The French Connection -Provence meets Pondicherry

Pondicherry (officially renamed as Puducherry) is located in the southern part of India, along the coastline of Bay of Bengal and often referred to as the “French Riviera of the East” about 160 km south of Chennai . The town served as the capital of French territories in India until 1954 when it was ceded to the Government of India. Dutch were the first to settle down before handing it over to the French. Pondicherry is synonymous with French Heritage in India and centuries of French rule has imparted this place a strong French feel in its architecture, monuments and food.

IMG_5707

The restaurants in Pondicherry are Indo-French. Indian restaurateurs offering authentic French food or Creole cuisine, it’s not just French cuisine that blends with a Tamilian style of cooking; there are also influences of the Portuguese, Malaysian and Mughals, among others. The food is surprisingly mild. Pondicherry cuisine is a unique and vibrant fusion of Tamil and French cuisine. French dishes in Pondicherry have been adapted to suit tastebuds used to spicier Indian food yet with minimal use of spices. The textures and flavours are far less robust. The thick gravies that we know so well are notably thinner, like the French sauces. Other highlights are the use of chicken or seafood stock in cooking and the appearance of baguettes amidst local desserts.Even the style of cooking,  is slow and elaborate. The spices are far more delicately used and do not overwhelm. The use of dried spices, fresh local catch from the sea and ample use of pungent vinegar much more than tomatoes or tamarind make this cuisine a delicious mix of flavours, and a melting pot of many cultures.

IMG_5725

To experience more I would suggest that you should pack your bags and visit this beautiful paradise. In the meanwhile please try my simple Seafood stew recipe thats an ode to the two great cuisines.

IMG_5661

 

fullsizeoutput_11f

 

Fruits de mer Pondichéry curry

 

Ingredients

1 kg Cod fillet

12 king prawns raw and headless

12 Fresh mussels scrubbed and beard removed

250 Gms squid

4 tbsp vegetable oil

8 – 10 shallots

8 garlic cloves

2 tbsp chopped ginger

1 tbsp. coriander seeds

1 tbsp. cumin seeds

1/2 tbsp Black Peppercorn

4 dried whole red chillies

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp aniseed powder

Salt to taste

2 cups of coconut milk

½ cup of fresh grated coconut

12-15 curry leaves

1 tbsp vinegar

 

Method

  •     Cut the fillet of cod into 6 -8 pieces. De vien and remove the shell from the prawns keeping the tails on. Clean and wash the mussels in cold water, removing the beards and discarding any open ones. Clean the squids and cut them in rings. Set aside.
  • Finely slice the shallots and roughly chop the garlic.
  • In a cooking pot heat vegetable oil, once heated add cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorn and whole red chillies. As the seeds crackle add the chopped ginger and garlic, sauté on medium heat for 2-3 mins. Now add the sliced onions and cook unit soft and translucent. Add the grated coconut and cook for further 5 mins.
  • Add turmeric powder  and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let the mixture cool before transferring it to a blender. Blend the mixture to a thick smooth paste by adding ½ cup of water. Add more water if desired to reach the right consistency.
  • Transfer the paste back to a clean cooking pot and add 1 cup of warm water and bring to a boil. Cook for further 7 mins. Add salt and continue cooking for 2 more mins.
  • Now add the coconut milk and bring the sauce back to boil. Stir in the aniseed powder and curry leaves. Start by adding the cod first and cooking it for 5-7 mins on medium heat. Be careful while you stir from this stage onwards as you don’t want to break the fish. Now add the prawns, mussels and squids. Carefully fold the seafood in the sauce, cover the cooking pot with a lid and simmer on medium heat for another 5-7 mins. Be careful not to over cook the seafood.
  • Once cooked add vinegar and mix. Remove from heat garnish with some fried curry leaves. Accompanied perfectly with steam rice.

 

IMG_1404

Advertisements

The Great Indian Culinary Odyssey

Its always given me immense pleasure to write about good Indian food and spreading its glory across the globe. Indian Cuisine has spread its wings all over the world and people savour this delicious cuisine with great joy. But to actually sample the cuisine at its birth place is an experience in itself. I write about my culinary adventure to India where I had the privilege of tasting some of the most astounding delicacies from the entire sub continent.

IMG_3134 IMG_3106

I started my journey from the financial hub of the country Mumbai, a cosmopolitan city attracting various cultures and traditions. Being on the coast of Arabian sea- Mumbai boasts of a vast produce of sea food. So i decided to sample the best coastal cuisine, and when it comes to coastal food you cannot beat Gajalee. Started as a stand alone restaurant in the humble suburb of Vile Parle, this restaurant now boasts of 7 restaurant all over the world. The word Gajalee means an informal gathering in Malvani or Konkani.

I started of with Bombil (Bombay Duck) fry which is a signature fish delicacy. The fish is coated with rice flour and semolina which imparts the crispy texture, its marinated with spices and ginger garlic paste and deep fried. I have to confess this was absolutely divine.  The next dish was another Gajalee classic called the Clam Koshimbir – fresh clams prepared in a coconut and green masala. The mains were equally tantalising with Mutton masala dry and Chicken liver masala accompanied by fresh soft chapatis. I ended my meal with a glass of Sol kadi made with coconut milk and kokum which is blackish red fruit thats sour in taste and acts as a great digestive.

