Of “hotles”, rites of passage and “haute cuisine”…

Rather busy week but with a patient in the house, have been thinking up invalid diets. Soups are definitely life’s saviours where invalids or weight watchers are concerned. 

When we were growing up, the only ‘soup’ we were familiar with was the tomato soup at a “hotel” . Restaurant was a fancy word which came into our vocabularies later in life. Till then any eatery – be it the humble idli-dosa joint called Maaruthi Vilas round the corner or the fancier Annapurna on Nampally Station Road where we had the tomato soup, they were all hotels – with a long “ho” and a very short “tel” – “ho-tle”- pronounced the Indian way! 

Back to our tomato soup – this was a bright orange-red concoction – of a hue designed to make any tomato blush 😉 filled with happily deep-fried croutons, this was our idea of “haute cuisine” as was “Hotle” Annapurna our idea of high living! As we grew older and the rites of passage of “going out with friends” were passed, Chinese joints entered our domain and “sweet corn” soup and the even more exotic “tom yum” soup made us feel truly cosmopolitan! 

Much, much later and many years of travel later, I got to the point where i now believe that Punjab was the best thing that happened to Chinese cuisine!! I think we Indians are definitely a bit chauvinistic when it comes to food and even if are eating a “molecular gastronomic experience” (phew!!), secretly there is a little voice (strongly resembling your grandmother’s!) telling you this is a great dish – all it needs is a pinch of jeera, a hint of asafoetida, a smidgin of garam masala or sambar powder, a spoonful of chili and a dollop of ghee! 

Over decades of “mindful cooking”, I learnt  (much to the chagrin of the grandmother’s voice!) that one area where we really cannot improve on another cuisine is the very humble soup. The rule of thumb with soups is – the simpler the better. The fewer the ingredients, the clearer the vegetable sings!

Here’s one of my own – with truly one of the humblest of vegetables but one of the sublimest of soups – presenting the


(chayote/ bangalore vankaaya/ bangalore kathrikaya) soup

  • Chowchow – 1 large – peeled and sliced
  • Shallots or onions – chopped – 2 tbsp
  • Butter – 1 tbsp
  • Cashewnuts – 6-7
  • Salt
  • White pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander  -chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Milk – 1/2 a cup

Saute the onions along with the butter in a saucepan ona  very gentle flame till translucent, Add the chowchow, coriander and the cashewnuts and a cup of water and bring to the boil. Cover and simme for about 15 minutes till vegetables are super tender. Cool and blend to a very smooth puree. If the puree is not smooth enough, strain through a sieve. Add the salt, pepper and enough water to make a medium thick soup – spoonable but not droppable. To serve, pour 2 tbsp hot milk into a bowl and top with the soup. C’est tout!! Das ist alles! Ash-tey! Avulodaan! Ante! or in my favourite Hyderabadi patois – itna eech miyan!