Good food, good mood: My 8 memorable eating experiences

Food, is one of my favorite topics!I was wondering if I should write about some fantastic dining experiences.How about exotic/gourmet food? I even thought of scrumptious snacks and home cooked food. It was hard to pick a favorite – there are so many. I  then decided to write about the ones which have some memorable experiences attached to them. Each one with some kind of a ‘story’ behind it. So, in random order,let’s begin.

1.Laksa

This spicy, lip smacking, coconut based curried, noodle soup  tops my list of the ultimate comfort food I have ever had.

My sister and I have shared Laksa on more than one occasion. One day, famished at the end of a long session of grocery shopping, we headed straight to the Laksa counter. The hot humid Singapore heat had given way to a drizzle along with a lovely cool breeze- it was just the right weather for Laksa. After ordering and getting our customized bowl, we sat and we began attacking our huge bowl of Laksa!

We slurped the thick rice noodles, we gulped the floating deep fried succulent chunks of tofu puffs (filled with an assortment of vegetables) and we relished every drop of the curry which was so hot- it made us pant and it made our eyes and nose water.

In between mouthfuls, we sipped sugarcane juice (with ginger and lemon) and listened to the pitter-patter of the rain. We sure savored this one. The taste still lingers in my mouth (or is it mind)

2.Kopi and Kaya toast

 

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Kaya toast

 

 

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Kopi

I was not so keen to try this one. But, after hearing so much about this  well known staple Singapore breakfast, I wanted to try it. So, one morning I went out with my family and  got all set for this breakfast. We sat down with a tray which had  a plate of two warm and crispy bread slices toasted just right.Slathered in between the toast was a generous layer of soft butter and a smear of sweet-smelling kaya jam (Malaysian coconut, egg jam). There was also a bowl with two soft boiled eggs and a cup of kopi( black coffee) .

We broke the egg shells, poured the soft boiled eggs into a dish and seasoned it with soy sauce and pepper. We then dipped the kaya toast into it( l am not so fond of half boiled eggs,so the next time I opted for hard boiled ones) We had sips of kopi in between bites. I really enjoyed this simple and delectable breakfast treat.

3.Fish and chips– I had been dying to have this well-known English meal for long. During a visit to England, we drove to a famous place which served them and alas-it had shutdown.

The place where we stayed, whenever we walked/ drove down a road, there was a familiar sight every afternoon outside some eateries-  school children hanging out  after school hours, having either hot chips or hot fried chicken. I always drooled over it 🙂 One of the places there served fish n chips, but somehow we never went there.

Later,while on a sightseeing trip (it was the peak of winter) I finally got a taste of it. It was cold, almost freezing. The weather was just right for this meal. With our takeaway food parcel, we sat on a bench outside (it was icy cold). We unwrapped the brown paper and out came the light, golden and beautifully fried crispy fish. It wasn’t greasy at all. The chips (with a dash of salt, pepper and vinegar) made a perfect combination with the fish. We spread the tartar sauce all over the fish and squeezed some lemon- it was simply divine and delicious.It was the best fish and chips that I have ever had.

4.Dal dhokli – As a child, one afternoon I went  to my friend’s house. It was pouring outside. I knocked on their door, someone opened it and what did I see? The children and their father were seated on the floor in a circle with one big plate of piping hot yummy Dal dhokli (dish made with lentils and savory dumplings). It had ghee and lemon juice sprinkled on it. It is one sight I will never forget. Till today, I have not tasted this famed Gujrati dish.

I was lucky to taste their other specialty- the rotlas (flatbread made with jowar/bajra). Hot and straight off the coal stove, drizzling with ghee and red chutney spread all over it.

5. Sukat(dried fish) chutney- The housemaid always welcomed all in her cozy house, anytime. She also offered to share their meal. One day, late evening I went to her house. There she was, making chapattis on her choola (native cooking wood fire in India). I was never fond of dried fish. But when I opened and smelled the container in which she had prepared her typical, authentic, flaming red chutney I could not control myself. I grabbed a chapatti, spread the chutney onto it and before she could say anything I ate it!( that was so naughty)

6.Batata wadas with thecha– This was a long time ago. Near our grandfather’s home, there was this place where we got very tasty batata wadas. One day, the maid was requested to go and buy these .An order was given for four dozen wadas (as there were plenty of people). Just after the housemaid got back with the piping hot, mouth watering batata wadas, some guests (women) arrived, unexpectedly.The ladies in the house had to attend to them.

