Archive for October, 2007





New York May 15, 2007 ———

-Sylvia Alexander took a ladle full of the batter and swished it onto a hotplate, expertly scrapping the extra batter with few drops of oil to make it ultra slim and rolled the golden DOSA. So far the dosa was Indian until she started filling in Smoked Turkey, with spinach, Jack Cheese and balsamic roasted onions on to it. Sylvia is a Trinidad/Tobago national and head chef at the famous Hampton chutney Co– that has revolutionized the Indian dosa/uttapum into an American specialty and now Dosa and Uttapam are truly set to go ‘GLOBAL ’. ———-
Giving apt competition to Pizzas, hot-dogs and Burgers a chain of three joints by the same company came up in last five years in New York at Amagansett in the long Island borough , another at the hip SoHo district and yet another at upstate West side and became hot on the gourmet lists in USA.
An American couple Gary and Isabel Mac Gurn started this extraordinary foray into essentially Indian cuisine and Americanized it with their indigenous fillings.
Recalling their first meeting Isabel said they met each other at the kitchens of Siddha Yoga Meditation ashram in Ganeshpuri, India and loved dosas and dreamt of opening a Dosa/Uttapam joint back home in America. Having done seva – selfless service – in the ashram kitchen for nearly 6-years where devotees from all over India and around the world cooked for hundreds of people, Isabel says we learned the perfect art of dosa making and started small in 1987, by making Indian chutneys combining it with American ingredients and supplied them first to food markets in Hampton and then on to bigger markets –Fairways, Zabars, Balducci’s and others in NYC.
”The chutneys turned into a big hit and subsequently we pooled in money, took small loans and approached a friend to rent a place and opened our first joint in Amagansett NY. Gary made the first dosas and uttapams and I served the customers! “, recalled Isabel with a smile.
After tandoori tikkas made famous by former US president Bill Clinton and Chinese cuisine that caught on to the world palate in its indigenous forms now it’s the turn of “new avatar ” of this Indian dish to go universal, she added.
It is not surprising then that at no time of the day or night the place is empty. People of all nationalities flock to taste the dosa /uttapam or the even the fruit flavoured –’LASSIS ‘ in New York
The fillings indeed are extraordinary and unheard of –sample a dosa with – Calamata Olives, Arugula, Goat Cheese, Grilled Chicken, Roasted Peppers, balsamic roasted onions, grilled portobello mushrooms, spinach, scrambled eggs, jack cheese , avocado, Tuna fish, Cilantro Chutney Dressing or roasted tomato . “Many of our innovative customers enjoy using hands and ‘finger- licking’ techniques when we guide them to the best way to eat dosas ,’ laughs Isabel .
Of course one can match the cuisine with another indigenous preparation of the Indian “lassi” with flavors of mango, strawberry or peach or even Indian ‘chai’ or special south Indian cardamom coffee . kiddies too have their special menus with avocado, grilled chicken , scrambled eggs or smoked turkey all combined with jack cheese .
Interestingly not a single Indian is among the entire set of chefs and other staff that prepare and serve this Indian cuisine. To which Isabel smiled and said they advertise for help not for nationalities!
On tapping an absolutely unexploited territory Isabel and Gary said –’ we were confident to make a mark! “And our concoctions are definitely changing America’s perception of traditional chutneys and other cuisines”!
Appreciably the joint has taken upon itself to educate people with a guided tour of their five flavours of famous chutneys through a maze of foods and sandwiches and suggests them to be eaten with varied combinations that are mostly and absolutely “un-Indian”!
Like ‘cilantro’ or green chutney with shrimp, chicken/ fish or advised to be added to black beans for quesadilla filling, folded into tuna fish or dip for tortilla chips.
While the ‘mango’ chutney is supposed to taste best with seafood/ lamb / pork!!
The nuttiness of ‘peanut’ chutney with roasted chicken, soba noodles, stir fried or steamed vegetables, grilled shrimp or pretzels.
The ‘pumpkin’ concoction with roast turkey or bagel or ‘curry’ chutney for marinating chicken, vegetables, shrimp or lobster and ‘tomato’ chutney adding zip to pasta !
What clinches the choice in their favour from rival eateries of pizza, hot dog or burger joints is the nutrition information that claims 189 calories for plain dosa /uttapum with carbo at 36 g and protein at 5g!
Gary and Isabel have however not forgotten their roots of learning as could be seen with ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ written in bold letters with pictures of gods and goddesses decorated with peacock feathers, a shivling, an oil glass chimney lamp serving as diya, on an embellished red prayer cloth in the special corner. The rest of the restaurant has copper wall ledges and bar stools for seating !

