Mothers Day and Vinny Khullar

Hello and welcome to another Mothers Day. Its May 11 and time to put in place the things you’ve thought of for your mum, hand over the baubles you’ve purchased or post that card you picked up.

Some of the things I can remember most vividly is the food I’ve grown up with. An army officers pay isn’t really generous and bringing up two strapping sons on that can be considered one hell of a task. The interesting part is the variety of food that we grew up with. Being the combination of two different cultures – Punjab and Kerala.

This brought about a huge variety of food that was cooked at home.

On one hand we had stuffed paranthas (whole grain wheat flour dough, stuffed with a spicy mixture of potato/cauliflower/horse radish/cottage cheese/onions or a mixture of them all, rolled flat and then lightly fried until crisp and golden on a griddle) and other north Indian fare and on the other dosas (batter made from rice and lentils is fermented overnight and then spread thin on a lightly oiled griddle and served rolled and crisp, or rolled with a spicy potato/onion mixture or spread with eggs and served with hot sambar and chutney). There were the carrot and pea sabzis (the name generally given to any dry vegetable dish), fried banana dumplings, putt (a steamed mixture of riceflour and coconut, eaten with clarified butter, sugar and bananas all mixed together in a glutinuous mixture or as a savory with a gravy dish), idlis (steamed cakes made with a batter similar to the dosa batter), valleappams (dosa type batter put into a hot wok, the wok is then tilted all around, resulting in a hopper that has a lacy, crisp outer perimeter and a soft, spongy middle), spicy sambars, coconut chutney, mulagapudi (a very spicy mixture of spices that is eaten as a paste mixed with oil – often called ‘gunpowder’), pradaman (a sweet dish made from lentils, cloves and jaggery) and many many more.Our school was once quite close to home and every day at lunch an Army orderly (usually two people called Niyamat and Jagmal) would bring a huge hot case with different compartments containing rotis/paranthas, dal, sabzi, curd, rice, salad and perhaps something sweet. We (my brother and I) would sit straddling a stone bench and eat with our heads bent low, quite ashamed of being seen eating a rather elaborate lunch that had obviously come from home. Quite a few years later, when I had picked up a job and was working, I decided to quit eating lunch. Using a mixture of needling, wheedling, meddling and general mothering I was coaxed to take along a single roll, made of a roti and some vegetable mixture stuffed inside it. Gradually, the single roll become two, then three and finally became a hot case with a full lunch inside it. I cursed and yelled and generally was quite irritated at being forced to eat lunch when I didn’t want to. Today, I’m diabetic and have to look quite carefully at what I eat – and I *dont* want to eat out as I’ve been doing all these years. I want a packed lunch – simple dal, roti, subzi – and there’s no one who can give it to me… now I realise how difficult it is to run a house, especially wake up early in the morning to make a full lunch.

Another thing I’ve probably inherited is the attitude towards food quality. I think of the countless times I’ve heard her take apart a kitchen help when the ‘thinly sliced onions’ weren’t as thin as she wanted. It was usually done all over again. I do the same thing now.

Did I mention her breakfasts? Standard breakfasts are not for my mother. She wants, needs her variety and while she’ll settle for the ubiquitious paranthas or bacon and eggs, fusion and variety is what stimulate her taste buds. Chop up the bacon and cook it with spices, onions, potatoes and coriander, pair it with scramled eggs (with onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander, salt, chilli powder – a spicy piperade if you like) and a toasted sandwich stuffed with chopped spinach, cottage cheese and onions. Of course, the ever present cup of freshly brewed black coffee is at her side.

Anyhow, I’ve rambled long enough – this post is dedicated to the most incredible woman in my life – My mother – Vinny Khullar. :-)

– Sid

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at