Wednesday 26 April 2017

30 Top Reasons Not to Read This Post


I've been on a burger hunt these last few weeks, trying to sniff out the good ones in town. Like in all aspects in life, when in doubt, ask Google baba. However, when you search for something like this, the results invariably throw up - 30 best burgers in Singapore... 100 best places for a burger...and so on.

30 best. Really??? How can these 2 words even go together. If it is the best, it really won't feature at a 28th spot on a list. Then why? Why would you list out 100 places I can go to for a burger?? My finger hurts with the amount of scrolling you make me do to read the list.. and by the time I reach No.13, you've already lost my interest.

It's not really their fault. I have been there, on the editor's chair, commissioning articles for 10 tips for glowing skin or the best buffet restaurants in town. The SEO team loves them and honestly, that's how Google baba works. Listicles get picked up and rank higher than reviews do. The more number of places listed, the better. But does that really make for good food writing? Or have we merely become a directory?

I don't think listicles are all bad. If I want tips or a list of reasons I should eat a particular fruit, it makes it easier for me to scroll down a list. But in my opinion, a list more than 10 is a list too long. And especially when it comes to listing out the best places for a particular type of food. How is it even possible to have 30 places in Singapore that serve a burger which will blow my mind? It is not...thus, the list is populated with some legends and a lot of above average places. A futile exercise, for a reader. If the topic is as specific as a particular dish or even a cuisine, the number of places listed should ideally be in single digits. No, Google may not like you, but it just makes sense. There won't be more than a handful of places in town that push the envelope so far that it just begs a visit. Yes, if you're listing something like Best Meals in Delhi... then it won't be possible to do a list within 10...the diversity of sub-categories is so large.

But please, writers and food enthusiasts, take a step back and look at it with some perspective. Don't blindly follow SEO orders..I know traffic is king and content structure often suffers. But draw the line somewhere. Use your discretion, pick out the topics where you think a list of 10 is justified and put your foot down when you think it should not exceed 5. No, your editor may not love you too much, but hopefully they will be matured enough to respect your opinion on the matter. As for me? Well I'm off to Google baba, to sift through the list of gazillion places in town that make the BEST burger to find the one I will visit today. And when in a few weeks I finally have the verdict on who's king, you can be rest assured that you won't need to scroll more than twice in my article! Till then...keep eating and keep reading..  

Sunday 16 April 2017

Fast and Furious - Tokyo Drift

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The title seems apt as I furiously tap away on the keyboard, sitting in the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) bound for Kyoto. From Japan’s modern bustling capital city Tokyo, to its more laidback but crammed-in-every-corner-with-culture ancient capital, Kyoto. I find myself distracted, as I type. The scenery outside, acres and acres of cherry blossoms, rivers aimlessly meandering by, and oh wait.. is that Mount Fuji? Please excuse me as I pause to gape in wonder.

A week in Tokyo and the country is no longer as alien as it seemed earlier. The subway is my ally, as is Google Map (which tends to be inaccurate here sometimes) helping me explore crevices of this crazy metropolis, some (rightfully) on the tourist trail, and some (thankfully) off it. For a country where English is unapologetically not very commonly spoken or understood, it is not difficult to get around in Japan. Hand gestures, speaking slowly and not in sentences and maps make the world a smaller place.

I couldn’t attempt to put all my experiences this week in this one post. It would be impossible. But maybe, just maybe, I could limit it to food and give you a glimpse of what I have been upto. So here goes.. each one of these an experience, each highly recommended with my stamp:

5 Things You Must Eat in Tokyo
1)   Yakitori


Lucky enough (or rather smart enough) to be staying in a hotel in Shinkuju area, if yakitori is what you seek, head to the ‘Yakitori Lane’ just off Shinkuju station. Do not pay heed to the naysayers, this is neither seedy nor overrated. I have since had plenty of yakitori in much grander envoins, the food doesn’t even compare. We randomly selected one of the places in the lane, which seemed to be popular with locals and tourists alike and where an English menu was available. These places are tiny, with 4-5 tables (usually upstairs) and are crowded with ‘salaried men’ who come here for a couple of drinks after work. The chicken yakitori outshone the pork version and the fried rice was absolutely divine.

