Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Of Candid Beel & Uncold Water

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.


  1. are just too much...:D...reminds me of all those days I was loitering ...i could do some some barotta gurma too...

  2. Sra, Indian English does have its moments, wouldn't trade it for anything else. Hot Pups is starting to make me home sick.

    Fried France looks tasty and I am ready to grab some, love all shrimp dishes. Cooking prawns for even a little bit more makes it rubbery, may be fishing them out after frying and then adding them towards the end might do the trick.

  3. bwahahaha... I remember one of the guys at Khadi (near The Hindu!) either offering "pups" or "fufs" - and "jombuns" as well :) Well, call 'em how you will, they were delicious! :D

    I do love the brave - and innovative - attempts at spelling "inglis" words... such a never-say-die spirit of bijness!

  4. Oh God... how I am laughing... fupps :-) even in the singular... "oru fupps kudu pa papakku"

    like in the north, I am always ladeej... even if its just me. :-)

  5. Can I have some hot pups please :D and if I can have Fried France without upsetting Sarkozy then please add that to the menu too

  6. ha heheheee LOL, still laughing reading on your umbercut steak patata story...really its so hilarious sometimes to read such things and very difficult to control our laughs in front of others! How did u manage not to burst out on that waiter while placing ur order LOL

    Fried france looks too good for me to grab few for by rotis Kudos to ur Hinglish

  7. Hot pups and Kapi!! Who can beat that sra amma? Hahaha!!
    Good to read your post. France looks great too!:))

  8. lol. in mumbai, near my house, there's a 'mohan chainees chana" - chickpeas with some chinese flavourings.

  9. ROTFL... That was sooo funny Sra... umbercut steak was the best... :D Anyways fried france looks super delicious...
    About the texture of the france, yep that is the result of overcooking... I agree with Indo, take them out after frying and add them back at the last step...

  10.'s always fun to read such stuff :)
    the gravy looks yum, 2/3tbsp oil will definitely get YUM results ;)

  11. Hi SRA! very funny post. Thanks for sharing with us. Just love your prawns color and recipe too. I will try this. Thanks again for sharing this recipe too.

  12. Srivalli, I swear, barotta gurma has got to top the list - maybe we should do a post on how local names metamorphose. The first time I heard gurma I found it v funny.
    Indo, you're right, we could do that. I had my doubts but stuck to the recipe.
    Shyam, I know :) Does 'lench' sound familiar?
    Raaga, that sounds familiar, ladeej! Here it's ladiss, the emphasis being on the hiss in the -diss!
    Sandeepa, you're welcome to everything, fried, unfried, candid or not!
    Aha, Padma, are you at work? The waiters were too innocent to even know or explain what the dishes were!
    Asha, thanks! I've seen a Hotel Runs, that must be the next step in this line of misspelt but well-intended signs.
    Bee, if you can, get your hands on Vir Sanghvi's prog on Discovery Travel - it's called A Matter of Taste - he visits a Chinese chaat shop in Delhi (the first I ever heard of such a thing) and with a charming smile tells the vendor "You've invented a totally new dish" turns to the camera and says "It's revolting" and turns back to vendor and says "May the Chinese curse you long" - all with the same expression - I found that episode v funny.
    Sig, glad I could make you laugh. I knew umbercut steak patata sounded familiar but it just wouldn't click!
    Richa, you're veggie, I think. I even added a bit of zucchini to the paneer version, it was good!
    Jyothi, thanks. Better try what the others advised to get the france to stay soft - fry the france, removed them, do the curry, put the france back in!

  13. Hahahahaha, so well written (as always, may I add). Have you encountered 'cut-lace' yet? Hint - also made with potatoes.

  14. ROTFL. Sra, You are a genius. May be we should do a research on this. Helping the non-inglis makkal!

  15. Howlarious! The classiest was seeing "wantons" at an eatery in Dilli Haat :-D. and about those colored dried cherries and papaya preserves (tutti-frutti or i have even heard "tutti-footi"), a friend once mentioned that they are even referred to as "Hema Malini"!!

    Great recipe, i can replcae france with cheej, you know desi cheej ;).

  16. You are way too funny :)

  17. u do know how to get the crowd laughing..i was reminded of so many peopke and me rolling my eyes at that!! should try it with paneer!!...hey sra btw...i feel the same about the pineapple.....

  18. :) :) That was quite funny :) I just did not understand what hot pup meant until I read the notes, it did nt strike me initially...really a cool one and that prawns, oh , looks so yummy!!!


