Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-2: Sambar

After 3 months in Chennai, I can say this: these chaps don’t know to make Sambar.

Despite being a hidebound ‘Northy’ in all matters culinary, over a decade in Bangalore has made me something of an expert on the Southy nosh of idly-dosa-sambar and suchlike gastronomical excesses.

OK, maybe ‘expert’ is too strong a word, but as any self-respecting Bangalorean, I DO know this one thing: Sambar is NOT something that you are actually supposed to eat.

Sambar is this thin lurid orangish fluid that accompanies the dosa. It has these little white flecks floating in it that are designed to instigate vigorous mental inquiry: one part of you wants to stir it in horrid fascination with a spoon and ask “what on Earth are these little white flecks?” Another part of you wants to screw the eyes shut and whisper inaudibly “You don’t wanna know. You don’t wanna know.” Mental Inquiry. The purpose of the sambar-bowl, of course, is to make you think about the sadder aspects of life, so that you grow spiritually. You just look at it tensely while you nibble a few pieces quickly torn off from the edge of your fat oily dosa, and send it back with the waiter who recycles it in a big vat kept at the back of the restaurant where they breed alligators.

Now, what does one get in Chennai? Thin, crisp and chewy dosas that burst with flavor. A bowl of fragrant sambar- a pleasing yellow with oodles of veggies, that you can gulp down by the bucketful. And- listen to this carefully, for you won’t believe your ears: These maniacal Chennaites actually EAT this stuff.

Sure, the sambar in Chennai is good, and is pleasing to the taste buds. But is tickling the saporine organs all that there is to life? Isn’t there more to this vale of tears than to fill your belly?

What of the spirit? When will these Chennaites get around to building their spiritual selves?

1 comment:

Siva PS said...

ROFL. Bengaluru's Shanti Sagar has mastered the art of sambar making which could easily be substituted for biochemical weapon in any battlefield!