I said in December, at the beginning of our 2 months in India, that Babs and I were doomed to fatness and bliss. To be precise, we both put on 4kg each while we were in India. This post is about the precise moment when I pushed off down this slippery slope.
A little context for the uninitiated: One of the big ways Indian relatives show their love for you is by feeding you. (I think the other big way -- if it's a very close relative, like a parent -- is that they buy a house for you. So that they know exactly where you are, so that they know exactly where to go to feed you.) If you tell them "I'm not hungry, I already ate," it's like you're telling an angsty 14-year-old who just wrote you an epic confession of their affection that you just want to be friends.
Most of the time this results in just garden-variety overfeeding. A mandatory 2nd or 3rd helping at any given meal. Fine. We do that anyway. For better or worse, our India relatives love us for it.
The thing is, some of our them love us a little too dangerously.
"You're going to get me into trouble at dinner. They're going to ask me why I'm not eating as much," I whispered weakly that December evening in Bangalore to Aunty Shaistha.
"You're walking to dinner. You'll be hungry again by then," she whispered back.
"But dinner is at Mahboob Pasha's house."
Mahboob Pasha is Aunty Shaistha's brother-in-law. He lives in the same building. One flight upstairs.
"It's just a small bowl. Just a little taste," she says.
Just a little taste then.
My tastebuds go into overdrive. My eyes bulge. My mind races. When was the last time I had a taste of rice noodles? London? 7 months ago?
"I don't... think... I can... stop at just one bowl..."
Aunty Shaistha smiled. She knew she has me in the venus flytrap of her khara seeve casserole now. And yet dinner obligations -- inevitably involving at least 2 mutton dishes -- remained at hand. Surely I couldn't tell them the saboteur of their lovingly prepared meal came from downstairs.
And so I found myself turning into a dinner bigamist. Slippety slide. And then find out our hosts upstairs pull the exact same manovuere any time we're trying to leave their house to go to our next engagement. Slippety slide. It doesn't matter that we've just come from downstairs, or that downstairs is our next engagement "So what you've eaten downstairs? You haven't eaten up here yet." Slippety slide.
And now, in Singapore, if I'm going out to meet friends for a meal, but something yummy is cooking at home, I'll sneak a little bowl before I head out. "Just a little taste," I tell my Mum.
This dish -- Aunty Shaistha's khara seeve -- is the dish that started it all. If you are able to resist, you are clearly a better human being than I. But probably a little hungrier.
Makes ~6 servings or up to 10 "little tastes"
1 cup yellow lentils, uncooked
1 large onion, chopped finely
2-3 tomatoes (depending on size), chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 green chili, stems removed
A large pinch of curry leaves
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
Salt to taste
1 packet rice noodles (Mehra brand was used here)
- Drizzle a couple of glugs of olive oil in a chef's pan set on medium-high heat
- On a separate hob on the stove, boil half a kettle of water
- Add everything except the rice noodles to the chef-pan, and fry for ~5 minutes
- Add boiling water until the chef-pan is half full
- Bash and twist the rice noodles while still in its packaging, to break the noodles into small sections
- Add the broken rice noodles to the chef pan
- Stir until the rice noodles and ingredients are evenly distributed, then let sit for about 10 minutes until the rice noodles have softend and soaked in all the liquid in the pan
- Add salt to taste if necessary