“Indu, Ashok wants me to make something called noodles. What are these? He’s got a packet home and wants to have them for dinner? How do i make them? ” asks my elderly aunt whose son is the one demanding noodles!
Noodles had just come into the Indian market and there was a generation suddenly demanding new tastes be produced out of traditional kitchens! A generation of Meenakshi Ammals was struggling with trying to cook spoilt milk (paneer!) and “Chinese’ while shaking their heads of the passing of traditional ways and the sudden aversions their children seemed to be taking to idlis and sambar and “all that boring old stuff”! The saviour of the maamis – Maggi 2 minute noodles had NOT entered the markets yet, btw..
My mother, as i’ve mentioned earlier, never believes that any dish is beyond her capacity to reproduce – and in the process has ended up creating many new things – some of which were actually quite delicious! Let’s not dwell on the failures – let’s just say they were as spectacular as the multicoloured rockets you get during the Deepavali season !!
So she nods her head wisely and pronounces ” Oh, i know all about noodles – Arvind (my brother) made some the other day. They’re a bit slimy but the kids seemed to like them. Just put some masala powder and cook them!” My aunt, Pramila – who’s famous for her “double ka meetha” (Hyderabadi bread sweet) and other local delicacies, is a bit sceptical and asks – can i put any masala powder?” My mom, very confidently tells her to just put some masala and some water and boil it up. Questions like what kind of masala and how much water are waved airily aside – “Oh, you’ll be able to figure out when you see it in the pan. You know, the Chinese just eat noodles instead of rice as their main starch – it’s very easy”!
Reassured aunt goes away and presents poor Ashok that night with a dish of “slimy things” swimming in water and flavoured with – hold your breath – sambar powder! My aunt had thought that “just like rice” meant that rice and noodles cooked in the same quantity if water! Mom had so blithely reassured her that any masala was okay that she decided to flavour the noodles with the masala she was most familiar with!! Poor Ashok – i don’t know whether he ever ate any noodles after that!
My brother and I were wiser – having seen the effects of my mom’s supreme confidence on most unfamiliar dishes, the very next birthday – i think it was Arvind’s 12th – i presented him with a Chinese cookbook. It was still a bit of a struggle because we didn’t really know many cooking procedures beyond boiling and frying and overcooking 😉 but we learnt! Arvind still makes the best Gobhi Manchurian (or Gopi minjur as it’s spelt in many hotels in the South!). Gopi Minjur incidentally has nothing to do with China and is a quintessential Indian dish!
Cauliflower – 1 – cut into florets and soak in warm, salted water for ten minutes so all the creepy crawlies crawl out
Onion -2 medium – chopped
Spring onions – 3-4 chopped
Garlic – 10- 12 Gr
Ginger – 1″ – cut into juliennes
Green chilies – 4-5 ( chop two fine and slit the rest)
Red chili paste – (soak 5-6 red chilies in 2 tbsp of hot water for ten minutes and then grind into a fine paste)
Schezwan sauce or a Chinese stir fry sauce – 2 tbsp
Tomato sauce – 1 tbsp (optional)
White pepper – 1/2 tsp
Soya sauce – 2 tbsp
Vinegar – 2 tbsp
Sugar – 1.5 tsp
Corn flour – 1/2 cup
Maida – 1/2 cup
Oil to deep fry
Mix the flours with salt, pepper and water to make a thick slurry (like dosa batter). Dip the florets into this and deep fry till golden brown. Set aside. Reserve one tbsp of the batter for the gravy.
In another pan, heat one tbsp of oil, add the onions and fry on high heat for a cople of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chopped garlic and green chiles and continue to stir for another minutes. Add the sauces and sugar and stir again. Add a cup of water and the tbsp of reserved slurry and salt. Let cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly till the slurry is cooked and thickish. Add half the spring onions and mix well. Drop the fried caulis into this and mix so that they are coated completely. Fry the ginger juliennes and drop on top along with the rest of the spring onions. Ta-dang! And give the ol’ noodle sambar a go-by! And if you want a not just Indianised but a South -Indianised version, drop fried curry leaves on top – it really is superb! Can also make a gravy rather than a dry version by adding one more tbsp of slurry and another cup of water – talk about canteen foods!
(pic courtesy the internet btw – am on holiday and no time to cook 🙂