Sunday, November 06, 2005

I is for IMPERIAL COCKTAIL

This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

I is for Imperial Cocktail.

I is really a hard Marathi food letter. The only authentic recipe is a fried jalebi-like sweet called imarati. I confess that I have never eaten it and don't have a recipe either, so this is something I need to taste on my next visit to India. Other "I" foods names exist in Hindi, like imli or tamarind and ilaichi or cardamom but the Marathi terms for these foods are different: "chinch" and "velchi" respectively, not "I" words at all. So I settled on a dessert that has a cult following in my home-town of Kolhapur: Imperial cocktail.This is not a drink as you may think, but a colorful and exotic ice cream sundae. I think the "cocktail" may be an actual reference to a colorful rooster tail. The name "imperial" probably comes from this Kolhapuri love for royalty: one of the hallmarks of Kolhapur is that it was ruled by a royal family for centuries, and even in the era after Indian independence, Kolhapur's royal family is well-beloved and much respected.
Ice cream is not a traditional Indian dessert, so how did a small town like Kolhapur become famous for its ice cream. The answer comes from the days of British rule in India, and how an enterprising businessman obtained a soda machine to provide refreshments to foreign soldiers. This article tells the interesting story of this ice cream store.
My memories of this ice cream go back many many years...a visit from out-of-town guests would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Imperial for the "special cocktail". Imperial is a tiny unassuming store-front in the heart of the city near the Mahalaxmi temple, and walking in through the doors transports you to another age, of slowly rotating ceiling fans and a rickety wooden staircase that takes you to a tiny upstairs seating area. The menu has plenty of variety, with sodas and single scoops being the most inexpensive choices and the cocktail sundaes, the most pricey ones. For some strange reason, the regular cocktail came with a layer of sponge cake, and the special cocktail came without. We always chose the special because I remember that the cake would often be none too fresh. The ice cream came in a tall glass, layers and layers of fruits like chikoo and apple, bits of candied fruit called tutti-frutti, small cubes of multi-colored jelly, hand-churned ice cream in flavors like rose and vanilla, and the whole stuff drowned in a yummy mango milkshake and topped with nuts. A special cocktail is a meal in itself and the trip to Imperial would keep me happy for weeks! So in a tribute to that wonderful creative sundae, I tried to make it myself:
Imperial Special Cocktail

cocktail
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
1 cup chopped mixed fruits (apples, pears, oranges, grapes)
1/2 cup canned mango puree
1 and half cup milk or soymilk
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 scoops other flavor ice cream (rose/strawberry/raspberry/chocolate)
4 tbsp chopped cashewnuts
4 wafer cookies, cut diagonally into triangles
Method:
1. Mix canned mango puree and milk to make a mango milkshake.
2. In a tall glass, layer 1/4 cup of fruits. Top with a scoop each of vanilla and other ice cream. Pour on 1/2 cup mango milkshake. Top with 1 tbsp cashewnuts and a wafer cookie triangle.

The verdict: This is a poor imitation of the real thing, so if you get a chance, go to Kolhapur and try it for yourself! But its a tasty sundae all the same, and very easy to put together. Give it a try, and meet me next week for a look at the letter "J". See you then!
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10 comments:

  1. Yay!! Nupur is back.

    Faffer

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  2. That looks delicious, Nupur. Love your touch with the wafer on top.

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  3. love the way you describe each stop on this regional cuisine journey. I am enjoying myself and getting to know a lot about kolhapur. makes me wish I knew one place that intimately as opposed to the passing acquintence I manage to culture with the different spots on the globe. And yes the cocktail sounds divine. will get back to you when I try it.

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  4. I have to tell you...Matt is loving your "A is for..." series. I may love food, but he's nuts for Indian cuisine. He makes me come by here even more often than I normally do!

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  5. Ohh ohh .. this brings back memories of going to Solanki's on lazy afternoons and hogging down one concoction after another. I used to make a whole meal out of Solanki icecreams!!

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  6. So pretty. I am not usually a fan of extra elaborate ice cream sundaes, finding ice cream with one topping quite fancy enough. But this one seems more harmonious in its flavors than the usual american over-the-top concoction. It really looks good.
    I like the idea of a mango milkshake, on its own, too. I'm enjoying your "A to Z" series.

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  7. what can I say that everybody hasnt said already? :) GO NUPUR! I love your blog! :)

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  8. Hi Faffer, yes I'll try to be back more often :) but things are so busy at work!!!

    Hi Mika, I wish you could taste the real thing :)

    Hi Bilbo, well, do try and visit Kolhapur sometime, I would love to show you around.

    Hi Stepahanie, thanks :) and do say thanks to Matt for me!

    Hi Anya, glad to bring back some delicious memories. I don't even have a sweet tooth, but those ice creams are amazing na?

    Hi Lindy, that's true...this is not overly sweet at all! And mando milkshake is very easy to make if you stock up on canned mango puree avaialable at Indian stores.

    Shammi, what a nice thing to say! :)

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  9. HI Nupur,
    Thus sounds just "too good" and I'm going to try it next time I'm in Kolhapur!
    As always ...love your blog.

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  10. Was in Kolhapur recently and enjoyed the cocktail at Imperial. It costs now Rs 40 . In Delhi Nirulas introduced a speciality Ice-cream only hotel in 1985/1990 which was a super hit.They had their own cock-tails menu costing Rs 25/30 per item and we use to have 3/4 four for Rs 100 shared between two. Every town has an own ice cream centre.
    Recently in Indore we visited an exclusive ice cream centre where nearly 100 varities are available priced between Rs 40/60 per combination. They also have a pan centre where you have several varieties of Pan, supari and other masala items.A WONDERFUL EXPER9IENCE AND A MUST WHEN YOU VISIT INDORE NEXT.
    K.Vaidyanathan
    vidhar@vsnl.net

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