Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Madras Special- Ven Pongal with coconut chutney

Ven pongal  is a rice and lentil dish similar to a khichdi and is a very popular breakfast in south India especially in my city Madras. Pongal is also the name of the Harvest festival of the South. Pong means "spill or boil over" and this is a ritual that is still carried out during this festival. The milk and rice is cooked in a pot and allowed to boil over and this is considered very auspicious as it symbolizes abundance. 

Pongal which is also known as Sankranti/Lohri/Bihu in other parts of India commemorates the Sun travelling northward towards the equinox and marks the end of the harvest season in the south. This festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and involves a lot of feasting. The other variety of pongal- sweet pongal using jaggery is commonly offered during the Pongal celebrations. I am sharing with you my recipe for ven pongal, a simple savoury breakfast paired perfectly with coconut chutney.

Ven Pongal with coconut chutney

Recipe                                                                                              Print Recipe

Serves 2-3


1 cup Medium grain raw rice (not boiled or parboilled)
1/2 cup Split yellow moong dal
Salt to taste

For the tempering
2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Whole Black Pepper
10 Curry leaves
3-4 Cloves
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1/2 tsp Asfoetida Powder
3 tbsp Ghee

10-15 cashewnuts
1 tsp Ghee

For the Coconut Chutney
1 cup Coconut- chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup Roasted chana dal
1/2 inch ginger
2 green chillis
2 tbsp coriander leaves

For the Chutney Tempering
a pinch of Asfoetida powder
2 Dry red chilli
1/4 tsp Urad dal (split)
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
7-8 Curry Leaves
2 tsp oil


Coconut Chutney

Grind all the ingredients with enough water to get a smooth paste with the desired consistency of the chutney. I like it thick so I add less water but you can choose to have it as thick or thin as you like. Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds, urad dal, asfoetida, curry leaves and dry chilli. Let the mustard seeds pop and then add the seasoning to the chutney and give it a good mix.  Coconut chutney is ready.

Coconut chutney


1. I add coriander leaves to the chutney as I like the flavour and the colour it imparts to the chutney, you can choose to leave it out if you don't like coriander.

2. The coconut pieces should be cut into small pieces to ensure smooth grinding. 

3. Water should be added little by little till you get the desired consistency. 


Wash the rice and dal thoroughly till the water you wash it in remains clear. In the pressure cooker heat a tsp of ghee and add the rice and dal to it. Fry it for 5 minutes in the hot ghee uncovered. Now add 3 cups of water followed by salt (to taste) to the pressure cooker and place the lid on it. Let it pressure cook for 3 whistles or about 10 minutes till rice and dal are completely cooked through and mushy.

Prepare the tempering by heating 2 tsp of ghee and adding cumin seeds, asfoetida, pepper, curry leaves and cloves to it followed by the ginger. Let the cumin seeds turn brown and then mix the seasoning with the cooked rice and dal mixture. Give it a good mix so that everything is well combined.

Fry the cashew nuts in a tsp of ghee and mix it with the pongal and leave a few for garnish. Serve the pongal topped with crunchy cashews with a side of coconut chutney.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Super foods special-Banana, Dates and Chia Seeds Muffin

Dear Readers,

I am back with a really yummy and healthy breakfast muffin recipe. You must be thinking yummy and healthy don't really go hand in hand but you will be surprised by this little beauty. The sweetness of the bananas and dates along with the goodness of oats, almonds and chia seeds makes for a very delicious and nutrient packed start to the day. 

Health benefits:

Chia seeds are one of the richest sources of  Omega 3 and are considered a super food. They are gluten free, high in protein (it's a complete protein with 8 amino acids) and Vitamin C. They improve our health and general well being and are incredibly versatile and easy to incorporate into our diets. Sprinkle over cereal, or add it to the bread dough, or add it to smoothies, muffins, cookies, the possibilities are endless.

Oats or Muesli add fibre to our diet and we all know how good oats are to reduce cholestrol levels and improve our cardiovascular health. Muesli is a combination of uncooked rolled oats, fruits and nuts and makes for a nourishing breakfast.

