November 2007


Whatta day I enjoyed with Uma. 

One of my last in Bangalore began with a whirlwind tour of Maleshwaram neighborhood.  We descended on a provision shop with greedigut passion and soon I was buying papads, pickles, halwa, sugar, you name it.  Normally I hesitate to buy stuff to lug around.  The spirit of shopping possessed me here though and I purchased with abandon.  Good times. 

I dearly hope Suresh or someone returns to this store for the CD shaped discs of Karnatakan sugar!  I misplaced mine.  These were stored in a leaf wrapper and tasted a little bit like cocoa.  They looked like plastic.  They are certainly a product that deserve some time in the spotlight along with the sugars of Bengal! 

Outside the shop were these leaves rolled into cups and secured with toothpicks.  They’re used to steam a kind of idli in a special idli steamer.  Talk about artisanship!  Somehow, someday I hope America’s dining elites gain an appreciation for one of their favorite terms:  “artisanship.”  Handmade, precious, small shop-produced food is all over India.  Farm fresh produce is all over India.  Intricately produced, labor intensive culinary goods are common.  Often, quite cheaply.  (And with this may go an analysis of economy and labor I leave to brighter minds.)  But in many ways the sort of homemade goods you get in America only at Farmer’s Markets are *easy* to find here:  jams, candies, digestives, sundrieds, namkeens, snacks, oils, vinegars, nuts and fruits, dairy, meat, appliances, spices.  It’s endless.  The sort of thing I would normally consider quite rare and expensive at home, say a homemade jam, is rather everyday here.  But!  I leave to my fellows their artisan salt shops and chocolate boutiques.  This is just a photo of some stitched up leaves…

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We left with bulging bags to make our stomachs bulge.  Uma knew of a small dosa shop that serves a tremendous rival to Chalukya’s.  (I also leave this debate alone.  If you pay me well I’ll tell you which I prefer!)  Central Tiffin Room, if I remember correctly. 

A couple pictures are important: 

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But this one is the most: See the ridges and valleys?  MMMMMmmmmmmm.  Thick and sweet are the ridges, crisp and savory the valleys. 

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I forget what this is called, perhaps it’s just a kind of upma: 

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Then we dropped by Sri Krishna Sweets, where everything is made with good, aromatic ghee.  I sampled a Horlick’s sweet here!  (Think, Ovaltine sweet, heh.)  I bought their yummy Mysore Pak instead. 

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Properly fueled, Uma took me to the Maleshwaram Veggie Market.  Great place!!   A snake gourd is coming off the rafter for us, in front are some drumsticks and ash gourd. 

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We got our haul home, here it is on the counter awaiting our afternoon in the kitchen, superfun. I think most of you will recognize the ginger, pineapple and coconut.  Other veggies are banana stem, a hunk of ashgourd, the snakegourd, a woodapple (these show up frequently on my travels, though I have yet to successfully ripen one without it going rotten) and drumstick leaves (which we didn’t cook).   

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Here you can see how a snakegourd is hollow.  It will cook down to a much smaller proportion. 

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Ashgourd batons, peeled and ready to be microwaved before dressed with sauce.

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And finished, with coconut and raw cumin seeds.  The texture of the ashgourd is excellent, juicy and toothsome.   

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The pineapple is turned into a savory dish, too.  It does not turn out too sweet. 

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The snakegourd is microwaved until tender with a little water and salt, then added to spiced oil and sauteed.  This is a Marathi dish (I have neither found nor eaten ANY Marathi food on this visit, except perhaps a bit at Swati Snacks) called a zhunka, I think. 

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Chickpea flour is added and it’s sauteed more.  Then, a good handful of chopped cilantro is added.

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These are the Lots-of-Work-to-Chop banana stem juliennes.  After peeling the trunk down, the outer fibers are stripped off, then the chopping is done.  Uma did most of this, and I pitched in at the end.  Phew! 

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She turned it into a tasty pachari, relative to the raita.   

And here they are.  Warm ashgourd, pineapple and snakegourd dishes, and the banana stem salad. 

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On the plate. 

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Uma let me feast on these, and she had a supper of spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, broccoli and fennel seeds which I watched over. 

The last photo I have is far from the least.  Uma has been making her own yogurt in this beautiful, red clay pot.  It makes an amazing and delicious product, no doubt a cousin to the curds and cultures of Bengal.  Since the pot is porous, moisture will slowly evaporate from the entire vessel, leaving a concave surface on top over time.  But more importantly, somehow setting up absolutely delicious, lovely curd.  Another dream for home:  finding a non-toxic, unglazed clay pot to cook with!  Anybody know?

