customers with a smile and is on a first name basis with almost everyone who visits. His pajamas and ‘bandi’ which once used to be white are a trademark as is his checkered shirt which usually hangs on a ‘khunti’ on the wall. His generously proportioned son, Shree, now manages the 6’ X 6’ kitchen where 3 other cooks manage not only to stand with him, but cook delicious meals as well. Shree’s rusty old Java motorcycle is another permanent fixture right front of the door of the canteen occupying just as much space as him. One may notice soaked Sabudana being aired in the sun on the seat of the Java. Appa’s canteen has stood the test of time as well as the great flood of Pune in 1962. One of the most charming aspects of Appa’s canteen is the rusty Coca-Cola sign that remained there through the flood, and even after coke was asked to leave India. I visited Appa a few months back on my trip to Pune and the Coke sign was still standing strong. As humble as this little canteen is, it boasts some of India’s most famous sons as its patrons including Sunil Gavaskar and Raja Paranjpe. In the ever changing landscape of Pune, there a are few things that have stayed the same since the time of my grandfather. Appa’s canteen has been one of them. And all three living generations of my family will swear by one dish—Appa’s Khichadi Kakadi.
More about Appa.
1/3 cup Ghee
2 cups Sabudana / Sagoo (unsoaked)
4-5 Chillies (chopped)
3/4 cup roasted Peanut
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
Cilantro / Coriander chopped
1 medium sized Potato (peeled and chopped)
I tsp Sugar
Salt to taste
Ingredients for Cucumber Raita
1 cup Yogurt
1 large Cucumber (peeled and chopped)
1/2 cup ground roasted Peanut
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
Pinch of Asafoetida
2 tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Sugar
Salt to taste.
Soak Sabudana overnight* and make sure it is soft to the centre.
In a deep pot heat the ghee on medium heat and add the chillies and cumin powder.
Add potatoes and stir till they look cooked.
Add soaked sabudana, peanuts, cilantro, sugar and salt.
Fold the ingredients together so it is completely mixed.
Put a lit on it and let it cook in the steam.
When the sabudana is hot, Khichadi is done.
In a bowl, mix cucumber, peanuts, yogurt sugar and salt.
In a small pan heat oil and ass Asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin.
Remove from heat when the mustard seeds begin to pop.
Pour this mixture over the cucumber and mix well.
Serve hot Khichadi with Raita or Plain Yogurt.