Monday, January 21, 2013


For my first week here I skipped breakfast. I know. Not healthy, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat curry and spice that early in the morning. Or was it just that I couldn’t bring myself to actually get up early enough to eat breakfast? Either way, it was the worst morning decision I have made while living here. Breakfast food at the A Block canteen knocks my socks off. I am a fan. Not all of the food described below is breakfast fare, but much of it is.

Pongal (no photo yet): If you recall, I mentioned that the holiday celebrated last Monday was Pongal. There is also a dish called pongal. I’m not exactly sure what it is made of, but if I recall correctly it is rice and dal. I think of it as thick Indian cream of wheat. Really thick. Eat-with-a-spoon thick. It is awesome. There are some spices in the pongal that make it savory and mildly spicy. I think pepper, chilies, and ghee might be the cardinal ingredients in this dish. It is served with coconut chutney and sambar which adds a whole new dimension to the dish. It is also filling enough.

Iddiyappam, aka The Best Breakfast Ever
Iddiyappam: This is my favorite breakfast dish. Hands down. It is made of very thin rice noodles (with a very small amount of pulse) that have been boiled/steamed (?) into little pancake-sized nests. The noodles stick together well enough for you to tear pieces off with your fingers and dip into coconut milk before slipping it down the hatch. Amazing. Not very filling, but amazing enough to eat until I can no longer swallow.

Nobel, mixing up the idly batter.
Elizabeth oiling up the idly tins.
Elizabeth spooning batter into the idly tins.
Donna cutting up onions for the tomato chutney
Idly batter ready for the heat
On the stove
Nobel, Donna, Paul and Divya cooking up a storm. This is Paul and Divya's kitchen.
Divya and Paul make a good team
The Paul and Divya cooking show.
Paul making the chutney
Divya removing the hot idlys from the trays,
So delicious!
Kept warm in a pot until ready to eat.
Idlys and tomato chutney!
Idly: This is pronounced like “Italy” with more of a “d” sound rather than the “t” sound. These are made of ground raw moong dal (a type of lentil, I think) and ground raw rice mixed with salt and water. It is made into a batter with a similar consistency as pancake batter. The batter is then poured into shallow little tin dishes that stack into a pot for steaming. They are then steamed to perfection. The texture is spongy, yet moist. I wish I could accurately describe the taste of these little delights. The best I can come up with is mildly savory with a hint of a salty aftertaste. They are served with chutney and sambar for dipping. I had the pleasure of making these (or watching The Gang make them) for dinner after Bible study last night. It was such a fun evening.
Vadai, not "wadda"
Vadai: When I was first asked if I wanted this dish I thought I was being asked if I wanted “water” (that tells you a little how to pronounce it) so I replied “No thanks. I have my own.” I’m sure I confused and amused the inquirer with my response. I also wish I would have said “Yes, please! Two if you don’t mind.” Vadai are made by soaking black gram (or vigna mungo… a type of lentil) in water then made into powder (I’m assuming you accomplish the second part after drying the gram out?). It is mixed with pepper, onion, chilies, and other spices then fried in oil. Best served with coconut chutney and eaten hot…. with tea.

Egg Oothappam- fun to say and fun to eat. Just ask Charlie.
Egg oothappam: Fun fact, the base ingredient in this dish is also what you use to make dosai and idly (rice and lentil). This is a fun little dish. A favorite of Charlie’s. The best way for me to describe it is a rice pancake that it flipped onto a fried egg and then “sealed” together through more flipping on the grill. It has a similar texture to the dosai, or a moist pancake. It too is served with sambar and chutney (often both coconut and tomato).

Mosambi juice: The mosambi fruit is a citrus fruit that taste like a mild sweet lime. It is not very impressive as a raw fruit, but when juiced it is pretty tasty. It reminds me a little bit of a sweet, mild grapefruit juice. Nice and refreshing, yet not too sweet.

A note on prices: I generally pay anywhere from $.75 to $1.00 for a meal and that is if I order juice or tea. I just found a Fresh & Honest coffee stand near the Psychiatry department on the college campus which HAPPENS to be on my way to the bus every morning. I can get an amazing, yet small, cup of coffee for $.16. Fresh & Honest seems to be the Starbucks of India. I do not mind supporting them.   

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