Monthly Archives: January 2014

An Introduction to Indian Cuisine

If you’re interested in Indian food then this is something for you. Indian cuisine is quite extensive and this will just scratch the surface, but should still be somewhat informative. You might want to check out the spices glossary as well.

The basics

The staples of Indian cuisine include, but are not limited to: paneer, gravy, rice, roti, onions, ghee and spices, such as cumin (jeera), garlic, capsicum and coriander.

Many meals come in veg or non-veg variants. The non-veg is usually chicken but it can be mutton too. Fish isn’t that popular, except for some parts of the country (Goa, Kerala). Beef or pork is usually served only in tourist resorts and almost always in non-Indian meals.

In the restaurant

When ordering food you usually have to combine different dishes; not all items on the menu are complete meals by themselves. If eating in company it is customary that everyone gets a little of everything, and this is how the waiter will serve the food, unless told otherwise. A basic paneer and rice meal is enough for two.

The serving dishes are, after the initial portioning, placed on the table. In some restaurants a waiter will hover by the table and eagerly put some more food on your plate when it starts looking empty. If they’re awkward with the portioning – many are – it gets awkward for everyone, kind of like being with a stranger in an elevator that is half the size it should be; you don’t know if you should look at the plate, the waiter, the ceiling or your phone. Oh look I got a message! Ah, no I didn’t. Remember to be silent and not to breathe, otherwise they might take offense. I might be exaggerating a bit.

If you have a meal which can be eaten without cutlery, remember to use your right hand, since the left is generally associated with something else than eating. Once done with the meal, you’ll be served a so called finger bowl; it’s a cup with warm water and a piece of lemon in it. Don’t drink it – it’s not dessert tea! Clean your fingers in it and press the lemon for some added citric freshness.

You should also get a bowl filled with different colored tiny bits. Those are jeera seeds – some coated with caramel, some with mint and some just plain. There might also be a few chunks of sugar in the mix. These are breath fresheners and are meant to round off the whole culinary experience. Put some in your right hand – not the left one – and flip the whole load in your mouth. Enjoy – and don’t forget to pay the bill. Tipping is optional but it’s always nicer for everyone if there’s a little extra.

Continue reading An Introduction to Indian Cuisine

Sugarcane Juice

I’ve heard these bell equipped hand or machine cranked gizmos all over the place ever since I got here, but haven’t really stopped to actually see what they do. Until today that is.

What they do is they press out juice from peeled sugarcanes by crushing them. Often some spices are added as well, such as lemon or ginger.

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The mix consists of a 50-50 mix of sugarcane juice and crushed ice. It’s actually really good. It even has these dark little bits floating around, reminding you that still a moment ago this was a sugarcane.

It is said that the juice contains a lot of nutrients, and although I was at first sure this would be diabetes in a cup, the sugar content isn’t actually that high. Someone spoke of a glycemic index of 43, but I can’t relate to that.

If you have some of this stuff make sure it’s fresh. Due to the sugar, and generally less than optimal hygienic conditions at the vendor, a lot of micro-organisms like to set up shop in this.

Dry Day

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As I was ordering dinner today and wanted a glass of the house red wine to go with it, I was informed that today was dry day. These occasionally occurring days usually conincide with national holidays or significant religious zeniths. This day was republic day.

What this means is that there is no alcohol available, the restaurants don’t serve it and the wine shops are closed. Or at least partially, sometimes you can buy stuff in the alley behind the shop – but don’t tell the authorities.

The reason for this practice is that alcohol and being intoxicated at any level is seen as an unpure thing, something that should be avoided when you’re supposed to be celebrating whatever it is that is being celebrated.

My tip? Stock up on some beers in the fridge and have one if the thirst is overwhelming, unless some personal conviction tells you otherwise.

Return to Pashan

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Yesterday’s bull session left me feeling like I had a few cobwebs in my head this morning, so I decided that I needed to get out and do something. Pashan is a small town on the outskirts of Pune, a bit South from Baner. I’ve been there once before, and have since then wanted to explore it a bit more. Today was as good a day as any, so I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and headed out.

If you look at the map, you’ll notice that this little rural town has some interesting, off-limits areas, such as: a Military Area, a Defense Research and Development Organization and, my favourite, the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory. Which sounds like a place waiting for a catastrophic experiment failure, resulting in a rift in space-time by creating an inter-dimensional black hole and thus irreversibly changing life as we know it. This has, to the best of my knowledge, however not yet happened.

Anyways. Pashan has some nice small market streets and alleys. Not that different from other parts of the Pune perimeter, but nice nonetheless. Good place to bike to when you need to move around a bit and happen to have your camera with you.

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Long Distance Beers

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I haven’t seen my friends back home in a while. That is understandable, being on the other side of the globe has a tendency to cause that. But that doesn’t have to mean we can’t have a bull session with beers! I suggested we’d have long distance beers over google hangouts. So this evening me and some of the brosephs sat down for a couple of hours and did some catching up, it was lots of fun and I don’t think it left anyone feeling thirsty.