Monday, June 05, 2017

Mosaranna/Curd Rice: In Roads and Kingdoms

Roads and Kingdoms, one of the websites we greatly loved when we were conceiving The Forager magazine, has a cute little series called Breakfast where they feature stories around breakfasts from all over the world. I wrote one on having curd rice - that soul food - for breakfast one late morning and got it published here.

Or see below. 

Photo by Sharmila Vaidyanathan of The Yellow Turmeric

This city feels sometimes like a wide and long river in spate, and I try to reach for the other end where all my friends and acquaintances are. We tell ourselves we are too busy and distances too long, or that the summer this year is particularly bad, to meet more often. We don’t always tell the truth.

It has been varying degrees of time since I have seen these friends. We are at Koshy’s. The most Bangalorean thing to do in Bangalore is to hang out at Koshy’s, an old restaurant in the middle of town that retains an unimpeachable disdain for the new business of hurriedness. People grow old around its tables, and we talk about how one day we will, very likely, be them.

Liver on toast is the best thing to eat at Koshy's, I am told. I am a vegetarian though, and for me it has always been a dish that I am not sure is even on the 300-something list of things on the menu card. Koshy's has been for years a place to meet for work and otherwise. I have conceived a food journal there, begun a relationship, made new friends, gossiped, grown older. It is our village square. And whenever it was close to any mealtime, sometimes even when it wasn't, at Koshy's I have always asked for curd rice, or mosaranna or thayir sadam.

No one I know believes me when I say how good Koshy's curd rice is, especially in relation to the gooey paste-like nonsense you get in every other restaurant in the city. Curd rice is something you eat at home, not something you order for a late breakfast as a standalone dish at, of all places, Koshy's. But here, the cold bowl of perfectly tempered rice is like the ones we make at home. They are an ode to mama's cooking, to the soul-food status that curd rice, very deservingly, has attained in the palates of us true-blue South Indians.

Curd rice at Koshy's is, I like to think, a well-kept secret. It comes when we are in the middle of discussing our current reading lists, in a shallow bowl, all jet-white and gleaming. It is tempered with mustard seeds, mildly spiced, and has a big red chili garnish, "like cherry on ice cream," says one of my friends. It is cold, the perfect temperature to soothe a belly fired up by the many cups of coffee we have had while going through small-town gossip from back home in the hills, where some of us are from. It is milky with a hint of the sour from the curd, and vanishes within minutes. Every mouthful feels good for the soul.

I am tempted to order another plate, but by then we have made plans to go to Pecos, another of those ancient establishments, for beer. We are, all of us migrants from elsewhere, as close to local Bangaloreans as we could get that bright May afternoon.