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Mar 052014
 




Brahmins are one of nature’s most fascinating, most bizarre, most diabolical creatures.

Obsessed with weird rituals, an abiding fondness for in-breeding, an unquenchable thirst for Cow-ca-Cola, a sneering contempt for eating meat and a diet limited to plant products, the scheming Brahmins are a tiny group geographically restricted to the barbarous land mass designated in atlases as India, the mountain nation of Nepal and parts of the New World a.k.a. United States (rumors of Brahmin sightings in New Zealand are increasing lately).

Brahmin Diet  image © SearchIndia.comA Brahmin Diet – All Vegetables and No Meat

In lexicographic terms, a Shudra may be considered the antonym of Brahmin.

A numerically large group confined mostly to India, Shudras find it impossible to resist eating anything that moves, swims, crawls or flies.

All is grist to a Shudra stomach, badly starved as it often is of nutrients.

The endearing quality of Shudras is their enormous delight in life’s little blessings and how they live for the day.

Shudra diet image © SearchIndia.comShudra Diet – Meat & More Meat

It would be no exaggeration to say that a sight of any non-human creature induces a Pavlovian fit of drooling in a Shudra.

The Kshatriya diet is similar to the Shudra meal except that the better-off Kshatriyas prefer meat not crawling with maggots. Alas, the economically distressed Shudra has not the luxury of choice!

For those not familiar with India, Kshatriyas are the equivalent of Bollywood’s Chulbul Pandey.

While the devilish Brahmins tend to think with their Chanakyan (vulpine) minds and the starving Shudras with their bellowing stomachs, the Kshatriya is mindful only of his iron hands and elephant-trunk sized legs. In the Kshatriya weltanschauung, all creatures, be they human, animal, amphibious or avian, exist only as prey for the exercise of his meat-fed six-pack muscles.

Now that you have an idea of India’s various communities and their dietary practices, let’s get to the meat of our subject.

Oh, wait! There’s one more group in India known as Vaishyas, a community where males are so obsessed with counting coins and notes they have no time for eating, drinking, screwing and sleeping, leaving their women folk prey to the repeated depredations of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Shudras.

Longevity – Brahmin vs Shudra

Given my advanced perception skills, it has not escaped my attention that the fiendish Brahmins tend to live longer than Shudras and Kshatriyas.

I always suspected the key reason behind longevity of Brahmins vis-a-vis other Indian communities a.k.a. castes was their abhorrence of meat.

Now a new American study has confirmed my suspicion of why Brahmins outlive their Shudra, Kshatriya and Vaishya peers.

A study by Valter Longo and his associates finds that animal-derived proteins are associated with higher mortality rates.

People in the age group 50-65 consuming a high animal source protein diet were 74% likely to die sooner and at  four-times higher risk of dying from cancer than those who abstain from such a diet.

Longo is Director of the Longevity Institute, a Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences and the Edna Jones Chair of Biogerontology at the University of Southern California and so his findings cannot be easily dismissed.

The findings of Longo and his team were based on a study of 6,381 U.S. men and women aged 50 and above.

Here’s an extract from their study:

Notably, our results showed that the amount of proteins derived from animal sources accounted for a significant proportion of the association between overall protein intake and all-cause and cancer mortality. These results are in agreement with recent findings on the association between red meat consumption and death from all-cause and cancer (Fung et al., 2010,Pan et al., 2012). Previous studies in the U.S. have found that a low carbohydrate diet is associated with an increase in overall mortality and showed that when such a diet is from animal-based products, the risk of overall as well as cancer mortality is increased even further (Fung et al., 2010,Lagiou et al., 2007). Our study indicates that high levels of animal proteins, promoting increases in IGF-1 and possibly insulin, is one of the major promoters of mortality for people age 50–65 in the 18 years following the survey assessing protein intake.

Cow – Pray or Chop?

Now I understand why Brahmins fall before the cow, pray to it and gulp down Cow-ca-Cola unlike the Shudras who fall upon the cow, chop it to pieces and feast on its meat. Continue reading »

Feb 022014
 

When I noticed Trader Joe’s touting its Chicken Tikka Samosas as a “Top 10 Favorite Appetizer” for today’s Superbowl in East Rutherford, NJ, my interest was easily piqued.

