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Andhra Special: Gongura Chicken ( Chicken in Sorrel Leaves Gravy)

Gongura chicken

For my 201’st post, I thought I should post a regional recipe. When I first moved to US in 2001, we all had packed food items from home – be it pickles, papads or even pulses. While we were getting adjusted to the new life there, we all bonded over homemade simple meals. News,updates,learning’s were shared. Daal-chaawal for the dil ( aka Chicken soup for the soul).

Most folks from Andhra had a bottle of gongura pickle.The tangy sour sorrel leaves picked in a hot oil tempering. The combination is amazing and most Indian stores across US stock this.  It soon became a staple in our house and even today stands next to mom’s sweet and sour pickle.

When we moved to Hyderabad, we were introduced to another Andhra specialty made with red sorrel leaves – Gongura chicken. And the pairing is classic. Italians have their Chicken with Spinach, North Indian with fenugreek leaves (Methi– chicken) and Andhra has it with gongura leaves.

Renuka making chicken

Alas not all places make it well and we have had varying degrees of luck. Some places it was too sour,others it was too bland. Till recently, Renuka, our cook made it when she saw chicken and gongura leaves. And it was lip-smacking good. So, good that I asked to make it again when we had friends over.

Cooking

She willing shared her recipe and blushed when I told her I would share it with you all on Internet.

I hope you all love this tangy chicken recipe as much as we did 🙂

Gongura Chicken Recipe

Serves 4

  • 1 lb chicken(boneless skinless cubed into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Gongura leaves – washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon – turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon – garam masala powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons -coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons – red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water

For the Marinade

  • 2 tablespoon yogurt
  • 3- 4 garlic pods minced
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and grated
  • 1 green chilli diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon ( about 1 tablespoon)
  • Salt to taste

 For the Coconut Paste

  • 2 teaspoons Desiccated coconut ( thawed if frozen)
  • 10 -14 cashew nuts ( unsalted)
  • 3 garlic pods -roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli – roughly diced

1. Marinade the chicken in the ingredients listed above. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker ( or a pot with tight fighting lid). Add onions and fry till translucent. Add the coriander and mint leaves and saute them for about 30 seconds till wilted.

Then add gongura leaves and saute them for about a minute.

3. Now add all the spices – turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Keep stirring as you add the masalas so they wont stick to the pan and burn.

4. Add the coconut paste and cook through for another minute.

5. Finally add the chicken along with the marinade. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add water.

Pressure cook for 2 whistles or cook till chicken is cooked through but not tough about 8 – 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or parathas.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav

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It seems unreal to write a recipe related post when the city is still reeling in the aftermath of the two bomb blasts that shook Hyderabad. Last night around 7:00 pm, during peak hour, there were two bomb blasts in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad. We didn’t know about it till messages started pouring on Facebook from concerned friends and family abroad. We watched live news, devastated about the blasts and in fear. Politicians and leaders made statements partly to cover their asses and party to blame others. It was a sad day worsened by politicians caring for their own benefit than the families in distress.

We were safe in our house and were relieved that our friends and family were safe as well. Today, life was like normal. Office, meetings, day care and even a Ship party. Guess, these things happen in India frequently enough that while you feel helpless and enraged you bounce back to normal quickly. In our safe cocoons of white-collar jobs, gated communities and elite day cares/schools, we don’t have to worry about the same things that a middle class Dilsukhnagar has to. Sad, but true.

So how do you tide over shocking news items like bomb blasts, horrific rape incidents and political apathy? You make friends and hold them close. Check on them and make sure that your little circle is safe. And be grateful that your little corner is safe this time from the general chaos. It helps even when life is less tumultuous. This is true regardless where you are.