After waiting only a few minutes, the men(there were three) did not want to wait any longer. They decided to have their share of it. They had their share, and after a while when they saw that the guests did not show any sign of leaving, they thought why not eat a few more? The wadas were getting cold (the ladies can order more later)

So, they had a few more. They were so yummy that soon the wadas started to disappear; one by one. Between the three of them they managed to polish off four dozen wadas!Along with it they finished the  fiery thecha ((spicy condiment made with green chilies) as well. One can only imagine how furious the ladies were when they found out.

7.Onion biscuits– These delectable biscuits from the US were securely kept by my grandfather in his cupboard. Occasionally he would share these with us. He would carefully removed the biscuit box and ration these out (1 or 2 max) to us kids. How we loved those biscuits! All these years, I have searched for those particular onion biscuits- in India and overseas,  but have not come across them anywhere.

8. Barbeque nation

This is one place which has never failed to disappoint me-right from the service, the quality, quantity and selection of barbeque food. Till date, I have visited this place about 6 or 7 times. It must have been my 5 visit.  The round of appetizers kept coming . I ate until I could eat no more.

After a brief break, I surprised myself- I started again, this time even more. How could I eat when I was feeling so full? There was no way I could go on to the main course-I was  bursting.

I took a long break, took a stroll and  felt better. I then went to ‘have a look’ at the main course buffet. I  thought, I should try just a spoonful of everything. I  managed to taste (and waste).

Now, how could I leave without tasting the desserts? So, one more  break I was back with a  plate(I shared it). I found it hard get up, walk and breathe! I left vowing never to return. But, I did and never again have I eaten like that again (or want to)

Then there is my ‘pizza story’ and many more but I’ll leave the rest for another time. I hope you have enjoyed reading this one. Do share your food experiences with me.

 

 

 

Happy Holi(day)

It’s Holi and I  thought of taking this opportunity to share about the couple of occasions  that I have enjoyed this festival when I was small.

I must have been about seven or eight years old. I had no idea about the significance of this festival. On the day of Holi, I  recall waking up to loud shrieks, chatter and laughter of kids throwing colored water balloons from their balconies at family, friends and strangers alike. With such an animated and upbeat atmosphere, how could anyone be left behind? Me and my sister quickly got ready( old clothes) and  with our gear-water balloons, pichkari(a long syringe like sprayer used to spray color), we stepped out.

There was fun and excitement all over. Everyone(including adults) was at their mischievous best.  There were clouds of the most vibrant colors everywhere. Kids were chasing each other with color-round and round the playground, up and down the staircase and even the elevator! Black somehow was the most unfavorable color.

People were squirting colored water on each other . There was yelling and screaming as people soaked each other with color .No one was spared,not even me. A  girl kept chasing me with a bucket full of purple water. I hid and I ran away from her, and she kept following me with her bucket. As I was running barefoot, I  stepped on something that pierced and hurt my feet; they were pieces of glass( must have been a broken bottle).

While I was trying to remove those glass pieces, ‘the girl ’flung the purple water all over me. Here I was injured and now soaked with purple water! I continued  playing until it was time to go home and have some festive food.

On the other occasion, we were at our grandparents house. We saw our neighboring friends having fun with color ( in pajamas). We watched them play and seeing their enthusiasm, we could not resist.

We ran and joined them- at their place first and then they came over.While at our place, I saw our maids daughter came out of her house after a bath, looking neat and clean. As soon as the others saw her, they  pounced on her and splattered her with gulal( colored powder).

An earthen pot( with water) nearby was her savior. She giggled and she splashed water on herself .In a instant more color was applied and she  washed it off again. The next thing? Colored water was poured on her head! The coloring, giggling and color washing went on for a long time.  All this was so hilarious to watch.

I am also tempted to add about the great time  we had with plain water outdoors.My cousins from America were visiting our grandparents ( while we were there too). It wasn’t a festival day like Holi. There was an outdoor wash area next-door and we decided to have some fun by sprinkling and splashing  water on one another. Very soon a garden hosepipe came out and everyone went wild with the water.

My cousin sister went back home to get her camera. We took some ‘grand’ poses for pictures. Everybody got splashed but it was my cousin brother whose clothes got drenched and none of us realized that . At the end of all the fun and frolic, he began to cry. All of us were afraid. Someone quickly got him changed and  one of us began ironing his clothes, but they would not dry. Wearing those half drenched clothes, he went back home howling. While we escaped,my poor cousin sister got a big scolding .

