The simple South Indian: Upma

April 27th, 2014  


South Indian vegetarian food can be as simple as it is delicious. One of my favorite breakfast items also happens to be one of the quickest to put together. There are a couple of things you need that you may only be able to find at an Indian grocery store. The first is Sooji (or Rava) which is a coarse wheat germ. You can buy it roasted (as ‘Upma Rava‘), or you can bring it home and roast it yourself. The second is Chana Dal, or split chickpeas which may be available in regular grocery stores too.

Start by chopping up a shallot (I prefer to slice it thin), and an inch or so of ginger. Heat up a tbsp of oil in a wok (I prefer coconut oil for the flavor, but any vegetable oil will do) and add the chopped up shallots and ginger. When they start to brown, add a tbsp of chana-dal. Roast them all until the chana-dal starts turning a dark brown (Careful, it can burn easily). I usually add a few curry leaves to it just because I have them at home, but that’s optional. As a bonus, you can also chop up some lemongrass and add to it at this point (but hey, we are keeping this simple right?)

Add a couple of cups of water (or vegetable stock) to the wok and let the water come to a boil. Add a bit of turmeric (for color) and some salt (to taste). This is where the fun begins. Turn down the heat, take the container of Rava, and add it to the water while stirring it gently. Be careful to add the rava slowly and consistently, otherwise you will end up with uncooked lumps in the water. Keep stirring it so that you can distribute the Rava well in the water. Stop adding Rava when the mix is still easy enough to stir, but not watery. Don’t worry if you have a bit of water as the rava will absorb more water later.

That’s it! Turn the heat to a simmer, or turn it off entirely and keep the container covered. You can get creative when you serve (In these pictures, I added a pinch of Sumac and a few stalks of lemongrass). When I made it today, the whole process from chopping the ginger to serving it did not take more than 15 minutes!

Bonus: If you are the kind that likes a bit of a kick in their food (who doesn’t?), chop up a single green chilly and add it to the wok just before adding water. Restaurants often go a bit overboard by adding roasted cashews and ghee for flavor, but I find it a bit too rich to be enjoyable.


The Bypass

January 8th, 2014  

I found this old short ‘The Bypass‘ on YouTube starring Irrfan Khan. No dialogue, but engaging. A bit gruesome in parts.

Charcoal Irons and Starched Clothes

January 6th, 2014  

I’ve seen my grandma use charcoal ironing boxes from a period when electricity was either not available, or was too expensive — The iron looked like its modern counterpart, just heavier, and capable of holding hot pieces of charcoal. Recently, I saw this roadside laundry in Kozhikode where one couple was stretching out starched mundus while another guy carefully ironed shirts with a charcoal iron.

My bollywood to-do list

January 4th, 2014  

I’m making a list of potentially-interesting Bollywood movies made in the last decade or so that I haven’t seen yet. I’ll update this post with short reviews when I get around to finding and watching them.

To Watch

The Lunchbox
Madras Cafe
Ship of Theseus
Miss Lovely
Gangs of Wasseypur I & II
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi
Being Cyrus
Manorama Six Feet Under
LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!


Yet another remake of Romeo & Juliet. While it’s quite watchable, it’s not noteworthy, other than being a good introductory vehicle for the leads Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor. Available on Netflix.
Bombay Talkies
Four short movies themed around the film industry. The segment by Karan Johar is the only weak one with unbelievable characters, an unconvincing story arc, and a wannabe-artsy feel to the movie. Anurag Kashyap’s segment is expectedly enjoyable with smart writing, Zoya Akhtar’s segment about a gender-confused kid leaves you mouth-agape at the kid’s performance, but the best part belongs to Dibakar Bannerjee who directs a short story by Satyajit Ray about a failed actor finally getting a shot at being in a movie, albeit for a bit role. Definitely worth watching, even if you have to skip the Karan Johar part.
Special 26
Disappointing. Very.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
This biopic about one of India’s greatest runners had a lot of potential, but it ends up being a pointless song-and-dance ridden 3 hour long melodrama.
(Unofficially on YouTube) It’s amazing how many good movies of the past decade are from Anurag Kashyap‘s stable. I’m in awe of this man who can write and direct movies with so much richness that you do not want the movie universe to end anytime soon. How a movie like this doesn’t do well at the box office is beyond me, but boy, does this movie deliver. A large portion of what makes this movie so delightful is in the script and lyrics to songs (penned by Piyush Misra, who also plays a very entertaining role in the movie), but they are so topical that it would be hard to derive the same pleasure from a translation.
(Officially on YouTube) Lootera leads up to the idea of O Henry’s ‘Last Leaf’, but it’s everything other than that moment that makes the movie watchable. The period theming, cinematography, and most of the acting is very enjoyable, but the movie is let-down a bit by the ham-fisted ending that lays on the drama with the subtlety of a sledge-hammer.
An excellent performance by Vidya Balan who plays a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in Kolkata. The city itself is very much a part of the movie and the gentle pace of the movie in the initial parts lets one soak in the experience of Kolkata. Bollywood likes predictable and dramatic endings, but it’s a satisfying movie to watch.
Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara
I first saw this movie in a theater with a bunch of friends, and I loved it! I recommended it to some friends recently, and decided to watch it again to see if I could still like it. It’s still enjoyable thanks to a well written script, and excellent performances from all three leads. Not to mention, the excellent urdu poetry by Javed Akhtar, narrated by his real-life son Farhan. It’s a bit over the top at times, but it’s supposed to be a feel-good movie, so that’s easily ignored.

Dat Q!

December 26th, 2013  

The reproduction of the old Doves typeface is simply gorgeous.

Doves Type Example

Doves Type

via The Economist.

The future is not available here.

December 24th, 2013  

There are moments when I think of how far technology has come today, enabling us to do things that would’ve been in the realm of science fiction just a decade ago. And then I realize that there are problems that even technology cannot solve.

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 8.51.55 AM

Good ol’ business principles will not be thwarted by piddling technology. Nopes.


December 22nd, 2013  

If you are out of charitable-donation ideas, you might want to try the American way and cover all your bases. Here’s a few different ideas:


Organizations that help improve the quality of life.
Planned Parenthood
Shankar Netralaya


Organizations that work for human rights and civil liberties.

The pursuit of happiness

Organizations that make you happy.
Your favorite podcast (Radiolab?)

You can always browse through Charity Navigator to find worthy causes.

Anti-theft sandwich bags

December 20th, 2013  

Can’t let the world know that you’ve licked your own food? These sandwich bags will deter theft for sure. Will they also deter some helpful soul from throwing it out?

Anti-theft sandwich bags

Appropriate part number too.

via Design Milk