Summer’s here and the truth can be told: yours truly has had the first thair-vade of a long hot season.
Nagu brought the beauty this morning from Nalpak in Vontikoppal. For reasons not far to fathom, she didn’t want to make breakfast today. So out she went when I was yapping with Bhamy Shenoy and brought me uppittu and thair-vade before setting off to office.
Since I had already had a banana milkshake (made from last night’s pachch balehannu that was threatening to self-destruct into rasayana), I had to put away the thair-vade in the fridge for consumption later.
Finally I ate it at four, and honestly, it wasn’t quite the same thing as it perhaps would have been had I attacked it fresh upon unpacking.
Or maybe not.
I don’t know if any of you share my view that the thair-vade is losing a bit of its colour and glamour in recent times.
It’s a wonderfully cooling dish even when improperly made or served. It’s one of the early globalisers to conquer palates north of Udupi, and it’s a dish for which the Tamil name will always sound better than its Kannada equivalent.
(The sight and fragrance of the thair-vade laced with ginger that my father used to get me at Madhu Nivas is still fresh in my mind.)
Anyway, to come back to the exhibit on hand, the thair in today’s thair-vade was way too thick; probably because of the refrigeration, probably because most restaurants now opt to use readymade curd.
Plus, there was little by way of additives.
Commercial break: my friend Tarun Tejpal (yes, the very same) recounts a lovely Punjabi definition for curd: “Milak: sleep at night, morning tight.”
As I was saying, the curd in today’s thair-vade was pretty characterless. It was a little too much on the sweeter side, which I don’t quite fancy. Worse, there was no jeerige, no kottambri soppu, no hasiru mensinakayi, no shunti even, all things which give good the thair that the vade is submerged in, a unique flavour.
In other words, it was pretty bland stuff.
Moreover, there was the irritating bowl of boondi that Nagu had left behind for me to add before eating. For some strange reason, today’s restaurateurs want you to add the boondi to the thair-vade, like the do-it-yourself ‘pani puri’ that has become the fashion in five-star joints and chat centres.
Result: for no fault of its own, Nalpak’s thair-vade left me fantasizing over the real thing that Raju of Raju Hotel (or Iyer’s Restaurant in Agrahara) used to keep in that glass showcase opposite the cashier’s, and which the great man himself would order the waiter to serve me without my asking.
To be fair, I’ve had worse thair-vade in recent times.
I was in Bombay last October, and had a plate of dahi-vada at a Udupi in Khar (W). The vade were oddly shaped, the curd was terribly sweet, and there was just too much of it. I ate half, and left the remaining two-and-a-half.
Note to self: make amends with good thair-vade this summer. It’s going to be a long, hot one and there are plenty of vades to catch up with.
Photograph: courtesy Mala’s Kitchen