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I was first introduced to the ‘thepla’ some 9 years ago, by a Tambrahm Mumbaikar cousin who was satisfying her pregnancy cravings with frequent doses of this yellow flat bread with specs of green and black. Its tantalizing smell each time it was heated on a pan prompted me to take a bite of this bread guarded so preciously by the visiting cousin.
Mmm. It was great; had a great texture; was hot, had a tinge of the fenugreek bitterness; it teased your tastebuds; the after taste was semi-sweet. Yes, I loved this dish and came to know that it was from Gujarat and was called the ‘thepla’.
For some reason, it occurred to me that it could be a great travel snack. It didn’t need refregiration; always tasted good when heated; tasted fine even when cold. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the thepla could be bought in an Indian store in Cincinnati; apparently there were suppliers who provided regular stocks of this dish.
Theplas gave us company during our trip to Bethlehem PA for the Shanti concert in 2006 – where the Cincinnati bought theplas were certified authentic by none other visitors from Gujarat!
My next encounter with theplas was at the Swami Narayan temple in Houston – where the canteen sold these thick theplas; I brought them back to Cincinnati and heated one of them and watched the oil ooze out. These theplas a different breed altogether; thick and loaded, each piece of thepla was a complete meal in itself and the house had the characteristic thepla aroma for a day, just after heating one up.
Theplas became my staple during waits in airports and as a backup snack during travels. ‘You must have been a gujjju in your previous birth’ said my friends the Derasaris and the Chokshis in Florida.
But the prize for the best tepla goes to one of our friends here in Cincinnati whose hot teplas and chai served to us prior to the Gundecha brothers concert this year can never be forgotten.
I sit in the wonderful lounge in Terminal E in Paris (CDG) waiting for my flight; the French pastries do not tempt me. The biscottis at Starbucks and the few days old snacks there are not even appealing. I have my thepla from Cinicnnati. And I write this ode to this wonderful piece of bread.
Getting back to this blog after a long time. Much going on in Chennai on the foodie scene. Crowds throng restaurants and eateries at 9PM for the late dining hour. A few places that caught my attention and my palette this time were
1. GRT grand – a fabulous buffet for grand indulgence
2. Accord Cosmopolitan – for an impressive array of starters and a reasonable buffet – all vegetarian
3. Little Italy – for page after page of vegetarian Italian dishes – particularly great appetizers
4. l’amandier in RA Puram – I was impressed with their Ratatouille – it seemed to match the gastronomic expectation created in the irresistible pixar movie Ratatouille.
5. Kaidi Kitchen – A new restaurant near Woodlands again, a vegetarian restaurant with 100s of dishes to choose from – and tremendous variety
6. Then you have Saravana Bhavan the McDonalds of Chennai – with its prices increasing every year – quality being consistent – although people say that the dosa circumference keeps coming down with time. The Mini lunch in A2B is pretty good too.
7. There is also an impressive array of ‘Sweet Shops’ which double up as restaurants. The masala poli at Krishna Sweets has stayed consistent over the years.
8. There was no way you could get into Woodlands on a Friday night
What I learned in Chennai this time is that there is so much of centralization of operations in restaurant chains that the batter, chutnies, side dishes are all made centrally and shipped to various locations in order to maintain consistency in quality. Freezing, thawing, reheating is all common – in contrast to the days where fresh sambar boiled in front of your eyes.
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