Add hot pups and fried france to the list. Along with umbercut steak patata. Snakes. And more. And you have a glorious mélange of what’s on offer in the little and not-so-little stores and restaurants all over India.
Those of you from South India must be familiar with hot pups. For those of you who are not, this is the name hot puffs go by in some establishments. Flaky or not-so-flaky pastry filled with a dark mass of spicy curry, with bits of green and orange peeping out if it’s vegetarian. The realization that pups could be a corruption of puffs came about in a rather chastening way – somebody much older than us pronounced it so and it set us sniggering, till they said something that made us realize things like those weren’t important. But they still amuse; though they don’t raise a mocking laugh any longer, they do prompt a gentle one.
Snakes, of course, are snacks. A “pig mutton” stall is a place that sells pork. Candid beel is candied peel - remember the big, sticky glass jars, containing multicoloured pieces of peel, hog plums traditionally coloured red and branded cherries, and the preserved raw papaya we know as tutti frutti? Uncold water is an ingenious phrase to differentiate between refrigerated and unrefrigerated bottled/mineral water that is stocked in the store. Uncold is cheaper, usually priced at MRP (maximum retail price), cold is costlier as the storekeeper has incurred expenses on electricity while chilling it. (I’ve read it’s against the rules to charge more for chilled bottled water, though.)
When I accompanied The Spouse on some official work to a temple town, the aspirational/tourist-pleasing aspect of small town India blended with the constraints of vegetarianism were evident in the restaurant of the hotel we stayed in. There was a variety of mystifying stuff on the menu but what truly perplexed me was umbercut steak patata. What on earth was it? Should I order and find out or safely stick to the less arcane selections on the menu? I stuck to the safe option. But the umbercut wouldn’t leave my mind – I turned it over and over and over till the penny dropped, quite suddenly – it was meant to be hamburger steak with potato! Yes, for the scores of foreign tourists who came to this place with its temple and its world-famous ashram, the hamburger patty, made of potato and not meat, would be the bridge between spirituality and their non-vegetarian homelands!
And with that, I leave you with a recipe for Fried France.
Medium-size prawns, shelled, de-veined: 500 gm
(Paneer/cottage cheese can substitute this)
Onions, minced: 2
Green chillies, chopped: 2
Tomatoes, chopped: 2
Coriander/cilantro, chopped: A cupful
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Salt: To taste
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Coriander powder: 1-1/2 tsp
Oil: 2-3 tbsp (or less)
Heat the oil, fry the prawns till they turn pink and opaque.
Now add the onions, fry till brown.
Add the green chillies, sauté.
Now add the chopped tomatoes, mix well.
Now go in the powdered spices and salt. Mix well and sauté.
Garnish with chopped coriander.
Somebody who tasted this said the prawns were slightly tough, and that could be because they were fried first and continued to cook as the rest of the stuff was being added. However, she said it was tasty.
I even tried a vegetarian version with paneer/cottage cheese a couple of days later, and it worked well.
Indian English Fried France Fried prawns Paneer/cottage cheese