The Missing Dhokla

Dhokla is my favourite Indian snack, well, now that pani puri is off the menu. At least four nights a week, my husband buys a small box from Haldiram’s on his way home from his office. Some of you may be asking, what on Earth is a dhokla? Well, the best way I can describe a dhokla is as a juicy, spicy, spongy cake, topped with mustard seeds and coriander. This might sound strange but trust me, it’s delicious. Dhokla is native to the northern state of Gujarat, but luckily the juicy snack has found it’s way down to Maharashtra!

One evening my husband brought home a huge amount of dhokla, more than we could eat in one sitting. The prospect of having some for breakfast the next morning was really exciting (yes, extremely exciting, dhokla is exciting). I went to bed that night thinking of how fabulous it will be to have dhokla for breakfast. The next morning, my stash of dhokla crossed my mind before I had even sat up!

Photo credit: thehindu.com dhokla

Photo credit: thehindu.com

I waited until my husband had left for work and our maid had finished her work before delving into the fridge, I didn’t want to have to share it with them. I know, it was selfish and greedy, but I had looked forward to this moment for more than twelve hours. I opened the box and to my dismay, only a very small single piece sat alone in the box. I had built up ten tonnes of anticipation over this lavish dhokla breakfast I had planned, I didn’t even enjoy what I did have because I was feeling deflated. I sent a message to my husband, “why did you eat my breakfast dhokla, I made you a nice breakfast”. He responded with, “I didn’t eat any dhokla“. Then it dawned on me, my cheeky maid had taken it.

I love the lady who comes to clean our floors and wash our clothes, she also works at my in-laws house so I have known her for nearly two years. She speaks enough English so we can have a joke together and she works very hard. She is sassy, funny and loves Alfonso (which is important because he loves her). I first met our maid on my first day in India when she burst into my bedroom and started sweeping, it gave me a huge fright and I was a little scared of her for several months, but now I feel very comfortable around her and enjoy her company.

When it happened a second time, dhokla went missing, I was about to offer her some until I saw she had already helped herself.  A couple weeks later, we went for lunch at my in-laws place and our maid was there helping my mother-in-law. We had brought dhokla as a side dish. My mother-in-law, knowing that the maid couldn’t resist, gave her a big plate of it saying “she loves dhokla.” We all laughed, the dhokla thief included.

I cannot really begrudge our maid some snacks and since she has started taking dhokla, I have offered her food more often. I guess it’s not just me who get’s excited over dhokla!

UPDATE: What happened next…

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The Repatriate Binge

There is something special about food from your own country, the food you grew up with. I love Indian food but being an expat, there are those times when you daydream about food, salivate about food, and when you happen to get your little mits on some imported food, you feel like you’re holding diamonds in your hands.

Those who have travelled or lived abroad will understand the cravings you get. When I arrived in England, after a year of living in India, the first thing I ate was a vegetarian version of a full English breakfast- it was divine!

vegetarian english breakfast

Vegetarian full English breakfast! (photo credit: sentrymedicalgroup.org)

After that gorgeous meal, I continued on a six week binge eating session, which involved the following items:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Halloumi cheese
  • Emmental cheese
  • Wensleydale and cranberry cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Cheese scones
  • Cheese and Victorian chutney sandwiches
  • Cheesecake
  • Beans on toast
  • Peanut butter
  • Vegetarian sausages
  • Chip shop chips (really thick and greasy ones)
  • Guacamole
  • Burritos
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Pickled onion monster munch (crisps)
  • Poppy seed rolls
  • Tiger bread
  • Fruit yoghurt
  • Rolo yoghurt
  • Chocolate cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Almond slice
  • Cranberry sauce on roast potatoes
  • Mince pies (a Christmas treat!)
  • Chocolate limes (hard boiled sweets with chocolate in the middle)
  • Fudge of every flavour
  • Sunday dinner with cheese and nut roast!

The first two weeks I was back in England, I was having two cheese, tomato and crisp sandwiches for breakfast! I couldn’t get enough of them! You may pick up on a theme here, I love cheese.

The result of my food reunion?

I gained 18 pounds (that’s over 8 kilograms) during my six weeks in England, which I thought wasn’t too bad considering everything I had been eating. The weight gain is noticeable, I’m very lucky Indian clothes are loose and I can still fit in them! So, I’ve come back to India heavier than I was, after being told I should to lose weight before I left (not by my husband, someone else), but I seriously don’t care… I do not regret a single delicious mouthful! Yum

Peanut Butter, My Old Friend

When you move to another country, it is not long until you start dreaming those foods you once took for granted, foods that your new country couldn’t care less about. You start thinking about absurd things you would do for just one mouthful, you find yourself bargaining with your own imagination.

I had one of my food prayers answered this week when I found peanut butter. Wow, peanut butter. I have lived in India for nearly six months now and just holding a jar of peanut butter made me feel quite emotional!  I thought about how excited I was when I found mozzarella, and the later disappointment I felt was when it tasted plastic socks (but I still buy it and still eat it, the ghost of cheese is better than no cheese at all!). This peanut butter probably wouldn’t taste like the British sunpat peanut butter I love so much. I noticed this Indian peanut butter was called sundrop, this half-plagiarism added to my doubt. If they couldn’t think of an original name, could they make good peanut butter? I bought it anyway, peanut butter is peanut butter!

peanut butter pug puppy yummy expat foods

 

That night I couldn’t sleep, Alfonso and my husband had already been sleeping deeply for hours. I had just finished my book, ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ by Paulo Coelho, the ending was so lovely and thought-provoking it was hard to drift off. My solution to this (along with many other simple problems) was to make a cup of tea, I left the luxury of our air-conditioned bedroom and stepped out into the kitchen. When the temperature reaches 48oC during the day, the heat lingers all night. I am sure you could cook food in that kitchen without using an oven or stove.

I remembered the peanut butter. I stuck a spoon into the warm, soft peanut butter. The Tavares song, ‘heaven must be missing angels’, instantly started playing in my head. I started to dance around the silent furnace savoring the moment, sundrop tastes just like sunpat. Oh, sundrop. How could I have ever doubted you? 

I went back to bed, straight to sleep and dreamt of marmite. Oh, what I would do for a taste of marmite!