One of our favorite recipes to go to when we had friends over in Redmond was Misal Pav – fiery dish from Kolhapur. Literally misal means a medley – a medley of sprouts, fiery kat sauce, crunchy farsan and assortment of toppings. We recently made it as its healthy, one-pot, vegetarian and can be customized a myriad of ways with multiple toppings. Its one of those dishes that taste better as they simmer longer and even better the next day as the flavors blend overnight. Its comforting, filling and nurturing. It can be made spicy or mild though fiery is its signature tone. Diced onions, tomatoes, lemons and crunchy farsan add to the drama of the dish and it can be easily tempered down with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

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A perfect companion to this is a crusty bread or a soft dinner roll to soak up all the gravy. Try it when you need comforting – from man-made or nature’s calamities: snow, storm or hurricane. You will feel better after having made it for your loved ones. After all its a dish that tastes better when its made with love.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav Recipe

  • 2 cups sprouts (moong, moth or matki, green peas, lentils, black-eyed peas etc)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Dash of asafoetida or hing
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste

For garnish

  •  Farsan, sev
  • Coriander leaves chopped
  • Onions finely chopped ( optional)
  • Tomatoes finely chopped ( optional)
  • Lemons quartered
  • Yogurt
  • Kat ( recipe below )

For Kat or Spicy Sauce

Depending on how spicy you want kat,

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of chili powder , cumin powder, garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add cumin, hing, curry leaves and let it sizzle for about 10 – 15 seconds. Then add the onions and let them cook for about  5 – 7 minutes till soft. Add tomatoes, chili powder and garam masala. Mix well and let cook till soft and well mixed.

2. Take about 2 -3 tablespoons of this mix and set aside to make kat or a spicy sauce.

3. Add the sprouts. Season with salt. Add a cup of water and let this simmer on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes till the sprouts are well cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

4. For Kat : Take the onion- tomato mix in a separate sauce pan and sauté this in oil. Add water, chili powder, salt and garam masala. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.

Serve the misal piping hot along  the kat and garnish platter. Top misal with kat, lemon juice and farsan with a side of pav for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Restaurants in Hampi

Basic thali at mango treeTruth be told,you don’t go to Hampi for a fine dining experience. We were expecting home style south Indian food. Idli’s , dosa’s, vada’s, simple curries, Sāmbhar and rice. And we were happy to try some simple fare. Our only requirement was that the place be clean and people don’t rush us for food.We can make do with lunch at any hole in the wall place but dinners have to be relaxed and good. Otherwise it doesn’t feel like a vacation, in my humble opinion!

Our first two days in Hampi were a disaster as far as food was concerned. On the drive there, our colleagues had warned us to pack lunch as there are really not many options other than occasional dhabas and small stalls en-route till Raichur. The drive was covered with puris and parathas that we had made that morning. In Raichur there were restaurants options available where we ate on the way back. Shubhada was reminded of her childhood Kanada meals when we ate in Raichur. Simple, delicious and cheap!

Vijayshree Heritage Restaurant

The first evening, we wanted to try the Rajasthani thali at Vijayshree Heritage village. We went to their dining hall but were put off by the fact that we had to stand behind other people who are still having dinner so that we could grab their seat once they were done.  I suppose it could have been managed better. Also, they told us they daal-Bati wasn’t on the menu that night but would be the next day. So off we went to have dinner in their adjoining restaurant.

We were promptly seated but it took forever to get water, appetizers and even plain rice for the kids. We got curries but they didn’t get the rotis. So we had to wait for them while the curries cooled off. When they did get rotis they only got the partial order. Again, we were left waiting. Finally about two hours later my friend had enough of this. She barged into their kitchen so we got some rice to eat with the now cold dal. Almost everyone in the restaurant were complaining about the poor service.

After a long drive from Hyderabad all we wanted was a hot and quick meal and get into bed but it was an ordeal.The worst part was the lack of management so it was utter chaos.

Breakfast at Vijayshree Resort

If previous nights dinner was any indication, the breakfast in the resort was even worse. Its included in lodging so most folks just go to the breakfast buffet. They ran out of stuff – idlis, sambhar, puris. There was no jam for the cold toasted bread. Or spoons to stir sugar in the sugar less tea. Not enough tables and chairs as families waited for others to finish.We are fairly certain they cannot manage the place in peak season when lot of folks descend on Hampi. Breakfast was fairly better and hot when on last morning there was a fifth of the crowd on the first day.

The best part of breakfast was their location – in a open terrace overlooking their gardens and animals farm where they rear the horses, camels and cows. Varun loved looking at the chirping birds as they came by where we ate and we were grateful for being able to sit in one place during our meal once we managed to get seated.

