Sunday, January 04, 2009


A Memorable Dinner Date in 2008




Falling in love?

Wondering where to go on that crucial Foodie First Date in Pune?

Try “Soul”.

We had a truly soul stirring evening at Soul on a warm Sunday evening last summer. Let me tell you about it.

It’s easy to get to Soul – just drive down North Main Road in Koregaon Park and turn into ABC Farms to your left, let the valet park your car and walk straight ahead into the lovely ambience of Soul.

The surroundings are green, natural, with trees – wonder why they’ve put a cover over the top of the dining area – dining under the clear night sky is much more pleasurable and romantic.

You may find the place full, like we did, even though we reached as early as eight.

There is a mini golf course to keep you occupied while you wait for your table, or you can sit at the impressive well stocked bar, like I did, sipping deliciously soothing “mocktail” Virgin Pina Colada. I am sure I would have sampled something more potent and exciting from their ample cocktail repertoire in my heyday!

I look around the truly contrasting cosmopolitan crowd – young “table-for-two” lovey-dovey couples having a tender romantic candle-lit dinner, a boisterous group celebrating a birthday, lively friends spiritedly wining and animatedly dining and happy families thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The ambience is wonderfully friendly and relaxing – generous use of wood, wrought iron chairs, candle-lit tables – a rather alluring charming atmosphere in natural verdant surroundings.

Soon we sit comfortably at a table, and as if on cue, the music starts – one of my favourite golden oldies.

I listen with rapt attention, lose myself in the nostalgic music, feel rejuvenated, and as the song ends I realize that my vivacious “date” has already ordered Soul Kebab, Rogan Josh, Chicken Makhani and Naan.

I browse through the tempting Italian delicacies on the menu and look at her in mute supplication, but the lovely young lady sitting opposite me is not moved and closes the issue in her typical peremptory manner “My friend told me that the Soul Kebab and Indian dishes are good here!” Period!

The Soul Kebab is indeed really good – in fact it is superb – a really creative innovation I’ve not had anywhere else – a spicy Mutton Seekh Kebab encased in delicious breast of chicken wrap. I wish they’d serve a more generous plateful as the small pieces of Kebab dunked in the tangy green chutney vanish in a jiffy.

The Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken [Chicken Makhani] and Naan arrive.

“Rogan Josh must always be eaten with rice!” I affirm to my foodie companion.

She looks at me curiously, and orders steamed rice, and while it arrives, I dig into the Butter Chicken.

The Butter Chicken looks good and tastes good.

This preparation is in the same league as the celebrated Butter Chicken I’ve relished at the famous original Moti Mahal of Daryaganj and at Gaylord in Churchgate.

The soft Naan drenched in the lip-smacking creamy gravy scintillates my taste buds.

She wants a Roomali Roti. “Sorry,” says the waiter, “No Roomali Roti, only Roti and Naan, there is a shortage of staff.”

She frowns in disbelief. A pity! A real pity for a posh restaurant; but at least they are honest about it!

I look at the Rogan Josh. I am disappointed. It doesn’t look like Rogan Josh, so I ask the waiter whether he’s brought Mutton Masala or some other mutton curry dish instead, maybe, owing to shortage of staff, but he confirms that the thick greenish brown gravy with rather muddy coloured chunks of meat is indeed “Rogan Josh”.

Authentic Rogan Josh is the most visually appealing, passionately tempting and appetizing dish which makes your mouth water and entices you to eat it. I feel it is vital that food must look good, for we “eat” our food twice – first we eat with our eyes, then with our tongues.

I taste the gravy – yes, distinctive taste of pure ghee is clearly discernible and this locally improvised version of Rogan Josh seems quite tasty, the mutton is well cooked and succulent, a decent passable mutton dish, certainly not superb.

We eat our meal slowly, enjoying the delightful music.

It is “open mike” night and spontaneous spur-of-the-moment singers from the diners, egged on by active participation from one and all, enliven, and almost electrify, the atmosphere.

It’s good, real good, a truly unforgettable soul-stirring dining experience.

Wish we could have enjoyed the exhilarating environment much longer, but there are people waiting for a table, and the dessert menu hasn’t much to offer, so off we go to our favourite place for a late night dessert.

I’m glad we visited Soul. It’s good, real good; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, good reasonably priced food, invigorating music, breathtaking ambience, a truly unforgettable soul-stirring dining experience.

Dear Reader, if you enjoyed reading this, and want to read some more about my foodie adventures, do read APPETITE FOR A STROLL:

Happy Eating in 2009.


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Friday, January 02, 2009


[Foodie Adventures, Simple Recipes, Authentic Value For Money Food in Mumbai and Pune and Musings on The Art of Eating]



Please click the link and read the review of Appetite for a Stroll titled Food for Soul in the Indian Express [Pune] Sunday 7th September 2008

expressonline book review

If you want to get the book just click the links below:

I am sure you will enjoy reading the book.


