Thursday, October 19, 2006


AND while I am at the subject of DIWALI, I think I will dedicate one post to PHENI. Indeed, I have to, how can a Diwali pass by without it;)

I don't know since when I was in love with it, but I think it was from the time my Mom used to give me Pheni every evening when I was in UKG I think. I should say "since" I was in UKG as I have been eating it ever since. An excerpt from a news article about Hyderabad:

"Pheni is a sweet vermicelli delicacy mainly served during the festival season such as Diwali, Ramadan, and Double Ka Mitha. Hyderabad House, Madinah Hotel, Yusufain Pista House, Café Bahar, 555 Hotel, Paradise, and Bawarchi are some of the local restaurants, which serve Hyderabadi specialties."

Now, since when is Double ka Meetha a festival by itself, I know not;) The guy who wrote that seems to have gotten confused;) But I wanted to be true to that excerpt, so not changing it;)

Hyderabad, the one place I love and Pheni so typical of Hyd. I long to eat Pheni, I haven't had it once in the five years I have been here:( I saw it once in an Indian store at Madison but didn't buy it then, it was too expensive in the eyes of an F1 student:D

So last year, I decided to make Diwali at least somewhat special by eating Pheni, now that I can afford it:D My parents were also here and so was Subhash, so I thought, all the more reason for me to buy it. Diwali is my faaaaaaaaaaaavvvvvvvvorite festival, all the food and the firecrackers:D:D Of course, the new clothes. Ah! How I love festivals, but Diwali is thus far my favorite:D After getting here, even wishing people on Diwali used to seem meaningless, in that we hardly did anything on that day, just get to work and go back home. So I decided to introduce Pheni into the routine. But I was too late last year, I went Pheni hunting only on Diwali evening, and all stores had run out of it. I was so sad that evening, I can't even describe it:(

So this year, I decided I HAVE to make the race with Pheni;)

Subhash and I went to Rajjot for Chat two weeks ago on Friday evening, and I saw Pheni there:D I was so happy, Subhash asked me to buy some right away but I thought, nah, its too early, we can buy it closer to Diwali (not as close as last year though;) ). So this Monday I went to Rajjot directly from work and guess what:((:(( They just ran out of it on Sunday, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa:(( waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa:(( (Should listen to Subhash, he is far wiser than I am ;) ) I was so disappointed, I wasn't even in the mood to go to the 3-4 nearby stores to check if they had some. I just came right back home. And was sulking..but then today I decided to hunt it down. After all if an Indian store in Mad town could have some, come on, California and especially Sunnyvale, could definitely do better. So I decided to start my hunt during lunch break. I started by asking Google

"Pheni, California" --No use
"Pheni, Diwali" --No use
"Pheni, Sunnyvale" -Nope, sorry! (Now I am getting desperate)
"Where can I find Pheni in Sunnyvale" -Google courteously gave me yet more trash;)

Then I decided this was not the way to go, I decided to call the one dozen Indian stores around my place. I asked Google (maata!) what the number of India Cash and Carry was. I got it and called them.

I asked "Do you have Pheni?".
The lady that answered said "Pheni? (now I am getting flustered, so do I have to explain yet again, what Pheni is?), Yes (Yay!!!!!!!!!)".

Then I wanted to be more certain, I could not believe I hit jackpot on the first try, I still remember last year of the one dozen stores I hunted for Pheni, I had to explain to at least 4-5 of them about what Pheni was in the first place;)

So I asked " Do you have a lot on stock?" Can you believe me, how desperate tsk tsk tsk, I hate to think what that lady thought of me;)
She said " Yes".
I said "Ok thanks a lot;)" and then I changed my Yahoo status to:

"I hope that Pheni lasts till I can go buy some [-o<" --The last part is the "Praying" emoticon on Yahoo!;)

So much for Pheni. I am thinking, should I just go buy it now during lunch without waiting for the evening?:D But I am being a little wiser than that. So till evening....

I hope it lasts!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Diwali Mela..

I thought, while I am at the subject of Indians around the world, let me pen this as well.

When it comes to Indians living in the US, no place beats California:D When I moved here a year-and-a-half back from Wisconsin (huh! Dairy State!) I remember how shocked I was to see the sheer number of Indians. Haven't forgotten the time either when Subhash just came to the US, on his first evening here I took him around and he was shocked to see the percentage of non-desis here, he was like I can see more non-desis in Bangalore than here:))

Its been almost two years now, and I was beginning to think I have seen it all. The desis working behind counters at airport, working at Macy's, all the second, third and fourth gen desis etc etc. It was slowly stopping to surprise me when something entirely unseen before hit me! Subhash and I were driving by Cupertino to get my music books for the piano class. On Steven's Creek Blvd, we saw this huge DIWALI banner across the street just like the ones you find in Hyd advertising the MLAs we must vote for;) "Veerike mee Votu" types. We were so shocked to see it. DIWALI banners on streets, ok what is next?:)) Astonish me Bay Area!:D

I still can't get over that one, the big letters spelling DIWALI and that banner bang in the middle of the upscale Stevens Creek Blvd, made our day!;)

A Desi cook @ every nook!

