Inevitably I am going to have to write a blog about food and to be honest; I have been postponing it for way too long. Not at all because I don’t like he food here, quite the contrary because I can’t figure out how to write it and how to account for all of the amazing food here. So I will do it in stages and in the spirit of this blog, give each dish its own story.
“ Ladies, Breakfast is on the table” my Dad yells from the kitchen, the sound resonating up through the narrow stairwell of their house in Germany. My mother and I trudge downstairs, our stomachs rumbling, eager for the hot coffee and the delicious food my father has surely cooked. We stop dead at the doorway as soon as we smell the fermenting rice and see my father at the stove, expertly removing the flat shallow tray with small depressions that are filled with piping hot, steamed rice balls.
Oh no. Idli. Not Again.
My mother secretly rolls her eyes and I let out an exasperated sigh. Somehow my Dad has found a liking for these dry, sour-tasting balls of steamed fermented rice from South India and is convinced that we share his taste.
“Did you make anything else?” I inquire, trying not to sound too much like a whiney spoiled child.
“Why would I, I made Idli!” my dad says with great enthusiasm, “And I have perfected my Sambar, the best Sambar in South West Germany, see instead of using the ground coconut and pigeon peas I have found that if I fry the urad dhal……..”
I swear I see him do the little Indian head bob. It is times like these I wish I had normal parents.
Idli is definitely something you either hate or you love. Or maybe it is something you have to learn to love. Either way, my hating has turned into a craving in the past 2 months here. Idli is probably the most common dish eaten for breakfast or dinner, traditionally with Sambar which is a stew/chowder like dish made with pigeon peas, tamarind, ground coconut, tomatoes and lots of chilies. You dip the Idli into the Sambar and in many places they will serve it with Veda, which is a lightly fried savory donut made from Green and Red gram. It is the most filling and delicious savory dish. The Sambar takes the edge off the slightly fermented taste of the Idli and aside from tasting great it just feels good, in my mouth and in my stomach. A simple, filing, healthy, tasty meal. Yum
On my way to work I buy a South Indian coffee. South India coffee is quickly becoming my favorite kind of coffee. It is generally about 80% coffee ( Arabica I think they grow here) and 20% chicory which gives it this delicious, nutty, caramel flavor. Their coffee made the original way (read non-instant) is as following. The coffee-man will brew a small but really potent espresso-like shot of coffee and add this to hot, full-fat milk in a kind of metal bowl. He will then pour, back and forth between the bowl and small metal tumbler until it is cool enough to drink and has this delicious, frothy layer on top. To this they add about 3 spoonfuls of sugar, probably adding to its deliciousness factor.