After all, no desi ever says “No” to Samosas, the most popular Indian snack and street food.

Chicken Tikka Samosa Appetizer and Naan - Image © SearchIndia.comTrader Joe’s Mini Chicken Tikka Samosa

With much anticipation, I made the 75-mile round-trip to Trader Joe’s, a popular food chain the U.S.

Besides the Chicken Tikka Samosa ($3.99), I also loaded up my cart on Vegetable Samosas ($3.69), Vegetable Rice Biryani with Dumplings ($2.49), Garlic Naan ($2.29), Chicken Tikka Masala ($3.49) and a few boxes of Trader Joe’s ever reliable Organic Red Pepper & Tomato Soup ($2.79).

Here’s SI’s verdict on Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Samosa and a bunch of other Indian food:

Chicken Tikka Samosas

These are mini Samosas, not the usual, buxom Indian Samosas.

Packed in an attractive box, there were 12 mini Samosas wrapped together in a sealed bag.

As with other frozen food, the Chicken Tikka Samosa package includes heating instructions and list of ingredients.

At the outset, I will readily concede the Chicken Tikka Samosas have a nice ‘meaty’ aroma.

Chicken Tikka Samosa Appetizer - Image © SearchIndia.comChicken Tikka Samosas – 12 Pieces

In terms of taste, I’d say Trader Joe’s Mini Chicken Tikka Samosa were neither a complete delight nor a total disappointment.

The outer texture was soft and the inside Chicken Tikka stuffing was way too mildly spiced, making them unsuitable for Indians.

In my lexicon, any Indian food (except desserts) that fails to pack heat is a let-down.

The absence of heat (i.e. spicy flavor) was my biggest grouse with Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Samosas. There should have been some spicy marination for the chicken stuffing inside the Samosas.

Another miss – absence of a dipping sauce. Samosa is usually served with spicy Mint or Green Chutney.

By the way, I did not heat the Samosas in the oven but thawed them a bit and then microwaved them.

Vegetable Samosas

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Samosas were a bigger disappointment compared to the Chicken Tikka Samosa.

The $3.69 Vegetable Samosa box included six medium size Samosas. Unlike the Chicken Tikka Samosas, the veggie Samosas were not wrapped in plastic bags.

The Vegetable Samosas were bigger than the Chicken Tikka Samosa but smaller than the 75-cent, full-bodied Samosas you find at most Indian grocery stores in the U.S.

Stuffing in the Vegetable Samosa included Potato pieces, Green Peas, Cilantro, Carrot and Onion pieces.

Vegetable Samosa Appetizer - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Samosa – $3.69

What ruined the Vegetable Samosas was that the stuffing was not in the least bit tasty, spicy or flavorful.

Whichever chef in whichever continent drew up the recipe for Trader Joe’s Vegetable Samosas should be hung, drawn and quartered as a dire warning to others not to mess with Indian food.

Potato pieces inside were a bit hard and could have done with a little more cooking.

Also, the packaging was bad since the Samosas were thrown into the box without any plastic bag.

Vegetable Samosa Appetizer  - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Samosa Box

Vegetable Biryani with Dumplings

Some times in life when it rains, it pours.

That is precisely what happened with Trader Joe’s Vegetable Rice Biryani with Dumplings ($2.49).

Vegetable Biryani box included six small dumplings, plus rice, Lima Beans, Green Peas, Red Peppers, Onion, Raisins and Cashew Nuts.

Vegetable Biryani Dumplings - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Biryani with Dumplings Box

It was prepared with Basmati Rice and there were no issues with the texture of rice.

The only positive thing I can say about the Vegetable Biryani with Dumplings was that the aroma was a lot better than the taste.

Vegetable Rice Biryani with Dumplings - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Biryani with Dumplings – $2.49

But the Vegetable Rice Biryani lacked the traditional enticing, seductive Indian Biryani flavor.

Worse, it was not one bit spicy.

The six dumplings (made from shredded Carrot, mashed Potatos, Cilantro etc) were hopelessly devoid of any taste. I felt as if I were eating finely cooked fried, rubbery vegetable balls.

