Thursday, January 20, 2005

Molaga Podi

After trying the milakai podi (=molagapodi, mulaga podi) at Woodlands, I was keen to use this miracle condiment at home. Luckily, it can be found at India Sweets and Spices close to the dosa and idly mixes - look for MTR brand "Spiced Chutney Powder". I added sesame oil as recommended by my friend Aravind, and it was great on improvised masala and blini (OK, none too authentic). One needs surprisingly little oil to achieve the requisite gritty paste, and in future I may use regular oil or ghee in addition to the sesame oil so the flavour is more subtle. Aravind suggested trying it on bagels with cream cheese, and it is actually delicious. Happy experimenting!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Mama Voula's

11923 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-9464

A great find thanks to Gold and Chowhound, Mama Voula's continues the unfortunate Westside-centric trend in my blog. If minimal car usage coexists with Greek food this good, I can reconcile my environmentalism and gastronomic anthropology until the next dim sum craving.

We made a good run at the menu starting with spanakopita and three dips. Taramosalata especially notable but a nice mix with tzatziki and the eggplant one. Among the mains, loukaniko/sausage, octopus and meatballs are tops, with soft mashed-potato topped moussaka the comfort food option. Best dessert is the phyllo pie thing with custard inside called bugatsa. Greek coffee is very fine, swirl the grinds in the cup and Ron the waiter will tell your fortune. Price is surprisingly low-end for the quality, generous portions and friendly service.

Thanks to Theo for culinary expertise and May for the hats.

One simply has to order the marides/fried smelt at Mama Voula's. They are tiny whole fish about the size of your middle finger, fried intact so the fins stick out in an adorable way. Bite off the head first, it contains a hint of bitterness which isn't all bad. Then eat the body, succulent white fish inside a delicately crispy exterior. If you're a recombiner like Ian, make a sammidge with pita and dip of choice. Or combine with dip, bread and a morsel of saganaki/flaming cheese like Theo did. The saganaki is also superb, flambed in ouzo and squirted with lemon juice.

Which leads to the unavoidable conclusion - perhaps one is better off ordering nothing but appetizers at Mama Voula's. The main dishes are good, and particularly in the case of the Greek plate (gyro meat, dolmas, the funny Greek hummus, tzatziki, spuds, brocolli) very filling. But a meal made entirely of small dishes could maximize what the restaurant does best. Clearly future experimentation is required.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Aroma Cafe
2350 Overland south of Pico 310 836 2919
Awesome Bosnian outpost for cevapi/grilled sausage kebab, flaky pastry bureks and soured cream called kajmak. High quality all around!