Saturday, August 21, 2010


the world cup soccer which was over last month did keep me glued to the tv during several matches.normally, i avoid the tv. i don't watch any serial because they are all trash. i occasionally watch the news and sometimes one-day cricket matches. but the fifa football event was one of a kind. which i certainly did not want to miss.

hats off to the organisers who seem to have made the event a great success.south africa is notorious for its crime rate. and the continent is infamous for its poverty and AIDS. but there was hardly any crime during the event. the entire africa, proud of the event being held in their continent behaved in the most responsible and dignified manner. the people deserve full kudos for their exemplary behaviour. they wildly cheered their 'bafana bafana' and were disappointed that the team did not go far ahead.

what fascinated me besides the football matches was the vuvuzela, a trumpet like instrument about one meter long. you blow into it and you can blow off somebody's ears with its high decibel noise. and imagine thousands of spectators blowing into them continuously. what a cacophony it must have created. though many teams complained about the distraction the vuvuzelas caused and their teams' consequent failure to concentrate, fifa did not stop its usage as it was considered to be a part of 'african culture'. wonder what our fans will blow during the forthcoming CWG. and just compare how we are going about the CWG and how a fledgling democracy embroiled in bitter and racially tinged ethnic violence did a spectacular job of managing this megaevent. the UAE issued a 'fatwa' that they are 'haraam'. that did not deter the vuvuzela fans.manufacturers of vuvuzelas did roaring business.they sold earplugs too.that was a marketing coup.

three cheers to vuvuzela and 'waka waka' performed by columbian singer shakira and alongwith south african band 'freshly ground' who created a sensation.

a friend of mine showed me a vuvuzela which his friend had brought from capetown.i blew it and felt transported to africa. and the hummable 'waka waka',i downloaded into my ipod hoping that we will also put up a good show.'chak de india'.

Friday, August 13, 2010

a 'britannic' lunch - berry berry good

"he may live without books-what is knowledge but grieving?
he may live without hope- what is hope by deceiving?
he may live without love-what is passion but pinning?
but where is the man that can live without dining?"
owen meredith.

this blog is about mouth watering food and service par excellence from a simple restaurant. hence the above quotation.

"you can call me bemoom or boman or bomi or behuvan or benaan. these are the names by which i am called." thus spoke the octogenarian owner of a south mumbai iconic restaurant when i walked in for the first time early this year with my british customer. i am referring to 'britannia' restaurant situated on the ground floor of wakefield house, ballard estate. my office is on the top floor. the restaurant is always packed at lunch time. and there are always people sitting outside eagerly awaiting for their turn to arrive.

the old man,his brother,the second generation all understand one thing. courtesy. the moment you arrive,they make you feel comfortable. they are all cheerful and enquire what you would like to have. 'britannia' is famous for its berry pulao and the parsee dhansak. when boman irani came to us and asked what we wanted to have,i answered the obvious.i wanted my british friend to have their signature dish. "but you must beat the heat sir first with a cold drink ", he said with a broad smile on his face and then went about taking the order. he was delighted to meet my english customer. boman has a great partiality for the british as the name of his restaurant suggests. he enquired about the queen of england and added "may she live long". i told him that i am a vegetarian. he said he would serve me the "best veg biriyani i would have ever eaten". true to his word,the biryani was delectable.

the iranis as the name suggests are from iran. they still have connections out there. after migrating to india they have become iraninan parsis (zorastrians). they speak in gujerati. they are modest and a bit self-effacing. 'britannia' is neat and clean. furniture is minimal with the old-fashioned square table placed in an angle with four chairs. the table cloth is british gingham. the servers are liveried and speak good english and hindi and are well-mannered.when you are there you feel good.they close shop around 4pm.

when we were about to leave, i asked the old man the secret of his success. i told him that i knew that he imported some ingredients like the berry from iran. "sorry sir, i can't disclose that. that is our trade secret", he said with a chuckle. then he asked my friend to convey his best wishes to the queen. when the cheque arrived and i settled the bill he said "do come again, sir". a friendly person,very affectionate and in peace with himself and his surroundings. a petite cat rests on the reception counter. he encourages children to pet the cat. and they laugh and he laughs with them too.

"there is no love greater than the love of eating". this is the 'britannia' tagline alongwith a hen as their logo.

next time you have some work in fort area, drop in at 'britannia' and enjoy the food and service.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

panruti selvam (wealth of panruti)

i was born in a village not very far off from panruti. the only thing i knew about this small town was that one of my mother's cousins lived there for many years.i was astonished to read recently that it is now referred to as the 'jackfruit paradise'. i love jackfruits and therefore i read this article running into many pages without dropping the magazine even for a second. the fruit is available in panruti throughout the year and it is supposed to be the best of its kind in the country. in bali island last week,i had tasted its jackfruits and heard about its durians. indian jackfruits are fatter and sweeter.

known as kathal (bihar/up), palaa pazham (tamil nadu), chekka (kerala),halsu (karnataka),panasa (telugu) and phansi (maharashtra), this delectable fruit when sliced and taken with honey gives you an ecstasy beyond words. while in kerala and karnataka growing jackfruits is infradig,it is clearly not so in this sleepy town. people are proud to grow jackfruits and prouder that they are making a big profit in doing so.

why are panruti jackfruits so sweet? it is perhaps the soil condition and climate. panruti has a long stretch of dry weather and it is a low rainfall area. the biggest pala pazham from panruti recently weighed as much as 70 kgs and has gained a probable place in the 'guiness book of world records'.

kerala state has taken the initiataive to spread the awareness of jackfruit and it organised the first jackfruit festival about four years ago.more and more fairs are being held and its awareness as a terrific fruit is on the increase. it also pays to grow jackfruit. estimated to earn the farmer Rs 60,000 an acre, it is clearly a money spinner. it is resistant to helps in recharging is very nutritious and its leaves are eaten by goats and used to wrap steamed idlis.the tree after about 25 years has a good saleable value. the soft wood is used for making musical instruments like veena and mridangam and furniture as well. what more can you ask for from this kalpataru?

jackfruit is a great energizer. it has vitamin A,beta-carotene and lutein,vitamin B complex,vitamin C,potassium,magnesium, manganese and iron. its flesh has dietary fibre. a variety of sweet dishes can be made and there is tremendous scope for the entrepreneur for value added jackfruit products like jackfruit jam, papad etc. for me palaa pazham paysam with jaggery and coconut milk is something to die for. its seeds can be boiled like beans and added to sambhar and make it tastier!

what more versatality can you ask for in this humble fruit? mango,banana and jackfruits are the three fruits considered to be sacred by hindus.

i just now realized that in june 2007 i had posted three articles in series on this jack of all fruits. if you are interested, please go to my archives.