When I arrived at the Delhi airport and presented my customs form, the man behind the desk looked at it and shook his head. “This is not a proper address,” he scolded me gently, “where are you going?”
“Chennai is a big city. How will we find you there if you don’t have a proper address?” He slid the form back to me.
“You want me to put this whole address into this little space?” I asked, feeling mentally disheveled after my 21 hour trip.
“Yes, please, madam.”
I obliged the little man and when I was finished scratching out all of those tiny, little letters into the margins of my customs form I slide it back to him.
“See!” he said with a smile, “we have learned something today.”
“Yes,” I smiled back, “That North Indian customs forms don’t have enough boxes for South Indian names.” It was three am, and it took me another three months to learn just how enlightening a conversation that really was.
I’ve learned that South India and North India are very different places. Although I knew it previously, I have learned much more about the details, reasons and nuances of that difference. Different food, traditions, languages, attitudes and religions.
I learned these things not just from this little research project on food along the Silk Route, but from taking the initiative to go find out for myself. Often, when people try something new that initially attracted them and they find out it is hard, they are afraid or they think it’s not for them, it is because there is room for learning. If you have traveled and do not yet know that what you have to learn from it is how little you know, you should just stay home.
It takes some maturity to learn that difficulty is okay, some confidence to believe that because you are not good at something the first time around doesn’t mean you lack the capacity, and some courage to step beyond your comfort zones and boundaries to discover something new. I harp on these things – maturity, confidence and courage – a lot, I know. Because I find that most people display these characteristics the least when it comes to food and love.
India taught me a lot about food and relationships. Perhaps JJ and I would have done better had I understood India better. Maybe I should have made curry. Perhaps JJ and I would have done better if he had watched this video on the Indus Valley Civilization. Who knows. All I really know is the food is awesome.
Also, I’ve learned that I like tamarind in my Coconut Chutney to balance the curry leaves. I wanted to provide you with the recipe for it before we moved on to China and the rest of Asia on our little food adventure along the Silk Route.
Coconut Chutney (from showmethecurry.com)
- Shredded Coconut – 3 cups
- Channa Daal – 1/2 cup
- Ginger – 2″ pc
- Green Chillies – to taste (slit)
- Cilantro/Coriander Leaves – small bunch
- Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Asafoetida – pinch
- Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Dry Red Cillies – 1-2
- Urad Daal – 2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Tamarind – to taste
1. On medium heat, dry roast the Channa Daal till it changes color and gives out a wonderful aroma.
2. Transfer the Daal into a bowl with a little water. Allow it to soak.
3. Next dry roast the Coconut on medium heat, till it changes color and gives out a wonderful smell.
4. Once done, transfer into a blender.
5. Next to roast is the Ginger and the Green Chillies.
6. Cook for a few minutes, till they start caramelize. transfer to the blender once done.
7. After that, toss the Cilantro (leaves plus the stems) and it cook till they wilt.
8. Transfer into the blender.
9. Drain the Channa Daal and add into the blender.
10. Add Salt and Tamarind to taste.
11. Blend to desired consistency by adding Water.
12. Pour into a serving bowl.
13. In a small skillet, on medium heat, heat the Oil.
14. Once hot, add in Mustard Seeds and allow them to splutter.
15. Add in Asafoetida and Dry Red Chillies. Cook for 10 seconds.
16. Add in Urad Daal and cook till they change to a light golden color.
17. After that add in Curry Leaves, mix and turn off the stove.
18. Pour the seasoning over the chutney.
19. Serve with Dosas, Idli or Vadas.