2) Yakinuki


The lesser known, yakinuki should be the one food experience you should NOT miss, and save up to splurge on. Much like a Korean barbeque, the meats are grilled on your table. The meats at Jojoen Yakinuki were the star of the show. We were lucky enough to be hosted by a Japanese friend who ordered on our behalf and asked us to ‘trust her’. We needn’t have worried. The ox tongue literally melted in the mouth and the marinated beef was beyond delicious as were the clams. I did draw the line at beef intestines, though.   

3) Ramen
     
 
      This one deserves a post of its own so I will keep it for another day. But safe to say, what you have been eating as ramen barely scratches the surface. There are many varieties of ramen, each drastically different from the other. The one I decided to hunt out on a cold rainy day, is called Fuunji Ramen and usually has a waiting line around the block. Thankfully the rain kept (most) people home and we only had to wait for 15 minutes. You buy your order ticket, sit on a table facing the chefs, and are served your soba noodles cold, with a hot, mean dipping sauce on the side. Eat and please make way for the people standing behind you in line. The broth? Oh so good. Salty, murky and full of pork flavor.

      4) Tempura


My journey with Japanese food started with tempura, similar as it is to fritters or even our own pakoda. However, having sampled much greater variety of Japanese food over the years, tempura does not feature high on my list anymore. However, the experience of a tempura lunch is something you should seek out. Looking for the place took me a while, especially as there were no English signages but I recognized it from a photo I saw on Tripadvisor. After you placed your order, and settled on the counter facing the chef, he got busy preparing your food, which he placed one by one in front of you, waiting for you to finish each piece first. Always a fan of prawns, I was surprised with how much I loved Eel Tempura. Smooth, delicate and delicious meat, perfectly contrasting with the crunch of the tempura flakes.   

5)  
Oh and Sushi too

Sushi is perhaps the most popular Japanese dish outside of the country. But here, with the variety in front of you, it almost becomes an afterthought. Almost, I say, because when you do get around to trying some sushi, it blows you away and obliterates memory of any sushi you may have eaten anywhere in the world. You won’t find maki rolls too often, sushi here usually refers to Nigiri. I went for the English-friendly conveyor belt Ginza Sushi, well aware that it may be inferior to the best in town (far far below the $300 experience at Jiro), but came away amazed at just how delicious it was. The avocado and tuna sushi begged for a reorder and the tuna mince with spring onions and chilly oil still gives me sleepless nights.

Now, you know what’s been keeping me busy this week? And this was just about the food. Wait till I start about the sakura (cherry blossoms)….

  

Friday 7 April 2017

Recipe: Orange & Ginger Glazed Grilled Chicken


I'll let you in on a secret. You will usually find some grilled chicken in my fridge to do with as I please, for salads, wraps, pastas or even stir fries. I cook up 2 fillets and use them over the next 2 days. This also makes sure that when I am actually tossing up dinner, the preparation time is absolutely minimal. 

Inspiration struck today and I decided to do an Orange & Ginger Glazed Chicken Fillet for lunch. Now, as you already know, I had a fillet ready in the fridge. So, it was a matter of 5 minutes and I had this mouthwatering fancy dish ready. Here's how: 

RECIPE

For the Chicken (you can prepare and store for 2 days) 

Ingredients:
Chicken Thigh (2 pieces) (with bone or without)
Salt/ pepper
Italian herbs (I like parsley, rosemary also works)
Garlic (3 pods, ground into a paste)
Olive oil (1 tbsp)

1) Wash the chicken fillets and pat dry. Make cuts in the meat on all sides so that the marinade goes inside. 
2) In a ziplock bag (or just a bowl, if you don't have one), mix the other ingredients. Add the chicken fillets to the bag, one at a time, rubbing the marinade into them with the tips of your fingers. Seal and leave in the fridge for a few hours (I prefer leaving it to marinate for a day, turning the bag on the other side whenever I see it, a couple of times). 
3) Take a pan and heat it up. Put the fillets in the pan and sear one side by not moving them around for a minute. Turn to the other side, lower the heat (simmer), cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the pan covered (and do NOT peak or remove the cover even for a minute) for another 10 minutes. 
4) Grilled chicken is ready. Cool, cover and store. 

You can use this (as I said before) for salads, wraps, pastas or just about anything. 

