From late May to mid-June, our family of four visited India for nearly three weeks. It was my first trip back in 9 years. It was my son's first trip and my daughter's second trip to India- but she was under 3 years old the last time we visited, so it was as good as being her first one. The only thing she remembers from our 2014 trip is sitting on her grandmother's couch and watching Chhota Bheem!
Here are some scattered food-centric thoughts from our trip, with a few pictures, and in no particular order.
1. In terms of weather, May is not the best month to visit Maharashtra, on the west coast of India. The month was chosen for us by scheduling constraints- the kids have almost 10 weeks off from school, and it is perhaps better to go at the tail end of summer than during the height of the monsoon.
For my daughter, what made up for the sweltering heat and humidity were the mangoes. Fresh, in-season mangoes were a revelation for her. She watched as mangoes were taken down from her grandparents' backyard mango tree, and then set down in straw to ripen to perfection.
These alphonso mangoes are buttery, smooth, and sweet as can be. Other than fresh mangoes, she enjoyed mango ice cream and milkshakes and pickles and chutneys. (Her brother refuses to eat mangoes; he says they taste like soap to him.)
|Fresh mangoes- cut and eaten
on the hour, every hour
|Raw mangoes being bedded down in
straw to ripen naturally
2. Mangoes were not the only gifts of nature that the kids got to enjoy. The very first day we arrived, we bought these lychees from one of the many wonderful street vendors. As he promised, they were sweet and juicy. (We do get lychees here, rarely, at the Asian market). The kids also got to taste black-purple jamun or jambool, and tender coconut water from a vendor at the beach. They were not big fans of the mildly astringent taste of jambool. My daughter was a little weirded out by the texture and slightly briny flavor of slippery coconut jelly!
3. Eating in- We got to eat incredible home-cooked meals from the kitchens of our parents and aunts. At my mother in law's home, we ate idlis and dosas with fresh chutney, and many wholesome Southern Indian lunches.
My parents have a wonderful lady who comes in every morning for a couple of hours and prepares magical meals. Among the dishes she cooked for us were thalipeeth, bhakri with jackfruit seed curry, misal pav, upma, and the breakfast you see below. My mother herself made gobi manchurian, which my kids loved, and lots of buttery toasts for my son who would eat little else!
My aunt likewise treated us to homemade pohe, pateta par eeda, ragda patties, and a plethora of interesting store-bought snacks- like vada pav flavored khakra. She introduced my daughter to those jim-jam biscuits (filled cookies with a jam center) that I used to love as a child, and they were an instant hit.
|A home-cooked breakfast of spinach puri, veg curry,
cucumber salad, and raw mango chutney
4. Eating out- Over the three weeks, we certainly ate out a whole lot. We ate all the must-haves of Maharashtra- pav bhaji, batata vada, Naturals ice cream, Frankies. Plus the usual Indian standards- Indo Chinese food and Punjabi food.
|Upma plate at Cafe Madras
in Kings Circle, Matunga
|Pav bhaji- excellent, but needs more pav
and less onions!
|Thecha- a green chili paste condiment
in the making
|Medu vadas for breakfast picked up
from a small Udipi place
|The puranpoli thali, described above
|Sweet syrupy paan after lunch
|A stray cat has adopted my parents and shows up
every morning in their yard for food
|The langur outside our hotel window,
making a play for a child's snack
|My parents' backyard
|A view of the valley in Panhala
|Tabak Udyan with its famous
a super decorative hibiscus
|A small beach near Juhu, Western Mumbai
|Back in his own yard