Dates are delicious and a great source of iron, dietary fibre, vitamin A, B and K and flavonoids like beta carotene and lutein, that  protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals.

Bananas are not only yummy but are a great source of potassium, magnesium and anti oxidants. They are easy to digest and gentle on the stomach, and that's the reason why mashed bananas are the first solid food gen to babies.

The combination of all these deliciously healthy ingredients makes these muffins a very healthy and yummy start to the day.This recipe is very forgiving, feel free to experiment with the proportions of ingredients to suit your needs. Enjoy!


Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

yields 12-14

150 g Wholemeal Self Raising Flour (if not available use plain wholemeal flour and add 2 tsp baking powder for every cup of plain flour)
50 g Muesli or Oats - powdered (I grinded mine in a spice grinder)
50 g Almond meal (ground almonds)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of salt
60 g brown sugar
40 g Caster sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 over ripe bananas
60g Chopped dates
1 tbsp Chia seeds
5 tbsp vegetable oil
60 ml plain yoghurt


1. You can reduce the sugar and replace with honey.

2. You can make the recipe gluten free by completely omit the flour and replace it with powdered muesli, it will make a slightly denser but delicious cake.


Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and 160 C if fan forced.

Grind the oats/muesli to a fine powder and set aside. Put all the dry ingredients - flour, almond meal, powdered oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.


In a large bowl crack the two eggs and whisk it with the sugar till combined. Now add the vanilla, mashed bananas, yoghurt and oil and mix everything well with a wooden spoon. 

Liquid ingredients

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix till well combined and lump free. Fold the chopped dates and chia seeds into the batter.

Chia seeds

Line a 12 cup muffin tray with cases and spoon the mixture into the cups equally. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes till they are golden and well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the muffins. Let them cool on a cooling rack and then store in an airtight container.

Muffins and tea


Friday, June 21, 2013

Served with love contest (10,000 hits giveaway) and a recipe - Vegetarian Pho

Dear Readers,

Food is one of our primal necessities, but it is so much more than just a necessity isn't it. It brings us together, it has the power to engulf all our senses and leave us with ever lasting memories. Memories that can simply be triggered with just a whiff of this and a taste of that and transport you to a different world - that is the power of food. 

Let me share with you a little incident from my time in Vietnam. I was there for a hospital re-development project headed by my university and it was a cross-cultural team meaning we had students from Australia and Vietnam working together on the project. It was my first time in Vietnam and I was really unfamiliar with the language, I had learnt some basic phrases from the travel book I had, but otherwise was reliant on gestures and the local friends I had made there. 

After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Melbourne, our team travelled from HCMC to Danang where the Hospital was located for our site visit and research. After spending the whole day at the hospital we (a few friends and me) decided to go for a wander and have some dinner. We were four girls, three Aussie and one Vietnamese (our lovely local guide) So we went on a rather long walk and we couldn't spot any restaurants, the road was pretty deserted, there was hardly any traffic and most houses had their lights off. There is an interesting tradition there,many people run house restaurants, meaning guests essentially dine in their homes in their dining rooms, and pay for their meal and leave. This made it really hard for us to spot whether a house was just a house or a house cum restaurant. 

Finally after walking around for an hour we thought we spotted a home cum restaurant. There were a few chairs outside the house, the lights were on and you could see a few ladies pottering around the kitchen. So we made our way to the cosy home restaurant and my Vietnamese friend asked the ladies what they served and to my sheer delight it turned out that they only made vegetarian food. Our friend did all the ordering and the ladies got to work. 

The place was modest, a pale green coloured room with a few tube lights, a few plastic tables and chairs. The kitchen and dining room was one open space and there was a little passage that led to the rest of the house. You could tell the ladies worked very hard to make a living, I sincerely felt a lot of respect for them. Our food arrived at the table, steaming hot bowls of vegetable noodle soup, vegetables and tofu stir fried with bean paste, fried rice and noodle dishes. We dug in and all of us loved the food. The soup was magnificent, I had never tasted such an exquisite broth in my life. One of the girls who's background was Russian kept asking "Are you sure there's no animal content, it has to have some beef stock in the soup surely." Basically she could not believe that vegetarian food could be so flavoursome and delicious. 

