For those who are not native to Chennai, no trip to my hometown is complete without the "visit to the beach". After all Chennai boasts of the second longest beach in the world. The Marina. Forget that some portions of the beach are better left to imagination. But for most parts, it reflects the culture, the food and the lifestyle of the people of the city. TLC can make an entire series with just that beach. Even the beach has its class divide. The common man's Marina with its push cart eateries, merry-go-rounds and of course the bajji stalls and the slightly posh Elliots with cafes and bistros lined near it and of course the weekend getaways along the East Coast Road with private beaches. It is still a statement amongst teens to say you are going to Elliots even though you secretly want to fly those kites near the lighthouse at Marina.
Coming to food, its an amalgamation of cuisines at Marina. Antony Bourdain would have a field day here (and probably be clutching his entrails the next)!. You have the "akka" who deftly drops an assortment of coated veggies into huge cauldrons of boiling oil (of questionable age) to bring up super hot bajjis. Of course who cares about the carcinogens when you have a steaming plate of chilli bajjis with chutneys that can make gun powder look like salt. And the essence of Marina can be seen in the little boys who run around with stainless steel buckets thoughtfully covered with a paper containing fresh "sundal" - boiled lentils with a seasoning of coconut, mangoes, chilies and salt.
When I was a child I used to be fascinated by the vendor who sells Corn on the cob.She has a pushcart which looks like a bunker made of corns and in the middle is the coal stove. She deftly opens up a corn from its husk but folds it down like a handle. Then places it on the stove and then the fireworks begin. Sparks jump out in a rainbow as she keeps turning the corn. Once it has the sufficient black specks and is roasted, she takes it out, dips half a lemon into a bowl of salt and chilly powder and slathers it on the corn with a slight squeeze of the lemon. then refolds the husk as a container for the roasted corn and hands it to you. Eco-Friendly!!. These were the days before the advent of the stylish cup corn with multiple toppings or the exotic baby corn.
These days we hardly go to the Marina. Its crowded, too much traffic and parking is a big problem. I remember the days as a small child, when we went there on Saturday evenings with my parents on a scooter. After running on the beach, we used to sit in the sand and share a corn between us. I was too small to bite the corn deftly so my mom had to take out the kernels one by one and give them to me. No crowd, no traffic to worry about, no TV programmes to miss and of course no digital cameras to capture and post. Just memories...
Today's recipe is from the exotic cousin of the corn - baby corn. Simple to make and looks delightful at a dinner party or to a hungry child from school
Tandoori Baby Corn
Baby Corn - 10-12
Capsicum - 1 small, cut into squares
Onion - 1, cut into squares
Thick curd - 3 T
Red Chili powder - 1T
Coriander powder - 1T
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1T
Tandoori Masala powder - 1T (Optional but recommended. I used the Everest brand)
Salt to taste
Lemon juice - 1/2 t
1. Blanch the baby corn in hot water for 3 minutes and set aside.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients except the oil into a thick marinade. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients to your liking.
3. Marinate the baby corn in this marinade for at least 2 hour in the fridge.
4. Heat a cast iron tava and spray some oil. When the oil is smoking, place couple of pieces of baby corn, capsicum and onion.
5. Turn it around in 1 minute.
6.After another minute remove from the tava . Prepare the rest of the pieces the same way.
7. Serve hot with mint chutney, lemon wedges and salad.
1. You can grill it in the oven or microwave instead of the stove. The cooking time would depend on the appliance.
2. The same recipe can be used for paneer, mushroom and chicken. Do not blanch these.\