Onam in God’s own country

Many years ago I found myself in Kerala during Onam. Did you know that it is a 10 day festival? The atmosphere in Kerala during Onam is simply so festive! It is like Diwali here. Almost every brand has a discount offer, shops are aglitter and everybody is on a buying spree.

Rasakalan

I spent Onam with a Malayali family to get a real taste of the festival. Onam is celebrated to re-welcome a much loved king to Kerala. Legend goes that Mahabali was a fine king who ruled over Kerala many centuries ago. During his rule, abundance and prosperity was the norm. Everybody was happy, so much so that they forgot the gods! This angered the gods and Vishnu came down to correct things. To cut a long story short, Vishnu managed to banish the king to the underworld(patal lok), but granted his wish, that once a year he could come to visit his people for 10 days and that day, things in the land would be as he left them. Hence there is an ambience of happiness and festivities for these 10 days.

Mathanga_Erisery

There are three highlights of Onam, which is most fascinating. Onam boat races, which appealed to the sport lover in me. I was lucky to be at the Ramada Alleppy during a Masterchef shoot. The property faces the Punnamada backwaters, this is where the boat race is held. The pookalam or the highly creative and beautiful floral rangoli outside every doorstep that appealed to the creative person in me and the elaborate sadya on the plantain leaves which appealed to the food lover me!

Aviyal

The novelty and joy of eating piping hot food and so many items on the leaf is unsurpassed. The items range from curries to dry vegetables preparations to pickles to chips and papad to the lip smacking payassams. Truly a feast fit for a king! There is a sequence for the food served. First comes the pinch of salt, the chips, the banana, the tamarind and ginger chutney (puli inji), the pickle (usually lime or mango) and the sabzi, usually French beans with carrot with a garnish of fresh coconut, pachadi (raita) and huge papaddums. This is followed by sumptuous curries like the olan – a mild curry with a coconut milk base and with vegetables like white pumpkin and brown eyed beans, sambhar – the universal favourite, kaalan – a sour, coconut curry with yam and raw plantains amongst other vegetables, errasseri – a roasted coconut based curry, aviyal – a mixed vegetable curry and of course piping hot and spicy rasam. The meal started with a spoon of ghee on hot rice along with a small helping of plain, unsalted dal. By the time I finished this sumptuous meal my shirt buttons were popping, still I didn’t let go off the palpayassam, thick, creamy, milky with fried nuts! Heaven in God’s own country!

Pal_payasam

I have another Onam trip to Kerala on my agenda and hope it materializes soon! Meanwhile, if you have Malayali friends try and snag an invitation to a Onam sadya, soon!

Advertisements

10 most expensive ingredients in the world

Caviar is next on our list of the most expensive ingredients in the world, after Kopi Luwak, Matsutake Mushroom and Yubari Melon. Caviar is associated with high end parties, opulence and the good life. What exactly is caviar? It is nothing but fish roe (eggs) that are salt-cured. Its look is quite inviting – tiny black pearls. It has an exquisite flavour coupled with a smooth texture!

Not all caviars are exorbitantly expensive. So what are those varieties and what makes it oh-so-expensive? Sturgeon caviar from the waters of the Caspian Sea is the real stuff. And the Almas Beluga caviar is the most expensive as the Beluga sturgeon spawns only once in 10 years! A kilo of it can easily sell for £25,000. Oh, by the way, ‘Almas’ in Russian means diamond!

#4 – Caviar

Call it a pleasurable treat or a status symbol, caviar has long been a delicacy inspite of being one of the most expensive things to eat. Caviar, as mentioned above is made by mixing unfertilized fish roe with salt. Sounds simple, isn’t it? No, the process is quite delicate and requires skilled hands to handle.

So, when it is an ingredient this exotic, there are certain rules that have been set by connoisseurs to even consume it. To experience the nutty, buttery and creamy flavour/texture of caviar, one must eat it absolutely raw with just a dash of salt. Make sure to slowly roll the eggs inside your mouth and bite-into to get that burst of flavour. Also, if you can have it from a crystal glass, there’s nothing like it! Besides this, just to jazz it up, some restaurants serve it as a combination with cream or butter and also on thin pancakes or bread.