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These are a pair of restaurants in Bangalore that I thought were excellent. Kanua especially impressed the hell out of me. So much so that I ate there two days in a row.

Therefore, Legend of Sikandar first. It’s a mughlai joint, with Hyderabadi chef Shaikh Arif Ahmed at the helm. He spent time at the table with us and took care of the ordering. So, we were a little spoiled.

Waiters at the window.
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Chef Ahmed picking a kebab…
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And lowering it into the tandoor.
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This was my favorite kebab of the meal, a gilafi but without onions. Tender meat enrobed with peppers. Piquant luxury from a chicken.
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A seekh kebab.
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Cream-marinated chicken.
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Another chicken variation. I wish I had more details for you, but no menu was available to take away and conversation of course precluded notes.
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Papaya chutney.
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Oh, and also my camera batteries died on me so a lot of these photos suck, even by my standards! Here’s the burrah kebab, a mutton chop. I’m not a fan of the garnishes, but they make business sense I suppose.
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A third regret: no photo of the khubani ka meetha, a sweet apricot dessert from Hyderabad that was the best I’ve tasted yet–including those from Hyderabad.

Now onto Kanua. I loved this place. Is it my favorite restaurant yet in India? Very possibly.

It’s off the beaten path on the outskirts of Bangalore near tech developments. It’s the open air floor on the top of this building.
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The cuisine is southern Konkani, so the food is related to the Mangalorean restaurants I posted about in Mumbai. (Though the restaurant does include at least one northern Konkani dish.) I found it to be remarkably different than those places, though, with a brightness, simplicity and elegance that the coastal joints lacked. Food is cooked in earthenware pots. Rice and vegetables are grown specifically for Kanua, and they only use produce which is natural to the region. I don’t know how much of this is BS, but the food is exquisite.

The flavors include coconut, jaggery, tamarind and chilli. It’s sweet and hot. Or rich and sour. Or both, but lush.

Okay, I’m being a dork. Here are some photos.

A passionfruit soda. I love the details Kanua spends time on: the beautiful water jug that sits in the middle of each table.
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The red roof tiles typical of Mangalore. Cool music plays in the background.
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Here’s another view of the interior, an open space that somehow feels cozy.
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A dish of pumpkin that shows how we eat with our eyes. The sauce was full of onions and the fragrance of coconut oil was like incense.
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More beautifully colored food, a dish of shrimp in a red chilli sauce.
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This plate includes black chickpeas with yam; the pumpkin; a bittergourd medley of sweet, bitter, hot and sour; the shrimp.
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I love the plate so much here’s another angle.
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And a closeup of the bittergourd: you guessed it, that’s chunks of sugarcane in there. Not too bitter, not too sweet!
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Oddly, I didn’t eat seafood at Kanua! The vegetarian was so good. Here’s a dish of vine spinach and papaya. Are you looking at that beautiful paanpolo (neer dosa)? Are you? Look at it!
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And look at this, too! It’s made of jackfruit seeds and green chillis. LOTS of green chillis. Often, India’s cuisines aren’t really all that hot. But damn, this was hot! Hot, sweet and good.
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This is a vegetarian appetizer made from yam (elephant foot yam, aka suran). The vegetable itself is rather bland, but coated in a crispy batter and dipped in a sour-sweet chutney, it tasted great.
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A mutton curry in a thin tomato sauce, still packed with flavor.
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And a chicken biriyani. It was good, but after Hyderabad a bit quotidian.
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A dessert of hot plantains. Too much cardamom?
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And a blissful crisp, fresh pastry. You can see I was eager. You dip the spirals in gently sweet saffron milk. Delectable.
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Suresh devised a lovely meal in honor of my visit. Well, he devised several meals in honor of my visit, but this was one of the first. He began the sauce by frying yogurt, and built it up with a leaf of lemon grass and another of allspice. Great fragrances.
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A tadka of *crisp* cumin, chillis and curry leaves finished the dish.
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Here the sauce has been used to poach a filet of fish. And notice the lovely Kerala red rice beneath, too.
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Skillet tandoori chicken. “This is too easy to make,” I complained.
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When I felt under the weather one day, Rathna whipped up this dal-rice porridge to make me feel better. Served with a lovely, lovely pickle. I felt better.
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From khoya, milk fudge…
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…we made these samose, with fat yellow raisins.
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And this photograph doesn’t show it, but this was one of the finest meals I ate in Bangalore, period. Sindhi curry. A succulent sauce thickened with a little chickpea flour.
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Rathna made a snack from these leaves, similar to taro-root leaves I think.
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The paste includes tamarind, ginger, chickpea flour and a little sugar.
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The paste is spread across the leaves and rolled.
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Then steamed.
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Rounds are sliced off the rolls when done steaming, and topped with coconut and mustard seeds. Sorry, no picture.

