Sunday, October 29, 2006

Meet Chennai...

If Mumbai depicts the pulse of India, West Mambalam depicts the pulse of Chennai! Well, should I call it the Munirka of Chennai, I don't know... all I know is that it is one of my favourite locales in the city.

Dhoti-clad men and boys, Merc-driving executives, pundits, and Jeans-sporting youngsters on their speedsters coexist with women in nine-yard and six-yard sarees, young girls with plaited hair and wearing their long silk skirts and blouses (paavadai-sattai), teenagers in their Jeans, T-shirts or even pyjama suits, and working women in their salwar kameezes. Not to forget children of all ages who go to the best schools in town and talk in impeccable English in the mornings, and unfailingly attend their music/dance/Veda classes in the evenings!

Temples, bhajan-mandalis, supermarkets, kirana stores, wholesale grocery and vegetable mandi-s, Udupi hotels and fast-food stalls, "Chips centres" and "Bholi stalls", West Mambalam has it all.

Well, what triggered these pleasant recollections... I was passing through West Mambalam today and noticed that a street was called "Shyamala Vadana Street". Where else can you find such aesthetic and beautiful Sanskrit street names?!!

Ensuring a sane stomach...

Deepavali obviously means endless feasting! Perhaps in order to ensure the sanity of our stomachs even when we go overboard gorging on the delecacies during the festive season, Deepavali Legiyam is prepared in Tam-Brahm households during Diwali. In fact, it is even offered to God along with the sweets!

This is an herbal medicine. The ideal dosage is one teaspoon of this legiyam, and it is best eaten wrapped in a betel leaf. Each family has its own recipe for this, varying the ingredients according to their taste. Here’s my grandmother’s recipe.

Recipe for Deepavali Legiyam

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Makes 1 – 2 cups of legiyam

½ cup pepper
¼ cup coriander seeds (dhania)
1 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tbsp thyme seeds (ajwain)
A one-rupee coin sized piece of dry ginger
10 cardamoms (elaichi)
10 cloves (lavang)
½ cup ghee
2 – 2 ½ tbsp of honey
Around 1 ½ - 2 cups of powdered jaggery (depends on the quantity of paste obtained)


1. Soak all the ingredients (except honey, ghee and jaggery) in hot water for half an hour or till they are soft.

2. Drain the water and grind the soaked ingredients in a mixer-grinder using required amount of the same water in which they were soaked, to make a thick smooth paste. Measure this ground paste.

3. The amount of jaggery to be used can be 1 ½ to 2 times the amount of paste obtained, according to your taste. That is, if you get 1 portion of ground paste, you can use 1 ½ - 2 portions of powdered jaggery.

4. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat required water. Add the powdered jaggery and continue heating till it dissolves completely. Filter the jaggery water to remove any impurities.

5. Add the ground paste to the jaggery water. Add more water if required to obtain a gravy-like consistency. (For the raw smell to go, the paste should cook for some time before it becomes semi-solid. So make sure you add enough water and start with a gravy/ sambhar-like consistency).

6. Then keep it on the stove and continue heating, stirring constantly. The final consistency of the legiyam after cooling should be like chyawanprash, but remember that the legiyam will definitely thicken a little on cooling. So, continue heating only till the paste cooks well, the raw smell goes and the mixture comes to a semi-solid (like idly batter) consistency.

7. Then, add the ghee and mix well. Now, when the legiyam curls and leaves the sides of the vessel, remove from fire, add honey and mix well.

8. Allow to cool. The legiyam will solidify. Then, store in an air-tight container. This can be kept for close to a year, till next Diwali essentially!