Category Archives: Food

Landlady

This is a photo of me and my landlady. She owns the block of houses I stay at in Coimbatore, and stays in the front house. She has several attached apartments, and rents them to various families. She comes to check out what is happening in the apartment some mornings, and tells us that we need to clean more often, and offers to have her maid come by to help us clean. I think she must think that we have no idea how to clean up after ourselves!

She doesn’t speak much English (none) and I don’t speak much Tamil (none), but with hand gestures me manage to understand each other mostly.

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One morning we woke up and there was no water in the taps! We’d just gotten home the night before from a weekend trip, and were both in desperate need of a shower before work. So we went downstairs to ask the Landlady about it, and she came up. After 15 minutes of misunderstanding what she was trying to say we finally figured out that one of our taps had been leaking all weekend, and kept draining the water tank. So they had turned off our water at the main tap on the roof – we simply needed to turn it back on. And remember to turn the flush off properly on the toilet so it didn’t constantly run and drain the water tank that everyone shared!

We have the apartment at the back of the building, up some stairs. It’s a two bedroom flat, with access to the terrace (which is only really used by the others to dry their washing). Its a wonderful huge terrace with a nice view over the buildings around us, and it seems like a shame that they don’t use the space. The equivalent terrace in Australia would be covered in potted plants, have an outdoor table and chairs, possibly even a table tennis table.

Now it was a bit of a battle to get this lady to agree to have two single, white, girls stay alone in her apartment out the back. This was for several reasons I think, mostly out of concern for our well being. I was told that crime was on a rise in the city of Coimbatore, and there was a highly publicised incident involving an old woman found chopped into pieces, which placed fear into everyone’s hearts. After this it was very difficult to find people who were willing to have two girls stay alone in an apartment they were renting out. I guess I can understand that sentiment!

Despite this (this is for you Mum), I’ve never felt unsafe in the neighbourhood. Obviously it was quite a novelty at first for everyone in the neighbourhood for us to move in, but everyone quickly got used to it. After going to a few of the shops in the street a few times, I’ve found that no one really gives me a second glance anymore.

The Uncle in the phone shop out the front of the house always says hello when I come home from work, and the boy working in the rice shop next to it has helped us out almost every day that Scooty decides she doesn’t want to go to work. He comes over with a huge grin on his face and gets her started. The woman at the eatery across the road has a good natured laugh at our expense every morning when we are trying to kick start Scooty.

The woman down the road who runs the vegetable shop is wonderful, and always greets me with a huge grin and helps me out in figuring out what all everything is: who would have thought spinach could look so different! And the pani puri cart guys always say hey as I walk past… I think they were quite disappointed the day I started walking past them to the vegetable store!

How to: pick a mango

The mango trees are starting to get heavy with mangos!

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Mangos are my favourite thing in the world. They are wonderful by themselves, they are wonderful in cooking. And they are wonderful as pickle.

Problem is, they grow in tall trees. So they aren’t always easy to pluck.

Now there’s two ways to pick mangos: one is to climb the tree and pluck them. However heights and I don’t agree, so that’s not such a good option for me.

So instead, I used a stick to hit them and shake them loose.

RK showed me the technique: the trick is to hit the mango with the stick from behind, and to try to knock it down.

Now it seems quite easy in theory. But in practice it took a bit of work. We managed to hit down half a dozen green mangos before we bent the metal stick we were using. Game over.

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Chai Lady, Hennur Cross, Bangalore 2012

She gave me four cups of chai a day for a month, and always had a huge smile whenever she saw me. We never managed to talk much, but I miss her.

 

Indian Krispy Kreme experience

Krispy Kreme opened in Bangalore recently. Apparently when it opened there was a massive line of people not so patiently waiting for their donuts. Even now, months later, on Saturdays there is a line of people out the door.

Now, I’ve had Krispy Kreme in Australia. And I’ve had it in Europe. And I’ve had it in the UK. But I have to say the experience I’ve had with Krispy Kreme here has been unrivalled by these other places. And thats all because of this:

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Its the machine that makes the donuts. At the beginning there is the batter, and it is squeezed out into the donut shape, and dropped into hot oil where it cooks. Then it gets rolled up onto a conveyor belt where it is iced (or glazed), and then it rolls its way around before being put through a cooling tunnel.

Now if you manage to get there at the right time, and the production is happening, it is possible to ask them to get the donuts for you before they go through the cooling tunnel.

And let me tell you, you’ve never had donuts like this. Fresh, melt-in-your-mouth sugary goodness. They taste fantastic, and they are so light and soft. It tastes like fairies and rainbows and flowers. In donut form.

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Today as we were walking towards the store, we saw through the window that they were just finishing up a fresh batch. So we raced in, and raced up to the counter and asked for 6 donuts. The guy behind the counter asked whether we wanted them boxed, to which Anu frantically responded: “Just put them in the box! In the box!”. I’ve very rarely seen her so agitated and excited about something, and it really felt like we were down to the wire on this one. 30 seconds later and we would have missed them: the fresh donuts would have been swallowed by the cooling tunnel of boredom, and the whole experience would have changed.

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Anu enjoying fresh KK

The Gap

There is a lot written about the gap in India between rich and poor. And you can see it everywhere you go, the expensive cars next to the people on bicycles, the beggars standing outside UB City, home of Louis Vuitton and Burburry. But these obvious signs can be ignored. You can look away from the beggars, you can ignore the way in which different groups live. But sometimes this huge gap is brought home by very simple things. Today, it was something as simple as a cup of tea that reminded me.

 

Street Chai: 7 rs

Chai at the Capital hotel: 99 rs

How to: Make Yoghurt

I consume yoghurt (curd) by the kilo in this country. Its fantastic with every meal that contains rice, and I’ve really started to love having curd rice (rice mixed with curd and a little salt) to finish off my meals.

I tried making yoghurt at home in Canberra once, but it is far too cold there and we couldn’t get the cultures to set. Also i think the milk from supermarkets is too pasteurised and so the yoghurt can’t breed and set.

Here, it is incredibly easy to make your own curd, and it tastes fantastic when it is home made – no added sugars or anything. All el naturale.

YOGHURT (CURD)

  1. Boil milk, let it cool
  2. When milk is lukewarm, add 1/2 tsp yogurt
  3. Mix
  4. Leave in a covered container for 2-3 hours
  5. Enjoy!

TIPS: If the milk is too warm, or you add too much yoghurt, then the mixture will set too fast and become sour. If the milk is too cold, or you don’t add enough yoghurt, then the mixture won’t set.

Recipe: Coconut Chutney

Coconut chutney is a very common side dish in South India. It is served with almost all the breakfast dishes, and many lunch and dinner dishes too. Up until this morning though, I had only ever had the coconut chutney served in restaurants and eateries. And to be honest, I was not a great fan.

My world was changed this morning by homemade coconut chutney. It was almost hard to believe that what I had been given previously even counted as coconut chutney, because when homemade, it tasted completely different. And it was good.

So here is the recipe for you to try at home:

Homemade Coconut Chutney

Serves 4

  • 1/2 fresh coconut flesh
  • 2 green chillies
  • 1 garlic clove
  • pinch of dried tamarind
  • 7-10 curry leaves
  • 2 handfuls of split yellow pea daal (to quantity desired)
  1. Place ingredients in grinder with a little water
  2. Grind to paste
  3. Heat oil in pan, add teaspoon of mustard seeds, 7 more curry leaves and a dried red chilli.
  4. Add to chutney, and mix
  5. Enjoy with dosa, idli, or whatever it is that takes your fancy