The old ladies were so happy looking at us eat, they just sat at the next table and stared at us with a smile on their faces. It was just like how my grand mom would beam when we kids would eat her cooking, the same love, the same care and devotion and the same twinkling eyes. You could see the joy on their faces as we relished their cooking-a priceless moment. One of the old ladies, this cute old gran came upto me while I was still eating and touched my hair lovingly and then said something in Vietnamese, smiled at me and then sat down again. My friend translated saying that the lady knew I was from India because I have big eyes and thick dark hair. I smiled and gave her a hug and just nodded while trying very hard to hold back my tears. 

My grandmother had passed away the day before I had to leave for Vietnam. It was a very difficult time for me being away from home and having to travel for an important project. The only thought that gave me strength was the thought of her getting angry at me for having left my project mid-way. She was a very stern and hard working lady with a generous heart and she would have wanted me to complete what I started. In an unknown country to have this lovely gran feed me with so much love and attention just reminded me so much of my grandmother. It was one of the most incredible meals of my life, not because the food was good but because there was something more added to it - love and care.We had the rest of our meal surrounded by their happy faces and paid a very modest $6 for a meal for four, we tried to tip them but they did not accept it. They only wanted what they thought was fair, such self respecting, honest ladies. I still think of that night, the meal we had and the incredible women we met who in their own unassuming manner touched our lives.

This is my story about being Served with love, I want to hear yours. It can be about anyone who touched your life with a simple act of love through food. Remember the best story will get a great prize from Cookie's Kitchen, it could be anything from a cookbook to assorted cupcakes, it all depends on your geographical location. I am having this contest to celebrate the 10,000 views milestone of Cookie's Kitchen. Feel free to write your story in the comment box below or email me at Contest ends by 5 pm AEST on 1 July, 2013.

Now for the recipe, it's only fitting I share my Vietnamese Pho recipe with you after that story. Pho (pronounced fuh) is a Vietnamese noodle soup usually made of Beef broth. I have adapted the recipe to make a vegetarian version, it is a very soothing, healthy and delicious soup with lots of room for personalization and tweaking. I hope you enjoy it :)


Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)


(Adapted from Kitchn)
Serves 2-3


For the broth
3 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon stick
4-5 cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves
1 Onion (cut into 2 halves)
2-3 inches long Ginger ( divide into 2 pieces)
2 Carrots - roughly chopped
1L Vegetable Stock (salt reduced or unsalted)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Vegetable oil
2 tsp Soya Sauce

Vegetables and protein
1 cup Broccoli - cut into florets
1/2 bunch Choy Sum - trimmed leaves
1 cup Oyster mushrooms
a handfull of Enoki mushrooms
200 g Tofu

200-250 g Rice stick Noodles
1L Boiling water

1 cup Mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup Mint leaves
1/2 cup Coriander leaves
2-3 Red chilli (birds eye)
2-3 Lime wedges

Dry roast the spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves and coriander seeds) and keep it aside. In a mortar and pestle pound the garlic, one piece of ginger and coriander seeds to a rough paste. 

Making the garlic-ginger-coriander seeds paste

Garlic-ginger-coriander seeds paste

Char a piece of ginger and half the onion on an open flame using tongs, for about 5 minutes. Wash it and keep it aside. Chop the other half of the onion and ginger finely. 

Charred ginger and onion

Heat the oil in a deep pot and add the cinnamon, star anise and cloves to it followed by the garlic-ginger-coriander seeds paste. Let it begin to colour and then add the carrots and charred ginger and onion to it followed by the stock. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. 

Broth base

Meanwhile you can prepare the vegetables and garnishes. Finely slice the spring onions and chillis. Cut the lime into wedges and assemble the garnishes along with the herbs and sprouts onto a little plate. Garnishes are ready.

Garnishes plate


I chose broccoli, choy sum, oyster and enoki mushrooms to have in my soup. I did not think there was any need to steam them before as the hot broth will cook them in the bowl itself and leave them a little crunchy the way I like it. You can add other vegetables of your choice too, lots of room for personalization.