All this writing ( was also listening to some famous  Hindi movies Holi songs on the radio) has made me hungry! I could do with some warm puranpolis (A Maharashtrain sweet delicacy )with a generous drizzle of melted ghee and cold milk. Along with it, some piping hot rice with Katachi Aamti ( which is a type of seasoned dal made by using leftover water from boiled Chana Dal) would make a great accompaniment . To everyone who celebrates Holi wish you a very Happy Holi. Enjoy!

On my bike, get set, go!

I was about ten when I learned to ride a bicycle. After several futile attempts earlier (with help) I decided I was going to learn to ride without anyone’s help. One fine day, I asked my neighbouring friend for company (who was struggling as well). I told her of my plan to hire and ride a bicycle in three hours! Yes,three hours was going to be our dedicated deadline.

So, off we went jingling our pocket money. We came back with our hired bikes( which by the way were rusty and rickety). We decided that her place was perfect to accomplish our task; there was ample space around her garden as well as good outdoor tiling. So, with her at one end and me at the other end of the garden; with one eye on our cycles and one on our wrist watch, we began!

We stood athwart the bicycles, held on tight to the handlebars and then  heaved ourselves onto our seats (too high for us). We slipped, heaved back and then slipped again. We held harder, and then after a few kicks in the air, pushed down the pedal. We tried not to fall off, we tried to pedal and we tried our best to balance all at the same time. We kept skidding down the seats again and again.

At times we managed to pedal, but just a bit; lost our balance and regained it. We went left, right, zig zag, we went forward and wayward. We panted, puffed and perspired. We egged each other when felt like giving up. We were in tears but refused to give up. Those three hours meant everything to us.

No one had told or forced us to do this. We had simply challenged ourselves. Those three hours were ticking by and we were exhausted with this self imposed ordeal. Yet, without a single break, we continued the nonstop drill of heaving,slipping, pedalling and falling.

Our efforts were slowly beginning to bear fruit. We found ourselves pedalling a little distance. That was encouraging enough. We managed to smile but just a little. Although fatigue had set in, we kept at it.

Three hours were almost up and we did not realize that. We were too busy and too determined with the last hurdle- to keep pedalling/cycling for as long as possible. We gradually found that happening.

I could not believe it when I suddenly found myself and also saw my friend cycling away. All those hours suddenly seemed worth it.Our resolve had paid off .We returned our bicycles and got back home moaning, groaning and complaining; but also very pleased and happy with ourselves. Our hands, legs and particularly our palms felt very  sore.(after gripping the handles so hard)  .

We continued our practice (turning) in the days that followed.We were still beginners and one day while cycling I  saw my friends sister  bike learning all by herself (we must have inspired her). She was on her bike in a narrow gap in the garden using the tree as her aid. I  came cycling all fast and  furious. I thought I get past her in the narrow lane. I could not control the speed, gave a warning cry to move and knocked her down!

She caught hold of the tree  and went down with it into the bushes. We laughed a lot, she got up and she carried on. I don’t know if she learned to cycle after that. I am not  even sure if they remember this. If you’ll are reading this, I hope you remember this memory is for you and about you 😉

 

 

 

Once upon a time in ‘Bombay’

 

There’s something special about returning to a place you once called home. I have returned after a partly hectic and relaxing four day trip to Mumbai. Day three was what I had been eagerly waiting and planning for. I was going to visit what once used to be our home and our world;more than three decades ago!

Although it was going to be a flying visit, I was just as excited as it was the place filled with my earliest memories as a child.

So, here I was. On day three, as our taxi slowly drove towards what I remembered as ‘familiar territory’ I could barely control my excitement. It was time to reflect and reminisce.

One of the first stop was my old school. I had spent only four but formative years of my school life in this school. I caught a glimpse of it from the outside and it looked familiar; but there was no nostalgia as I had anticipated.

Standing for a quick photo session in front of my school gate I remembered my school days. The slates, the art and craft sessions and the glue we used.  Did I expect its typical odor to come wafting out of one the classrooms, I wonder?!

I also thought of  the brown papers which covered our books,the fountain pens filled with an ink dropper and the school satchels. We drove past the road from school to home which we walked every single day. It looked almost the same but for some reason the distance seemed longer to me.

I also visualized school days during monsoons –rain ponchos which had little slits, our books covered with plastic and the black rubber shoes/’gumboots’ that we wore. Did I just hear the school bell ring? No, it was time to move for the next stop.The school ‘stop-over’ was done.