Overall, Trader Joe’s Vegetable Biryani with Dumplings was severe punishment for my Indian palate.

Vegetable Masala Burger

I desperately sought relief from the spice-less assault on my Indian tastebuds.

But Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger only heightened my misery.

Vegetable Masala Burger - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Masala Burger Box

The Vegetable Masala Burger box ($2.49) included four vegetable patties, wrapped two in a plastic pouch with, of course, heating instructions, ingredients and nutrition value.

Do not be deceived by the picture of Green Chutney on the box!

Chutney does not come with these Masala burgers.

Vegetable Masala Burger inside the box - Image © SearchIndia.com4 Vegetable Masala Burgers – $2.49

With no masala flavor and spice, Vegetable Masala Burgers were awful.

Pathetic.

And I did not hesitate to rain foul curses on the morons who came up with the recipe.

Vegetable Masala Burger on a Bun - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Masala Burger on a Bun

Sure, as the box touts, the Masala Burger included small pieces of Potato, Carrot, Corn, and Green Beans.

But the patty was low on salt, spice and, above all, pitifully low on good flavor.

Masala, my ass.

Vegetable Masala Burger with Vegetables - Image © SearchIndia.comVegetable Masala Burger with Vegetables and Hot Sauce

To enhance the taste of this spiceless travesty, I added Cucumber, Onion, Tomato slices and Louisiana Crystal Extra Hot Sauce.

Bottom Line – Chicken Tikka Samosa

Except for the Chicken Tikka Samosa, the other Indian food items I picked up during my recent outing to Trader Joe’s were big dampeners.

Even the Chicken Tikka Samosa earned no more than a C grade from my spice-hardened Indian palate.

If you are an Indian looking for a spicy affair with your food, you’re bound to be badly disappointed.

Related Trader Joe’s Indian Food Stories:
Trader Joe’s Aloo Chaat – Not a Bad Deal
Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Latte – Heavenly
Trader Joe’s Masala Dosa – Ugh, Yeeks!
Nov 302013
 

By SI’s Tokyo Correspondent

Nirvana for Indians anywhere on the planet comes in three forms – Curry, Cricket and Cinema (Bollywood or its Southern variants Kollywood and Tollywood).

The world may be better than Indians at several things but none can beat us in food and cricket. And nobody, nobody can make trashier movies than our Bollywood folks! ;)

So when SI requested me to review a South Indian restaurant in Tokyo, to say “No” was out of the question.

Downtown Tokyo - Image © SearchIndia.comDowntown Tokyo at Dusk

No sane Indian will say “No” to a South Indian buffet. And I count sanity as one of my few virtues.

This morning in the company of a Japanese friend I headed to Nirvanam in Toranomon to treat myself to South Indian food.

Other than muff-diving, I can’t think of a greater treat for my face than to stuff it with aromatic South Indian food until the stomach yelps in agony and bellows that it can’t take any more.

Nirvanam has two restaurants in the Tokyo metropolitan region, one in Toranomon and the other near Kamiyacho station.

Nirvanam Toranomon is a small and cozy restaurant right in the heart of Tokyo, next to the posh Ginza locality.

Ginza, as some of you may know, is one of the most expensive places on Earth.

Tokyo Statue of Liberty - Image © SearchIndia.comNSA Sold Lady Liberty to Japan

There are a couple of other Indian restaurants around the Ginza locality too.

But even a gourmand like myself can feed from only one buffet trough for lunch.

Tokyo in the Night - Image © SearchIndia.comTokyo Night View – Better than Chennai?

While there are plenty of Indian restaurants in Tokyo, many bearing the same tiresome names like Delhi, Taj, Bombay Club, Indian Cafe, Swagath and Namaste, desi eating houses specializing in South Indian cuisine are limited in Tokyo.

Its South Indian fare was one of Nirvanam’s attractions for me.

Nirvanam Toranomom - Image © SearchIndia.comNirvanam Restaurant Tokyo

The restaurant is located in one of the by-lanes, not on the main road.

We had some difficulty finding the restaurant, and only with the help of a security guard could we locate it.

