Monday, March 26, 2007

Delicious Corn in a Cup

Corn stands have started sprouting everywhere in Chennai. The phenomenon started about a year ago, and now it seems like they are all over. The most wide-spread brand is Hot and Spicy and they are little stands that are situated in busy malls, cinema houses and even on the street in front of supermarkets. Its pretty cool.

Its basically steamed corn that is then mixed with different spices. There's the plain one which is just a little butter, salt and pepper (which is also my favorite), the chinese, the masala (which is mixed with some garam masala) and there are a couple others.

Available in most busy places, its a great alternative to popcorn and an excellent snack!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Indian pizza, like Indian Chinese food, has really nothing to do with the original. Indian chinese has created a niche food group of its own - more Indian than Chinese. For example, the famous American Chop Suey. Now thats neither Chinese nor American, but hey! we love it in India.

Indian pizza is pretty much that. We've put our toppings on it and Indianized it along with the sauce. The big players here are Pizza Hut, Chef Express, Domino's and Pizza Corner. I think the consumer prefers Pizza Hut, but I'm convinced its because of the brand (though it doesn't taste like the original Pizza Hut pizza either).

The one hotel that serves excellent pizza is The Park at their coffee shop, 601. Its an ultra-thin crust, with very little sauce and some exceptional toppings and great stringy cheese. A very close second is Pizza Corner with their spicy pizza sauce and a winner in the Indianized pizza category.

Note: Photos taken from the Chef Express website...

Rise of the Under Dogs Part Deux

And this time I'm talking about the Indian under-dogs - Sachin and Sehwag whom I basically thought were useless last match, showed that they were worth their place in the Indian team this time around vs. Bermuda. Superb performance by Sachin, Sehwag and Yuvraj. And of course, the fantastic 6 off the last ball from Dravid.

Sachin and Yuvraj were a sight to behold and it was a feast for the Indians who've been starved of 6s and 4s for a while now. Bermuda got badly knocked around. I do hope it was a learning experience. And I do hope they will come back and play next time.

India made a whopping 413 - the highest total in World Cup History. And though we didnt manage to get them out for less that 125, like we should have, it was still quite a beating. Onto the match vs. Sri Lanka fingers x-ed.

In other news, the Pakistan coach died suddenly of "unexplained causes, waiting the autopsy" after their defeat in the match vs. Ireland. And Inzamam has stepped down as Captain. I'm quite sad about both. Inzamam has done a lot for Pakistan cricket, and so has the coach.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Rise of the Under Dogs

Un-friggin-believable! India lost to Bangladesh in their first game today in the World Cup! I, for one, am appalled!! I mean Bangladesh is definitely the best of under dog teams - or should I say those that aren't in the Super 8. But really, Bangladesh?? C'mon, India! I have been rooting for India to get to the Semi-finals (I still think the finals will be between South Africa and Sri Lanka), but looks like they might not make it!

I can't believe we still think of Sachin Tendulkar as a hero in this country. His performance in the past couple of years has been dismal at best. He's made it big in maybe a couple of matches and every single time, the country says "wow thank god Sachin is back in form", only to find him getting out for a single figure the next time! I'm tired of people thinking he's the saving grace! Move on, people. Sehwag, another disappointing performance. And I expected more from Dravid. What's going on, dude?

But the worst performance I've seen so far from a super 8 team was Pakistan today vs. Ireland. On St. Patrick's Day! Woohoo Ireland! Superbly played indeed. Sent Pakistan packing by 3 wickets! That is, Pakistan is out of the world cup! This is definitely a turn-the-tables, edge-of-the-seat type world cup. Can't wait to see Ireland play the West Indies. I'm sure it'll be superb judging by Ireland's performance so far. They might even make it to the top of their group! Happy St. Pat's!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Retail Markets

Just look at the photo and it could be a store anywhere in the world. The same Pringles, Oreos, Chips Ahoy etc. stocked on the shelves. There is only one such place in Chennai though (Amma Naana). Its where the ex-pats shop. And those who have moved back from living overseas. The exorbitant prices prohibit people from shopping here on a regular basis though. I've also found that though you are able to find most non-Indian branded food products, the packets are pretty close to their expiration dates, and some are downright stale. But, (woohoo!), they even have Starbucks Mocha Fraps!

Recently opened are a chain of grocery stores by the Reliance Group, Reliance Fresh. I visited one today and was pretty impressed. The shelves are lined with fresh fruit and vegetables and the staff are helpful and courteous, though sometimes they seem to be following you around and I enjoy shopping alone, making my own decisions, picking my own vegetables.

Its a great alternative to the vegetable vendor who comes to your doorstep, just because of the range available. The prices are extremely reasonable, which leads me to wonder how long that will last. (I took some great photos inside the store, but was pulled aside as I was leaving, and made to delete it from my camera infront of the security guy!) So, here's one I got of the outside of the store (with their permission). And another of the Indian cricket t-shirts being sold there to support the team! Of course, I had to buy one!

