Tastes like chicken



The Naga tribes eat frogs. We saw several baskets of frogs for sale in Kohima. It’s difficult to make out on this picture, but the frogs’ legs were tied together to prevent escape. A passer-by told me that the Nagas think of frog meat as medicinal.

Strawberries in Mahabaleshwar

mahabaleshwar strawberries


The fruit and vegetables available in Mumbai are generally fine, but after I had a particularly bizarre reaction (involving fever) to some strawberries I was wary of buying them again in the city. My parents and I drove to the hill station village of Mahabaleshwar (about 300km south east of Mumbai) in early May for the weekend. Mahabaleshwar was the summer capital of Bombay province during the British Raj. My great-great-grandparents were married there in 1867.

Mahabaleshwar is very pleasant, although super touristy. I think it would be nice in the winter when it’s a little emptier – although not so enjoyable during the monsoon when it’s apparently spectacular but sodden. These strawberries, at Rs 80 per kilo, were delicious – so much so I bought 5 kilos!

Methi thepla

Asha made methi thepla (pronounced MEH-tee TEP-lah) for lunch today. Methi thepla are a Gujarati flatbread, with mehti (fresh fenugreek). Methi looks a little like a cross between oregano and spinach, with an agreeably dark, slightly aniseed taste. I’d never had fresh fenugreek before coming to India. Her recipe was atta (wholegrain flour), oil, methi, turmeric, green chilli, coriander powder, and chilli. Although I’m pretty sure Asha didn’t use cumin, this recipe from Manjula’s Kitchen otherwise looks pretty damn close. She served the methi thepla with plain dahi (yoghurt), and a very sweet carrot and tomato dish that was something of a hybrid between a relish and a stew. C and I had the leftover thepla with fried eggs for dinner, which was delicious.


Sit down for…

I do wonder whether I should rename this blog ‘Indian advertising for beginners’.  When I was in Australia,  a friend mentioned that she had made up a song to sing to her new baby based on the infernally catchy I hate the chip chip. This ad, ‘Sit down for…’, for the cafe chain Cafe Coffee Day is from the same devil’s workshop and will stay firmly planted in your head. The ad also seems unusual to me in that it shows real Indians, albeit Indians from a pretty particular social class, rather than Bollywood stars.  By my reckoning the ad started to screen on English-language tv in early December 2012, in heavy rotation. It now doesn’t screen at all, and I wonder whether that has something to do with the backlash against it (visible in the YouTube comments) after the protests that followed the Delhi rape and murder.

The costs of shopping

When my husband and I decided to come to India, I started to research the cost of living. Firstly, I wanted to know how much groceries and eating out cost, but couldn’t find a lot of nitty gritty information. In this spirit, I give you a study in contrasts. I went to Godrej Nature’s Basket in Powai this evening. Godrej is a chain of health-tinged food market stores – we go there for things like proper coffee and beer.  They also tend to have better quality vegetables. For about AUD$42, I purchased everything you see in this picture – four bottles mineral water (my ongoing ‘digestive’ problems have meant that I have got over my chattering classes aversion to the plastic waste), four tubs of dahi yoghurt, four half-litre cans of locally brewed Budweiser (a locally brewed beer that does not use high-fructose corn syrup), a bottle of vegetable wash (also related to the ‘digestive’ problems), a block of butter, a box of muesli bars, small pot Haagen-Dazs, a packet of chips, a packet of soup mix, cheese slices, and some bacon.

Godrej shopping basket

By contrast, Asha went to Haiko (local large supermarket) today, and for $24 purchased: tamarind paste, 1kg chowli (cowpeas, a legume), 2kg biryani rice, 1kg chana dhal, 2kg moong dhal, 2kg masoor dhal, sengdhana, tomatoes, 2kg wholegrain flour (atta), and five different masala mixes.

Ice cream truck

Or, as I like to call it, an ice cream truck-truck.

Ice cream truck

Leopold Cafe

Leopold Cafe fresh lemon soda

The Leopold Cafe, in South Bombay (which C, in an attempt to make fetch happen, keeps on calling SoBo) is an expat hangout and apparently one of the best places to be if you want to be picked as a Bollywood extra.  The Indian food is very tasty and comes out quickly – the Western food is awful.

This is my fresh lemon soda, which comes as rather a lot of lemon juice, with a bottle of soda and a bottle of sugar syrup so you can sweeten to taste. I think it’s nifty and wish it caught on in Sydney, for those of us who have a sour tooth.

Blessed relief

Garden at Prince of Wales Museum

View from the cafe at Prince of Wales Museum. If you haven’t been to Mumbai, it might be difficult to appreciate what a cool drink of water this view is. The museum is well worth a visit, but it’s worth paying the admission price to sit in peace and relative quiet and have a cup of tea and a cool drink. However, I’m not the first person to think this way and I think they have trouble with lingerers… [Read more…]


We have a maid. Her name is Asha. Asha comes for about an hour a day, 6 days a week, and sweeps, mops, does the dishes and takes the garbage out. I think she’s about 45, with 5 children. Asha speaks very little English (even less than I speak Hindi), but we muddle along ok between her English, my Hindi, and a lot of miming. I like her a lot.

Fresh milk is a little hard to get hold of here (unless you buy raw milk, which requires boiling and the Centers for Disease Control don’t think terribly much of), and so when I last went to the big supermarket I bought a few bags of it. (Like cooking oil, it is sold in bags).  I had idiotic hipster fantasies of making ricotta using this recipe, but for unimportant  reasons didn’t get around to it. I’d had the milk for nearly a week, and assumed that it would be off. So, I put the bags in the rubbish. 

When I came into the kitchen this morning, Asha was carefully washing the bags of milk under the tap, rolling them back and forth under her fingers. She asked me if  I was sure I didn’t want them. I confirmed that I didn’t. She asked if she could take them for her children, and I agreed.


Street scene, Powai

View from the hot cheese roll stand

The view from the hot cheese roll stand in Powai. Yes, there is a Costa Coffee, yes the coffee is atrocious.