Category Archives: photo blogs

>Meet my new Sony NEX 3


It’s really difficult to choose your own birthday gift. Sometimes surprises are better. So it was two weeks from the day when K offered me either a camera or an oven for my birthday that I finally picked my new Sony NEX 3.  In between got lot of advice from facebook and twitter folks. There are a lot of Canon fans out there. Finally chose the Sony, my original choice after two trips to Sony shops. Two to Croma. Always a bad idea if you don’t know much about what you want to buy. Got side tracked at the last moment by a new Sony point and shoot with Deepika Chopra’s photo at the Bandra Sony Shop before I finally picked the NEX 3 to K’s relief. The clincher? The defocus function.

Played around with  it at home last night. As K said, ‘enjoy your new toy’. We went to Candies for breakfast. The best place to try out a new camera. Food. and a holiday resort-like feeling. It was rather crowded downstairs. There was no cappuccino downstairs and K went upstairs in search of her cappuccino.

She called me up and we discovered the lovely section upstairs including a place where they serve food. All empty. Custom made for my friend Rahul who never gets served at Candies. Very beautifully designed. And the coffee here was much better according to K.

I discovered the pitfalls of having a ‘real’ camera. One of the counter girls, who has been seeing me for years, asked me not to take photos when I shot the cup cakes downstairs which are now the blog header. I got really irritated and asked her if it’s a new rule. Rather painful given the number of times I have romanced the food at Candies with my camera on the blog. And the number of times I have defended the place against people who get frazzled by the crowd there. Anyway I soon forgot the sour note as I headed out to the Candies Sky Garden and shot the bright colours all around.

And then I got a call from the guy at Sony who wanted to come for a demo. I must say I was really impressed given that it was Sunday and that I bought the camera just a day back. He came over and we discovered the camera together as I gave instructions to Banu on what to cook. Between the two of us we managed my doiposto ilish very well.

And here’s dinner. Indoors with two 100 watt bulbs. Garlic, pine nuts, cheese and basil pounded in my Chiang Mortar and pestle and drenched in olive oil from Ranjit’s basket for pesto. Soma’s Michigan Italian salami tossed in a pan, Ranjit’s Italian spaghetti added to it and then pesto mix with a touch of salt. Won over the non spaghetti loving, creamy pasta loving K too.

And this is just the beginning folks and thanks K for insisting that I pick this.

Reminded me of a chubby spoilt eight year old who made his Dad buy him a Yashika SLR at the Dhaka Airport because his Dad had a Pentax. He needed to have his own. Same trip where the fat kid also got a Casio Digital watch and would then keep calling out the time every half an hour at class.



Filed under Anniversaries, Candies- my favourite eating place, People, photo blogs

>Lazy post: Khar Koli Fresh Water Fish Festival at Poonam’s


Off to a vegetarian dinner cooked by a friend. Might label these later. Might not 🙂 OK, I did Mom’s always thrilled by the fact that they cut and clean the fish here unlike in Calcutta where you have to pay another guy to do so. In fact Mom let me to Poonam’s shop when she came to Mumbai. Poonam and her sister and mom were thrilled to know that I had gone to the Vasav Koli Festival.

By the way, this is a post by Sassy Fork on a real Koli Festival going on at Mahim right now

Rui Kaalia step one

Ilish…the key to a Bong’s heart

Poonam Cuts my ilish. Her mom cuts the rui

While her sister negotiates price with another docile Bengali gentleman

This surmai looks a bit stunned

wish I knew how to cook crabs

I bought some surmai slices even as K hollered on the phone “but we never finish them”

Ironically fresh water fish is cheaper than sea fish in the coastal city of Mumbai

These prawns looked so tempting. Why couldn’t spinach have high cholesterol?

Machher mudo or fish head. A Bengali wet dream

The Koli fresh water fish festival

Putting a price to our friendship

Sorry fellow Bongs

A well stocked Bong fridge

Alu chhok. A dish inspired by a tweet by @madhumita

Ilish bhaaja


Filed under Bandra Bites, Mumbai highs, photo blogs, pisces

>Drawing Boardain into the drawing room with a Thai green curry leftovers meets Pad Thai experiment


Saw Anthony Bourdain on TV after ages tonight. He was at Chile. As I heard him talk about his ‘dreams of fields with pork scented flowers’, I said a quite thank you to him for unknowingly inspiring me to start writing.

