Rice Rice Baby

Updates from : The Hindu

Director Pandiraj believes that best food is made only at homes not restaurants

Practically every film personality that I interviewed for this column so far has professed a love for biriyani. Some still claim to be on the hunt for best possible version. Director Pandiraj begs to differ; he says he doesn’t enjoy the dish. “When close friends serve me biriyani and sit next to me and fondly watch me eat is the worst form of torture for me,” he laughs.

The director who has completed the scripting work for his next film with Karti, says he usually avoids eating in star hotels, even if he happens to attend any event. “I like to eat simple, home style food. I totally avoid junk food. But my heart lies in mess and food sold on the streets.” Pandiraj’s favorite eat outs in Chennai are Midnight Masala in Kodambakkam and Senthilnathan Mess in Mylapore. “In the former you get a rare combination of curd rice and karuvattu kulambu, and in the latter my favourite is their prawn fry and all kinds of fish preparations,” he says, adding that the vandikadai/thattukadai in the vicinity of Avichi School in Saligramam, used to be his favorite haunt 22 years ago. “Those days when I was working as assistant director and struggling to make ends meet, one plate idly, one dosa and one ommlette (Rs 15) was my everyday staple. I used to miss my mom so much when I eat every meal on a road side. She passed away 12 years ago. When I think of her it is the karuvattu kulambu and meen kulambu that she used to prepare which I remember. Even though she was a pure vegetarian, she used to prepare non-vegetarian dishes without tasting it,” Pandiraj says.

Born and raised in Virachilai, a village near Pudukottai, he came to Chennai in 1996 with aspirations to become a director in Kollywood, and the first job he got was that of security guard at AVM Studios. Then he also worked as office assistant at K.Bhagyaraj’s office and later joined the editorial team of his Tamil magazine, Bhagya. After all this, he joined as assistant director with director Cheran and Thangarbachan. And it was in 2009 that he debuted as director with Pasanga, which went on to win three national awards.

My childhood was spent in poverty, and later during my assistant director days, I used to share room with other aspiring directors, Pandiraj says. That was when he got interested in cooking, bachelor cooking as he prefers to call it, and developed two distinctive dishes, Uppukari and mix vegetable kulambu, which even today his family and friends in film industry ask him to prepare. “I am a rice lover, and can eat it thrice a day. Pazhaya soru is my all-time favorite, and especially on days I shoot, my breakfast will be pazhaya soru,” he says.

“When I travel within TamilNadu, I will eat only in mess, where the family is involved in cooking and managing affairs. I go out of the way in search of such places, and one such hunt led me to Aachi Mess in Pudukottai, which is known as Veetu Sappadu Kadai in that area. Also Palaniappa Mess in Pudukottai serves best nattu kozhi varuval and fish fry.”

One of the best meal which was served for him in the recent times was in Erode, when his friend actor Gopal (acted in Nadodigal) met him at another event in Erode, and took Pandiraj, Balaji Sakthivel, Sasikumar to his home, and served them tasty Kongu style food. “It was simple food, but the way he served it and showered his genuine affection was remarkable,” says Pandiraj,

Overseas travel is not his cup of tea, he hates it and if he has to travel, he would insist on being served rice wherever he may be.

How to make Uppukari?

Ingredients: Chicken 1 kilo, Small onions: ¼ kilo, red chilli: 25, 100 grams cumin. Oil: 6 tablespoons, Salt: as required.

Method: Wash, clean chicken and cut into bite size pieces. Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, and when oil is hot, add the small onions and fry on low heat and when it begins to brown, add red chilli broken into two or three with the seeds. Fry until chilli and onion blends well, and browns. Add chicken pieces, add salt, and saute and cook on low heat, keep covered. In the mean time, powder the cumin and keep aside. Once the chicken is cooked, sprinkle the cumin powder and fry for two more minutes and switch off.

(Uppukari goes well with plain rice, and the combination of chilli and cumin gives it a good flavour)

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