Here’s some trivia that might interest you:

  • One of the oldest known delicacies – Russian tsars, ancient Romans and Greeks, all have consumed it!

  • Easily perishable, caviar can last for more than a day if well refrigerated.

  • It is also called the ‘food of love.’ Caviar contains zinc which is known to increase levels of libido!

  • Caviar can be heard – when the roes are rubbed against each other, the sound is similar to that of a ‘cat’s purr.’ How cool is that?

And now a list of some of the dishes from around the world that are pricey because one of the ingredients in it is caviar. Check this out:

  1. A burger named ‘Le Burger Extravagant’ from Serendipity 3 in New York.

  2. The very desi curry that goes by the name ‘Samundari Khazana (Seafood Treasure)’ from Bombay Brasserie in London.

  3. The ‘Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata’ from Norma’s in New York (this one contains 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar – $65 per ounce!)

  4. The Florette Sea and Earth Salad from Hempel Hotel, London.

I would definitely suggest you to give it a try if you get a chance. After all, such moments in life are priceless!

We will continue with our top expensive ingredients, till then please share your experiences with the posh foodstuff. And spread the knowledge by sharing and leave your valuable feedback. We love it!

10 most expensive ingredients in the world

And we are back with the #3 most expensive ingredient in the world, after the Kopi Luwak and the Matsutake Mushroom. This one’s a little tough to believe, because it’s a melon! Yes that’s right, a melon!

Melon

The Japanese Yubari Melons – perfectly round and smooth skinned, these hybrid melons are exclusively produced in the small Japanese town of Yubari. This pretty much explains the price and that’s why we rank it third on our list of expensive ingredients!

#3 – Yubari melons

Popularly known as “Dream Melons” these perfectly cultivated Yubari melons are Japanese in origin. Crossed with two cantaloupe varieties, these melons turn out to be distinctively tasty and orange-fleshed putting it in the category of uniquely expensive fruit. So, the next time you think of gifting something unique and expensive, consider these melons! A sure shot healthy gift!

Where do I come from?

The melons, as the name indicates are grown in Yubari. This small town in Hokkaido produces a limited number each year. Best produced in volcanic soil, this melon is an outstanding combination of Spicy Cantaloupe and Earl’s Favourite. This hybrid melon comes out perfectly and proportionately sweet and delicious. And that’s why it tops in the kingdom of melons.

Melon Pudina Cocktail

Worth it?

With the high price comes great taste and texture. The amount of care and maintenance that goes into the cultivation of this fruit is surely worth the price. The standard Yubari melons at the Japanese departmental stores range between $50 and $100. The superior ones are often auctioned in Japan at prices as high as $26,000 and more.

Yubari today!

Being such a big trend, this luxury fruit is now found on the shelves of most food stores in Japan, by virtue of being incorporated into various food products.

Some packaged stuff that you see when Yubari melon is on the shelf:

  • Yubari Melon Gummy – Well oh well! Who doesn’t like gummy bears and especially when in the pricey melon’s flavour?

  • Jelly – Yubari Melon jelly? Must try!

  • Kit Kat – Chocolate and the melon! Intrigued!?

Melon Slush

Here are some melon favourites of mine which can be easily done with these beautiful Yubari melons too. Like a refreshing Watermelon and Papaya Salad, a cool Melon Slush or go a little desi with Melon Pudina ka Cocktail or my very own Sago and Melon Kheer! The trick lies in just replacing musk melon with this one.

Watermelon and Papaya Salad

So, now on whenever you visit Japan, make sure to try this ‘Dream melon’, or if you can’t afford the fresh ones, try the foodstuffs with this melon flavouring.

As we continue listing our top expensive ingredients, you are welcome to share your experiences and feedback regarding the same. And don’t forget to share and leave a comment!