Photo credit:

We were faced with tons of leftovers from the NYE dinner at home. We had Thai green curry one day but I had added an excess of chicken and we couldn’t finish the meat. Pork spares for dinner. Still more to go. Shammi kebabs for lunch. More to go.

Then thought of putting the leftover chicken from the green curry to some use. ‘Let their sacrifice not go in vain’ and all that kind of thing.

Memories of a Thai curry flavoured meat dish at either Koh or Thai Pavilion, reliving the introduction to Pad Thai Noodles at the Asia Scenic cooking class at Chiang Mai, visions of the bottle fish sauce nestled in the fridge. There was something cooking in there.

Oil heated in a wok, onion rings, chopped garlic and galangal added in. When done, finely chopped chicken and shitake mushrooms, from what was once Thai Green curry, pushed. The curry long gone, the memories still green.

The meat stirred and pushed aside with a ladle, as they showed us in the cooking class, to a corner of the pan. Camera on one side. Popped in the egg. Added the boiled Chinese Hakka noodles. The missus like them flat. And walks out if they are soggy. Fold in the egg. Add a dollop of oyster sauce on the noodles and then pour in fish sauce like wads of notes over a Bombay Bar Dancer. Toss, heave, click photos, mix, add chopped red bell pepper, take a portion out for photography, put back into the pan for a final flourish, plate and eat.

The green curry flavour was subtle. The fried garlic added warmth. Galangal a very fresh and petite sweetness of the Orient. The shitake mushrooms exuded tastes of milk and cream, elegant yet alluring. Our vagabond outfit had come together well.

Always pays to go by your instincts. You might even be joined by The Master. Albeit on TV.

But then Bourdain could never resist the Orient could he?


Filed under Oriental, photo blogs, Recipes

>Cooking up a New Year… The Finely Chopped New Year’s Eve Menu 2010 – 11


Note: I have interspersed the  post with  photos after a long time. Do you prefer it this way or with photos at the end? And any idea how I can stop the cursor from darting all over? I use a Vaio and a Windows 7
The Finely Chopped New Year’s Eve Menu 2010-11
Banu’s shammi kebabs – beef & chicken
               Couscous and Feta Mediterranean salad 
Microwaved Oriental spare ribs finished in a pan
Thai Chicken green curry from the cooking schools of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Inspired Thai Sprouts salad
Yazdani Foccacia bread
Steamed rice
Baskin Robins vanilla ice cream
MOD Donuts (which remained in the fridge)
Guest appearance- 2 tons of steamed chicken momos. Freshly baked chocolate cake


Banu’s kebabs

This is in case you were wondering about how I rung in the New Year. Where was I when the clock eased out 2010 and brought in 2011?

I was in my kitchen.
Tossing a couscous salad. An eye on a bubbling Thai curry on one burner and spare ribs on the pan on another. I was cooking for friends. Or, given the fun I had, possibly for myself. I cooked. I photographed. Tripping on the super macro function of the camera. Basking in the light of the hundred watt bulb I fixed above the stove earlier in the evening. And then clicking on my Blackberry to as I cooked.

I grew up on years of watching Doordarshan with my mother on New Year’s Eve at Calcutta. Mumbai meant freedom. Celebrating NYE outside of home was a big part of this. ‘Media party’ at Juhu hotel, a poignant time at Madness with friends, Navy Ball in a blazer. Stolen moments at a seedy hotel at Mandwa, ten years back and marriage the next year. Domesticated, penniless I still insisted on celebrating NYE outside even as she tried to show me the virtues of being home, avoiding traffic and crowds and bankruptcy.

Starters & More, Marine Plaza, Asia Wok, Golden Pavilion, Zenzi … year after year I would have the ads on the local tabloids on my finger tips as I planned our NYE with military determination. Till one year, when we didn’t get a place at Zenzi. We headed back. Picked up a pizza at Pizzeria at Bandra and spent NYE with Harry and Sally.

The spell broke. We stopped going out on NYE. It was never just by the two of us any more.  We had grown up.

