One thing you must know about me before you read any further is that I have no longer any sort of commitment to speed.
If there’s a short cut in the form of a sauce that is pre-made and bottled just waiting on the shelf, promising to cut my cooking time half, it’s not for me. But if there’s a path that cuts through the deep dark woods, with obscure herbs to gather in the strange light of the half moon then that’s the one I’ll choose.
Outside the temple ruins of Ayutthaya historical park, which is otherwise known for its one remaining Buddha head captured with terrific symbolism in the roots of a Bodhi tree, are these women who move at the speed of light making a locally distinctive roti called Roti Sai Mai.
“Sai Mai” refers to the “silky threads” of colored candy floss around which each roti is wrapped, creating a soft-crunch of a little on-the-go snack.
Although the “roti” of roti sai mai is usually clubbed with other rotis of Muslim-Indian origin, this one is colored green with pandan, and made quite differently — by spreading a gooey dough directly by hand onto a well-seasoned, heated surface with apparently no grease at all. read more…
From the grandeur and vast imaginings of Angkor Wat, we found rotis in Phuket’s night market: little signs of cultural dimension and historical movement in a town that otherwise has very little of its own. “Rotis” are what we, in India, would call the maida paratha or the white flour paratha: a typically Kerala Muslim preparation with variants in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Except in these parts the roti is served sweetened with condensed milk, or with a banana rolled in, drizzled with chocolate. read more…
We travel, we eat, sometimes on the street. This time, we found something called “Fried ice cream” while wandering about Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
File this one also away under "food curiosities of the global south"--unless--
You find yourself living in a small town which vies for global smart city designations while beating with the heart of a provincial fishing village–and your milk comes daily from a cow.
At first, you’ll approach your new life with old information. You’ll skim off the cream that forms after daily boilings of your 1.5l milk quota and toss what you’ve learned to treat as cholesterol-heavy fat into the trash — until all your many mothers stand agape at your American wastefulness and set the ease of your trashing habits against the ease of churning butter. You’ll smart at their jibes and roll up your sleeves: no American are thee. read more…
The challenge was the find or grow something in the garden, and use that to extract a natural yellow tint that could be used to make a drink. Turmeric would have been a natural choice, especially given that “turmeric lattes” and “golden milks” are all the rage. But I wanted a clear drink to match the others, not a milky one,and turmeric seemed the wrong taste for a cocktail (or mocktail) anyway. We considered others: marigolds, calendulas.. but none seemed possible or safe to drink or interesting enough.
Until a dawn of garden wandering brought me to my suddenly-so-large coral jasmine or parijat tree–which in Bengal is the beloved shiuli or shefali of worship and poetry alike, and in the North is harsingar. Tamilians also call it pavazha malli, or pearl jasmine. The ground beneath my tree was strewn with the night’s fallen blossoms ..
I’m not at all sure that this lovely little Gujarati-Maharashtrian snack called “patra” (or patraveliya, or aḷuvaḍi–अळूवडी, or patrode) is to be made as an offering to the victorious Goddess of Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami — who is worshiped so much more fervently in the Eastern states than the Western. But when ingredients present themselves, I follow their leads — and hope humbly that She will not mind. For those fasting or otherwise observing strictures during this festival season, this is after all an entirely sattvic food as understood by Ayurveda: no-onion-no-garlic; “pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise.”
So, I’ll get to it. The “patra” of patra are the leaves of the taro or colocasia plant (the root of which is known locally as arbi, in Tamil cheppankizhangu). They are large, and almost elephant-eared (not to be confused with garden elephant ears which are inedible!). Smeared with a spicy chick-pea flour paste, they are rolled, steamed, and then lightly fried and seasoned. The result is a crisp, hearty little snack: perfect as a starter or with a steaming cup of afternoon tea. read more…
Adapted from Chinese Grandma, this classic tangy balsamic vinaigrette with just the right touch of honey-sweetness takes less than 10 minutes to assemble, and stores well for a long while. We use it on everything that looks like a salad, feels like a salad, or might just become a salad, and to give any combinations of steamed or grilled veggies a little zip-zap. No more intro needed now, just the illustrated recipe. Thank you, Chinese Grandma!
This is a story my mother used to tell, of a village woman and a village goddess and of the unexpected friendships that can develop over a good brinjal curry. Here it is, along with the vivid and lively watercolor illustrations by my dear friend, colleague, and fellow-discoverer-of-children’s-worlds, Khushboo Biyani.
This is the story of a woman who loved to eat brinjals. Her name was Manjula, or Manju for short. She lived in a time when daughters were married into the homes of their husbands, and lived with mothers and fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law and a whole mess of an extended family. And at a time when young daughters-in-law would feed everyone in the household first, before eating themselves.
Now Manju’s brinjal curries were delectable. So much was her love for the vegetable, it poured itself into what she made. So much so, that the dish was gone almost as soon as it was made–and there was never much left for the cook herself.
Make no mistake, this is a story of a most passionate love affair–but not the sort you’d expect. It’s a love story of a woman and a place and all the things in the place she finds, and of earthy enjoyments so sublime.
Now the woman lives in a place where things grow, almost against the odds. It is hot here and salty. It’s a fishing village and can be filthy. Visitors come in droves for cheap booze and the seaside, a little heritage by the wayside. They make this place in their own image, with shacks and bars and resorts aplenty, and all things the same but the air seasoned salty. Not so for those who stay. Those who stay simply know that this is a town where things can grow.
So they planted Auroville full of trees, reforested a world of scorching breeze. They cultured strange cheeses, they yeasted unusual breads, seeded cold kombuchas, found strange new sheens in the polished wood of fallen trees, and buried themselves in the red, hot soil. They sought no assurance that anything would ever taste the same, ever again. read more…