Of women’s rights and Irani restaurants!

Girls growing up in my generation were at a huge disadvantage in some ways – you didn’t go out alone – except to school or dance class or maybe the library. But the things that boys could do, were allowed to do, rather – like eat alone at a restaurant, stand by a gol gappa vendor and stuff your mouth with water running down your chin and tears running down your cheeks from the mirchi, go to a movie alone – were out of bounds for us.  I don’t think anyone ever specifically forbade any of this but you grew up in a culture where you knew you couldn’t do all this – from cousins, from older girls in the colony and the hush-hush of scandals which occasionally rock small towns… did we rebel? Occasionally, when it got TOO much! 

My rebellion, of course had to do with food! And at an age when I had thought about it and railed at the injustice of it all – soon after joining college. The first time was when I walked into an Irani restaurant on my own – one of the many which used to dot Hyderabad – and asked for a piece of cake (those virulently coloured trilayered ones – neon orange, parrot green and sunset yellow!) and a cup of chai. There were looks of horror from the more conservative part of the clientele and titters from the younger bunch (I should actually call them an audience because that’s what they became). After all, this was not some self-assured older woman or a firangi but a very local looking teenager who dared enter a male bastion – alone! Toba, toba! Giving back glare for every interested look i got, i managed to gulp down my tea and gobble the cake before stalking away – inwardly quaking but pleased as punch!

The next port of call was a ragda patties (or pattice as they were spelt in my corner of the world!) vendor- selling the most delicious potato patties covered with a yellow pea gravy. Mindblowingly hot and out of orbit delicious, the ragda pattice were worth every stare I got from the roadside Romeos who dotted the Hyderabad landscape like garden lizards!

There were consequences though… no, no, not of a social or admonitory kind but rather consequences to my tummy! The ragda pattice episode was followed by the most royal upset stomach I’ve ever had! Made me wonder whether it was divine retribution for challenging those bastions! Well, so be it!

Haven’t dared, out of deference to my stomach, to eat roadside ragda again but managed to, after trial and error, replicate the taste at home!



  • Dried white peas – 1 cup – soaked overnight
  • Green chilis – 3 -4 minced
  • Ginger – 1/2″ piece – grated
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Pav bhaji masala or garam masala – 1/2 tsp
  • Jaggery -1 tbsp
  • Tamarind paste – 1 tsp
  • Salt
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs.
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp

Discard water in which peas were soaked, add two more cups of water, the ginger and green chili and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles and simmer for a further ten minutes. The peas should be soft but not mushed up. 

Heat the oil in a pan, add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Add the rest of the masalas and the cooked peas and salt. Simmer for 4-5 minutes till the flavours blend. The consistency should be thick – can be ladled but not run around the plate! Set aside.


  • Potatoes – 1/2 kg – boil till soft. Peel
  • Cornflour – 1 tbsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil – 2 tbsp

Mash the potatoes while still hot with the rest of the ingredients. Shape into round cutlets and shallow fry using a few drops of oil for each one (or use the paniyaaram / aebelskiver pan!) till golden brown on both sides. Set aside

In the meantime make the 


  • 1/2 cup mint chutney (grind togther 2 cups mint leaves, 1 cup coriander leaves, !/2 ” piece ginger, 1 green chili, juice of half a lemon, 2 tsp of sugar, 2 flakes of garlic (optional), salt and kala namak (Himalayan pink salt) 
  • 1/2 cup tamarind-date chutney (Microwave togther 1 cup dates, 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp tamarind paste and 1/2 cup jaggery. Cool and puree. Add 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp chili powder and salt and enough water to make a thick sauce.
  • Onions – finely chopped – 1 cup or more
  • Sev – 1 cup
  • Chopped coriander leaves – 3 tbsp


Place two patties in a small plate. Ladle 1/2 cup of ragda over. Add 1 tbsp each of the cutneys. Add chopped onions, coriander and a handful of sev and serve immediately.

Should send you immediately into a culinary heaven of textures and tastes!

And go bravely to that Irani restaurant and demand your cake and have it too!