For the glaze 

Ingredients
Orange juice (half a cup)
Pepper to taste
Ginger (2 slices)
Mustard sauce (1/2 tsp)

1) In a pan, add all the ingredients, together with the chicken fillet. 
2) Turn up the heat and let the juice boil. Turn the fillet a couple of times so it gets coated.
3) In around 2-3 minutes, you will get a thick glaze consistency (almost like a marmalade) with just a lil extra jus for dipping. Serve immediately.  

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Easy Wok Tossed Noodle Recipe (with step-by-step pictures)


Half a yellow pepper, two mushrooms, quarter of a carrot.. I had a whole lot of vegetables left in my refrigerator, but only bits of them which I needed to finish up before I headed to the supermarket. My solution? Easy wok-tossed noodles with plenty of veggies, to keep both me and the baby happy tonight.

The recipe is super easy. Try it out:

Recipe 

Time Taken- 20 minutes
Meal for 2

Ingredients
Half a carrot (julienned)
2 mushrooms (I used Swiss brown mushrooms, you can try any others, sliced)
Red, yellow and green peppers (half each, julienned) 
Grilled chicken bits (leftovers of any chicken you may have lying in the fridge)
1 small onion
Egg Noodles (one packet)
Oyster sauce - 1 tbsp
Soy sauce - 1/2 tbsp
1 egg 

Method

1) Chop up all the vegetables as mentioned in the ingredients list.



2) Heat 1 liter water in a large container. Add noodles when it comes to a rolling boil. Throw in some chopped beans too, if you have them. And the onion (whole). When done, drain and hold under cold water. 


3) Heat a wok and scramble the egg in it. Remove and keep aside. 

4) Add a tsp of oil in the same wok and heat. Add the mushrooms and toss for a minute. Now add the carrots and peppers and toss for a minute on medium heat. 


5) Add noodles, onion (cut into 4), chicken and the sauces. Gently mix. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg, toss a couple of times and remove from heat. Voila. 



Tips
- I like to use light soy sauce as I don't like it overpowering my noodles. If you prefer it stronger, use the dark one.
- Instead of oyster sauce, you can also add in black pepper sauce or black bean sauce. 
- The trick about the onion in the water is something I learnt from Kalyan of Finely Chopped fame. Credit where credit is due. 
- I keep oil to a minimal, for health reasons. You can also experiment with other types of noodles (I tried these amazing organic beetroot noodles with this recipe that came out fab too).   

Monday 13 March 2017

10 Healthy Eating Tips You Need to Follow to Lose Weight - NDTV Food

As a food critic, I am often asked how I maintain myself. Truth be told, it is not easy. It is a combination of regular exercise and a conscious reprogramming to make healthier food choices for everyday meals. 

Here's me spilling the beans on how you can make healthier food choices too. Looking to lose weight? These tips will do wonders...and they will keep the weight off too. Better than any diet you may have tried. 

Read the article here

Thursday 9 March 2017

The Indian girl who suddenly doesn't need to 'watch what she wears'

As a girl who grew up in India, my sense of dressing and idea of appropriateness stems from the environment there. Thus, I have a certain idea of the kind of clothes I should wear inside the colony, what clothes to wear to a mall, what I shouldn't wear when driving alone at night and what I should layer up so that it is not too revealing.

I do not grudge these, as they are the way of the land. However, when you think about it, these categories exist for one reason and one reason alone- to avoid unwanted male attention.

I have done a fair bit of travelling outside the country, but it is really in the ten odd days that I have spent in Singapore right now that show me just how liberating it is to not categorise your clothes such. No one stares, no one could be bothered. In fact, everybody dresses so well that you would only be embarrassed if you dressed shabbily rather than if your hemline is too high.

I find myself readjusting to this alternate reality. I look at my wardrobe every morning and try to decide what to wear basis what will look best on me or how the weather is, and not so much depending on whether I plan to take the MRT (train) or the bus today. It also makes me more conscious of my fitness levels as everyone is so fit and thus fit into such gorgeous clothes.

It is not a shift that comes naturally. There have been times (just this morning infact) when I went back and changed my top before I left the house. But I give myself time to accept my body, and to accept the fact that I have the right to choose what to wear, this right does not belong to some stranger on the road. And for this single sense of empowerment, I am glad.

Sunday 5 March 2017

10 Best Meals in Bangalore - My Recommendations on NDTV Food

Image Credit: Toast & Tonic
Bangalore has always been an exciting food market. Restaurants often use it to experiment before moving to Delhi or Mumbai. It is an interesting overlap of the legendary and the new.

