Poori bhaji and other culinary wonders

Twenty years ago I had poori bhaji for breakfast in Udaipur, India. I had three helpings, I thought it was the best breakfast I had ever had. For years I kept a note in my wallet so that I wouldn’t forget the name, should I ever go to India or otherwise be exposed to it again. Now back in India, I have had it every morning that it has been available, and to my great delight, during the past week that has been every day.

So what is it? The poori, also written puri, is deep fried bread, and the bhaji is a potato curry, sometimes with green peas added (the Udaipur one had green peas, and as a green pea lover, I’m extra happy when I spot this ingredient). The only problem I have had on one or two occasions is that I got a bland version adapted to what is considered to be the average western palate since I had forgotten to say that I wanted it spicy. If you have a chance, do try it! And avoid the bland version.

In Delhi I was fortunate to have an evening food walk with Akshaya, a very knowledgeable student and great guide.

Akshaya brought me to little holes in the wall around one of the busiest places I have ever been to, Chandni Chowk, in Old Delhi.

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Over a couple of hours and many stops at stands I wouldn’t ever have had the courage to buy food from on my own, I got to try real delicacies: aloo tikki (a hamburger-shaped potato based dish), samosas (you can see them being prepared here below), different varieties of stuffed parathas (flatbreads), one of which was filled with sweet condensed milk, lassi of course, one with saffron, one with rose, daulat ki chaat (milk and cream fluff with a little saffron added), jalebi (a very sweet pretzel) and kulfi, which is a kind of ice cream – I tried the pomegranate and custard apple varieties. I got very full. And had no digestive problems at all.

Towards the end, but before the kulfi, we sat down for a relaxing cup of milk tea, prepared by this gentleman:

In the course of the evening, we also visited a Sikh temple where the community kitchen serves around 14,000 meals a day, all free, all prepared with donated ingredients.

 

 

 

 

Starfish on the beach

What a relief! I never liked the cold, I never liked winters, and being a Swede, people often thought I was a strange creature. And now I was in Goa listening to the Ayurvedic Dr Rohit telling me that cold, be it weather or food, isn’t good for someone of my disposition! No wonder I always tend to head south.

I find it difficult to just lie still in the sun, but the beach in Mandrem is a dream for long walks, long slow walks, long meditative walks, long relaxing walks – just what a person like me needs, especially since the weather is guaranteed to be warm. The Mandrem Beach is simply ideal for the “no hurry, no worry” that I mentioned in my previous blog post. While walking, strolling, kicking sand, gripping mud with your toes, you can observe innumerable star fish, even more innumerable tiny crabs moving at the speed of light (ok, not quite but they are unbelievably quick) and suggestive patterns in the sand.

The only thing that disturbed me was that a song I never liked, Seasons in the Sun, got stuck in my head because of a line in its lyrics: “but the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach”.

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No hurry, no worry, no curry

The things you can do in Goa include an Ayurvedic detox cure, panchakarma. I’m now on my fifth day with an unpleasant intake of ghee (clarified butter) before breakfast, a strict vegetarian diet, an hour and a half of relaxing massages of various types and a daily steam bath. I constantly walk around with oil in my hair. Did you know, by the way, that having warm oil running on your forehead is total bliss? Well, at least for me. The cure is overseen by Dr Rohit, who gave a lively introduction to the Ayurvedic principles the other day. He talked about vata, pitta, kapha, hot, cold, air, water, fire, carrots, broccoli, ginger and chilli and how it all fits together.

Before breakfast there is also a 90 minute yoga class with Laura.

I loved the yoga for the few days I could participate. Then I got a problem and had to go to hospital (no, it had nothing to do with the yoga). I waited for two hours in a waiting room where everyone was accompanied by children, parents, wives, husbands and relatives. It became very full. When my name was called I didn’t understand where to go, in spite of everything being very well organised. “There!”, said 25 locals in chorus and pointed to a door. The doctor I met was kind, knowledgeable, patient and pedagogical. But he said I mustn’t do yoga for six weeks. Boring.

Maybe I can make more use of the sun beds and practise no hurry, no worry. Very difficult though for somebody of my disposition to lie still.

Or stroll around the village, little Mandrem Beach, practising no hurry, no worry.

The no curry doesn’t need practising – it happens by itself with the prescribed diet.

And the no hurry no worry can also be practised in another way, but that will be the topic of another post.