Part 3 : Kacha Badam

One of the main agendas in our daily routine is the evening excursion. We try to take different routes every day, coming across a variety of shops, and our interest is mainly in the food items that are on sale. So far, we have seen quite a variety of vegetables. Some, which we instantly associate with Kerala- Bird’s eye chilli (Kanthari), Banana flower (Vazhakkoombu), Tapioca (Kappa), Colocasia (Chembu), Arrowroot (Koova) are ubiquitous. Then there are some like spring onion roots, bitter beans and a variety of mushrooms- which are quite exotic to us. There are many more, but we are still learning their names.

Last week we chanced upon a shop in our neighbourhood which specializes in goods from the far east. Manohar, in his usual adventurous spirit, bought some ready-to-eat Japanese seaweed soup, while I chose some instant ramen from Korea and dried Shiitake mushrooms. The instant noodle was a hit, but the seaweed soup is an acquired taste, at least in my opinion.

Aizawl has a good number of bakeries also, offering freshly baked treats. One day, we got some fresh bread for breakfast. There were badam cookies for sale and I bought some of those too, as I love the flavour of roasted almonds. Anyways, it turns out badam isn’t always badam. If I had listened to Bhuban Badyakar earlier, I would have known that he was trying to sell kacha badam, raw groundnuts. The cookies were yummy, by the way.

So badam isn’t badam, paratha isn’t paratha either. We went to have breakfast at a local eatery and ordered paratha and chai. Anyway, we got parathas. Elsewhere, we would call them Bhatura or Luchi perhaps. Quite tasty and popular, as I would realize later. Many people roll them up and have it with their morning tea. The office canteen serves Paratha with Chana and you might have guessed- Chana isn’t chana either- it’s a mild curry made of boiled green peas.

We also explored the Saturday market in our locality. Every item imaginable was on sale- Fruits & veggies, fish & meat, clothes, footwear, and other trinkets. Around the corners, there were small stalls where one could have a bowl of Chaw-Noodles, with a choice of toppings. Some ladies were selling sticky rice cakes steamed in banana leaves which reminded me of the ilayada, although we flavour the cake with coconut and jaggery. “We cut it up and fry it” – a co-customer explained, “you could eat it as it is too, but the fried sticky rice cake is very tasty”. Some stalls had bottles of a yellowish liquid for sale- lemons the size of mangoes (and called Nimbu, for a change!), freshly squeezed into water bottles. We didn’t buy any though- our refrigerator among other household items was yet to arrive from Indore. “We will try everything”- said Manohar, eyeing the variety on display. We bought some fresh pumpkin leaves, some other vegetables for a week’s supply, and some aarsa vun paih– skinless chicken for dinner. On the way back home, we enjoyed a bowl of chana with piping hot parathas.



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