Tucked into a lane in Pune's Koregaon Park is the 70 seater Malaka Spice, named after a Malaysian state and a favourite haunt of those seeking an authentic Oriental eating experience. Malaka Spice stands out not only for its varied menu but also for the warmth and hospitality of genial proprietors Praful and Cheeru Chandawarkar. It has been in the area since 8 years. Both Cheeru and Praful have a background in catering and hotel management, and went through varied jobs before settling down to running their own specialty restaurant in a city they believe is a good test market. Having lived in Hong Kong for seven years, they had researched the cuisine of the area, and were willing to risk starting a restaurant devoted to South-East Asian food. South-East Asian cuisine is light, healthy and relies on herbs for its flavours. The cooking methods are very healthy and we use only the freshest ingredients. All cooking is done only just before serving. Most vegetarians are worried about finding something suitable to eat in Oriental restaurants, but at Malaka Spice they can choose from a substantial range of soups, salads, starters and more.
The regularly changing menu ensures that there are always surprises, such as Himalayan trout and varieties of brown rice. The ambience is casual, with most customers preferring to sit out under the stars. However, those that get a table indoors are treated to the sight of colourful artwork dotting the walls of the restaurant. Those looking for a value-for-money eating experience will enjoy chilling out over a glass of wine at Malaka Spice. The food is certainly something to look forward to, and either Cheeru or Praful is always at hand to consult if you can't make up your mind about what to eat.
Mrs. Dalal plays teacher on the sets of 'Fame Gurukul'
While teaching people how to cook is something that Mrs. Dalal has been doing for years, her recent experience on the sets of Sony TV's popular 'Fame Gurukul' was something she particularly enjoyed. Invited to train the final five contestants, she was able to take the Cooking and more team with her, and we were among the privileged few allowed to peek into the impressive gurukul set up in a Mumbai suburb.
The contestants are in the gurukul under the constant eye of cameras, which record their every waking moment!
Cooking with Tarla Dalal is an experience they have been looking forward to, and they greet her with great excitement. All novices in the kitchen, they are eager to learn the basics of microwave cooking. Mrs. Dalal strikes a deal with them: they have to sing for her before she shows them how to cook, and they promptly burst into song!
The menu is simple - Rex and Rooprekha are to try to make Sweet Corn Soup; Arpita, Sandeep and Qazi will wrestle with Macaroni Cheese, while Mrs. Dalal will tackle the Shahi Rabdi. Armed with printed recipes, the quintet take on the task at hand with enthusiasm.
Pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use a microwave, the five happy cooks vow to further their cooking skills with some more practice, and settle down to attack the food with relish. They are lavish with their praise of the Rabdi, and inspired to talk about their favourite foods. A sleepy Qazi reminisces about his home in Kashmir and delicacies like Kashmiri Waazwan and Rogan Josh.
All five admit that they love food but have to be careful about avoiding things that might affect their voices. Cold water, aerated drinks, and irritants like pickles are out, and starting the morning with hot water and honey is very important. Introduced to the wonders of cooking with a microwave, they are already planning what they will experiment with once they're let out of the gurukul. In this case at least there are no winners – they all performed with equal zeal and gusto!
On a recent trip to the Big Apple, Mrs. Dalal was delighted to sample some authentic Gujarati cuisine at a charming restaurant called Vatan.
As I was walking along a New York pavement, I saw a big board VATAN, it instantly evoked patriotic feelings in me so I stepped in and was totally amazed. I was in the heart of New York city one instant but as I stepped in I found myself being warmly welcomed into a typical Gujarati village complete with a banyan tree, a well, images of traditional Gujarati women, and gem-studded portraits of Ganesh and other less familiar deities.
Vatan specialises in the rich, spicy and robust vegetarian cuisine of Gujarat, taking pains not to compromise on taste or ingredients, and creating culinary delights that any Gujarati back home would be proud of. It was an incredible experience to tuck into wholesome desi food off steel thalis and I felt completely at home. The attentive waiters urged me to eat an extra phulka, displaying some of our legendary Indian hospitality, but I found I couldn't eat another morsel! I was happy to note that other diners didn't need much urging to tuck into the lavish spread on their thalis, and even the Westerners found it quite difficult to say no to another helping of hot kadhi or just a few bhajiyas more!