Monthly Archives: November 2013

Roadside Eating

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I have been craving for some Delhi style paani puri and the rolls that Kolkata is famous for. And since I am at neither of these places at the moment, the best I can do tell you to go and explore the world of Indian fast food.

A lot of times when you hear people talking about traveling to India, they are worried about catching a stomach bug. The water is not always clean, and it is an serious issue, but despite that and the dirty hands, Indian fastfood is best enjoyed on the streets with the traffic whizzing by.

Disclaimer: None of the below photos are mine or taken by anyone I know. I am sorry that they have not been properly credited, but I am thankful for the photographs.

Here are my favorite munchies from the streets:

Paani puri/puchkas/golgappas: The names might be different but they all mean the same. Tangy and sweet flavors bursting in your mouth. A fried dough ball is stuffed with mashed potatoes and black chickpeas, and dipped in tamarind and spicy mint water.

Warning, this is one of the messiest of foods to eat, what with the puchka dripping, but trust me when I say, it is definitely worth it.puchka

Best place to try: Ambala, where there is a shop that serves a round of 10 puris, each with different flavored water. Yummy!

Avoid: Hyderabd-they a do strange version of it, filled with warm chickpeas.

 

Bhelpuri: My brother has fallen ill numerous times on his bhel adventures, but that has never stopped him from trying another plate. Essentially these are puffed rice mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, chillis and coriander. It can be served dry or with a generous splashing of sweet tamarind chutney.bhelpuri

Best place to try: Delhi

Avoid: I am yet to eat a bad plate of bhel

 

Tikki: Perfect for the cold winter months, these are crisp flat cakes made of boiled potatoes mixed with onions and shallow fried. They are served right off the pan, and topping including chick peas and curd along with radish and onions. Each seller makes his own little variation.tikki

Best place to try: Delhi during the winter months

Avoid: not a big fan of what is served here in Mumbai and Nasik

 

Momos: This Nepalese import used to be ubiquitous during the winter season, but these days you will find them at many street corners. Similar to dumplings, these are stuffed with either chicken or finely grated vegetables, and served with a  spicy sauce.momos

Best place to try: I still dream of the ones we used to order in Kolkata

Avoid: If in doubt, order the vegetarian version, though the non-veg is better

 

Sevpuri: small, flat dough circles are fried and individually topped with potatoes, black chickpeas, curd, and fried gram garnishing. You are unlikely to come across this outside of the state.sev puri2

Best place to try: anywhere in Maharashtra

Avoid: this is made really well here

 

Kathi Roll: or simply rolls, these are rotis made of rising flour, and more or less shallow fried, and then filled with the yummiest of stuffing’s, and a generous heaping on onions and then rolled for your pleasure.kathi rolls

Best place to try: Kolkata

Avoid: at stalls that are not packed.

 

Samosas: this is a triangle shaped dough that is usually stuffed with a spicy mix of mashed potatoes and peas, and served with a sweet tamarind chutney. Some places also serve it with piping hot chickpeas and curd.Dilli Haat, evening with Shubha Mudgal

Best place to try: these are mad really well across India, but are more popular in the North

Avoid: when in doubt, find another stall

 

Kachoris: flaky dough stuffed usually with yellow lentils and spices and then deep fried. Served with a tangy and sweet tamarind chutney.tumblr_mdnfedofhg1qb34yy

Best place to try: I only started eating them here so Nasik for me

Avoid: those packed variety sold by Haldiram. They are vile.

 

Shakkarkandi: this is basically a sweet potato chaat. The vegetable is either boiled or grilled on coals and then peeled and chopped. It is simply sprinkled with salt, chili powder and chaat masala. Lovely during the winters.shakkarandi

Best place to try: Janpath in Delhi while browsing the kitschy stalls.

Avoid: this is the only place I have tried it…

 

Vada Pav: This is one of those dishes that is associated with Maharashtra, the other being sevpuri. A fried ball of spicy mashed potatoes is placed in a bun and is topped with spicy garlic chutney. They can be had for breakfast, or as an evening snack, and is essentially the Indian burger.vadapav

Best place to try: anywhere in Maharashtra is good, but the best I have had is from a tiny stall in Panvel (Mumbai)

Avoid: I am yet to eat a bad one

 

Writing the list I realized our fast food uses a lot of potatoes and a lot of it fried. These are definitely not something that you should be eating daily if you want to be on good terms wih your body.

 

Which ones are your favorite?

 

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A Clean India. A Healthy India

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We generally do not participate in contests (this might be our first), but the topic for this –sponsored by Dabur– is something that we encounter on a daily basis living in India: how can we build a stronger, healthier and more immune India. And the 20th of this month being Universal Children’s Day, makes it even more appropriate.

Once you have a baby, you notice things that you never thought of before. And, so now before I buy new clothes, I worry if it will bleed color, or if the furnishings at someone’s house are clean enough to take my baby. Cleanliness is my pet peeve and with reason.

