I tasted my first Kothu Parotta this week. Before I go on about whether I liked it or not, let me give you a little background. Growing up in Canada, I never really had much of a chance to taste Indian street food. Though Toronto is one of the most multicultural places in the world today, the social climate 30 years ago was drastically different. It was in the small suburban, town of Oakville that my parents tried to Indian-ize their two young daughters. My father would grill us with questions like, "If someone asked you where you are from, what will you say?". The happy response from us would be "Canada, of course. We are Canadians!". My Father tried so hard to change that answer to India. It should be noted that in over 30 years of living in Canada, and hating many of the changes to his beloved Madras, my Father now proudly identifies himself as a Canadian.
My parents worked diligently to establish an Indian identity for their children in that foreign land filled with snow. I marvel at how they toiled to maintain the Tamil Brahmin traditions so far away from their home. My parents both worked, they did not have anyone living with them to help out, there were no Indian grocery stores near by, and no temples except of course the Pittsburgh Sri Venkateswara Temple. My mother tells us of the one Indian grocery store that used to open for a few hours on Saturday morning, and if you missed the window there would be no daal for the week. She recounts fond memories of going to Indian movies which were screened a few times a year and eating samosas they served there which you couldn't get anywhere else. You can see how much things have changed when I tell you that some convenience stores in Toronto now stock samosas, next door to the latest crop of 'plaza temples'! While we were growing up Savithri and I mainly enjoyed eating homemade bujji's, pakodas, and samosas. Eating channa bhatura and punjabi samosas at the Indian Bazaar on Gerrard St. during Deepavali or other festivals was a big treat for us. Experiencing street food in India was out of the question as our trips to visit grandparents were mostly spent with upset stomachs. My mothers remedy for that included eating only home cooked food, and drinking boiled water.
Now that I am married and thinking about how my future family will be two generations away from India, I deeply value the glimpses my parents gave us into that wonderful world of their homeland and wonder if I will be able to live up to their ideals. My parents have now lived in Canada longer than they lived in India, and yet they are still pillars of the Tamil Brahmin community to whom other immigrant Indian families look to for direction on how to survive amidst the snow.
Alright, back to the Kothu Parotta a famous Indian dish best eaten at a street-side stall. They are made with shredded flaky, buttery roti's called parotta's that are cooked with a medley of chillies, onions, tomatoes, and flavored with rich masala powders. It makes me happy that I am Married to a Desi who is now my direct connection to the motherland. Instead of just listening to my Dad expounding on the importance of the Lalitha Sahasranamam or learning Carnatic Music and Bharatha Natyam, my world is now filled with learning about authentic (and street) food, Tamil film music (mostly A.R Rahman), language (especially Tamil slang), and visiting my second set of parents in Madras. India is once again a whole new world for me, and would you believe it if I told you that I can sum it up in a Kothu Parotta? That's how good it tasted.
Kothu Parotta serves 2
2 store bought parottas ripped up into pieces, 1 large tomato chopped, 1 onion minced, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp pav bhaji masala, 1 large green chili minced, 1" piece ginger minced, handful chopped cilantro
1. Saute the green chilies, ginger, and then onions in oil.
2. Add the turmeric, and chili powder.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook them until they release water. Salt them to hasten this.
4. Add the pav bhaji masala, and then the parotta and mix.
5. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with a squeeze of lime, and onion raitha.
You can also add curry leaves to this, and also an egg to make it a '"Muttai Parotta". Parottas are available now in all Indian Grocery Stores. Today, in Ann Arbor alone there are about 5 Indian grocery stores within 15 miles of my home. And yes, they are open for more than 2 hours week.
Youtube: Watch how to make a Parotta
Spicyana: Chilly Crepes
The Singing Chef: Kothu Roti
En Samayal Pakkam: Kothu Parotta
Beyond the Usual: Step by Step Pictures on how to make Parotta's