Coming back to last night, at the risk of sounding like Nigella in Express, the dinner didn’t take too much of effort to put together. The food was ‘restaurant -like’ to the extent that it was under-salted as I realised today. Thankfully the NYE cheer ensured that no one noticed that. We have enough left overs left to see us through 2011. I always end up cooking in excess when we have people over. The inclement weather did one couple in. Couple of people didn’t eat. K due to nausea, that too without alcohol. Or tasting the food! A logistic mishap left us with a dozen donuts in the fridge.

What I put together yesterday, as always, hinged on instincts and memories, experiments. Planning and shopping took two days. I love Pali Market, Bandra. You get every single ingredient that you can dream of. Feta, spare ribs, galangal, kaffir limes, Thai brinjals, lemon grass, bird’s eye chillies, lemon grass, beef mince, parsley, corn, shitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, couscous, fresh turmeric, fish sauce, sprouts, basil … you name it and is is their within your arm’s reach.

On the cards was a dish I had made before with a twist that I wanted to try this time. Microwave spare ribs finished in a pan this time. A seasoned cook who tried what I made last time kept telling me about how ‘microwaves’ aren’t for cooking. Something I heard from her even the morning after. Then I saw Nigella one day on the treadmill’s TV. Oven baked spare ribs, finished on a pan. I was inspired.

 The spare ribs seemed as sensuous to touch, as seductive to look at. They cooked much better this time. So Nigella, Gia and Kirti, who later told me about the post micro part of his recipe, were all right. Well, who said we are not open to suggestions?

There was Thai green curry as learnt at the cooking class at Chiang Mai. I made a red curry in the class but K prefers green. But then, as they told  us, the curry mixes are the same for red and green. The difference lies in the colour of the chillies used. Figure that out.

A last minute idea to make a Thai sprouts side. Goaded by memories of Chiang Mai where I had my first magical bites of sprouts with curries. I pounded the peanuts, added them to sprouts, chopped galangal, kaffir lime leaves, honey, basil, fish sauce, bird’s eye chillies. Even K, who managed to eat today, liked it which is quite something given she doesn’t like salads or peanuts in food. Anirban, a food aficionado and soulful singer, approved of the pairing of sprouts with curry and rice.

A vegetarian cous cous with feta, corns, mushrooms and parsley. For a guest who was not much of a meat lover. And had treated to us to an amazing lunch at Olive. This was healthy stuff. Tossed in the salad bowl I stepped out of office and picked up at The Bombay Store. The shop we bought our first set of crockery from. More than a decade back. I should have had made less off the salad though.

Making a ‘guest’ appearance were a ton of chicken momos and a freshly baked cake. The cake pushed the donuts deep into the fridge. Hopefully Banu’s grandson will enjoy the donuts if his granny comes to work.

The actual cooking didn’t take too much time thanks to some pretty good planning. I prefer to stick to Oriental and Continental when I entertain on working days. Less complicated than the Indian dishes that I cook. The back breaking part was making the Thai curry mix. I took the mortar and pestle that I bought from Chiang Mai and pounded away. Coriander seeds. Then galangal. Raw turmeric, which as a turmeric powder user, I had never seen before. Lemon grass. Kaffir lime leaves. Garlic. Chopped onion. Green chillies. De-seeded. I pounded away. Ignoring aching bones and a weary back as I watched the curry paste turn to the desired colour. Eyes lighting up as I saw the galangal, so difficult to cut, blend in. The yellow turmeric too. The lemon grass stem caused concern. But the coriander seeds gave in each time stone hit stone.  This was quite an adventure.
The heady aroma of freshly grounded spices wafted through our kitchen. A new experience in our colourless, antiseptic, ready made spice powder world. I was alone and yet could hear the murmurs and cries of the spice markets of yore around me.

I could sense my grandmothers standing beside me that night. One left us years back. The other fighting a painful battle against old age. I had drawn them in to my kitchen with the smell of fresh ground spices. I pounded away as I was transported to an innocent world where I was less than four feet tall, discovering the flavours of India in my grandmothers’ kitchens at New Delhi and Calcutta. Though the two venerable ladies would have been baffled by my Oriental mortar and pestle. Worlds apart from their flat Bengali ‘sheel noras’.

Sounds romantic? It was bloody hard work. A Thai grandmom would have possibly approved of the mix. Done it more easily than me I am sure. But I needed a back rub at the end of it. If not a drink. The reason for the popularity of massage parlours in Thailand became pretty obvious.