Slice the tofu into rectangles and lightly fry them in a tsp of oil till golden. In a large bowl place the noodles and cover it with boiling water and cover the bowl with a lid and let the noodles cook for 10 minutes till soft, drain and keep it aside, ready to be added to the soup.

After 45 minutes, check seasoning and add soya sauce if required. The broth is ready. Strain the larger items like charred ginger, onion, cinnamon, star anise out of the broth. They have infused into the broth and so we can leave them out now.

The soup is ready for assembly.Take a nice deep bowl. Place the choy sum (any greens of your choice) in it, top with the mushrooms and broccoli. Now place some of the noodles into the bowl. Ladle the hot broth into it till all the vegetables and noodles are covered. 

Arranging the vegetables in the soup bowl

Pho awaiting to be topped with garnishes

Choose the garnishes you enjoy and start assembling, you can top with fried tofu, sprouts, chillis, spring onions, coriander and mint and squeeze some lime into it. Adding your own garnishes means everyone can customize it to their taste buds.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Crispy Cheesy Arancini balls

This is my recipe for turning last night's risotto dinner into a crispy snack. Arancini balls are risotto balls crumb fried or baked with a cheesy center. They make a great party snack as they can be prepared ahead of time and kept. Enjoy!

Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

Leftover mushroom risotto (or any other risotto)
Bocconcini (bite sized fresh mozzarella)
Bread crumbs
approx 1 cup Plain flour
2 Eggs- whisked
Oil for frying

Note: It's not possible to give exact measurements as it depends on the quantity of left over risotto.

Slice the bocconcini into thin slices and keep aside. Take a slice of bocconcini, place a basil leaf on it and then keep it as the center and form a risotto ball around it, try to keep it the size of a golf ball.

Repeat the process with the remaining risotto and place the balls in a platter. Now lets start the crumbing process, Take each risotto ball and roll it in flour, then the egg and then the bread crumbs. Repeat the process for all the risotto balls. 

Now heat oil in a pan and once it's hot enough ( check by dropping a piece of bread if it sinks it's too cold, if it browns immediately it's too hot, if it sizzles and colours slowly it is at the right temperature) Place 3-4 risotto balls in the oil at a time and avoid over crowding. Let them fry till they get nicely crisp and brown. Repeat for the rest of the risotto balls. Your crispy arancini is ready.

Note: If you are preparing ahead of time, keep them in a warm oven to remain warm and crisp. Best served hot with tomato chutny.

Mushroom Risotto

Dear Readers,

I fell in love with mushroom risotto while dining at Villa Romana Restaurant at Lygon Street in Melbourne. As a student to eat at Villa Romana was expensive and a rarity, I think I only dined there 3 times in 5 years of my student life. We had gone there for a special occasion, two of my friends were moving back to India after finishing their study. It was a funny thing, we (my housemate and I) lived in Carlton right across Lygon St and ate there often but kept to the restaurants and cafes on the left hand side as they were cheaper. The right hand side ones were more expensive and so we never really dined there. Since it was a special occasion it warranted we dine at a restaurant on the right side, it was such a treat to be eating a dish that costed $22 (we only ever ate $8-$10 meals) The risotto was delicious, I still remember the poor waiter had to stand at our table grinding pepper for what seemed like 20 minutes. What can I say, I like my pepper. I only wish I knew how to cook risotto then, it seemed so exotic and difficult at the time, that way I would have gotten to eat it more often. Anyways I am sharing my mushroom risotto recipe with you, hope you enjoy it :-) Any leftovers ? Turn them into crispy arancini balls, find recipe here.


Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

Serves 2-3

1 cup Arborio Rice
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
4 cups Vegetable or Mushroom stock 
1 tbsp Olive oil
a few dried Porcini mushrooms-soaked in hot water (optional)
250 g Fresh Assorted mushrooms ( I used cup, enoki and oyster)
1 large Onion - chopped
6-7 Garlic cloves- finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Parsley leaves-chopped
1 tsp Thyme leaves
Ground Black pepper
2-3 knobs of butter (optional)
Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onions once the oil is heated. Saute the onions till they are translucent. Add the chopped garlic and saute till the raw garlic smell disappears. Do not let the onion and garlic brown, saute on a med-low flame. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.