If you plan to go there, the address is: B1F Toranomon 1-1-20, MinatoKu, Tokyo 105-0001. Phone: 03-5510-7875

Nirvanam Toranomom Board- Image © SearchIndia.comNirvanam Board

Our salvation hope Nirvanam welcomed us with a lunch board promising us, oh, so soft Idlis and our favorite flying friends as Today’s Special.

After squeezing ourselves through the narrow entrance, a cheerful young waiter welcomed us with the familiar Japanese greeting “Irasshaimase.”

Nirvanam Toranomom Entrance - Image © SearchIndia.comNirvanam Entrance

We could hear contemporary Telugu songs trickling from the speakers.

Surprising!

And all these days I thought the Telugu Biddas had flocked en masse to SI’s country, the US of A.

The restaurant was warmly lit.

Three or four tables were occupied when we walked in.

Nirvanam Toranomom Ambiance - Image © SearchIndia.comNirvanam Interiors

Nirvanam attracted a steady stream of visitors while we ate attesting to its popularity.

The restaurant is not too big and can accommodate 40 people at the max.

Chairs and tables are closely spaced. Not so close that you will rub your elbows against each other, but just enough of space to move around.

You cannot complain about that in Tokyo.

Japan being a small country, space is at a premium here.

Typical to Japanese settings, the restaurant had used the space well.

Nirvanam Toranomom Drinks menu - Image © SearchIndia.com

The waiter promptly showed our seat, placed wet towels and water for us and disappeared.

So far so good. At least this restaurant wanted their customers to come back.

We had our water refilled promptly the first time.

But the next time I asked them for water, he placed the jug in front of us and moved out. My Japanese friend and I were taken back by that unwelcome and rude gesture.

We consoled ourselves that Indians will be Indians whether in Chennai, Atlanta or Tokyo.

Nirvanam Toranomom Buffett Counter - Image © SearchIndia.comNirvanam Buffet Counter

The buffet table was placed at the center of the dining hall.

The buffet counter had a placard that said if you dine at Nirvanam, take a picture and tag in Facebook, you could get 100 Yen off during your next visit.

Also, they were requesting us to take only two bowls per person and reuse it if we can. This practice is different from the U.S. where diners are expected to use new plates or bowls during each visit to the buffet station. Some Indian restaurants in New Jersey and New York even have signs at the buffet counter asking customers to get fresh plates.

Buffet Spread

Nirvanam’s spread was modest, at least by U.S. standards, for a weekend buffet.

There was salad, Idli, Medhu Vada, Chutney, Sambar, Mix Veg Curry, Kerala Parotta, Chicken Shahjahani, Mutton Curry and Sweet Pongal.

Alas, there was no Dum Biryani, the favorite of Telugu biddas!

A weekend buffet at a South Indian restaurant in the U.S. would have at a minimum double the items for $13-$16.

Green Salad

We started with green salad, helping ourselves generously to french dressing.

The veggies were crisp, fresh and juicy.

Nirvanam Tokyo Idli, Vada, - Image © SearchIndia.comIdli, Medhu Vada, Sambar, Chutney

Idli

Being a dark skinned Southie, with roots firmly planted in South India, I know how a soft and warm Idli can make you swoon and give you immense satisfaction of a day well begun if you have it for breakfast.

Nirvanam’s Idlis were big, soft and warm – Purrrrrfect.

The Idlis begged to be eaten with Sambar and Chutney.

We dove in head first, nah, finger first.

Sambar

The Sambar was of the right consistency.

Not too watery, not too thick and warm.

Right amount of tanginess and spice – a match truly made in heaven and we gratefully gorged on the soft Idlis.

With Idli finding its perfect match in Sambar, the coconut chutney felt so lonely and invited us to sample her wares.

Coconut Chutney

Being the kind-hearted homo sapiens type that we are unlike SI, my friend and I dutifully obliged, dipping our dirty fingers into the Chutney bowl.

The coconut was fresh and the Chutney was not cold indicating it was freshly prepared.

Although the Chutney was a little spicy and salty for my taste, I’d still put it in the good category.

