Lunchbox

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When did I realize that I have finally grown up? The day I turned eighteen? Nah! There were enough people around me that hastened to reassure me that a teenager is not really an adult. After all, the right to vote hardly matters- especially when you consider that even adults in India don’t exactly weigh all the options carefully when they select their preferred candidate. So when did I finally graduate to adulthood? The day I packed my own lunch dabba, of course.

I must mention here that I have always considered myself a passable cook. That mirage was shattered when I decided to depend on my culinary skills to feed myself three times a day. After a few disastrous attempts at managing my meals alongside the numerous other (academic and non academic rigors!) demands on my time, I gave up. Reconciled to Indian vegetarian food at the canteens on campus (which is pretty OK,actually), I elected to not expect too much of myself.

Therefore, when one day I did not have any choice but to pack my own tiffin, I debated which item would be least likely to be challenging,yet could be tasty. Combing through the dusty recesses of my mind, I stumbled across a piece of useful advice from Amma. In instances of time and vessel shortage, a mixed rice or pulao would be your best bet. So I decided on Vegetable Khichdi. The moong dal would add to the nutritive value, the veggies would add colour and rice would provide the necessary bulk. After rummaging around for the whole masalas (packed thoughtfully by Amma), I started off. The big stumbling block most of the time is the location of my room and proximity to the common pantry. Each round trip takes around three minutes, which makes it imperative that I plan well and carry all items with me in the first round. Being the scatterbrain that I am, I find this to be a mammoth undertaking. But I manage!

After forty five minutes in the pantry, I ended with a very satisfactory result. For those of you just starting out in hostel life or life away from home, here is the recipe (simplified for the lazy ones like me)

Vegetable Khichdi (Veggie Hotpot)

Ingredients:

  1. Rice- 3/4 cup
  2. Yellow Moong Dal- less than 1/4 cup
  3. Cloves-1 or 2
  4. Cinnamon-1 stick
  5. Green chilli-1 ( if available)
  6. Tomato-2 (medium size)-finely chopped
  7. Ginger-1/2 inch piece
  8. Oil, Ghee- for seasoning
  9. Jeera-1/2 tsp for seasoning
  10. Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
  11. Chiili powder- add to taste
  12. Salt-to taste
  13. Jeera powder-1/2 tsp

Method:

  1. Soak the rice and dal in water.
  2. Meanwhile, add the oil to the pan. When the oil is heated, you can add the cinnamon and cloves and roast for a minute. Then add the jeera.

To make do with the limited number of vessels I have in hostel, I just use a cooker to prepare the seasoning and then pressure cook the rice and dal after mixing with the seasoning.

3. Now lightly roast the ginger and add the tomatoes and all the masalas.

4. After lightly roasting the rice and dal (post removing the water in which it was soaked), you can add around 2.5 cups of water and salt and pressure cook till it is done.

Congrats, ghar ka khana is ready!

 

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And my love affair with Chai continues

Flashback to circa 2008-the penultimate year of my under graduate degree in Mumbai. I proudly proclaimed to my group of friends that I never consumed any beverages with caffeine or tannin. I never felt the need for them after all. If I was energetic, I stayed up and concentrated on my studies. If not, I slept. Simple. My audience gasped in disbelief. What about during exam time, they wanted to know. I definitely turned in by 10 PM, I answered nonchalantly.

Forward to 2013. A student at a top business school in Singapore, I unabashedly drink 2 cups of coffee and 2 cups of tea a day. This purportedly helps me concentrate in class (oh! it is now necessary to stay awake in class, given that each lecture is worth around S$200) and complete my assignments on time. Being in Singapore though, has made me yearn for the famous cutting elaichi flavored chai that is available in roadside shops. It would be unfair though to say that the chai here is horrid. Tea with milk (Tek Tarik) is quite popular at the ubiquitous food stalls that line my college campus. Not only that, you have variants: teh kosong (tea without sugar), teh C (with evaporated milk and sugar) and teh O (black tea).

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I have to confess at this point that although I can critique the tea and coffee I drink to formidable levels, I am not very adept at making it myself. This has had the effect of making me extremely choosy about which brands of ready-made/premix tea and coffee I purchase. To any fanatical chai/coffee addict on the lookout for that perfect cuppa, I would recommend Lipton’s Teh Tarik and Nescafe Regular as the closest to our Indian variant. To those of you that can be a bit more experimental, I have heard that the hazelnut flavor and the Nescafe rich variants are good. I haven’t braved myself enough to try these though.

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Having found my perfect cuppa now, I am convinced I can live here now for many more years to come!