Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The best thing about visiting a tropical country? Tropical fruit, of course! On this trip I had, alas, missed the peak of the mango season, but there were still plenty of fruits available for me to savour.

One of my favourites is tiny bananas. I am sure there is some proper name for them, and one of these days I will find out what it is, but until then I will call the cute things "tiny bananas" cuz that's what they are.

Tiny bananas are quite unlike the large bananas we get in the grocery store back home. the flavour is tangy and the texture denser. Because they're small, I need to eat 3 or 4 to get my fill and feel like I've properly "had a banana". Luckily they come in big bunches so that's not hard to do.

If you want to try them in Ottawa, visit Sree Fresh Grocery near Carling (of course!) or Thana Grocers on Bank St. Both are Sri Lankan groceries and carry fruit imported from India.

Note the mehndi on my hand - this is left over from the wedding, as is the bouquet of flowers

Back here in Bangalore we are staying with my husband's aunt. She has a sizeable retinue of servants so, one morning when we were out of bananas, I had my husband ask the servant to go get some more. For some reason my husband gave him 100 rupees (about $2.50 Cdn, a sizeable sum) which was far more than the bananas were likely to cost. I thought the servant might make off with the change so I urged my husband to give him a smaller bill. However, he brushed me off.

As I expected, things did go wrong, but not quite in the direction I had anticipated: the servant, honest soul that he was, did use the money for its intended purpose, buying about two kilograms of bananas! Now, much as I love bananas, that's more than even I could eat. Plus, we were leaving that night for Hyderabad. But I guess somehow the bananas got eaten, as when we came back there were only two withered specimens left.

That reminds me, I'm hungry...time for dinner and a post dinnertime banana snack!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


If you've ever been to an Indian wedding, you know just how spectacular it can be. Prior to this
trip to India, I had only been to one Indian wedding - my own. Although it had a "mere" 500
guests, it was plenty lavish enough for me.

But now that I have attended my husband's cousin's wedding (1600 people! 3 days!) I realise just how lavish a "grand" Indian wedding can be. The highlight for me was of course...getting dressed up in a sparkly sari! I know, you're surprised I didn't say it was the food, but really, Indian clothes are so beautiful, and I had a wonderful turquoise and gold sequined sari (courtesy of my generous aunt-in-law). My son also wore a beautiful aqua kurta, bought for him by his great aunt. I love it when our clothes match - so cute!

The food was, of course, also fabulous. If you're wondering how 1600 people get fed over the course of a few hours I have one word - a big dining hall! Unlike a Western wedding which has a formal sit down meal, meals at Indian weddings are eaten throughout the evening. The upper part of the reception hall is for photographing and mingling, then the lower part has the dining hall. Usually there are long tables set up with banana leaves for plates, but this wedding had food stalls which guests would visit with their plates, and then eat standing up.

The variety of food items was staggering: indoors there were North Indian stalls, South Indian stalls, a chaat table, a sweets table, and a table with a quirky display of carved vegetables (including a crocodile made out of bitter melon!). Guests arriving at the wedding received a menu card (which I lost, alas) and a glass of sugarcane juice or lime juice to refresh them.

Ms. Foodie looking dazzling next to the carved fruit and vegetables table

Outside the reception hall there was a series of stalls with varied items like freshly pressed sugarcane juice (likely to cause Delhi belly, but I had to taste it - it was pure heaven!), a chocolate fountain (albeit with Hershey's chocolate syrup and hence not all that tasty), fruit and cheese kebabs (an odd combination, I thought), and pani puri (little fried shells filled with tamarind juice, again a wee bit odd to my taste). Shortly after the reception started I wandered around the outside stalls with my baby to sample the wares. With all the flowers and the sparkling lights on the reception hall, I felt like I was at a carnival! It was really festive and fun, but alas it started raining heavily so the stalls were abandoned a short while later.

Needless to say, trying to eat this glorious food while wearing a heavy sari and running after a rambunctious baby was a little trying. I did manage to get him fed without doing any damage to my sari, but it was only later in the evening that I was able to enjoy my meal in a leisurely manner (my husband took the baby!) and take some photos for you, my dear readers.

If I could remember all the things I ate, I would surely be eligible for some kind of reward. But I can't, so I'll just post the pics of my favourite items. The best part...dessert, of course! Dessert consisted of jilebis and dry fruit burfi. Jilebis are, of course, my favourite Indian sweet, but the dry fruit burfi (burfi is similar to fudge) was new to me. It tasted richly of figs, dates, whole milk and ghee. A little tangy and not cloyingly sweet like most Indian sweets, it was a welcome discovery.
The masala dosai also deserves a shout out. A classic South Indian dish made of fermented rice flour, it is similar to a tangy crepe, and is filled with a curried potato mixture. I have eaten many good masala dosais recently, but these were exquisite. The dosai was nicely crispy and the potato mixture perfectly spiced. On a side note, the servers were delighted to have me taking their photos. I guess they aren't used to getting any attention at these functions!

My only complaint about the food at the wedding? I wish I could have spirited all the dishes home to Canada with me, to be enjoyed at leisure and untainted by jet lag. Then I would have really had my fill. But, that's what Indian weddings are like - chaotic, colourful, busy, and glorious!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In India

Dear Readers,

I am here to tell you that eating idli and coconut chutney off a banana leaf while a sweet little baby is running around, can wreak havoc on your sequined salwar kamees. Now you can't say you weren't warned!

What am I talking about? Dear readers, I am in India! I came here 2 days ago for a family wedding (my husband's cousin) and have spent the last few days adjusting (fyi, jet lag is even worse when you've got a toddler who won't sleep when you need him to!). Also did some fabulous shopping yesterday with a heap of cash given to me by my darling aunt-in-law!

The food has been stellar - my aunt in law has hired Brahmin chefs (bare-chested, naturally) to cook for all the various events. Yesterday there was an assortment of delicious chopped spiced salads, vegetable curry (a soupy one), rice, and rasam (a very soupy lentil dish for which I have little admiration). This morning, though, has been the best. The ceremonies are starting today at the groom's house (where I am staying) and the chefs have dished up idli (fermented rice cake), coconut chutney, halvah and the requisite tiny cups of South Indian coffee. It's served on a coconut leaf (traditional) in a stainless steel plate (thali). Once I sequestered myself in my room (the marauding baby wouldn't let me eat) I was able to properly appreciate the food. The idli was exquisite - studded with chunks of fresh coconut, curry leaves and spices. The coconut chutney was also delectable. The halvah, made with semolina and lots of ghee, was a revelation, rich with butter and cardamom....oooh...I could eat mountains of it, but I have to save space for the next meal.

And now I have to go bathe my baby! I will post more on my culinary flights while I am here, depending on the time available, and whether the electricity remains constant!

Happy (sambar) dreams to you!

ps. no photos for you cuz my camera is broken! Who - who comes to India with a broken digital camera! Oh I hope they can fix it soon...