Everyone else arrived barely before 2011 did. I had to leave my drink aside as we had a Cinderella amongst us who would head of to shimmy the night away at twelve. I headed back to my cave.

I was crowded in as I tossed two salads, fired up a curry and seasoned the spare ribs in the kitchen. I have got used to cooking with an audience. The kitchen slowly emptied, I was putting the dishes to bed. The cracker burst. A New Year was upon us.

I was in a happy place. Literally,

And here’s wishing you a 2011 which is, well, nicer.

Never believe what they tell you in advertising


Filed under Bandra Bites, Food musings, People, photo blogs

>Gia. Sixty Four not out … Christmas Cakes, Rum Balls, Chocolate Cakes, Sorpotel


Big thank you to Debopriyo of Debopriyo’s Pictures, who answered my cry for help on uploading photos on blogger. This is what he had to say “For faster uploading of pictures, try Log in with the same login and password and click the “Make Blogger in draft my default dashboard”.
The same blog will open up and the uploading system is a whole lot better.”
Am looking forward to writing the next post now. Was really stressed about uploading photos. 

For more photos of Gia’s cake check out this album on the Finely Chopped Facebook page

The Haghia Sophia at Istanbul was once the central cathedral of Christianity. Istanbul was Constantinople then. The headquarters of Christianity. Then came the Ottoman empire. The Haghia Sophiya Cathedral became the Ayasofiya Mosque. Constantinople … Istanbul. Till Ataturk, the first Turkish President converted it into a secular museum.

I took my first proper bite of Gia’s Christmas cake today. Was almost knocked down by the intoxicating whiff of rum. The cake was soft, moist, hugged the knife (no pun intended) as you cut it. Chirpy as a little plump teen sipping on his first sherry. Filled with raisins and dried fruits bringing in a touch of the Ottoman into a Christian tradition. East met west, ensuring that the Yuletide spirit spread well after Christmas. These cakes were even better than last year’s.

It is always difficult to write on something involving a friend. Objectivity of blogging and all that jazz which I live by. Plus my reputation was at stake. I had announced the Inception of these cakes to the world after all. But our ‘Baker with an Edge’ didn’t let me down. And I can hear her say in a desultory drawl, “what, you doubted it or what?”

So here folks are Gia’s Christmas Cakes. 64 of them were baked. Twenty five kilos. Single handedly. Without any help. Now if only Christmas Cake Baking is made into an Olympic Sport.

And here are the rum balls. You are warned not to drive after biting into one of them. The police is pretty strict these days.

And Kainaz’s favourite cake. The cake baked by Gia which spoilt her for very other cake. The cake which makes you find K more often  in the fridge than outside. Face covered in cake. A happy content smile on her face. Baked by Gia almost a year after she baked the earlier one. “It is exactly the same”, exclaimed Mrs K with glee.

That’s not all. We got to taste Gia’s sorpotel yesterday. It came with very precise instructions on how to heat it. The unsaid message, “not in the effing micro”.

How was it? Well Kainaz, who belongs to the vindaloo camp, needed a restraining order so that I could get a bite.

Sorry Gia. I know you think it’s a hassle and don’t want to do it but you should take catering orders too. Mankind needs it.

Note: This is not an anonymous review. All the food here were gifts from a friend. So would be great if any of you, who ordered them, write in on how you found Gia’s stuff.


“And the award for the biggest fan goes to…”


Filed under desserts, From deep inside Andheri E, Mumbai highs, People, photo blogs

>A fantastic birthday treat at the best buffet in town… Brunch at Olive, Bandra


The best buffet at in town: Brunch at Olive

I had earlier written about being underwhelmed by Olive at Bandra. I found the prices to be too steep and the service uninformed for those prices.

I have also often said that I am against buffets in principle. I am against binge eating. I would rather savour individual dishes. Plus most buffet servings look like horse bucket food – congealed, unappetising and stale.

I eat my words today.

The Christmas brunch at Olive, Bandra, was out of the world. The best that I have come across in a long time. It was very expensive. 2000 Rs (40 USD) plus tax on Christmas and 1500 on Sundays. Madhumita treated us to it on her birthday. Felt bad about the erosion to her net worth. But what a spread. Mind blowing. A bon vivant moment if there ever was one.

