Sunday, September 03, 2006

Five Foods you simply MUST try!

The lovely Susan of the delectable Porcini Chronicles blog has tagged me for a "5 foods you just have to try" meme. I would have charged full steam ahead with formulating the post had I not been derailed by a flu (sort of) bug. I'm better today so here I am with the 5 foods I think you absolutely must try!

Let's start with a drink, shall we? Sugarcane juice is my absolute favorite drink. It's not just the drink and how it tastes but the whole process of making it that is so special to me( I would never drink it out of a can). In India sugar cane juice is mostly sold from a vendor's stand, positioned on a main road or dusty street. The vendor picks the cut sugar cane from a bundle at the side of his stall and runs them through a juicing contraption (pictured aboove) causing rivulets of lemony-green nectar to flow into his stainless steel bowl which he in turn pours into a cup with a dash of lemon juice and ice. One sip is all it takes for a sugar high of the nicest kind and one glass is all you need to get fully re-energised, (eat your heart out "Red Bull" drinkers!) Umm, some people (obviously not fans) call sugarcane juice "bacteria in a glass". You do have to watch where you buy your juice from - make sure there are no flies hovering about and try to avoid the ice as you don't know what water is used to make it.

Next, let's have some Rava Idlis. Rava idli is a breakfast food or "tiffin" as we would call it in India. Rava is a type of semolina and it is soaked in sour curd with a type of lentil (udad dal) before it is ground into the "idli" batter. The batter is then put into special moulds and steamed. The end product is a nice, fluffy rice cake which you eat with a "sambhar" or lentil soup. These days, you can buy a rava idli mix in a packet. I can't vouch for how good they are, but there can be no harm in trying it can there?

For a dessert, there are days here in Canada when I would give my right arm for "Mishti doi" or sweet curd which is a Bengali preparation. I have never made "mishti doi" myself but I believe if you have cream milk, sugar (caramelised), a few teaspoonfuls of yoghurt and an earthernware pot (well, now you know why I don't make it at home!) , mishti doi can be very easily made, right Bhaswati? :) DELICIOUS, I tell you!

For a snack my choice would be Sweet Tamarind (and no, I'm not talking about the Chicago restaurant here). Tamarind is a fruit which I am sure you are all aware of because its sour pulp is used in a lot of Indian and Thai curries. While I love the pulp, I love the plain ripe fruit even more. I love to peel it and put it on my tongue , I just love the dance my tastebuds do as they are squirted with the sweet-tart flavor, yum!

And finally, after all that food let's settle down with a digestive. "Paan" is a very popular after-meal snack for most Indians. Paan shops can be found outside almost every restaurant in India. The paanwallah picks out a fresh, glossy betel leaf, upon which he slathers a white, chalky paste (lime) followed by a squirting of rose syrup, fruit preserves, aniseed (both the candied and the plain kind), cardamom seeds, clove, sweet dessicated coconut and slivers of betel nut. He then folds it into a compact, flat cone holding it together by a single clove stick. You're supposed to put the entire paan in your mouth and chew it slowly. Not only does your breath smell like perfume for hours after that, but the betel leaf and betel nut both being mildly narcotic, put you in a relaxed state of mind ! ;) In Canada, I eat paan at the Sarvana Bhavan, a restaurant that specializes in South Indian food.

Now the best part is, I get to tag three victims for the meme :)
Here goes:

Melissa from Hello, Melissa
Guinness Girl from My Mental Buffet
Booklogged from A Reader's Journal


Susan Abraham said...

All sound delicious, Lotus.
And your pictures speak a 1000 words in themselves. They're creative to look at, so alluring and tempting...


Susan in Italy said...

Whoa! That paan just blows me away. I've read about paan and paanwallahs in novels and have been intrigued but never have I SEEN it. Perfumy breath for hours, huh?
Thanks so much for responding to the meme!

Angela in Europe said...

Sounds great! I love food and especially Indian food. I will have to try the sugarcane drink!

Lotus Reads said...

Thank you Susan Living in Malaysia as you do, I'll bet you've tried all these foods, haven't you? And ooops, now that you mention the pictures I remember they haven't been credited to their rightful owners, I'd best get to that right away!

Susan The next time you go to an Indian restaurant in Milano, just ask them where you can paan. Perhaps they'll make it themselves. THanks for tagging me, it was a fun exercise. Now I get to choose three other victims, huh? :)

Angela Hi! I have missed you! I almost wrote you yesterday to ask where you were. I kept checking your blog but it wasn't updated. Will pop along there now.

Saaleha said...

Well the sugarcane juice, I can vouch for. Here we get it in winter, some fresh ginger juiced in with the sugar cane. Delicious.

And the paan, I'm not a fan, but my husband is. As for the other suff, I haven't tried any of them, but they sound delectable.

Dave said...