I know I am putting off writing about my funniest class @ JNTU for sometime now, but I have to get in the mood for it and relive it to be able to do justice to the post, so till then here goes..

My cousin Arjun works for Google (wow?!) @ Hyderabad and he was recently packed off to Ireland on business. He chatted with me a few times and we spoke on the phone a few times, and all of those times, he was worrying and crying (literally;) ) about the pathetic gourmet status he was in:)) He hardly could find edible food, he being a strict veggie. I remember when he was in the US, he used to make it a point to ask in McDonalds about what oil they were frying their fries in ;) Duh! I told him to give up trying to think of what goes in the food behind your back, you can hardly eat anything if you start thinking of it, what hands are they cooking with, etc etc;)

So anyway, he asked for veggie food apparently and got Shrimp!;) I was feeling so much pity for him I used to first ask him about his food affairs whenever we opened a conversation:)) One day he left me a message in Orkut saying he found an Indo-Pak restaurant called, guess what..."Khan's Balti". I was so happy for him. I was thinking, ok one more prospective candidate for having absolutely no Indian place bites the dust;)

Then he came back this week and told me he discovered a whole Indian Street in Dublin and his tummy troubles were over:D Wow! What next? :))

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The best compliment on my cooking ..thus far..

Before I start this post I must write a note to Subhash that everytime he eats something that I make and says "Too much undi!!!" I have a flutter:) I get really happy and feel it was all worth doing:) He is always appreciative of what I make:) Which makes my life in the kitchen a very pleasurable one indeed!

Valli, a common friend of ours from Engineering has his mother over in the US on a short trip:) His wife's mom was here too, so we invited them for lunch. I was not even speculating on what to make;) Mummy had recently sent Maagai and it had been a long long time since I had Maagai pappu, so that was decided. Pulihara is my specialty, or so Subhash says, so that was also decided. Then I had to make my favorite (proprietary recipe!) Gutti Vankaya, as a) It had been a long time since I made it myself b)It was yet another thing that Subhash always likes, even though he doesn't particularly eat Vankaya. Actually that is a common laugh among friends that I always make Vankaya when I call someone over for lunch;)

So anyway I started around 10.45 and had everything ready by 12:) Rathi had recently given me a buffet style serving stand which holds two dishes so I even had them arranged nicely in that;) For the first time I was presenting something nicely:D:D

When everyone came over we started lunch and they were wondering what the dal was, and when I told them it was Maagai pappu, Valli's mom said, ohh yes, we used to make that, I almost forgot that something like that existed:) You reminded me of it :D (I was very happy by now;) ). Then they all started eating and she said that Maagai pappu was very good (Last year Subhash's brother had it and loved it too;), well, its in the Maagai, is what I say:D ). Everyone had the Gutti Vankaya and said it was amazing:) I feel particularly proud/happy when my Gutti Vankaya is praised as it was a recipe I "discovered" and learnt from a lot of trial and error all on my own:) Not borrowed from anywhere except for my instinctive taste buds:):D:D

Valli's mom had the Gutti Vankaya too and she said it was just like the one her mom used to make. Everyone had the pappu and loved it:) Then Valli's mom said, "Ivaalla ma amma vanta ni gurthu chesavu, ma amma vanta ilage untundi" and that was it, I was so upbeat, I can hardly express it:) She said that to Shaila's mom too, "Ivaalla ma amma vanta tinnaru ani anukondi, ilage chesedi ma amma". And she told Valli a little while later "Ammamma chesina dani lagane undi". That was it, I was overjoyed. Shaila had a lunch all over again after finishing her first round, and Valli also had a hearty lunch. Shaila's mom also loved the Dabbakaya which Mummy sent and all in all it was happy lunch. We then treated everyone to Dibs, our standard dessert menu:D

If I thought that was the best compliment ever, then I was wrong:) After they left saying they were really heavy (and I know they were not kidding, we almost fell short on rice), Subhash didn't stop saying how good the food was that whole evening:) Everytime he looked at me he would go, lunch was tooooo much!;)

I was one happy and content soul:):) Loved the fact that everyone liked what I made so much:) Subhash always said my cooking was very traditional, but I never imagined it would remind someone of a cooking style two generations ago!:D