Pooja was an excellent source of information because she knew her way around the city and where we could find authentic homemade food based on heirloom recipes. Smitten by the south, she says she did not feel the need to settle in any other city or her hometown Meerut, and can now speak fluently in Kannada, which makes her feel even more at home in Bengaluru.
During my foodie adventure with her, we discovered that North Indian flavours were quite in demand in this city, with many migrants from Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan having settled here in the fifties and sixties. A truly cosmopolitan city, even the food is truly Pan-Indian. One of the eateries we visited was a huge place called Gayatri Vihar in Jayamahal Palace Grounds. Huge cutouts of cardboard palaces and elephants greeted us — they must have been erected for one of the numerous weddings that the restaurant catered for, we assumed.
Inside the grand office of Gayatri Vihar, the owner treated us to some delicious food, which left us asking for more and wishing we could take back some. My personal favourite among the dishes served to us, like sev puri, chole bature, mango kulfi and more, was the dahi balla. Two soft lentil vadas soaked in yogurt with sweet and spicy chutneys poured over it, the dish is also known as thayir vadai in Tamil Nadu, dahi bade in Marathi, perugu vada in Telugu, mosaru vade in Kannada and dohi bara in Bengali. The recipe for dahi balla, which I have mentioned in this column, was found in Manasollasa, a 12th century Sanskrit text compiled by the Chalukya king Someshvara III, who ruled in present-day South India. In this ancient text, the dish was mentioned by the name kshiravata.
Prep time: 30 minutes (soak lentils overnight)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Calories: 410 per serve
Curd: 3 cups, fresh and thick
Urad dal: 1 cup
Moong dal: 1/4 cup
Asafoetida: 1/4 tsp
Green chilli: 1, finely chopped
Cumin seeds: 2 tsp, roasted and grounded
Chilli flakes: 1 tsp
Garam masala: 1 tsp
Tamarind chutney: 6 tsp
Mint chutney: 6 tsp
Coriander leaves: 1/2 tsp, chopped
Salt to taste
Oil: 1 big cup
- Wash and soak both the dals overnight. Next morning, drain out the water.
- Add asafoetida, salt and green chillies to the dals and grind into a paste until fluffy.
- Place a pan over fire, pour oil in and let it become hot. Add spoonfuls of batter and fry the round vadas till they become golden brown and cooked inside.
- Place the fried vadas on a paper napkin, squeeze out oil.
- Drop the vadas in cold water leave it for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove them one by one and squeeze the excess water out.
- In a serving bowl, pour some beaten curd and add chilli powder, garam masala and salt.
- Place the vadas in the dish and pour some more curd over it.
- Sprinkle roasted cumin powder, chopped coriander and chilli flakes over it
- Pour the tamarind and mint chutney over it.
- Place in the fridge for half an hour before serving.
- Soak onions in water for about 10 minutes before chopping to avoid tears.
- To peel garlic easily, separate the cloves and soak in water for 15 minutes. Another option is to put the cloves in a closed jar and shake vigorously for a minute. Most of the skin will come loose and the rest can be removed easily.
- To chop dry fruits, freeze them for an hour before cutting. This holds good for processed and frozen meat like bacon.
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes