Sometimes, I’m not quite sure how something happened but I’m so glad that it did 🙂 So here’s the story. One evening whilst cooking dinner and tweeting (I’m a great multi-tasker!) I somehow got co-joined into a discussion about Indian food – I think I was asking about what something was that someone was tweeting about. The conversation grew as a few more people added their comments and before I knew it I had been invited to a tweetup arranged by @inafryingpan. For those of you who don’t live in twitter land (as I feel I do! ) a tweetup is a meetup of peeps and tweeps from twitter.
This tweetup was an invite to eat at three different restaurants in three hours in Karama. Arva of @inafryingpan had agreed to ‘host’ the evening and had chosen 3 restaurants for their varying cuisines. With the hashtag of #KaramaKrawl and #Dosa – who could resist this invite? – certainly not me !
I’m not that great with directions when it comes to driving in Karama so chose to take the metro and a short taxi ride to meet up at the first meeting point which was located close to the back of the community park behind the Lulu Centre in Karama. (If you live in Dubai, you know that this is about as good as you get for directions!).
I’ve traveled and toured India and Sri-Lanka a few times now and always sample local food when I’m there but I don’t proclaim to be an expert in the food itself in relation to which herbs and spices were used or how authentic the food was compared to ‘back home’ or ‘how mum cooks’ (there are far more qualified bloggers who can do this). So with this in mind I won’t try and describe everything perfectly with regards to spices etc what I’m going to try to do is capture the evening for you and maybe inspire you try some of these things yourself or even better to book a tour with @fryingpantours when Arva starts up her food tours later this year.
Deciding to make the most of the evening, I did something which I rarely do (I like to be in the driving seat so to speak !) and handed over control of the menu choices to Arva so that I could truly sample some new foods and also (thankfully) taste some of my favourites from my previous travels.
So here is my attempt to describe #KaramaKrawl to you in words and pictures – when really what I want you to do is go out there and experience it yourself 🙂
First stop Aryaas this is a vegetarian restaurant with quite an extensive menu. But we were here for one thing only #Dosas !! I love dosas and this place had quite an extensive menu – including a family dosa which is 5 feet long !! Sadly our group wasn’t big enough to devour this and none were served whilst we were there so I have still not seen the ‘ever elusive’ five foot dosa. Instead we chose two different dishes to sample – the Aryass Special Dosa and the Rava Masala Dosa.
The Special dosa’s looked stunning when delivered to our table, the colours were vibrant and they almost looked to pretty to eat. Our waiter explained that we had 4 different types of dosa – ghee, tomato, corriander and mix (it seems like mix was a mix of the ghee, tomato & corriander – “waste not want not” springs to mind !). These were served with traditional sambar which was tasty with a little bit of spiciness to it as well as plenty of coconut, corriander and tomato chutney. The corriander chutney was spicy and had a bit of a kick to it, whilst the other two were more calming. I love eating food where you get to eat with your fingers and mop up juices and sauces so this was great. Personally I thought that the dosas were good although the more experienced food tasters said that they could taste quite a lot of ghee in them compared to other restaurants.
The Rava Masala Dosa was new to me but sounded interesting, it’s served with the same chutneys as the dosas and comes filled with a very subtle spiced potato filling. Within the batter there were whole peppercorns and onions. This is a heavier batter than the dosas and was quite a lot thicker although I’m told that it’s usually not as thick as this.
The final part of my meal was a cup of very sweet indian chai which was served in a small metal cup, which was refreshing although I had forgotten how sweet indian chai is.
Just around the corner to Aryaas and a backing onto the park we then moved to Chef Lanka which is a Sri Lankan restaurant. Taking a table upstairs we decided to eat a selection of Hoppers on the recommendation of Arva. I have travelled fairly extensively in Sri Lanka but when there never tried hoppers so was keen to see what this was.
The first dish was from the special hopper menu and was called a Bulls Eye Hopper – which consisted of a very thin dosa like batter shaped in a bowl shape which was filled with a baked egg – this is the bulls eye. It was served with an onion chutney and a red spicy chilli chutney. Our second dish of Koththu Roti (also known as a string hopper) was huge – its a mix of chicken and vegetables plus Sri Lankan bread which is cooked on a large flat heated hotplate and then chopped up into small slices with big meat cleavers (you can see this being prepared in the window of the restaurant). It was served with what I guess was a Sri Lankan version of a sambar. This dish was pleasantly spicy, which I love, you could definitely taste the chilli in it – for me it was just right as it left my tongue pleasantly tingling. Arva told me that usually you can taste the bread a little more than we could, but as a person who doesn’t eat noodles or rice (yes I know !), this was a nice pleasant meal for me.
Just around the corner from Chef Lanka we walked to the final restaurant of the night Calicut Paragon where our mission was to eat seafood. Taking a seat in the busy upstairs of the restaurant we were soon spoilt for choice on what to order as the menu is quite extensive. We started our meal off with Chilli Crab and spinach pakoras – the crab was beautiful and spicy on the outside, and sweet, moist and tender on the inside and served on a bed of fried curry leaves which were a little tasty accompaniment. (unfortunately my pic is not great) I will definitely order this again as I loved it. For main course we had ordered Mango fish curry. To be honest I wouldn’t have ordered this as I’m not a fan of sweet fruity things with savoury – but the mangoes were not sweet at all and had been blended with chili and other spices so it went with the beautfiul tender king fish very well. Along with this we had a my absolute favourite bread from Kerala called parotta. It’s a beautiful light but flakey bread which tastes buttery. Every time I have this I’m back in Kerala, sitting on a houseboat and watching the world drifting by. I guess I love how food can take you back to a happy moment or holiday 🙂
The final treat of the meal was some Biriyani tea – I must admit I was interested to see what this was. The menu had used all sorts of descriptive words basically saying that the tea defied gravity and all of us were waiting for some magical tea to waft it’s way out of the kitchen somehow defying gravity ! What arrived at the table didn’t quite live up to our imagination (maybe the menu had slightly over-hyped it and then we had added to it!) – but what did turn up was interesting. Served in a tall glass the Biriyani tea looked like a layered posh coffee – the heavy tea being at the bottom, then a layer of hot sweet milk and a further layer of milk foam. It looked pretty – but the way to drink this is to mix it in so the effect is soon lost. Taste wise – I had expected a spicy tea but this was like a black tea latte with full fat milk and the oh so familiar sugar – so it was sweet.
So at the end of the evening, I had eaten some beautiful new food and have a new found respect for Karama. I’ll certainly go back and hopefully take some other peeps with me. My part of the bill for the whole evening came to 70 /AED which was amazing considering what we had eaten and that I also brought food home with me.
Follow @infryingpan on twitter or take a look at her website.
Also I suggest you take a tour with @fryingpantours when they start in September – I will certainly do this.
NOTE : If you are worrying about my waistline, or about consuming a huge quantity of food – please don’t worry 🙂 – all the food we ordered was shared among the table and we also got takeout bags – so although we left nicely full none of us were moaning or about to explode (well not visibly anyway!).