Lunch at Karnataka Tourists Department Restaurant

I don’t know the name of this restaurant but its the only place that is open for lunch in the Karnataka Tourist Departments Hotel. We went there as this is the only restaurant that’s close to the Royal center where we could sit down and eat, per our guide. Usually I am not a fan of the state departments restaurants and hotels. Based on experience in Maharashtra, Rajasthan when I was younger and recent experience in Srisailam I didn’t have any hopes. Kids were hungry and we chose an option that was closest to us. Also, we figured things couldn’t get any worse than what we saw at dinner and at breakfast.

Later we realized how wrong we were. There was a long queue for payment. Even though it was a buffet, you are given only one plate. They don’t give a plate till you pay first. They don’t allow you to pay if they don’t have sufficient plates on hand. Most of the food pans were empty except for curd rice which surprisingly was good given that it was untouched.

Vipul and Shantanu managed to get two plated full of curries and a plate of rotis for the table. When we tried to go for seconds another bus load of tourists had descended and hungry tourists were screaming for food and jostling around the buffet table trying to get whatever they could.

I have never felt more like an animal while trying to have lunch in my life. Only pictures of animals in Serengeti trying to find way to the water hole in peak summer comes to my mind. Avoid this place if you can.

Vijayshree Restaurant Rajasthani Thali

After a long day visiting Vithala Temple, Royal center , other temples in Hampi and watching the sunset we came back to the resort after a long day. Kids didn’t want to sit in the car again. they just wanted to run around. So we didn’t have a choice but to eat at Vijayshree. With the lure of daal – bati we went have the thali earlier than previous night hoping for lesser crowd.

Excuse the poor photos – they are all with my Iphone and the lights were dim.

Dining hall

Folks sitting down for thali

Server at Rajasthani restaurant

We stood in a line behind other folks having dinner and once they were done, we sat down. It was fun sitting down and eating food. As a typical thali place, once most folks are seated, a person comes setting plates and cutlery on the table. Another server comes first with condiments (chutneys, papad and salt), followed by curries, rotis and rice. They keep coming back to replenish. Later they also served us dessert and buttermilk.

The meal was simple and delicious. The only bad part was people standing behind us goading us to eat faster and make room for them.

Mango Tree Restaurant

Path to Mangotree

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After our poor dining experience in Hampi so far, we were determined to have good food today. Not just good food but good service and ambiance  Mango Tree comes recommended as #1 in Hampi and doesn’t fail. The walk through banana plantation and set under a huge Mango tree, this was a beautiful location overlooking the Tungabhadra river. Our hearts sank when we saw the shoes removed and kept in a shelf outside the restaurant ( you have to remove shoes to eat here). There were at least couple of hundred shoe pairs there. But the manager was really good, telling us when we can expect to be seated, asking us to form a line and maintain decorum while folks waited outside. He was so polite and cooperative -made us feel welcome and attended to even though it was super crowded.

Shoes outside Mango tree

When we were seated about 20 – 25 mins later, we were seated on the most unique seating. Little stone terraces overlooking the river. Low stone tables and slanted backrest so you could just stretch your legs, lean back and relax. Even though the place was thronged, they didn’t make us get up and leave when we were done.

Terraces and low seating at mango tree

View from Mangpo tree

We relished their thalis and buttermilk ( don’t miss!) while the kids had fries and finished the meal with fresh fruits from the plantation and nutella crepe! Don’t miss this place. I can only how imagine this place can be on a less crowded weekend.

Banana nutella crepe

Its only drawback its vegetarian only. But we ignored that given how tasty the food was. Finally food Gods had smiled on us 🙂

Malligi restaurant

The night after our trip to Tungabhadra Dam, we went to Malligi restaurant for dinner. Great ambiance  music, clean and good food. And at last drinks! We were there on Christmas eve and celebrated! Kids also loved this place. The restaurant is similar to any city, the food and service was what made us feel at home. Things that we take for granted adds a little dose of pleasure on the trip in an unexpected manner when they are not available.

Don’t miss this place if you are in Hospet.

That was our food round up. I am sure there are better restaurants or that if we had visited any other time of the year, we could have had better experience in the ones we tried. But we won’t recommend Vijayshree Heritage to any of our friends planning a trip. And as far as the Karnataka Tourism restaurant  goes, it just confirmed my belief, state managed hotels and restaurants are not for young kids where the low levels of cleanliness and hygiene can cause stomach troubles. Stick to Tripadvisor ratings at least in small towns of India unless you have an iron stomach 😉

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