Sunday, December 05, 2004

Jolee and the Indian you don't know

Indian food has, as chinese food, been almost thoroughly bastardised to make it into the occidental palate spectrum. This is a mixed blessing and a terribly interesting story. It make a food acceptable that would otherwise be unacessible while at the same time changing it irreprably. The story of this food, especially in the British context, where Indian food has had a longer history is fascinating. The fact that we eat mostly Bengali takes on Anglo-Indian food is who other ball game.
This brings us to South Indian, and in the case of Jolee, Sri Lankan food. Although they are by no means the same, they're a lot closer than the local delivery Jalfrezi. Both rely heavily on the coconut, as well as mustard seeds and curry leaves.
The mosty fascinating thing for me here is the starches. String Hoppers are little noodle pancakes made from toated rice flour that are steamed and then used to sop up curries and other sauces. Left over string hoppers can be chopped up and fried like noodles or rice (Kottu string hopers), the same trestment is given to roti (like parathas, flaky bread). You have to try stir fried bread bits.. I mean how can that not be good.
What I wanted this time was Puttu. Puttu is the same batter as the string hoppers (toasted rice) but it is steamed in a cylindrical mould and ends up resembling a large irregularly shaped couscous or smaller hardish spatzle. They are a sort or purple grey colour. The waiter is impressed with my choice, if a little unsure of what this white boy wants with Sri Lankan food. In all honesty I find them very filling. The flavour is good, and the texture is a little hard, the lamb curry is spicy and great if a little tough. The mung bean dal is nice and the chick pea curry is really nice... all in all very tasty and for 6$ probably the best lunch deal in the city... on par with Pushaps.
The rest of the menu, the dosas, the samosas, the birianis are at the least competent, at the best.. a flavourful, yummy steal.
To recommend are all the Kottu dishes, the Lamb curry is delicious and heavily spiced, the saag paneer is creamy spinach with bits of paneer stirred through (not the usual fried chunks). The dosas are good too and when stuffed with potato curry and served with sambar on the side, is a nice light lunch. I don't dig the vadas.. oversized falafels arn't for me.
But get lunch, order extra food for friends at home or later for dinner, then sit and have a nice masala tea and enjoy the exotic.

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