In the midst of all the studying and pointless planning, I continued my perennial quest for culinary prospects. More than finding amazing restaurants, I usually seek out places which sell fresh vegetables (exotic) and herbs, not to mention cheeses, curry pastes (semi-exotic) and the like. I love Maison de Gourmets in Chennai and Bangalore, American Food market in Chennai and Food Gourmet in Bangalore. But none of these places ever served Kaffir lime leaves or galangal (though I did find it once at Food Gourmet) or shiitake mushrooms, let alone miso paste and the like. Even ingredients like brussel sprouts, zucchini are rare. I would manage with whatever I did find (including in Namdharis and other such joints in other cities).
Well, today made me the happiest. I really am the happiest man today and I doubt whether there is anything that can spoil my mood today (unless I meet a liar, hence, I am staying indoors!) I was hunting for some ingredients as today is Thai-day (you didn’t know!?). Surely, I wasn’t looking for kaffir leaves or galangal as I had nearly decided that they are only available to the major restaurants (especially at 4-5 star hotels). So I hopped from one store to another and wasn’t satisfied. Hence, I decided to drive over to a Namdhari where I know that most of the ingredients should be available. I took this sequence of narrow roads to go there and saw some colourful activity at a house in a narrow gully. People were loading and unloading crates of yellow capsicum (bell peppers) and bok-choy. I simply had to stop and mustered requisite courage to enquire into their business. Would they sell me their goods? Yes, they said. Even if I didn’t buy in bulk? Yes, again. Was there a minimum quantity I had to buy? No, only as much as I wanted.
I was simmering with an excitement which grew to unmanageable measures as I passed one crate after another. So that you may fathom what warmed the blood in my veins you must know my relationship with vegetables. I adore them. No, you still don’t get it. I dream about them. Hmmm, nope! You still don’t get it. Let me help you: I once swore that I would marry a garlic bulb and take a vegetable garden in dowry. Now you get it? Fresh, tender, sweet vegetables drive me crazy. I can simply hold each beautiful supple zucchini in my hand and cry or admire a ripe avocado for hours. Don’t even ask me what I would do with freshly plucked cherry tomatoes and capsicum! So imagine my delight as I slowly walked past the crates. There was nearly everything I had ever imagined out there. Looseleaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, bok-choy, Brussel sprouts, basil, iceberg lettuce, zucchini and so many crates of wonderful veggies which titillated me no end. The only picture that came to my mind was of Po (the Panda) in the Jade Palace, hysterically going from one item to another.
To cut a long story short, I found all I wanted and more. This place happened to be the supplier for all the Taj hotels and other retailers. They even had kaffir lime leaves and galangal, rhubarb and so much more. The prices were much lower than what the retailers quoted. I got what I was looking for (except mushrooms) and had a wonderful Thai-Day.
The first set of pictures is my attempt at conjuring the delightful Mien Khum I once had had in Benjarong. The dish is amazingly simple but delightful once in your mouth. I had received bored and skeptical looks when presented this dish and predictably all of them transformed into surprised appreciation. The last dish is simply fragranced rice with Thai yellow curry.