Here’s a samosa made from a dough like filo. They’re cheap and greasy. Pretty good, tooleafy.jpg.

These are some brilliant pakodas, twice fried, crispy dough around onions and great, yummy jabs of coriander seed. I ate a basket of these cold from the fridge the next day much to Rathna’s horror.
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Another tasty, tasty home cooked meal: crisp fried okra with mango powder, good dal and tomato pulao.
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And lastly, a plate of well-browned cauliflower transformed into a delicious subzi.
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One of the simple pleasures I enjoy is the market tables filled with a variety of sweet-sour-hot-salty “mints” (for lack of a better word) called churan in Hindi. Here are a couple I ate too many of: some jeera golis (cumin balls) made from tamarind, jaggery (natural sugar) and powdered sugar/salt. In the plastic are some tamarind-chocolates–not so chocolately, really, but tasty nonetheless.

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Suresh and I goofed around in the kitchen with some molecular gastronomy chemicals I brought along. We made falooda (in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve taken a shine to falooda). We worked together to produce the ingredients; here’s the plate I assembled with noodles, pistachio kulfi (Indian ice cream), milk, top quality vetiver syrup, saffron soaked tukmaria (basil seeds) and the new molecular touch–caviar made from saffron juice. Fun stuff. I’m not sure this version would get a warm welcome everywhere, though.

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This is just a shot of City Market, one of the old style holdouts in the face of multiple shopping malls and franchises. Good place to buy karhais! This is the floral section.

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Rathna made this date halwa–fragrant with ghee and not too sweet at all!

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I grabbed this bottle of snacks from Metro–a store sort of like Costco I guess. These are lightly spiced anchovies, not too salty, and dried into crisps. Nice, but nothing special. I’d guess they’re from Tamil Nadu, if I were to make a wild guess.

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These are some terrific Kerala snacks made from fried bananas. (Recipe in Ammini Ramachandran’s book, “Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts”). They’re thick and crunchy, almost like nuts, and coated in jaggery. My first taste didn’t portend what a pig I was to make of myself with them. When Suresh was gone one day, I simply ate the whole bag in one sitting. Sorry, Suresh!!!

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This is a woodapple. I wanted to make a chutney from it, as per Uma’s directions, but the first one I bought was rotten and the second one I bought wasn’t ripe enough. Oh well.

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And here are some sitafals.
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Mmmmmmmm, sitafals! Green versions…
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…and in Hyderabad I found a purple version that I thought was even sweeter and more floral, but that might’ve just been my imagination.
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This is a version of puranpoli, a sweet bread made with jaggery, hailing from Gujurat I believe. I’m not fond of them, but Suresh is.

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Mysore Pak is normally quite soft, made from ghee and chickpea flour. Here’s one that crunchy.

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I’m irritatatd with the owners of Tibb’s Frankies who couldn’t be bothered to answer a simple email query I sent them. (Why bother having a website if you don’t maintain it?) Anyway, I overcame my irritation with them to try their chicken frankie (a wrap made of an egg-fried paratha) which was highly rated by the Times of India. Tasty. Unfortunately, Tibbs Frankies ain’t got jack on Kolkata’s Kathi rolls (post forthcoming)….
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Suresh made a lovely Sindhi meal for me and a couple of fellow foodies–Veena and Uma. Veena was kind enough to bring along these Mathania chillis from Rajasthan. I’m eager to get ’em home and cook with them!
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Some banana halwa.

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And Suresh made this parting snack for me–shahi tukda. It’s a sweet sort of like a cross between french toast and bread pudding, fried in a liter of ghee (no, two!) and lightly drizzled with saffron syrup. Suresh needs to show Dum Pukht in Delhi how to make this version.

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Most of my non-desi American friends know drumsticks as chicken legs. But in India the drumstick is a most inimitable vegetable, a pod grown on a small tree and an excellent source of meaty/umami flavors (Suresh taught me that). Too bad the only drumsticks we get in Portland are such poor quality, because in India they’re truly delicious.

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You have to peel off some of the stringy exterior of the drumsticks. The mis-en-place is minced onions and grated tomatoes.

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Combined with a little yogurt and some spices, the drumsticks lend their deep flavor to the dish.

