Friday, November 27, 2015

Finishing up the groceries...

One of the challenges we've faced here in China was the availability of groceries - especially the staples for our Indian cooking!! Of course, living away from India for the last 18 years has made me quite adaptable - make-do with what's available, and skip if not available!! It did help that I didn't really start cooking until I left home - so I didn't really have any favorite recipes requiring only 1 particular ingredient, and I learned to cook with what was easily found!! A somewhat slapdash style, to be sure - but hey, it works!!

Even with so much flexibility, I found China difficult - because even the very basics very hard to find here!! Quickly learnt to stock up on my twice-a-year trips to India - spices, lentils, and of course, black tea!! Seriously, I'm probably the only person in the world who brings tea to China - with the wide variety of green teas and herbal teas here, you would think I could find something to suit my palate!! And every time I've had visitors, tea and lentils are always on my list of things to bring with!!

And then there's the US groceries - none of these are essential, to be sure - but still, it's nice to have a box of our favorite Honey Bunches, and nothing can come close to Kraft mac and cheese - don't even mention the Rice Krispies or the Pop-tarts! Yes, all junk food!! These are all available in Suzhou, but at exorbitantly high prices - so anytime Ajey goes to Peoria on business, a suitcase full of goodies comes back with him!! The best part is, I can order everything from Amazon, he doesn't even need to go shopping!!

So, it's no surprise that the pantry is always pretty well-stocked at the Kulkarni household!! Which wouldn't be a problem, except that the moving company will not ship any food for us!! We either find a way to eat our way through our stocks, or end up giving away a ton of food before we leave! So about a month ago, started Operation Finish-the-Food!!! It's quite a difficult balance to achieve - to prepare a full meal using only pantry ingredients - obviously, some things will run out faster than others!!

Like red chili powder - I was initially at a loss when I finished this key ingredient - but I did have a ton of dry red chilies, and I just put them in the grinder - voila! - fresh chili powder!! And this fresh powder actually tasted better than the store bought one!! The spice mixes went pretty quickly too - so we had our last batch of chhole (chickpea curry), rajma (red beans), and pau-bhaji!! Finished up all the sprouts - missal is now a family favorite!! And sabudana khichdi for breakfast - got both sabudana (sago) and peanuts with that one!!

We almost had a crisis when I ran out of tea, though - that's one thing I just cannot do without!! I had a couple of boxes of the Hills Bros cappuccino mix, but those were soon gone, too - and we were down to plain old Nescafe!! After a few days with a grumpy start - I'm sorry, I need my morning cuppa to function - I'd had enough!! So the next time I was in Shanghai, I made a quick detour to the Indian store, Bhoomi - broke the no-buying-new-grocery rule for a box of Tajmahal!! 

The one thing I always stock up on - consequently, the one thing I have tons of - is rawa (cream of wheat or semolina)!! Upma and sheera didn't make much of a dent, and my favorite rawa dosa - well, Manasi grew sick of that pretty quickly!! So was scrambling for recipes to use it up - when, as always, Nupur to the rescue with this wonderful recipe for Jhaptpat appey! I've always made appey the traditional way, but this recipe is simply awesome!! Wonderfully quick to make, with no compromise on the taste - a keeper for sure!!!

We're literally counting down days on - and it doesn't look like I'm going to finish everything - I'm hoping to at least finish the packets that are open. The sealed packets I'm planning to take with me - everything else, will stay here, I guess - I'm not sure anyone is going to want my bits and pieces of spices!! Overall, a pretty decent job, though - even if I do say it myself - thanks to Ajey for making sure I stuck to the plan!! Makes life ways too - knowing what the meal plan is for the next 10 days!! Cheers!!!

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