MALPUA and KHEER - A Delicious Winter Breakfast

Malpua & Kheer



Whilst on my evening walk on ITI Road in Aundh Pune last winter I ducked into the basement of the Ozone Mall where I discovered a sweet shop called Kadhai. The voracious appetite created by the brisk walk and the tempting array of sweets and savouries on display made my mouth water and created an appetite in me, and I was wondering what to eat, when suddenly I discovered one of my favourite sweets “Malpua” displayed on the Menu Chart hung on the wall.

This was indeed a pleasant surprise [since I never imagined I would get Malpua in Pune] and brought back nostalgic mouth-watering memories of the delicious Malpua-Kheer we savoured and devoured with gusto as a nourishing wholesome breakfast after bouts of heavy exercise on cold winter Sunday mornings long back in Varanasi.

Those were indeed the good old gastronomic days of high calorie energizing winter breakfasts like Malpua-Kheer and piping hot Jalebi or Lavang Lata with freshly boiled thick creamy Doodh [Milk] dipped and eaten the same way as one eats khari biscuits with Irani Chai.

I asked for Malpua and Kheer, but there was no Kheer, so I ordered a plate of Malpua and eagerly put a piece of the rich brown syrupy Malpua in my mouth.

It was terrible – the Malpua tasted like boiled rubber drenched in sugar syrup. It did not melt in the mouth, or dissolve gracefully on the palate, but disintegrated into brittle fragments and left a stodgy aftertaste.

The soft fluffy succulent lusciousness, the sweet-sour tang of banana and curd fermentation, the spicy fragrance of cardamom, and most important, the distinctive taste and classic flavour of saunf [badishep] which is the hallmark of authentic Malpua, were conspicuous by their absence.

I was so disappointed that I called the “Maharaj” and asked him how he had managed to bungle and botch this exquisite delicacy and churn out this inexcusably appalling stuff masquerading as Malpua.

“Simple,” he said, “Boil enough Milk till it becomes Rabdi, mix in Maida and make a smooth batter, fry the pancakes in pure Ghee and soak in sugar syrup.”

“Just Milk and Maida? That’s not how you make Malpua,” I told him, “What about the Banana, Saunf, Cardamom, Spices, Coconut, Dry Fruit, Curds…?”

“This is the Rajasthani Style Malpua,” he said sheepishly and disappeared.

There are many versions of Malpua all over India – I have tasted the Rajasthani, Bengali, Karnataka, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, MP and UP versions.

Then there are improvisations like potato malpua, pineapple malpua, orange malpua et al.

There is also the inimitable, slurpy rich heavy duty invigorating and energizing hearty Malpua, braced and fortified with eggs, prepared in the evenings and nights during the holy month of Ramzan by Suleman Mithaiwala at Mohammed Ali Road near Minara Masjid in Mumbai. It is a meal in itself, but if you want you really want to do justice it is better to start off with Kababs, relish the Malpua, and top up with cool sweet soothing Phirnee.

Tell me, in which genre of cuisine should Malpua be classified? I’ll tell you – genuine Malpua is Bihari Cuisine. That’s right, no doubt about it, Malpua is a speciality of Bihar, like Khaja, and the best authentic Malpua is made Bihari Style, and this is how a Bihari friend of mine, an expert cook, taught me to make Malpua, long back.

Make a smooth batter with Maida, pinch of soda and salt, banana pulp, milk, cardamom [choti elaichi] pods and powder, a small pinch of nutmeg powder, freshly grated coconut, powdered and whole saunf, beaten curds and water. Beat well with your hands till the batter becomes light and fluffy. Cover and leave aside for an hour or more for a bit of fermentation.

Prepare 1:1 sugar syrup seasoned with cardamom and cloves. Sprinkle a little rosewater, saffron or essence, if you want. Keep the syrup hot, at least warm, to facilitate easy ingress into the malpua and to keep it soft and succulent.

Now mix and whip well with your hands, adding water if required, to get a smooth batter of pouring consistency, and deep-fry the pua [pancake] in pure ghee till nice and brown, soft and cooked, not too crisp. When ready take out the fried pua , drain excess ghee, and dip the pua in the hot sugar syrup completely for a minute to enable just enough permeation but obviate over-sogginess. With the sugar syrup absorbed, the pua has now become malpuaand is ready to be eaten with deliciously sweet lip smacking Kheer. [Now don’t tell me you don’t know how to make delicious Kheer!]

Malpua must be eaten with Kheer.

This is not a dessert, a pudding, or a snack, but a complete nourishing breakfast in its entirety. The luscious wholesome combination is heavenly and you will be overwhelmed with a wonderful feeling of blissful satiation.

Dear Fellow Foodie - Start day with Malpua and Kheer and you'll have a yummy sweet finger licking experience - you can take my word for it!


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.