Outlandish eats

Outlandish eats

Back in the ‘fifties, earning while learning as an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), I was a part-time bartender. It was a swish watering hole on Vine Avenue, where the Hollywood glitterati hung out. The liquid potions in shining goblets and long-stemmed glasses were served with... err... chocolate covered ants and fried grasshoppers. Roasted peanuts with drinks were considered common, only for the hoi polloi.

Now 60 years later, I am doing a vague local research, and want to jot down some outlandish stuff to eat and drink. For instance, Chinese bhel offered at various eateries in Bengaluru. (All versions are awful). In Chennai and Coimbatore, I have had a 9-foot long dosa, served on an enormous oblong steel platter that was placed on three tables joined together. The dosa was shared by six people. (I don’t recommend this whole kaboodle.)

Many restaurants serve fried ice cream. The recipe is a secret, the experience is intriguing. Phulka is the new taco. And it is bunged in with jackfruit so call it a Mexindian taco? They say it is a pulled jackfruit taco, whatever that means. Seen only at Gurgaon, Delhi and Kolkata. Coloured burgers anyone? Only two choices offered: red or black. They use choco powder, beetroot juice, roasted spice. Make it yourself or it is available at many fancy restaurants. Pay a bomb at those. Then there is quinoa salad. Wonder what quinoa is.

Red velvet cakes never went away, but they are trendy now. Oh, and you can get red pasta. You can get lemon, orange mocktails, spiked with jalzeera — and the name is Banta cocktails. How about the so-called ‘molecular drinks’? Promoted as ‘theatre on your table’, they involve a dramatic effect given at your table via a mix of dry ice and liquid nitrogen.

Naanza (naan pizza) has been around a while. Long before that, I was making it in my kitchen. Not only putting pizza toppings/mozzarella-cheddar cheese and drizzling pesto sauce on naan, but also on aloo paratha, carrot paratha, methi roti and mooli roti. I named them parathanzas and rotinzas.

The toppings included mushroom, olive, sweet corn, tomato, capsicum, etc but sometimes I also included baingan (brinjal). The baingan toppings were summarily rejected by my family. (Hmph! I, for one, eat my bengan rotinza with relish.)

I had once tried to put Coca Cola in coconut water. It didn’t work. So I put Pepsi Cola in buttermilk. It didn’t work, either. I have heard of samosa faccacia and will find out about that. I’ll also research what peri peri is. (It is a sauce, but what?)

Vada pav is no longer only street food. Posh restaurants serve it in a deconstructed form. They cut a mundane vada pav in two, with the two vada halves exposed and peeping out like they are making goo-goo eyes at you. They put them on pre-heated crockery with green cilantro or parsley and such decorative stuff around it. The waiter in waistcoat comes
with a crisp napkin hung on his forearm, bends at waist, and puts the plate at your table with flourish. You pay a bomb.

What next? I propose idli topped with chocolate sauce and pani puri with ice cream stuffing. On my next rotinza, I’ll put bhindi (ladies finger) and raw mango bits as toppings. I propose an ordinance that makes it compulsory to have rasam with a fork. What would you suggest?