  19. hmmmmm wonder I could visualise it with paneer:)

  20. LOL Nicely written Sra. fups is very common among people in chennai...
    very nice looking prawn recipe. The picture really made me hungry.. Iam a NV though I do not cook in my house here. I only eat outside and after a long time ur pic attracted me.

  21. ET, you put me up to this - cutlace are my next post! I also know it as cutlite.
    Suganya, I'm game.
    Musical, do you think that was wantonly done? Interesting tidbit about Hema Malini, never knew that before. And yes, do try it with cheej, I did!
    SeeC, thank you.
    Cynthia, thanks, I aim to tickle.
    Rajitha, thanks. And for letting me know about the pineapple ...
    Shn, hot pups are a Tamil speciality, methinks. Fried france is from Andhra.
    Sharmi, I was too hungry to photograph the paneer version, I added some zucchini to it too.
    Prema, that's nice to know, now go out and have some fried france for me!

  22. Totally hilarious!
    How about some san-ees to go with the cut-less?

  23. Oh, Indian English has such an unmistable charm! Yes, those are some delicious-tasting pups (and my doggy is raising his eyebrows at me...)

  24. LOL. That was hilarious. Normally when I make prawns, I add them right at the end to keep them soft. The only problem is that the masala doesn't get into them, so they invariably taste better the next day.

  25. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Love those prawns.


  26. What a wonderfully entertaining post, Sra! I love unusually named food and the stories behind them.

  27. Thats the beauty of the people here...they have their own way of doing things....:P
    The dish looks nice

  28. Cooker, you have me stumped, do you mean sandwich?
    Nupur, thanks.
    Mallika, really? I never noticed, will look out for that now.
    Paz, thanks, hope you try it sometime.
    Susan, thanks, you tell nice stories yourself.
    Bhags, thanks.

  29. hi dear, thanks for checking on me! :) ugh, been having a lot on my hands of late, that's why i haven't been blogging, but i'm not intending to abandon my blog yet! :) i hope to have something new soon!

  30. Fried France indeed!!! apart, the dish does look very appetising .

  31. tara bethune leamen9/29/2007 1:26 PM

    that looks incredible

  32. VERY funny, Sra. It's so weird how we can't recognize phonetics. I'll bet there would be lots of laughs trying to play charades, too. A quick and tasty recipe. I have a block of already rubbery paneer; this should tenderize it. : )

  33. 'Umbercut' was the best! Not in my wildest dreams would I have g uessed what it was!

    The France look great and the recipe looks so easy!

  34. Hilarious Indian english memories. In madurai they sell a juice called MIX Ed(pronounce mix and then ed as in education).REminded me of that..

  35. My tummy did turn reading this!! Not your fault, blame it on the menu cards I read at Switz - will mention that in future posts! Hey, if you want to ask me anything abt the trip, mail me with your ques....will respond :)

  36. ROFL... sorry, i can't stop laughing sra dear... he he he...

  37. u made my day... coming to ur blog always cheers me up and also nostalgic:) love u for that....

  38. Shilpa, glad to see you back
    Sunita, thanks a lot.
    Tara, glad you like it.
    Susan, so did you tenderize it?
    Anita, thanks. I think I only managed to decipher the umbercut 'cos I was used to the local nuances, it was familiar but so tough.
    Shankari, really? I didn't know about the juice.
    Jyothsna, even in Switzerland? Waiting to read your posts - and thanks for the offer, will definitely mail you if I need to.
    Sia, those are such nice things to say, you've made my day!

  39. wow, this one is a keeper!

  40. Dhana, thanks, let me know how it turned out!

  41. Sra - you are outright funny. I was laughing out of my chair about the ubercut part!!! I swear, there are times, when I hear the pronounciation down south & have hold my from not falling of my shoulders!!!

    I loooooooove prawns. So I love your recipe.

  42. Hi ,

    I love Prawns .The photo is yummy

    U said u said 2-3 tbspoons of oil or less but the photo is showing lot of oil ;)

    But Fried 'France' ,that's really funny but careful from the Real French people

    Bon Jour

  43. heeeeeee so funny... i read panir pija somewhere in delhi and it took me a minute to realise... its pizza!!!

  44. sra, i was keeling over laughing - i know, am a bit late in catching up... you are just darn funny, girl! umbercut, ha!ha! good one.

  45. Shella, hi, thanks. I think each region has its own twists and turns, I'd love to discover what the East, West and North have to offer.
    Bharat, promise, it's only 2 tbsps!
    Rachna, I haven't been to Delhi in absolutely ages, will look out when I next go.
    Sheela, welcome. Umbercut takes the cake, doesn't it?