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A simple meal and terrifically tasty.

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The Woodlands’ thali must be something of a classic. I think this was the first restaurant meal Suresh treated me to in Bangalore! All vegetarian, dibs and dabs and neverending refills. This is one of the two major restaurant business formats that has been duplicated with incredible success. Sambar, rice,  dry veggies with coconut, rasam, pappads, salad, raita–finished with a plain paan. This is the *one* style of meal I remember most from my earlier trip to the south–fondly!

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Hotel Empire does a unique thali, with thick spiral breads reminiscent of Kerala parathas and non-veg options. This is the chicken version. I thought their clear rasam was quite tasty.

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Look at this masala dosa. Thick, buttery Bangalore style from Chalukya . Notice the white color of the butter melting on top–made from buffalo milk, unpasteurized and with the formidable quality of cheese. Amazing! This is the sort of vegetarian meal that will make you sick with pleasure.

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And from Kamat Yatri Niwas comes this unique thali, fitted with green onions and raw methi (fenugreek) sprouts. Pots of chutney powders and claypot yogurt line up at the edge of the banana leaf.

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South Indies is an upscale joint. I piled my plate high from the buffet here.

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They were kind enough to make me idiappam, rice noodles, to order. Though I suspect they might have steamed some store-bought noodles just to be nice, they were still very tasty with sweetened coconut milk.

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I’m not sure how mythical the realm of Chettinad cooking is, but it seems to hail from the south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The cool thing about this cuisine is that it includes game meats–like rabbit and quail. India seems to be very reluctant to consume meats other than chicken or mutton. (Though that’s a broad statement!) So this is an interesting area. Ponnusamy’s is such a Chettiar joint, whose thali includes three unique non-vegetarian curries–fish, mutton and chicken.   See the katoris (cups) on the right of the banana leaf:

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I’m still fuming that when I visited they were out of Rabbit Roast.

This is a dish I’m eager to make when I get back home. It’s a Mangalorean specialty from Suresh’s golf club called Kori Roti, basically crusty (lentil? rice?) sheets topped with sauce. Imagine the crisp parts of dosai cut into sheets. The fish on the side, coated in semolina and spice, is kanhe, aka ladyfish, a Mangalorean delicacy.

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Suresh’s friend Ravi was really thoughtful and took us out to his favorite idli (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idli) shop in south-central Bangalore. Look at these guys! Soft, succulent, aromatic. We slathered them Kannada style in fragrant white butter, and sopped them up with the green coconut chutney. (I learned from another friend that Tamils might prefer their idlis with clear sesame oil and chutney powders, but that’s another story.)

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The crowd out front of the shop knows a good deal, plainly.

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At New Krishna Bhavan I ate three full plates of food!

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This is one of my favorite south India crepes: a neer dosa. It’s soft, spongy and wiggly in a good way. NKB’s coconut-jaggery dish accompanying the neer dosai is bliss.

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I ate their green masala idly fry, too.

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I thought it was good, but it was soundly dismissed by several knowledgeable friends.

Lastly, a thick dosa made from ragi grains. I was full.

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Umerkot in Koramangla neighborhood would have been disappointing if I didn’t get to visit with a friend who works nearby.

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Nice interior, but the food wasn’t up to snuff, so no food photos.

Bangalore offers a bounty  of snacky sundried treats.  I got a little frenzied at times browsing through the grocery stores looking for different sorts of fry-ums, as they’re sometimes called, to sample. 

Different regions specialize in different styles of dried treats.  One of the southern classics is just a plain pappadum (I guess the correct word would be appalam?) like an overstarched white bedsheet. 

Fry treats are made diversely from potatoes, rice, tapioca, jackfruit, lentils and grains.  Probably lots more, and with a variety of flavors, textures and additions, like cumin or onions.  I think they’re great fun.

These are aralu sandige:

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I believe they’re a coastal Karnatak fry-up.  A friend says they’re made from popped rice, and I have to say they’re one of my favorite treats of this genre ever.  I’ll be looking for these online when I get home.

Another Konkani treat is the jackfruit pappad.  Here’s the raw version, filtering sunlight to see the innards:

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And after frying:

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This wasn’t initially very popular with the crowd, but I think with some care it could be well received.  A restaurant I’m especially fond of serves these with fresh coconut, though I didn’t get to sample them there.

Another see-through picture, this time of a ragi pappad:

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Here’s a ragi pappad (left) on a plate with a horse-gram pappad:

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Post frying, these guys didn’t last long either.  Ragi pappads are real tasty!

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