A tremendous selection of Mediterranean food. Heaven if you dig this light and elegant cuisine the way I do. Fresh, visually appealing despite being a buffet. Constantly replenished. Jon, the customer service manager, who has come from Greece, said that the main difference between the food in the Mediterranean and at Olive was in the produce. The feta and the olives were more robust there.

The buffet included alcohol which was a bit of a waste for our table though a couple of us did taste the mulled wine folks in the UK were tweeting about. Warm with spices infused in them. There was a moderately good pizza with very nice cheese but the crust could have been less crisp. The macarons not a patch on those of Le 15.

Mezzes which were very sophisticated in taste. An indulgent, de-stressing and rejuvenating massage for your palate. Smoked salmon. Fresh mussels. Scallops and calamari fritters. Leg of ham with a crackling layer of fat. Enough to make you groan in sheer sensuous ecstasy. Olive with pickled red chillies which exploded in your mouth…the memories lasting long after like a passionate affair of the heart. A tantalising cous cous salad, so rare to get. Potato in chorizo. Poached pears. The rare pesto mix to satisfy my very picky pesto standards. The perfect creme brule. Dark chocolate brownies which streamed down your soul.

The way you would expect heaven to look when your time on earth was up.

At times reciting the menu says it all. And I had just eaten half of what was on offer. What more can one add? The spread at Olive made me finally understand the point of rap. Yo!

I didn’t have my camera but I took my friend’s Sony Cyber Shot. Similar to mine. Clicked tons of pictures. Couple of the staff got into the spirit of things. Returned to the table to find myself bang into the middle of some very girly talk. I scampered off to take more pictures.

Happy birthday once again Madhumita. Many happy returns of the day and here’s to many more lovely meals. And I still can’t fathom why you were scared about whether I would approve of the lunch. Am I that intimidating?

You can check this album on the Finely Chopped Facebook Page for these and more photos

Birthday girl Madhumita
Mulled wine
Fire in the belly
I ate my words

This pizza looks more sensuous than it tasted

Finally a cous cous salad that I like
Aubergine – delectable
Potato in chorrizo
Poached peach
smoked salmon
For the love of fat
A rare perfect pesto
What’s Christmas without turkey? I went for piggy though
He helped me shoot the food
It’s her camera at work. Followed this witha lesson on MS photo editor at home
“You are all my children”

A lot of the photos are thanks to their intense conversation

PS: Blogger needs a faster way of uploading pictures


Filed under Bandra Bites, Conti, Fine dining, Lebanese, Mumbai highs, photo blogs

>A walk in the clouds… Ankur, Moti Lassi, Fort.

>Note: I wrote this post last evening when I though that Friday was our last day at Fort. Just got to know that we have got an extension till the first week of Jan. Thanks Santa 🙂 (lots of photos so keep scrolling)

It was lunch time on Monday. The first day of the week. I got an SMS from K.

“Last week at Fort. Choose where you eat wisely”

I didn’t have a plan when I went down for lunch. I thought I had eaten at most places at Fort. Should I repeat one of my favourites?

That’s when I remembered Ankur. The Mangalorean restaurant that they showed on NDTV’s Secret Kitchen the previous night. A rare food programmewhich went beyond Gajalee when it showed seafood joints at Mumbai . A little asking around on Twitter and Puja Dhingra of Le 15 Pattiserie told me that Ankur was at Fort and that it was one of her favourite restaurants.

I thought of heading towards Ankur.  I embarked on a hunt reminiscent of my early days at Fort. All I had to go by was that ‘it was close to Apoorva’.

Well, it wasn’t. Some people I asked said it was towards the Stock Market. That seemed far. But the weather was perfect to check this out. I asked the folks at Yazdani. They knew of Apoorva, Mahesh. But not Ankur. In desperation I tweeted and immediately got directions. I headed down directed by tweets and by a pakorawallah and suddenly stumbled upon Ankur. Did I say I love twitter?

For those interested, take a right from the Bombay Store Building at Fort. Cross Mahesh, not Apoorva, head past Yazadani, cross the Akberally road and the Church over the and then take a natural right. You’ll find Ankur.