My recent trip to Bangalore was full of great food. From the new (and exceptional) Toast & Tonic by Manu Chandra to beer that I actually liked at Windmills Craftswork, there was plenty to write about.

My latest article on NDTV talks about 10 dishes in Bangalore that you must try. Regardless of whether you live there or not, these are must-haves.

Read the article by clicking here.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Week 1 Lesson: Do Not Judge


Week 1 in Singapore has been eventful. Settling into the new house, getting it painted, internet enabled, phone numbers changed and all the small jobs that pyramid into one seemingly-unsurmountable mountain. Thankfully, everything is getting sorted slowly and hopefully Week 2 or atleast Week 3 should be easier.

One of my biggest challenges has been to adjust to a life without the five helpers I am used to, back home. Someone to wash the dishes, someone mopping the floor, a cook, a nanny, clothes washer, car washer, gardener, clothes ironing person…phew.. Ok, we’re a spoilt bunch. Thus, when Week 1 involved days filled with cooking, washing, cleaning and babysitting, it is but obvious they were fairly frustrating.

But this post is not about that. It is about food choices. I used to pride myself on my ability to make sound and balanced food choices, which helped me maintain myself and yet keep me nourished and healthy. I can go on to say that subconsciously I may also have judged people who did not make good food choices, and then would lament about how it is tough to stay in shape.

That is till I moved here. And I realised the value of my cook back home. Let me explain.

Since the scandal last year about bread and the preservatives used in it, I almost completely switched from it. Breakfast would either be parathas (with barely any oil but some malai atop) or poha, etc. These, my friend, are VERY labour intensive recipes, and ones that I really am not in the mood to cook early in the morning. So, I find myself at a loss when I cook breakfast these days. It doesn’t stop there. Cheese is something I only indulged in when I ate out, same for butter. I would try to avoid processed meats like salami and sausages after WHO classified them as carcinogenic. Preferred phulka over white rice. No ready to eat foods for their obnoxiously high salt content, no cereals as they were full of added sugars, no ketchup for the same reason and the list goes on. So, my daily food was fairly healthy, well balanced and full of nutrients. Having said that, I never kept away from any type of food and ate everything from chole bhature to deep fried samosas. Just not on a daily basis.

NOW, it is a struggle. Pasta doesn’t taste half as good unless you put in copious amounts of Parmesan. Bread is difficult to avoid, so I try to buy wholemeal and from a small bakery which wouldn’t use preservatives. There is no way on earth that I am gundoing aata so there go all the parathas and chappatis. 


Thus, it would be safe to say that eating healthy is a struggle when you don’t have the luxury of a cook making it for you. I will no longer be so quick to judge. Having said that, it is still possible. You just need to spend more time in the fresh section of the supermarket and give the frozen aisle a miss (as tempting as it is to pop a pizza into the oven for dinner). Let’s see how long my patience lasts. Till then…I’m off to the kitchen to attempt making dal in the rice cooker (but that’s for the next post). Until later….   

Tuesday 21 February 2017

7 Famous Dishes You Must Try in Delhi



As I wrap up things in Delhi, the city I have always called home, I realise that there really isn't much to wrap up. Places have lost their meaning, people have moved and thus, in a way, I'm not really sure what it is that I am saying goodbye to. Yet, there is a heaviness in my heart, not the spring in my step that I would expect. It is after all, a move that I had wanted, to a city that I quite like, closer to my best friend too. But when people ask whether I am excited, it is a smile that I force on. I'm not yet. Hoping that I will be, when I land there, but for now, it is not excitement that fills my heart.

So when I am all complexed out, I do what I do best, I write. My latest article on NDTV lists out 7 dishes that Delhi is quite famous for. I even list out my favourite places to go try these at...and spill the beans on those that I find (grossly) overrated. Read the article by clicking here.

This one is only a trailer though. With (surprisingly) not too many people to say goodbye to, I find solace in food. And thus, for the last week or so, I have been ticking off my list of 'Best meals in Delhi'. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the epic list that you should look out for. A list that you can follow at your own pace, a list which will help you understand the city as I know it. This is as real as it gets, as personal, as honest. Watch this space for more. In the mean time, go read my article on Famous Dishes of Delhi...I bet it'll leave you hungry for more.