Fresh coconut is not widely available here in Japan and so most restaurants resort to using dessicated coconut and mixing it with water.

It tastes like hideous sweet shit, but, boy, this Chutney was good.

I would have liked the Chutney to have been seasoned with urad dal and mustard.

This one was seasoned with mustard and, oddly, cummin seeds.

Medhu Vada

We moved on to Medhu Vada with our familiar friends Sambar and Chutney in tow.

The Medhu Vada’s outer layer was crispy but hard.

But after we broke through the tough shell we buried ourselves in her invitingly soft and warm interiors.

We found it to be tasty and filling.

During a subsequent visit to the buffet station, we found that the Vadas were refilled and helped ourselves to more.

We found the second lot to be more tasty with a softer and more crisper exterior shell.

There’s an important lesson from my second round of Vadas on why you should never get married. No sooner have you broken the seal on the first than you find a more luscious second babe in a tamper-proof package. ;)

Kerala Parotta

Next we tried our hand at the Kerala Parotta.

Little did we know the misfortune that lay ahead of us.

Nirvanam Tokyo Kerala Parotta, Mutton Curry, Chicken Sukka, Chicken Shahjahani - Image © SearchIndia.comKerala Parotta, Mutton Curry, Chicken Sukka, Chicken Shahjahani

Kerala Parotta was warm, but hard and rubbery.

We tried the Kerala Parotta with Chicken Shahjahani, Mixed Vegetable Curry and then Mutton curry but derived little comfort.

Chicken Shahjahani

The Chicken Shahjahani placard asked us to expect chicken pieces in onion and cashewnut base gravy.

Surprisingly, it was watery and not as creamy as I had expected.

A watery shit masquerading as chicken curry.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing, not unlike most Indians.

Mix Vegetable Curry

Sweet and mildly spiced, with carrot dominating the medley, the Mix Vegetable Curry turned out to be another disappointment.

I sensed that Nirvanam’s kitchen was making the curries mild to suit timid Japanese palates.

Indian palates used to fiery curries since birth will look askance at mild versions of their favorite curries.

Mutton Curry

Onward to the Mutton Curry.

The mutton curry too proclaimed the same mutton pieces in onion and cashewnut gravy.

The mutton was soft and not rubbery, with the right amount of spice.

I doubt they had added any cashew nuts in both the gravy.

Nevertheless, it was palatable and one less thing to whine about.

Chicken Sukka

Chicken Sukka, here we come!

OMG, was the chef sleep-walking?

Seriously, I could not get what kind of dish this is.

I got the feeling that the chef wanted to prepare something else, changed his mind half-way and then gave up and dished out this abomination to unsuspecting diners, Indians and Japanese alike.

Cold Buffet

The next time we went for a refill we found the food on the buffet table had gone cold.

The restaurant staff refilled the food, as and when they were over.

So to get the best food/warm food, you have to watch out for the timing when they refill.

Obviously, this took a toll on the Japanese rice and the chicken and mutton curries.

When we tried the cold rice with lukewarm chicken and mutton curry they fell flat.

Horrific Sweet Pongal

Sweet Pongal was undoubtedly the work of Satan.

Nirvanam Tokyo Sweet Pongal - Image © SearchIndia.comSweet Pongal

Pongal was too mild in sweetness and the rice was not cooked fully well.

Mon dieu, we could feel half-cooked rice.

I suspect the previous day’s rice which stayed in the electric rice cooker for long had been used, and so it had obviously lost some softness

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi, a standard fixture at Indian restaurants in Japan, was good.

Nirvanam Tokyo Mango Lassi - Image © SearchIndia.comMango Lassi

The Lassi was thick and not sour.

Hey, you cannot get the Lassi wrong, can you?

Nirvanam Tokyo Rating

To summarize my Eating for SI lunch at Nirvanam, it was a hit and miss affair.

Hits – Idlis, Sambar, Chutney and the Mutton Curry

Misses – Rest of them

The lunch buffet priced at JPY1200 ($11.71) is not fully worth it.

The Nirvanam buffet did not give us the full salvation promised by its name.

And is there really such a thing as partial salvation?

 

Nov 142013
 

Just what our obese world desperately needs!