Assorted mushrooms

Arborio rice

Add the rice and give it a good mix so that the rice is coated in the oil and onion-garlic mixture. now pour the wine into the pan and let the alcohol evaporate. Add the thyme leaves and give it a good stir. 

Squeeze the liquid out of the porcini mushrooms and add the brown mushroom flavoured liquid it was soaking in to the pan. This will give an intense mushroom flavour. 

Soaked Porcini mushrooms 

Now start adding the stock to the rice one ladle at a time and let the rice absorb the liquid before adding more. Continue adding the stock till the rice is cooked but not mushy ( it should still have a little bite to it) 

Now add a few knobs of butter to it and squeeze the lemon juice into it right before serving. Add some fresh parsley, black pepper and give it a good mix. Serve with a few parmesan shavings on top.

Mushroom Risotto


Monday, June 17, 2013

Sticky date Pudding

Dear Readers,

Winter is here in all it's glory in Sydney. I know I know being from Melbourne this shouldn't be too bad but I am close to the stage where once I am snuggled in my doona (duvet for my non Aussie friends) dressed in my flannel pjs, even getting up for a glass of water seems like an arduous task. But I love winters,  it's probably because I grew up in a tropical country in a city where the only climate is hot and humid. I love the cycle of seasons and the change in activity and pace it brings with it and how nature has a unique way of replenishing itself.

So what makes winter nights so special you ask? Hot cocoa, my special Baileys hot chocolate, crumbles and best of all gooey sticky date pudding smothered in toffee sauce with a dollop of cream - sends you straight to gooey pudding heaven. I have a secret to share with all of you, I never ate dates while I was in India, they reminded me of cockroaches too much for me to eat them.Only after I developed a serious case of anaemia when I moved to Melbourne and my mom advised me to eat two dates every day to boost my iron levels did I start eating dates and absolutely loved them. I seriously regretted not having eaten them all these years. I shared my dates-cockroach resemblance story to my hubby who then told me that he ate dates as a kid only because he thought they looked like cockroaches and thought it was so much fun because of that. Wow! So alike and yet so not alike!

Coming back to the pud, this recipe is fail proof, trust me I have made it in the most meticulous fashion and sometimes really carelessly it works every single time. I usually make sticky date puddings in muffin trays so that I have individual servings but you can make one large dish and cut it into slices like in the original recipe. Either way it's a really enjoyable dessert, perfect for those snuggly winter nights or days.


Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

(Adapted from Super food ideas July 2004, page 49 recipe by Dixie Elliott, found on taste)
yields 12

250-300 g Pitted dates -chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
11/2 cups of boiling water
125 g unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
13/4 cup Self Raising Flour - sifted

For the caramel/toffee sauce
1 cup brown sugar
300 ml thickened cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
60 g butter

Double cream or vanilla ice cream to serve with.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees C, fan forced). Lightly grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tray (you can choose to line them with muffin cases if you wish).

Put the dates and bicarb in a bowl and cover it with the boiling water, keep it aside for 20 minutes.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together till it's fluffy and pale. Now mix in the date mixture till well combined. Now gently fold through the sifted flour till everything is combined and you get a smooth lump free batter. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin tray and let it bake for 15-20 minutes till they are golden brown, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the puddings. 

Pierce the puddings with a skewer and drizzle the sauce over it generously. Best served warm with a dollop of double cream or vanilla ice cream. 


Note: The puddings and the sauce can be made a day or two ahead, they keep really well in anairtight container. The sauce can be reheated right before serving.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Eating my way through Chennai

Hubby and I got back from India a few weeks ago. We were there for one of my very good friend's wedding and also to visit family. Our itinerary included Chennai, Delhi (Gurgaon) and Mussoorie. We spent about 6 days in Chennai where my parents live and the place where I grew up. My friend who was getting married is one of my oldest friends, we have seen each other grow from gawky teenagers to thankfully - beautiful, confident women (and all the craziness in between) Every year when I went back home I knew her's would be one of the first few faces I would see, it's a strange feeling knowing that this might not be the case anymore, as she has moved halfway across the world to Washington, D.C. 

