Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teppan-yaki, Teppan-yummy

Sukh Sagar opened near our house a month back. Anando and I had watched with keen interest as the shop was readied for its opening, droolingly anticipating a homely food experience in Dubai. We kept track of when the tables were set up, when the tablecloths were laid, when chairs were brought in. If one of us walked past the restaurant we'd report the visible progress to the other.

Finally it opened, and a friend who had eaten 3 meals there in 2 days urged us to try the "all you can eat Teppanyaki dosa", recommending it highly.

"All you can eat" is always music to the ears, and yesterday we strode purposefully to check out what all the fuss was about. To watch the teppanyaki dosas being created, we perched on bar stools, banana leaf covering our plates kept on the bar counter, as the chef deftly served us rounds of a mind-boggling dosa variety! Mushroom, spinach and cheese, Szechwan, rawa, and so many more I can't remember. I was quite excited about the whole concept of teppanyaki dosa now that I could smell it, and peering over the counter, I watched as the man cooked up the crisp marvels.

And then, I realised, this wasn't new at all. I had been eating teppanyaki dosa since the age of 9! The school canteen cooked dosas in front of us at lunch time! Back then, being given money rather than a lunch box was always a special occasion, with the pride and maturity I felt at being allowed to handle money to buy a meal. I'd check my pockets all day to make sure the coins hadn't fallen out. If it was a note, it would be carefully tucked in my pencil box. And at lunch time, trying to appear nonchalant, I would enter our high-ceilinged, bustling canteen.

I still remember the faces of those dosa-makers. tall, dark, moustached - they would scoop out the dosa paste with a bowl, tap it on the griddle to create a small, puffy circle of not-yet-dosa, and then, flipping the bowl over, would use its base to spread, spread, spread the paste outwards, creating a solar-system shaped, crisp dosa that was brown on the outside and white on the inside. A quick two-scoop of masala aloo, and my dosa was on my plate, and drowning in sambhar before I could voice my objection. I watched that process in fascination for 7 years, growing from the tiptoe-height of the flame to a height where I could look down on my lunch being prepared.

Sometimes it would be Narayan making the dosas. Versatile Narayan - who was my bus conductor on PV 11 when I first joined school, and assured my parents I would reach the correct classroom, who brought in trays of water glasses during exams, grinning conspiratorially at the kids taking advantage of the temporary break to peek at other papers or sneak in a quick consultation, who updated us on cricket scores on days we were unwillingly at school while cricketing history (or so we thought) was being made elsewhere, whose moustache is finally turning grey and whose hair is at last thinning.

So what made the dosas last night especially yummy was the memories that sizzled off the griddle and wafted me back in time - when bliss meant having a jingling 2 Rupees in your pocket for a hot, hearty meal.

13 comments:

Suku said...

dosas...oh, you made my mouth water.
your posts and the description of the dosa makers brought back memories of my college days in mumbai- of this young dosa maker who used to set up 'shop' exactly at 11:30am and churn out countless varieties of dosas to hungry college going kids. he and his dosas were very popular and ooh, so yummy! i am pretty certain now he is enjoying an early retirement somewhere someplace with his hard earned money!
next time, eat some for me too...

dipali said...

What a delicious post! Yes, some things we take as givens as long as we are in their orbit! In my school days we had Swami as our canteen fellow and he would give us masala dosa for 45 paisa, idli for 15 paisa, coke for 45 paisa. So one rupee and five paise was a wonderful feat, a rare treat indeed. And his strange mooli chutney with samosa was awesome! Thanks for evoking old memories:)

Aunty G said...

Yup, memories are additionally yummy || Especially when far away from mummy || They say nostalgia's most evoked || When fragrances are provoked || Thanks for bringing 'em up for us, Honey!

eve's lungs said...

Food is an evocative stimulus . I still hanker for the dosas in the college canteen -I'd happily donate my lunch to friends and hog a dosa .Another thing I keep craving is the strawberry ice cream stick the Kwality walla used to sell outside the school gate until Sister Josephine got wise to his retailing skills . But ice cream has never tasted the same since.
@Aunty G- i do love yr verses !

Aunty G said...

>>Eve's Lungs, my dear, thank you || For loving my verses as you do || 'Twas our gracious hostess, Thinking Cramps || Who re-kindled my fondness for limerick-lamps || Nothing like 'em to dispel the colour blue!

Thinking Cramps said...

Suku: Lol! I think mention of dosas is inseparable from canteen memories of school and college! I could write a huge essay on all my dosa memories! This is just one aspect :)

Dipali: Wow. And I thought 2 rupees for a dosa or a rajma chawal was great! And my kids will probably never see a 2-rupee note!

Aunty G: You've got limerickitis I see | But it's amusing my blog-readers and me || So please don't stop | At limericks you top || And it's better than writing prosaically :)

Eve's Lungs: I never had that ice-cream stick :( But I do remember the Funstix - those funny-face icecreams.

A very cool cat said...

Mushroom and spinach and cheese dosa? I want! Do I have to come to Dubai for those, or do you there's a possibility Kolkata might be adventurous enough?

Btw, funny that - my school 'canteen' - which was actually one corner of our playground converted into a temporary shack - also served dosas. They'd been prepared earlier, so I didn't have that same mouth-watering experience of watching them being made, but I loved them nonetheless. And, yes, mine cost two rupees too!

A Muser said...

Have never heard of this! I haven't lived! Wish I had a dosa place next door to my home. I am so green.

A Muser said...

Ooh, must share this. Instead of a yummy dosa place, we do have a fastfood type desi place a few miles away which charged, I kid you not, $3.50 for 2 tiny gulab jamuns. Why is Indian food in the US so damn expensive? Hey, I need to blog about this.

Thinking Cramps said...

Cool Cat: 2 Rupees for complete gastronomical satisfaction! I think canteens leave their imprint on our memories for life!

A Muser: You're green - well so was the spinach and cheese dosa. And so yummm. Find a place, I am sure someone's thought of it!
Will wait for your post!

OrangeJammies said...

Girl, I can't believe you think I play with words when you conjure them up so beautifully. This post is delicious. Of course, anything food related gets a 100 bonus points from me, but really, that was so well-written, it should be published.

Thinking Cramps said...

OJ: Awwww......would say more but I am too busy floating off the surface of the planet at that praise.

Bladewidth said...

Googled on the Dosa Teppanyaki and here i land...had heard a lot about it from friends and other fellow foodies and i must admit it was quite a treat....6 dosas down i thought i was a winner, till i got told that 20 is more like the average of a good eater...nyways with the sweet jaggery/coconut dosa as i signoff i walked out quite happy on the days achievement !