Devotional chants playing in the background that spells out the calming atmospheric ambience consonant with India . The fact that ‘no’ beef is used in the fillings and Isabel dressing up in a saree on some special occasions is something that totally keeps them grounded to their guru.
Joanne, a customer aptly describes the experience ‘Though I loved the non- vegetarian dosa, I did walk away feeling a bit weird – the non-veg options seemed a bit of out character with the rest of the vibe. I always thought that a vegetarian diet went hand in hand with yoga and a more tapasic lifestyle. I guess I’m wrong’
Rashmi Talwar is a freelance writer for special magazine section of “The Tribune”

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A panoramic view of seven Shiv temples which are without idols and ‘kalash’ (elongated tip of the dome), in Katasraj. — photo by Rashmi Talwar

Katasraj (Pakistan ), March 13, 2005
————-The holy Katasra in Pakistan, considered the second holiest shrine for Hindus after ‘Jwalamukhi’ in undivided Punjab, is connected with ancient temples of Lord Shiva and the Pandavas. It is also known for the little known Buddhist stupa and historic ‘haveli’ of Hari Singh Nalwa, general of the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is facing a threat of pollution in its “unsullied” mountainous air and its natural pure water springs and water bodies due to cement factories being allowed by the government .
Three cement factories are operational and three more are in the offing in the nearby area of Choa Saidan Shah, 3 or 4 km from the historic shrines. According to sources, ‘Bestway Constructions’, ‘DG Cement’ and ‘Chakwal Cement’ concerns are in the pipeline.
Locals here who mainly have meagre sources of income from farming-related activities, mining and industrial labour and public sector are sore over the alleged acquisition of their land by private cement moghuls due to abundance of limestone and other raw material for cement.
Last month, a protest was launched by locals that forced the companies to assure them employment and to take anti-pollution measures. Experts feel that the assurances were merely lip service and the effects could contaminate the water that flowed from the holy sarovar of Katasraj and was supplied to some 40 villages in the vicinity, besides other water sources.
Apprehensions have also surfaced over the marine life and natural habitat that has hundreds of migratory birds, besides peacocks, in ‘Kallar Kalar’ nearby, encompassing the composite beauty of the holy area to be affected.
A cement factory already exists at Tatral village near here. The shrines are devoid of much vegetation and a holy ‘Shisham’ tree that legend states was half burnt and half green, is a mute spectator to ruin of these shrines .
The development work sanctioned by the federal Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs with a grant of Rs 2 crore for the site has invited doubt from the Hindu jathas visiting here. New construction of concrete steps and guest house adjoining one of the ancient structures were pointed out as eyesores, incompatible with the ancient architecture, a majority of which is known to be influenced in a unique blend of Kashmiri and Gandhara tradition, according to some experts.
Jatha leader Prof Krishan Chand had suggested that development should be in congruity with shrines and modification of existing new structures could be taken into account. Lt-Gen Zulfiqar Ali Khan (retd), chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board, when asked about cement factories, said he was not aware of the development.
Katasraj is also connected to Alberuni, a famous muslim scientist and explorer who learned Sanskrit here and performed experiments.
Mr Ravinder Kumar Chibber, the only Hindu member, zila council of Chakwal, said a joint committee needed to be set up for the maintenance , renovation , restoration and upkeep of this sacred historic site.

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