Go Down the Mahesh Road

Past Yazdani

Head towards the Stock exchange
Love the architecture

Past the pakora wallah – who asked me to taste and not just shoot… he was the one who directed me to Ankur
The Ankur Lane

My friend and guide at Fort , Mumbai Central (on twitter), summed up Ankur as an ‘expensive Apoorva’ when I tweeted. Well it was grander than Mahesh and Apoorva. A tad frostier and marginally more expensive than both. A tour guide had got some foreign tourists over. It was that sort of place.

After much consultation with a senior waiter and his trainee I opted for Prawn Karavalli. Their other suggestions were fried fish (a speciality apparently) and gassi (which I earlier had at Apoorva).

I am glad that I ordered the Karavalli. The curry smelt divine the moment they placed it on the table. It tasted tangy and sharp. Exactly as it smelt. The sourness gave into a lightly woody bite ending with an unusually pleasant bitter note of fried curry leaves. Went very well with neer dosas.

I am not much of a curry person but I lapped up the entire bowl of Karavalli curry. That’s how good it was. And this is very rare. On asking, the senior waiter told me that unlike gassi, karavalli didn’t have coconut in it. It was made with tamarind, coriander, black pepper, chillies and curry leaves. He insisted that there were NO mustard seeds in it. When I pointed out black specks, he said that they were specks of dried tamarind.

He told me that Ankur was a fifty year old restaurant. That it started as a vegetarian restaurant. Was owned by the same gentleman who started Apoorva apparently. Better sense finally prevailed and it became a fish place fifteen years back.

How were the prawns? Overcooked. Possibly not too fresh. And overpowered by the curry. The crime which most Mangalorean and Gomantak places commit.

But the Karavalli curry? One of the unforgettables of Fort.

Tweet Feed on Ankur

Kalyan Karmakar

SOS where is Ankur restaurant at Fort @ @



@ @ in the lane next to our store

Mumbai Central

@ it’s the same lane as Military Cafe, if you know where that is. It’s a more expensive version of apoorva.


@ Ankur – Tel: 02222654194, 02222630393


@ we’ve been to most restaurants at fort, I have only one Ankur in my database… 😉


@ i hope thats the same ANKUR rest your looking for !!

Mumbai Central

@ near stock exchange.
Seafood Mumbai

@ Ankur, MP Shetty Marg. go on MG road take left after kandeel restaurant
pooja dhingra

@ it’s in fort! Hidden in a little street…the best uppam and butter garlic crab…pepper chicken…damn now I’m hungry!

pooja dhingra

@ ankur is one of my favourite restaurants in the city! U must try it!!!
The twitter world is abuzz with discussion on the cost of onions. I didn’t touch any
Over cooked prawns in celestial Karavalli curry

I stopped at Moti Halwai on the way back. The sweets at counter looked tired. Meals inside seemed to be vegetarian thalis. What caught my eyes were the lassis outside.

I was in two minds about the lassi. I had a sore throat. The cold sour curd based drink didn’t seem to be a good idea. Then I said what the hell and picked up one.

Madhukar, the Maharashtrian lassi maker, in this 56 year old Punjabi restaurant poured out a lassi for me. Each sip was Ambrosial in the truest sense. Rich. Sweet. Warm. Soothing. Nourishing. A granny of a drink. A hefty chunk of malai or butter bobbing on the surface, added in at the end. Most were fishing it out with a spoon and happily munching on it. I took a few tentative bites. It had a slight salty taste which countered the taste of the lassi.

Madhukar, who posed for me, explained that the difference between the 18 Rs (1/2 USD) plain and 30 Rs (3/4 USD) Special lassi was that the latter didn’t have any water in it. And had some nuts on top.

A 56 year old restaurant which I discovered during my expedition
Madhukar the Maharashtrian lassi maker
Adding malai for the lassi
Lassi mastered
Sweet lassi…a loving granny of a drink
Check out the malai at the rim
I am proud of this photo
Special Lassi. no water
The Punjabi owner of this 56 year old restaurant

And so I ambled back past Fort House and its magical gate, HSBC, the Church, Yazdani, past Mahesh…to Laxmi Building. A lesson in architecture, some great food, friendly faces, a walk, all packed in in less than an hour as I counted my last few hours at this enchanted world of Fort.

And then I got lucky 🙂

The view from opposite my office


Filed under Fort, photo blogs, pisces, South Mumbai, South of the Vindhyas, Vintage Bombay