It's amazing how old friends can stop time and even turn it back, whenever we meet we have so much to talk about and reminisce, as if we were never apart. So to be a part of her wedding and see her enter this new phase of life was an exciting and emotional experience. If you know anything about Indian weddings,you know they are dramatic, colourful and full of chaos. If you are ever invited to one, let go of your inhibitions and just go with the flow. Chaos is the ultimate path to having a good time in Indian weddings. Nothing ever happens on time, there is a lot of food and a lot of people trying to feed you, lots of dancing, clothes go missing, people go missing just as long as the bride and groom make it on time to the ceremony, all is well. After having a wonderful time at the wedding and partaking in the madness and enjoying Marwari hospitality, we were all set to just chill and enjoy the city for a few days.

A little about Chennai, formerly known as Madras, it is one of the four largest metropolitan cities in India. It is also the capital of the southern state Tamil Nadu. Tamil is the state's official language and is one of the oldest languages in the world. Now hubby belongs to Delhi and is not a big fan of the south, all those years of conditioning are hard to get rid off that quickly. India's different regions are so varied and culturally different from one another that in spite of living in one country, no one can claim to understand every region, their language, food and so on. It's a culinary adventurer's dream and a traveler's unconquerable conquest.  I took upon myself the task of making him like the city that I know so well and love. He is not a fan of art or architecture, so no temples, churches or galleries would do. I decided that apart from the two days at the wedding we would eat our way through the city. I would take him to my local eateries that I have loved for ages and also enjoy the new culinary hot spots in the city.

Saravana Bhavan
101, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, Mylapore, 
Chennai - 600 004.
No visit to Madras is ever complete without eating tiffin from Saravana Bhavan. Saravana Bhavan is a Madras food institution, and has branches all over the world. Not much has changed here, the same setting, same delicious food, of course prices have inflated a lot over the years. We ordered idlis, onion rava dosa, vadas, appam with cauliflower side dish and filter coffee. The highlight for me is the consistent good taste and quality of food. I love the sambhar here and the coconut chutney is the best I have ever had. I absolutely love South Indian filter coffee, it is the Indian cappuccino if you will - perfect combination of the bitterness with a hint of sweetness and froth. The food was as good as i remembered, all my south Indian food cravings were satiated and we were both so full at the end of it all.

Food 9/10
Service 8/10
Ambience 5/10

Idlis with sambhar and chutny

Medu Vada with sambhar and chutny

Appam with side dish

Onion Rava Dosai

Cooling/frothing action

Filter coffee

Fruit Shop on Greams Road
# 49/50, Whites Road, SL:22, Base-1,
Express Avenue Complex,
Royapettah, Chennai - 600014

This used to be a popular hangout during my schooling, our very own Pop tates (Archies) if you will. The first one was at Greams Road, hence the name. It has about 10-12 branches in Chennai now and are really popular because f their superb quality of fruit juices and milkshakes. Their juices and milkshakes are as popular now as they were 10 years ago. We had a citrus cooler, kiwi based juice and the famous Jughead milkshake (ice cream based) . The quality and taste was great and the refreshing drinks was what we needed on a hot day. They even gave us a little shot glass for my nephew to have juice out of. 

Food 9/10
Service 7/10
Ambience 7/10

Citrus cooler

Kiwi cooler

Jughead special

My nephew enjoying juice in his baby glass

Mainland China
44/145,Hotel Tulip Aruna Complex,Sterling Road, 
Nungambakkam,Chennai,TN,600 034, India

I have been coming to the Mainland China at Tulip Aruna Hotel ever since it opened. The Hotel boasts of some very nice restaurants like Fusion 9 and Sigree. We went for dinner with my parents who also enjoy the food here. The food was good as usual and the service was top notch, very polite, attentive and professional. I love the Indianised Chinese food and seriously miss it a lot in Aussie Land.  It is no wonder that we non resident Indians look forward to visiting the motherland so much. The soups, side dishes and noodles were really tasty, only let down was the creme brulee which had no sugary crunch nor was the custard very creamy and it lacked the orange blossom taste which was promised in the menu.