Reliance Fresh is also a great alternative to Nilgiris, which for a long long while has been department-store-of-choice for most of Chennai. More from a lack of alternatives, I believe. Hopefully Reliance Fresh will maintain the clean shelves, happy staff and low prices!

India in a different light

I have been so caught up in rediscovering India after moving back, that I have quite forgotten how India would be viewed by a non-Indian. Mark Straub, a fellow blogger, has very eloquently shown me India in a different light. The way his posts themselves have evolved over the months - initially his post was how colorful, populated and crazy India is when you first land and take a drive from the airport, to all the inner passion and drive that you find in the country. Amazing blog. Please read if you have the time.

His latest post has this link from YouTube, that again showed me a different India - and what a beautiful video it is. As Mark says

"...shows quite a different angle on this rubik's-cube-of-a-country. It's a beautiful view of the "Invisible Side of India" - a picture you only glimpse today but that you may see all around you if you visit in 10 years..."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cricket Gods!

The World Cup Cricket has begun! And with it, all the passion, drive and enthusiasm of India has re-ignited. Along with the skepticism and fear! We, in India, are willing to do anything in our power to make sure the Indian team rises over Anyone and Everyone. May they crush those who stand in their way to ultimate victory! :)

In that vein, one Mr. K.R. Ramakrishnan has built a Cricket temple in Chennai! It features Lord Ganesha, holding a cricket ball and bat! His arms go towards the left and right (in order to make sure that both the left-handed and right-handed players are equally blessed). He says that since he has erected this temple, India has been doing extremely well. But what happens when they lose? Where was Ganesha then? Well, the Indian team needs to pray to that Ganesha, and he will come when he feels they need him!

Mr. Ramakrishnan has also given up 101 blessings and prayers for the cricket team and has started to write them in a book!

When Hinduism has a zillion Gods to bless every step of your life, why not the Cricket God? Hey, I'm willing to go pray if that'll ensure India's win! Go Go Dravid!

Photo taken from here...and read more about this here

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Chaat is such a huge part of why I love food. It represents India - all parts of India - full of flavor and such a staple diet. I don't know many people who don't like chaat. Some mouth-watering Pani Puri standing at a chaat stand on the street corner, some spicy-sweet sev puri and some cool dahi papdi chaat. Mmmm What could be better? Its even served in high-class Indian restaurants, as well as the most common street carts! Unbelievably versatile!

In Chennai, THE only place to have great chaat is Gangotree. They've been around for atleast a decade and have opened several branches. The original one opposite Stella Maris College is the one I used to frequent in my college days. Couple of times a week, my friends and I would faithfully make the trip across the road at break time. Each of us had our favourite kind and we'd always go there with our mouths watering and come back saying Oh Man That Was Fabulous.

Lol - just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Gangotree is still going strong and they've diversified into north Indian sweets and drinks. They even sell bottled drinks. And they cater events.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Chennai Loyalty

Its been a year and a half since I moved back to Chennai. Having lived here for 24 years before that. Things have changed and Chennai is more cosmopolitan than it was and things are only getting better. This is as it should be.

For the first 6 months of moving back, I complained non-stop and to anyone who'd listen that I was longing to be back in the Bay Area. I missed the clean sidewalks, the empty (atleast population-less) spaces, independence, the food (especially the bagels!) and most of all the anonymity.

I was jealous of those who found happiness here in Chennai. Especially those who had lived in the US and had moved back and said they were glad they did so. I just couldn't understand it - why would you want to live here? I wished that I felt that the same way.

Things have changed drastically in the last year. I enjoy Chennai. As someone told me "in the US, it seems as if people are just trying to get through the day, the work day, and can't wait to get home. In Chennai, there's a sense of excitement, of promise. There's the longing to be more, to do more with their lives, to achieve more". I totally agree. People here want a better life for themselves and are willing to work harder and try harder to achieve it. You'll be hard-put to find someone who is complacent.

The one issue that still remains is anonymity but I'm glad now that there are people around me who give a damn about me. Who are willing to help, to lend a ear, to lend a hand. Someone I can drop my kid off with for an hour just to shop and they are excited to have her. People who I bump into in shops, in cinemas, on the road even whom I can have a conversation with inspite of having seen them only yesterday. There's a huge sense of community.

I am as surprised as anyone that I am writing this. But I've finally found peace at moving back. I do still long for those things in the US, but am happy to visit. The severe "homesickness" and aching have disappeared. I've joined those people I envied. I'm finally happy with my decision. I'm home.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Plagiarism by Yahoo! India

I have been shocked by Yahoo! India's lack of respect for proprietal information. Fellow Bloggers have been attacked by Yahoo! where the big corporation has actually lifted content off their blogs, and posted it on the portal without any credit to the source. Incredible! Especially for someone as well-known as Yahoo who doesn't need to do this!

Inji of Ginger and Mango writes:

Yahoo India launched a beta version of their Malayalam (an Indian Language) portal and what do they do to fill their pages? Lift content just straight from small web magazines and blogs without asking a word or adequately compensating for those. What a shame!

Read more about this here. And join the protest.

(Icon credit Sandeepa)