Sabzi (Hindi) or Vegetable is a vital component of any NORTH INDIAN meal (lunch or dinner)
Any combination of vegetables (in this instance: Steamed potatoes, Tomatoes, Bell Pepper, Spinach, Corn) are stir fried in oil spiced with cumin, turmeric, paprika and salt.
Roti/Chapati is Indian style bread made from unleavened stone ground whole wheat flour or atta is a NORTH INDIAN staple.
Served with cooling Raita or lightly spiced yogurt.
When the simple act of partaking food becomes a sacred event, one just doesn’t feed the stomach but feeds the soul.
A very good example is the traditional South Indian meal that is served on a banana leaf (biodegradable and lends a special flavor). The food is simple and wholesome, prepared from scratch, with love and devotion. The distinct aroma and flavors achieved by the correct blend of fresh spices such as curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon,cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater.
Whenever I travel back to my homeland, I have the pleasure of savoring such meals in the homes of my family members where tradition is still adhered to especially during festivals and formal occasions. The above picture shows a very basic South Indian vegetarian meal that consists of cooked white rice, banana chips, lentil papadam (thin, crisp, disc shaped, deep fried appetizers), beetroot poriyal (vegetable), savory lentil vada (fritter), yogurt and payasam (pudding made by boiling rice, cracked wheat or vermicelli with milk and sugar).
The wooden man is dressed in traditional South Indian attire of cotton dhoti (long loincloth) and angavastram (upper garment).
Where music feeds the heart and the stomach! 😀
Where: The New Moon Cafe, Keystone, Colorado
An amazing owner-operated casual classic rock cafe in the ski resort of Keystone who serve their entire menu all day, including a very hearty breakfast. The place also features a full bar, live music, and is kid friendly. What more could one want?
Wholesome breakfast: Fresh pan fried whole wheat bread (Paratha), seasonal fruit, fresh homemade yogurt.
Paratha [par-AA- THA] Hindi पराठा is one of the most popular types of unleavened flat breads in Punjabi North Indian Cuisine and Pakistan.
Prepared from pan frying whole wheat dough which usually has ghee (clarified butter) or cooking oil in it, parathas are often stuffed with vegetables such as mashed boiled potatoes or aloo, cauliflower (gobhi), radish (mooli), other vegetables and or paneer (fresh Indian cheese).
Parathas, particularly the stuffed ones, are simply eaten with pickles, chutneys and or yogurt on the side and make for a wholesome meal at any time of the day.
No discussion on India would be complete without mentioning its food which is as rich and colorful as its residents. And I am not kidding when I say that travelling from one region to another will not only introduce you to different languages and dialects but also to markedly varied cuisines.
And of course, spices are essential in our cuisine. The spice trade which began during the ancient civilizations was considered to be the trigger for the ‘Age of Discovery’ during which Europe began exploring for new routes to the East Indies.
I still have very fond memories of my Grandma’s kitchen where food used to be prepared the way it should be—from scratch. It was labor intensive but also a lot of fun. I know because I used to help. Water was drawn from the well in the yard, spices were ground in ancient stone grinders, so was flour for bread, batter for idlis (steamed rice cakes), dosas (crepes made from rice and lentil batter) and chutneys (fine and coarse sauces made from fruits, or vegetables and spices.) And when the food was being cooked, the aroma would fill the entire neighborhood. My favorite was the one of rasam (a light and spicy south Indian lentil soup.) It still is.
Now I would like to share with you some of my personal favorites.
I begin with a special Indian Vegetarian Barbecue which I had the privilege of indulging in last time I was in India. I wish to thank my wonderful cousin and her husband for this experience. We were in Khandala (a hill station near Mumbai,) in a private resort bungalow with our very own personal chef and this is what we were served on our first night there. YUM!!
Thick pieces of Paneer (fresh Indian cheese) marinated in spices, tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers, cilantro and mint chutney.
Mounted on skewers and slow cooked over charcoal.
Finished product served with vegetable biryani (basmati rice cooked with veggies and spices)!
Dilli or Delhi Haat : An open air food plaza and craft bazaar located in New Delhi, India.
New Delhi is India’s capital city.
Dilwalon ki Dilli
‘It’s a jungle out there and Delhi is one of the scariest!’
Or so they say… but to us Dilliwaalah’s (Delhiites), it is one of the most wonderful cities in the world. We embrace fondly both its beauty and its craziness. And we endlessly reminisce and sing its glory.
We wait patiently in the perennial traffic jams honking our horns every 10 seconds to make certain that someone hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. We squeeze through narrow streets and jostle with 100s of other shoppers in Chandni Chowk (moonlit market) to get to our favorite halwai (sweet seller) or Chaat (savory) shop. We haggle incessantly in the sabzi mandi (vegetable market) over a few rupees and demand free dhaniya (cilantro) and mirchi (hot peppers). Precariously perched, we ride the cycle rickshaws for cheap and then wonder how the poor hauler makes ends meet. We chomp on our golgappas (puffed crisp pooris with tamarind sauce) with devout passion and chat fervently over our aloo (potato) chaats (freshly prepared savories).
We shamelessly flaunt our rich in their comfortable bungalows in the upscale neighborhoods of the south as well as our poor in their slums in the east. We consider ourselves progressive and argue for intellectual freedom yet revert blindly to inane traditions when it comes to the crunch.
But despite all our failings, when it comes to heart, no one has one like us.
A street side stall where a vendor sells Soan papdi or Soanpapri which is a popular South Asian sweet with a crisp and flaky texture.
“Kaise diye bhai sahib?” What is the asking price, brother?
“Bees rupiah kilo behenji.” 20 rupees/kilo sister.
A conversation very similar to the above, modified to fit the situation and scripted in various regional languages, can be overheard if one happens to wander inside any store, or pass by a street shop on any given day in India.
I am not talking about the skyrocketing prices of fresh fruit and vegetables (that’s another topic altogether,) but of the way two strangers address each other.
The housewife who is trying to find the best deal she can as she goes around the market, addresses the vendor as ‘Bhai sahib’ [Bhaee-saab]. Hindi: भाई साहिब Bhai – Brother, Sahib- term of respect.
She uses this term even though he bears no relationship to her.
Similarly the tradesman or vendor responds with the term ‘Behen ji’ [Bahen-jee] Hindi: बहन जी Behen – Sister, Ji – gender neutral term of respect.
Indians use these terms often during the course of a typical day while doing business with strangers; such as while buying groceries, haggling over the price of fruits and vegetables, dealing with the milkman, or hailing a taxi or an auto rickshaw.
It is a means of establishing a temporary bond or kinship which places the conversation on a congenial and non-confrontational platform.
So on your next trip to India, these two terms should come in very handy.