IMG_2971 IMG_2970 IMG_2966 IMG_2973 IMG_2967

http://www.gajalee.com

My next stop in Mumbai was at Rajdhani’s Rasovara– a pure vegetarian restaurant serving royal Rajasthani and Gujrati cuisine. A must visit for all vegetarian lovers. This humble eatery is situated at the Palladium Mall in Lower Parel. Everything is served in a thali. Service is absolutely brilliant, its Indian hospitality at its best. They make you feel at home right from the word go. As soon as you are seated the waiters put a traditional copper thali with small copper cups in them. The meal starts of with a refreshing shikanjvi (sweetened fresh lime water ).  For starters I was presented with 2 different chaats and 2 farsaan (Gujrati snacks or appetisers). For the mains there were 5 different vegetarian selection and 2 varieties of daal and 1 kadi. Gatte ki subzi, papad ki subzi, paneer ki subzi, vaal papdi and daal baati churma were to die for. The veggies were accompanied by fresh chapattis drizzled with desi ghee, bajra (millet) roti and theplas. For the desserts I was presented with basundi (thickened sweetened milk with nuts) Jalebi with rabri and Gaajar halwa. I was stuffed at the end however its one of the best vegetarian meals I have had in a long time. The restaurant boasts of 70 different set menus and Chef Bhawar Parmar with 25 years of experience under his belt doesn’t fail to impress with his exceptional food.

IMG_3176 IMG_3180 IMG_3186

http://rajdhani.co.in/rasovara.html

My next stop was the Capital of India-New Delhi and I was amazed by the food culture here. Its difficult  to narrate my experience in just one blog but i must say if anyone travels to India, one must visit New Delhi as it has some amazing food on the offer.

My first stop was Eau de Monsoon a contemporary fine dining Indian Restaurant at the Le Meridian that delivers exceptionally great food. Chef Anil Jaiswal has engineered a stunning menu. For starters I strongly recommend mille feuille  of sole with tamarind glaze and mint chutney and Tandoori lamb burrah with pineapple carpaccio and crispy naan. For the mains –Chicken infused with with home ground spices, upma and chettinad curry  hit the taste buds just right and not to mention the Daal Makhni is definitely a must try. If you are a sea food lover then definitely go for the Sea Bass with Madras curry, artichoke, asparagus and steamed snow peas. The service also is brilliant, Ankit Joshi the Caption served us and i must say he did a pretty good job.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eau-De-Monsoon-Le-Meridian/116828015065985

IMG_3226

My second stop was at Chef Manish Mehrotra’s Indian Accent. Absolutely flawless is what i have got to say. For starters baked paneer pinwheel with Indian coriander pesto, foie gras stuffed galawat with strawberry and chilli chutney, ghee roast mutton boti with roomali roti pancake were an absolute delight. For the mains rice crusted john dory moilee and pine nut porial and slow cooked lamb shank, Kashmiri ab gosht are strongly recommended.  The food was beautifully presented and was a feast for the eyes. The flavours were perfectly balanced and wasn’t over spiced. For dessert fresh tandoori figs and daulat ki chaat was a perfect end to the meal. I have to say overall it was an unforgettable experience, exceptional food complimented with brilliant service and beautiful ambience. Please do try this place out if you are in Delhi.

IMG_2999 IMG_2998 IMG_3002 IMG_3003

http://www.indianaccent.com

My third stop was an humble oriental restaurant called Chopsticks situated at the Asiad village in Delhi and a part of Kwality group. This restaurant has some brilliant Oriental food on the offer. General Manager Sugandh Khanna and Head Chef Amit Gurund have designed a brilliant menu. A 200 cover restaurant gives you an option of buffet for lunch and a la carte for dinner and lunch. Food is fresh and locally sourced and Sugandh makes sure that consistency and quality are maintained. My personal recommendations for starters are Sesame crusted Thai chicken, classic salt and pepper prawns, for vegetarians I would recommend cottage cheese stuffed jade balls and crispy okra tossed with five spice. For the mains one must try the smoky kung pao chicken and the sizzling Hunan lamb. Well this had been a good change for my palate after savouring Indian meal through out the week. Definitely try this place out and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

1001953_222553481232370_1906863272_n 1008982_202501979904187_1055400106_o 561951_113579052129814_627959543_n 1077592_10151625230654601_2029231204_o

https://www.facebook.com/chopsticks.rest.5?fref=ts

My final leg of the journey in Delhi took me to this European inspired cafe in Gurgaon called Di Ghent Cafe. Di Ghent means from Ghent and Ghent is a city in Belgium. This cafe has become an inspiration for me. Serving up some hearty European breakfast, meals, breads, desserts and coffee. Every thing is made in-house. Freshly baked breads like French baguettes, Focaccia and Brioche are baked every morning. They boast of a good variety of desserts which are produced in house as well. To sum up i would say that the cafe brings an honest and heart plate of food to your table. Simple yet elegant and full of flavours.

https://www.facebook.com/DiGhent

My final stop stop in India was Kolkata– The City of Joy. The city has its own charm and beauty and my love for bengali food drew me back here. “oh Calcutta” the home of authentic Bengali Cuisine. We started our meal with Kakra Chingri Bhapa (steamed crabmeat and shrimps with mustard and chillies.) and fried Betki fish with traditional mustard dip – Kashundi. for the mains we feasted on Kosha Mangsho(pot roasted mutton), Kancha lanka murghi(dry cooked chicken with coriander and green chillies) and the famous bekti fish curry served with boiled rice. I must confess it was one my best meals in the entire trip. The flavours still linger in my mouth and bengali food doesn’t get better than this.

IMG_3101 IMG_3100 IMG_3094 IMG_3096

http://www.speciality.co.in/oh_calcutta/index.html

Its been an amazing journey full of emotions and I have to thank everyone for their wonderful hospitality and special thanks to Sharun Khanna my companion, food guide and wife who accompanied me to all the above places.

India I will be back soon.

IMG_3046