India still has a long way to go when it comes to basic hygiene, and that is all the more important with young children at home. Not only because it will help protect them against illnesses, but since children imitate adults, it will also help save numerous future generations. Water and sanitation are the biggest problems when it comes to ensuring immunity in children.

Clean water is one of the most important tools to ensure healthy children. There are still places in India where there is no running water, and people sometimes need to travel a few kilometers before they can pump water for their household use.

In all the cities that I have visited there is no continuous water supply, rather areas are allotted certain timings when they should store water for use. And even then, lack of maintenance leads to low pressure. Contaminated water causes diarrhea in children, and repeated episodes of such make children more vulnerable to other diseases.

Percentage of population with no access to sanitation (via UNEP)

Percentage of population with no access to sanitation (via UNEP)

Close to election cycles, we read in the papers about certain state governments handing out laptops or bicycles. Instead they should be investing in something that is longer lasting, such as maintaining current water systems, installing new connections as per the norms so that every household in the country has access to clean drinking water.

Another important and basic issue is sanitation.  Anytime someone uses the restroom, they should wash their hands with soap and water. There are still hundreds of millions in India who defecate openly according to the United Nations. When these people do not have access to sanitation facilities, it is near impossible that they would have access to clean water. And water borne diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of five.

Does everyone know this? (via UNICEF)

Does everyone know this? (via UNICEF)

I think companies by law should be required to engage in CSR by putting aside a certain percentage of their revenue depending on earnings. The state governments should chart out slums, towns and villages where people are missing basic and essential elements that should be accessed by all irrespective of socio-economic background. Companies in turn should be asked to contribute to these areas, and show yearly progress.

It is by no means an easy task but then nothing that is of importance comes on a silver platter. It will by all means be an uphill battle, but one, when won will lead to lower mortality rates and a country that is proud of its infrastructure.

Flow with Love in Ahmedabad

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Diwali, Term Break, Family Wedding..so many things going on and too many things to write about. The past week or so has been jam packed with various experiences, one that I really wanted to share was an activity we did during Teach For India’s Mid Year Retreat in Ahmedabad.

As a part of an experimental session, Teach for India provided us with an opportunity to participate in an activity called, “Flow with Love.” Now, before you get any weird ideas on what this means, let me just clarify all what it meant. Flow with Love consisted of us leaving our cell phone, money and all things we utilize and supposedly “need” in our day to day lives and explore the city for 24 hours. Scary? Yes! Interesting? Definitely YES! Humbling? Yes Yes Yes. This activity was all of that and so much more.

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I won’t go into all of the details, but I can just say that Ahmedabad welcome us (I did the activity with two of my friends) with open arms and gave us so much more than expected. Auto-Rickshaw drivers gave us free rides, people offered to pay for our food and a sweet security guard let us stay in the Gandhi Ashram and lent us his blanket.

What amazed me was how people were so nice, no one ever questioned us, but instead wanted to help us in each and every way. I often thought, if I was asked for help by a stranger that involved giving money, would I have been that nice? Would I have been that trusting? Honestly, I wouldn’t have been. What also puzzled me is what hinders people, including myself from refraining judgment and showing genuine love and care for others without any expectations? This experience made me think of my class, my students, family and friends. Have I always had no expectations from them? Honestly, the answer is no. Having no expectations from anything is not something I do all the time. And why not? I have read a hundred quotes that say that having no expectations help you lead a peaceful and happy life. How many of us actually practice this?

Jhama Mazjid, where we able to take a quick 10 minute nap.

Jhama Mazjid, where we able to take a quick 10 minute nap.

The experience has gotten me thinking. What is the harm is offering help to a stranger, like those who in Ahmedabad, or can I really have no expectations from anything? I am just going to try and practice having no expectations, let’s see how it goes. May be it will make me calmer, happier?

Food Before Crackers

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Diwali definitely centers around food and crackers, and here food features prominently. Back home I remember my mom preparing ladoos, chaklis, and mathris among other things. Other than the ladoos it was whatever took our fancy. Sometimes, shakarparas, other times items for chaat.

In Maharahstra however all households prepare the same snacks, and in huge quantities. First off there are atta or wholewheat ladoos, and we finished making around 200 of those today. Definitely not a person job. Then there are sanjoris/karanjis, chaklis, sev, anarsa, shankarparas, and chiwda. Out of this some is consumed at home, while the rest is distributed to friends and family.

Luckily most of the food items get prepared by a cook who is hired by a few households. Basically you take all the ingredients and the storage boxes over to the house where the cook will prepare the snacks one person at a time. It took my MIL almost three hours to get ours prepared.

Here are a few of the yummy snacks. Don’t tell me you are not tempted to take a few bites!

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Ladoos

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Chiwda, shankarparas, and sev (L to R)