Food 7/10
Service 8/10
Ambience 8/10

Wonton soup

Hot and sour soup
Crispy corn

Lamb stir fry

Crispy vegetables 

Pan fried noodles

Orange blossom creme brulee

creme brulee

Opposite Music academy, Cathedral Road, Gopalapuram, 
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600086

This is one of my favourite places for Andhra meals apart from National Lodge. Andhra food is characteristically hotter and I love the gongura (sorrel leaves) chutney and the sundried salted chilli accompaniment. The food in this visit was a little bit of a let down for me as was the service. It's because I am used to efficient service and piping hot, delicious food from this joint. The vegetarian meals included sambhar, rasam, curd, 3 vegetable side dishes and accompaniments like pickle, gongura chutney and dal powder. I love the first course of rice with ghee, dal powder and chutny - yumm! My carnivorous husband enjoyed prawns and mutton with flaky parathas. I don't think he had tasted anything like it in Delhi and he loved it. 

Food 7/10
Service 5/10
Ambience 6/10

Vegetarian Meals

Spicy prawns

Mutton fry


Sweet finish - sweet and bananas with beeda paan

Flying Elephant
39 Velachery Road, Near Raj Bhavan, 
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, 600032

This was our fancy pants night out with two of my girl friends from school. One of them had already been here and was raving about the food so we had to try it out. The restaurant is at the newly opened Park Hyatt Hotel and first impressions were impressive. I loved the interiors and the architectural finishes and use of lighting was beautiful. It even had a beautiful courtyard where I can only imagine what fun it would be to have brunch on a nice sunny day. It has been designed by George Wong and the emphasis is on the theatricality of the art of cooking, multiple levels and open kitchen stations ensures the engagement of visitors.

Mango chips with Guacamole

We were escorted to our table and given the menus. We decided to order some cocktails ( can not remember the names except the mojito) and try their mango chips (seasonal specialty) with guacamole. The mango chips were interesting, they were like dehydrated or air fried thin wafers of mango, quite tasty. The cocktails were delicious and fruity.

Complimentary bread

Indonesion Gado Gado salad
We then ordered a Gado Gado salad and grilled ricotta in a strawberry syrup for the vegetarians. The salad was good and the satay sauce was tasty but the grilled ricotta was sensational. It had both sweet and savoury notes with hint of cinnamon and cloves. It was sublime and no it was not a dessert.

Grilled Ricotta with strawberry compote

Grilled Ricotta again!

Burrah kebab

Next we ordered the tiger prawn with olives and burrah kebab for the meat eaters. It was tasty and well cooked and was thoroughly enjoyed by them.

Tiger Prawn with olives

The bar
We then ordered desserts, my friend was keen to try the pavlova which is very Aussie so that we could tell her if it's good or not. A good pavlova is crisp on the outside and soft like a marshmallow on the inside. This unfortunately did not have a soft interior. It was hard and very sugary. The fruits and cream on top were nice and the presentation was good but it failed to impress as a pavlova.

Finally the pièce de résistance arrived and it certainly was a show stopper - the Bombe alaska.  Beautifully piped meringue exterior ready to be burnished by flaming liqueur. The flaming liqueur crisped up the meringue a little. We then cut through the meringue to reveal the cake and sorbet layers inside. I couldn't wait to get into it and boy was it good. The tartness of the fruit sorbet, soft sponge and sweet fluffy meringue with the hint of liqueur was just divine. This was my favourite dish of the night. 

Bombe Alaska being lit up

Bombe Alaska
 We then strolled around in the courtyard with our drinks and enjoyed the ambience. The waiters were quick to transport our drinks outside and very courteous.


Beautiful reflections in the water - courtyard

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Ambience 9/10

I have written about 5 of my favorite places to eat in Chennai but there are so many more. I can't wait to visit my beloved city again and sample both the old and cherished and the new and hip joints along with my mumma's cooking.  

p.s yes the hubby fell in love with the food and the city is starting to grow on him :-)