Next stop was what I had been so looking forward to-our residential area! The first entry gate was coming  up on the right at the roundabout. It very much existed, but why did it look so different? What had changed? I remembered a lane full of tall green tress on either side. As school girls, we sometimes took that path home .I remember waiting and calling out to my classmate who lived in the high rise building there. Did I expect to see her coming down to greet me?

Further down the road, it was a surprise to see a  huge, new gate which led the way to our residential flats. I looked everywhere and I felt lost. I could not recognize a thing, not because my memory had failed; because everything single thing had changed. It no longer looked the same. The gate on the right? Was it gone I thought, no! I could see it in the distance, but everything around was unrecognizable and unfamiliar.

We somehow missed that gate as we felt lost, went further down and came in through another entrance. Trees adorned the road. New buildings, new structures all around. We felt like we were in a maze. Our only guide was the markings on the buildings. H block! We suddenly saw H block. That made me smile just a bit.

Going down and down the road. Wait, something looked the same! Unmistakably, surely oh surely this was the rear side of D block.Our block.What I had just seen where the maids quarters which looked exactly the same!We heaved a sigh of relief.At last, a hint of familiarity and joy. We stopped and we parked.We got down for a quick stroll around.

As much as I was delighted about how clean and neat the place looked; I was also a bit surprised. This wasn’t what I was expecting to see. I expected everything to be just the way it was when we had left. I expected the memories to come flooding back. I even expected euphoria!

Nothing looked the same. Nothing felt the same. I was perhaps expecting too much. Thirty years is after all a very long time. Everything looked very different, but yet the same. I didn’t know what to make of all this.

I looked around and searched for the corner shops which used to sell old world sweets and toffees. I even thought of the tailor shop which stitched our ‘self designed’ clothes in those times. I remembered our favorite book library- awaiting and borrowing all our favorite books. I  looked at all our friend’s houses.

The place looked totally renovated- full of new and beautiful plantations, gardens and parks. I felt something  either missing or looking  unusual. Was it the space? Was it too congested or had it lost its originality and charm?

I hurried along hopeful of seeing all our favorite spots in the playground. I longed for the same atmosphere- when the play area would be alive at all times with children of all ages playing-Frisbee, French cricket, badminton, cycling, ball games, hand clapping games, hopscotch, four corners, the dog and the bone game and much more. I was thoroughly and utterly disappointed.

Where was the place I grew up in? It certainly used to be a magical land. This was like being in a new place. Our ground floor verandah grill was covered up with a net. I wanted to get a little peek inside. When I could not, I forced myself to think and to feel! After all that was the reason I was here.

If only those walls could talk they would have plenty of tales to tell- all the fun and games with friends (even our maid), all our sibling fights and rivalries,the birthday celebrations  inside this house- when the family would string up balloons and streamers, pack goodies in party bags which were called ‘back presents’, friends arrivals, home baked birthday cakes, customary games and snacks being served. The divine smell of aloo tikis, chole puris and jalebis. I started to feel hungry by now.

The study room window was shut.The ledge outside the window where we used to stand and play games on was there( it appeared lower) but had flower pots on it now.I made a constant effort either to catch a glimpse or to bring back those times-the hopscotch we played in the study should we call it play room? we hardly ever used it as a study room)stitching clothes(as presents for our friends doll birthday parties!),the wild sliding along the clothing line(inside the study room) trying to imitate the circus people (after watching one), standing on the wooden panel of the study door and much more.

I giggled when I remembered the day my sister stood up on a chair in the room and peeped out of the ventilator and watched me and my friend play in the verandah. Oh and how can I forget the cheek of sneaking pickled onion from a jar( me with my friend) at our friends place upstairs.

I tried my best to soak it all in but the house seemed so far from the memories in my mind’s eye. I went inside the entrance. The black grill lift inside which me and my friend played non-stop mischief(and got a big telling off one day) was gone!It had been replaced with a modern one.

Along with the old lift all the crazy memories of ‘laughing fits for no reason'(in the lift)with my sister and  her gang of girls was gone too.The staircase where all our friends acted out funny ‘stage plays’,played hide n seek over the weekends and holidays looked so dissimilar. I was not enjoying this.I had had enough. I was tired. It was time to take leave.

Although I was tired and disappointed, I felt satisfied as this long awaited trip was done. We had lived in what I thought was the best of times. Time had changed and the place had changed. The only real connection that  remains is the memories in my mind, the carefully preserved picture albums and some of our comic books. No wonder then; the scent of old books makes me smile 🙂

Funny side up: 13 things only insomniacs understand

indexLiving with insomnia is certainly no fun.However, when possible it is always nice to look at the brighter and lighter side of life, right?It helps cheer up and also to know, that you are never alone.So, here we go!