Hi Lotus, just a howdy from az to say I'm ok and hope your fine. That drink got any alcohol in it?
Well we all got new blogs while you were gone and by the way I didn’t know you were still posting while on vacation. Nobody can figure out the others blog or how to comment. I’ll blame it on my little brain and blogger. LOL
Well I’m still me always in trouble. LOL Just me and the dog. Have fun you woman of the world you.
Examino Dave

Lotus Reads said...

Hello saaleha Mmmmmm, the ginger sounds like a wonderful addition to the sugarcane juice. Why isn't it a summer drink, I wonder? Is it too warm there?

Hi Dave I tried leaving a comment for you but it wouldn't let me. You're on beta blogging or whatever that is. You should look into it. Thanks for stopping by.

Madhu said...

Mmmm... just came back from the long weekend here in TO and reading your post makes me hungry! I think a close cousin (of sorts) to the sugarcane juice would be tender coconut juice. I have fond memories of the coconut tree climber (yes there is such a profession in India!) climbing the 4 coconut trees and tossing down the young coconuts for the young 'uns waiting eagerly. He would then use a sickle to lop off the top of the coconut and we would get to drink the juice. The ritual didn't stop there, he would then take back the nut deviod of its juice, split it in two and use a piece of the shell to scoop out the tender flesh of the coconut, we would all eagerly use the nut scoop as a spoon, and be all dribbly-happy after savouring the sweetness.

Here's a picture of a young vendor splitting the coconut

Dawn said...

Lotus, looks like it is better....Blogger gets up my nose sometimes!!!!!


J said...

What a fun meme. Maybe Hello Melissa will tag me...if not, maybe I'll do it anyway...but it's going to take some thought. :)

Saaleha said...

actually we get sugarcane throughout the year, but only in winter do they add the ginger. Makes it extra special in my view

Lotus Reads said...

Madhu Thanks so much for that wonderful trip down memory lane. I, too, remember the coconut tree climber - how we would wait to see him climb that tree on agile limbs! It was quite a feat and yet, they did it so effortlessly. On this trip home recently we were greeted at our hotel in Cochin with tender coconut water as we checked in - such a nice touch, I thought!

HiDawn Are you also a fan of beta blogger (if that's what it's called)? I've got to look into it. If it's better than than what we're using now, colour me interested!

HelloJ It is a nice meme isn't it? I'm not sure Melissa is aware I've tagged her, perhaps I should dash her off a quick e-mail. Would love to see your list!

Hello again Saaleha Love your name, btw. OK, I get it now. Ginger in the winter because it's heaty. Really great idea!

booklogged said...

Oh, oh, oh! What fabulously exotic food. I have never wanted to be wealthy, just comfortable; but I think I need to reach for a little higher than 'comfortable' so I can afford to travel more and taste the foods of the world. When I do get to travel, tasting the food is as much a part of the trip as seeing the sites. Yours is a very fun meme.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello booklogged and thank you for your wonderful comment. I just had the pleasure of looking at your meme and it is equally droolworthy, if not more! ;) I especially love that you included recipes. Thanks so much for playing, you're a sport!

Bhaswati said...

Fantastic picks, all, Lotus! I have to say you have great taste. Your descriptions brought all the items to life. I feel like having some sugarcane juice right now!

Am I glad you mentioned Mishti Doi? :)
Yes, it can be made easily at home, though we mostly buy it from sweet shops.

The MTR mixes are actually pretty good. We have tried the dosa mixes, and the results have been rather yummy.

Chloe said...

this paan looks wonderful. i am amazed by all these colours!

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks Bhaswati! Loving food as I do, it was hard to narrow it down to just 5! I just HAD to include mishti doi, I have such a hankering for it. I am sure it is available in Canada, but I don't know where! Thanks for the endorsement on the MTR products, now I will be more prepared to give them a shot.

Thanks chloe The colours are wonderful, aren't they? I just took a peek at your food blog. Your pictures are simply out of this world - you should be a food photographer when you're not being a journalist! Truly beautiful, I would give a lot to take pictures like that!

La Gringa said...

I loved your food choices and the pictures made me hungry. I've been in Honduras for 5 years and have never tried tamarind. Your article has prompted me to seek it out.

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for the honor of being listed on your blogroll!

Lotus Reads said...

Thank you, la gringa I cannot tell you what a delight it is to have found your blog. I look forward to reading more about your adventures in your adopted country! Also, if you do get to try sweet tamarind,you must let me know what you thought of it :)

Amin said...

That was a hunger-inducing post.

As for paan, I remember my father and his friends used to miss out everything except lime paste and betel nut. Now I know why!

Your descriptions of paan sounds quite delicious. We sometimes chew cardamon seeds here after curry, or with a cup of tea, and it's delightfully refreshing in the mouth.

As children we were treated to the delights of sugarcane where we would suck the fibrous ends and taste the fresh sweetness. I haven't done that for nearly 40 years. I must see if I can get some somewhere. I know my own kids would love it.

Anonymous said...

Paan's still the favourite.