A french fries vending machine!

French Fries Kiosk

Wonderful Invention

Chinese company Beyondte Technology Co. has launched what it claims is the world’s first french fries vending machine.

Put your bill or coins into the machine, wait for 95-seconds, and, voila, here’s your French fries cooked in beef fat or vegetable oil.

The “invention” spits out french fries in two sizes – 135 gms or 150 gms.

The french fries machine is designed to provides a choice of three sauces.

Apparently, this wonderful contraption cost millions of dollars to develop and has been in development for five years.

Businesses in Croatia, Iran and Chile that have installed the kiosks are said to have had “a great impact in the market.”

What next?

A Dum Biryani kiosk for the Telugu biddas? ;)

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Related Content:

French Fries Kiosk Manufacturer

Jun 032013
 

(By Naveen)

Air-Savings.com

All those who complain that cheap and good stuff don’t go together in life have not had a meal at Amma Unavagam (Amma Canteen).

Hey, if it were up to me, I’d even add Amma Canteens to the Chennai tourist circuit (like they have these Dharavi slum tours in Mumbai, Bronx ‘ghetto’ tours in New York City, Soweto slum tour in Johannesburg, Bangkok Sex tours etc).

Why not sell the poor Brown Black Man’s food choices to curious White folks visiting from the West.

Reality tourism sells!

Jayalalitha’s Initiative

I came across news of Amma Unavagam a few months ago and it was high on my radar during my current visit to Chennai.

I have been hearing from family and friends about the steep increase in the cost of food in India and it fueled my curiosity about Amma’s canteen.

The hotel is named after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha who is referred to affectionately as Amma (Mother) by Tamils.

There are a bunch of Amma Canteens around Chennai and I picked the one in T. Nagar, the most famous area in all of Chennai.

Amma Canteen Chennai © SearchIndia.comAmma Canteen in T. Nagar, Chennai

After driving in circles in Dhandapani Street, Burkit Road, Boag Road, Thanikachalam Street, Venkatnarayana Road and Thyagaraya Road, I almost concluded that Google maps had it wrong but a wiser inner voice counseled me to ask an idle auto driver for directions. I expected him to call me a Saavugraki, Bemani, or Kasmalam but to my utter surprise he was not only polite but he also gave me the directions!

I finally reached Amma Unavagam too late for breakfast and too early for lunch and hence spent some time in the Pondy Bazaar area listening to loud speakers blaring “songs” extolling the virtues of Amma’s arch political rival and nemesis M.Karunanidhi on him turning 90 years old.

The clock struck noon and it was time to return to Amma’s canteen

Facilities & Ambiance

Amma Unavagam is meant for low to very low income people.

As one would expect out of a Government run establishment, the hotel has a very deglamorized appearance and it is structured on the same lines as the local liquor bars called TASMAC. The only difference is that his place serves food and not liquor.

Amma Unavagam is definitely far better than the Kaiyendhi Bhavans and road side mobile restaurants. I would even go as far to say it is cleaner and better maintained than many “Messes” and small restaurants.

The all-woman workforce is a pleasant change from other restaurants which employ mostly male workers.

Amma Canteen Chennai Steel Water Glasses, © SearchIndia.comAmma Canteen Steel Water Glasses

The women who serve food were wearing plastic gloves and all the containers, stainless steel plates and water cups were clean.

The biggest surprise to me was the civic sense of forming a line to buy food tokens and receive the food, a trait which I found missing in the educated baboons at the Chennai airport and most other places.

Amma Canteen Chennai Queue at the Food Counter © SearchIndia.comQueue at the Food Counter

All in all, it was a very pleasant experience under the hot and humid Chennai Sun.

The Food

Now, Amma Unavagam is not your fancy fine dining restaurant offering a 7 course meal or lavish choice of appetizers or desserts.

The only options in the lunch menu were Sambar Rice, Lemon Rice and Curd Rice.

Amma Canteen Chennai Lunch Items - © SearchIndia.comSambar Rice (right), Lemon Rice (top) and Curd Rice (left)

Being a sapad-raman (glutton), I took one of each and headed towards the food. Continue reading »