You know you are an insomniac when;

1. You are sleep deprived and desperate to sleep; yet you start dreading bedtime.

2. There is nothing more exasperating than seeing the person next to you sleep- soundly and peacefully.

3. You feel frustrated and discouraged when someone on an uncomfortable floor mattress sleeps snugly and gets a good night sleep while you with the most comfortable room/bed finds it impossible to sleep.

4. You start to worry when people twice your age fall asleep in seconds;within the blink of an eye. You worry even more, if they start snoring!

5. You are all too familiar and aware with night sights like the lizards and cockroaches coming out of their hidey holes, the time when your neighbor’s lights switch off, the barking/fighting of neighborhood dogs in the dead of the night and you even know which bird will start chirping at what time.

6. Every little sound annoying you/ disturbs you- yes, even the chirping of the birds!

7. You cannot help get jealous of anyone and everyone who sleeps(including the poor pet dog)

8. You have tried everything for a good night sleep from counting sheep to counting your blessings and; nothing seems to work.

9. You know you have company till 2.00 am (the night owls, the party animals, the studious characters) and after 4.00 am (early birds). But, you know you are alone between 2.00 am – 4.00 am; unearthly hours when the whole world seems to be quiet and fast asleep.

10. The tick-tock of the clock makes your heart beat go faster; reminding you that the night (and your sleep time) is slipping away.

9. As dawn approaches, you begin to anticipate and fear sounds that threaten to wake you up (if you have managed to fall asleep!) or stop you from falling asleep; like the doorbell or the honking of cars.

11. You do not know how  to begin your day after a wretched night.

12. Your sleep misery is all you think and talk about during waking hours.

13. You are happy when you suddenly remember having a dream; it means you actually caught some sleep!

Pump up the iron: 7 iron rich foods for vegetarians

If you are a vegetarian, keeping up your iron levels may be difficult and more so if you are iron deficient. So,without  a portion of  meat or fish in your diet, how do you go about getting enough iron in your diet? Here is how.

1. Broccoli– This cruciferous vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients and is rich in antioxidants. Broccoli, as a part of your diet is a great way to get more iron in your body. It contains not just iron, but, is also rich in vitamin C which helps in the absorption of iron. You can cook it as a vegetable or boil/steam it and make a delicious salad. broccoli2. Spinach– Spinach and all dark green leafy vegetables are fantastic sources of iron. One can have vitamin C rich food along with it, as spinach also contains absorption inhibiting substances. In order to get the maximum benefits of iron from spinach- chop a tomato and cook it along with the spinach, sprinkle some lemon juice over the cooked spinach or have it with vitamin C rich food like capsicum. spinach3. Tofu/bean curd– Tofu may be bland to taste,but,this highly nutritious iron-rich food being extremely versatile;can be  made interesting- a healthy stir-fry along with your favorite vegetables and seasonings or  a mouth-watering salad by combining it with other veggies and some garnishing. tofu4. Beans– Dried beans are loaded with fiber, protein and most importantly, iron. E.g- black beans,black-eyed beans and kidney beans are  good sources of iron and good for your budget too! You can cook your favorite beans along with brown rice.This will not just give you your daily dose of iron, but plenty of energy and keep you feeling full for hours.

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Black-eyed beans

5. Dried fruit-Raisins, dried apricots and prunes are all good sources of iron.Prunes are made by drying fresh plums. You can snack or add a handful to your breakfast cereal. Although these dried fruit contain a good amount of iron, this iron can be difficult to absorb. You can have these dried fruit with vitamin C rich food – a fruit like guava/ strawberry /pineapple or wash them down with a glass of orange juice.

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apricots
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Raisins, Apricots and Prunes

6. Prunes and prune juice– If you are iron deficient, prune juice is an excellent source of iron. The vitamin C in the prunes makes it easier for your body in absorbing the iron. can-i-give-my-baby-prune-juice-300x300 7. Jaggery/gur– It is a sweet and delicious. Most importantly it is inexpensive and has a high iron content which prevents/helps iron deficiency anaemia.You can make tasty snacks; add them in desserts like rice puddings. Roasted Bengal gram (chana/chickpea) and gur is a popular snack which increases hemoglobin levels and gives energy. (However jaggery/gur is not recommended for diabetics).

By choosing/picking your food correctly (food high in iron and vitamin C) and having the recommended amount, getting enough iron should not be such a challenge. So, go ahead, pile up your bowl/plate with ‘iron’ and enjoy!