The sudden gushes of wind and cooing of the birds instantly prepare us for the onset of the monsoons. The intoxicating smell of the wet earth brings with it one of the most cherished seasons of India. The promise of fried food and piping hot chocolate whilst sitting against a fogged glass pane listening to the tap-tap of the raindrops is a thought which often gets us cravings.
After a hard day, the smell of fresh hot pakoras suddenly brightens up the dull skies. Be it bread pakodas or panner, isn’t it just the right snack to tuck into with chutney! It is available at every corner in this season and is made fresh with every downpour.
Monsoon is the best time to take your taste buds on a sensuous ride. From comfort food to luxury taste-bites, the monsoon palette caters to all. Be it eating corn (butta) or having chicken Corban blu, the cold wet surroundings ask for these ‘pick me up’s.
When a person thinks of eating in the rains, butta is an absolute favorite. With a dash of lime and sprinkle of spice, the crispy warm corn becomes for a quick and yummy snack. Sizzling pakoras, bhajiyas and other fried savories sell like hot cakes alike. And go perfectly with garam chai with cardamom or lemon grass.
The heavy downpour brings with it a hoard of people into coffee shops with its sinful and comforting, strong aroma of coffee; these joints are very much loved. Hot brownies and melted chocolate cake are a perfect accomplice to that mocha. A little cheating on your diet for these treats is always allowed.
Steamed momos are another monsoon favourite, especially for the “eat healthy” moto-ites. With a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian stuffing, their warm soft texture is a welcome surprise. For the health conscious, those preferring organic or count their calories, hot soups are a venerated option. Easy to make home cooked broths with garlic (fresh stalks) and vegetable purees make the soups even more scrumptious. Soups with fresh greens, boiled and simmered with lemon, can be great antidotes to the various illnesses we are all prone to in this weather. Feel too hungry for just soup? Fresh or toasted bread with a dollop of butter can be a great accomplice.
Think of comfort food and everyone turns to the two minute noodles. A house favorite, noodles are the easiest to prepare, have the fastest cooking time and are comparatively lighter on the pocket as well. With several healthy versions now available along with the variants in texture and flavor, a few diced vegetables and you are good to go. Nothing beats sitting with your closest friends and diving into bowlfuls of these instant noodles over endless conversation, be it at that favorite French window by the garden, or your “spot” in the college canteen. Try your next bowl with a dash of cheese.
Warm foods are always a boon in this cold wet weather, but the monsoon foods are much awaited and the rains arrival promises their subsequent debarkation. From the blush tinted peaches to the bright red cherries, monsoon fruits are simply lip-smacking. Peaches, rich in antioxidants are used in juices and go great with a light vanilla bean custard in a fruit salad. The cherries make for a great cake and other dessert ingredient. Rich in melatonin (a sleep benefactor) and antioxidants it acts as an anti-ageing agent and work great against your muscle pulls.
Happy food times bring with them some complete no no in this weather, where germ protection and prevention of diseases becomes first priority as the onslaught of the rains brings with it various germs and illnesses. Simple measures and habits of hygiene can be followed to have a safe monsoon. Raw, unwashed foods should be avoided. Fish in a lot of forms are stale and unsafe for consumption. Semi cooked meals should be cooked perfectly before serving. Shifting from cold salads containing chicken and fish can be replaced by sauteed variants with a dash of healthy olive oil.
Fine dining is an altogether different experience in the monsoon. Filoparcels are an exquisitely stuffed puff pastry deep fried with a crumb coating and are bite sized appetizers. Risottos, pastas and spaghetti are other options that can be enjoyed in this gloomy weather. If you are one of those with a sweet tooth, a sizzling brownie with chocolate sauce makes for the perfect ending. Barbeques are also great options but have to be prepared in gazebos and other semi open spaces as the rains won’t let the coal burn. Cottage cheese, and battered chicken with fresh lime and pudina (mint) chutney are lip smacking. And as the saying goes, everything is better with a little wine in the belly.
So this monsoon, go out there. Absorb the drops and maybe crib about the lack of sunshine. Find new alleys and eateries, maybe in tiny nooks and maybe bang in the middle of the city. Soak in the season. Use it to your advantage and savoir the foods it has to offer. Explore. Eat. And repeat.