Thursday, January 21, 2010

Culinary Souvenirs Of India

Food is an easy medium by which to explore traditions and cultures in countries we travel to, and a souvenir in the form of food or food related objects – culinary souvenirs shall we say – make excellent keepsakes. Ornamental and serviceable at the same time, they also make lovely gifts for people back home. India is a rich country for culinary souvenirs.

While some culinary souvenirs cost you nothing, beyond the effort of obtaining them – one of the paper napkins from Britannia and Co. in Mumbai (embellished with a picture of their mascot, the owner’s per rooster and proclaiming, “There is no love greater than the love of eating”), there are some that could cost you every last bit of your allowance! Indulgence could mean you stir the finest saffron into your next dish or serve a special meal in a brass urli from Kerala. Some of the wines being produced in India are great as well.

Of course spices are one of the first things one thinks about carrying back from India but your culinary souvenir need not always be food; there are lots of other options. Every region in India produces indigenous cookware, spice mixes and traditional kitchen gadgets. Terracotta chattis and urlis from Kerala, bhaddus from Uttarakhand, even a tiffin or dabba like the famous dabbawallas of Mumbai, might add a little weight to your luggage, but in case you don’t fancy using these as utensils – fill them up with pot pourie or float candles in them!

Pick up east Indian bottle masala in Mumbai; a spice blend of 20 spices or more, individually dried in the hot sun, roasted over a slow flame, powdered, mixed by hand and tightly packed in air tight, dry beer bottles. The bottle is then sealed and properly stored and used to flavor curries through the year.

The east Indians use it for everything. They swear that the cuisine does not taste the same without it! The Bottle Masala travel far and wide; East Indian emigrants take it with them to Canada and Australia, and there are some restaurants abroad, like Namita Panjabi’s Chutney Mary in London, that uses it in their cooking. Bottle Masala differs in pungency, flavor, and even colors depending on the ingredients


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