Thursday, April 26, 2012

pani puri

Do you ever get cravings for certain foods? Deep down in your gut, past your stomach, into your very soul? No? Well I do. Every now and then. Sometimes it's because I miss home, sometimes it's because I'm tired of chain restaurants and sometimes it's because I'm blue and certain foods comfort me. Sometimes it's because that food is just so gosh-darned good that just thinking about it makes me salivate.

Usually that food is of the Asian variety, and today is no exception.

Well, Indian. I have cravings for Chinese and Singaporean dishes all the time, but after going to India (see tab above for a full listing), I've added to my mental list of delicious, crave-worthy foods.

So you might remember my gushing drool over this dish: pani puri.
Photo is courtesy of my friend, Nikka, on our unbelievable India trip

Well, I wanted to try and make it. I went to an Indian food store, but they had no shells. *insert sad face.

So I dejectedly walked away, leaving my dreams of savory and tart, crunchy and satisfying pani puri behind.

UNTIL, I was walking through a Korean supermarket and behold, what is sitting on the shelves?! You guessed it. Boxes of pani puri shells. Did I do a little jig and dance in the middle of the aisle? No. But you betcha inside me there was a hallelujah party going down. Can you guess how fast I snatched at those boxes even though there was no one else in the aisle? I think I qualified for the Olympics.

Ok, now that I have the shells, time for the other ingredients. After much emailing with my trusty friend, Anu, several questioning looks and confused head scratches, I went back to that first Indian food store and a kindly gentleman showed me the way of all things pani puri. He handed me a box of spices that had a picture of fruit on the front (I tried to conceal my American white girl ignorance confusion of why the box labeled "pani puri" was the incorrect box), and a box of green juice concentrate.

More internal dancing ensued.

At this point, I had pretty much all the ingredients to make the pani puri, but no earthly clue as to how to do it. Enter Anu. Again. She sent me a video, but it confused me and it was long. So I kind of decided to just wing it.

Here is what I came up with:

Puri (shells)
Pani (green juice)
Chat masala (spices for the potato-garbanzo deal)
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Tamarind-Date chutney

To Create:
1. Peel potatoes (cut them down to size--they cook faster. I only cut them in half after I figured this out, but you could cut smaller) and put in boiling water. Chop cilatro after.
2. Add in garbanzo beans when the potatoes are starting to feel soft. (Sorry I don't have a time on this, I just sort of gauged when the potatoes were almost done by cutting into them, then added the garbanzo beans so that they would be heated)
3. Once boiled, cut potatoes into whatever size you like. I made them smaller so that they would be easier to load into my shells. Efficiency, I say!
4. Season with the chat masala and cilantro. You can use as much or as little as you like- it really depends on your preference.
5. Prepare the green juice by adding water. Less water=more salty
6. Crack shell, insert potato mix, lob on tamarind-date chutney, drizzle some green juice and send that sucker to become best friends with your taste buds (don't worry, they're kindred spirits).

the spread.

watch where your drool lands.

Oh goodness. The sigh of satisfaction.

This was a pretty easy to put together, so no fear! As long as you get the spices, it's all good! And the shells. If you try it, let me know!

As for Abraham? He approves this message.

Tell me about your comfort foods! Which ones are default? Sweet? Savory?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


your love is amazing, steady and unchanging, your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet. when i am surrounded,
your love carries me.

hallelujah hosanna

in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [syn. reconciliation; redemption] for our sins.  

hallelujah hosanna

he is good,
he is good,
when there's nothing good in me.
he is light,
he is light,
when the darkness closes in.
he is peace,
he is peace,
when my fear is crippling.
you are true,
you are true,
even in my wandering.
the riches of your love will always be enough

hallelujah hosanna

give thanks to the LORD, our God and King,
his love endures forever.
for He is Good, he is above all things,
his love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,
his love endures forever.
from the rising to the setting sun,
his love endures forever.

hallelujah hosanna

he brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and
burst their bonds apart.

hallelujah hosanna

For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand

hallelujah hosanna

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and
with his stripes we are healed.

hallelujah hosanna

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but
for him who for their sake died and was raised.

hallelujah hosanna

these words are true, not just on Easter, but 24/7, 365 (+1 for leap year).

songs: forever reign- Hillsong; forever- Chris Tomlin; hallelujah (your love is amazing); in Christ alone

scripture: 1 John 4:10; Psalm 107:14; Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:15 (emphasis and inserts added)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

picture: Singapore

My mom is Singaporean by birth. That means that most of her family lives in Singapore. Since so many of my relatives live there, I've been there numerous times. Because we love family and want to hang out with them. So here are some of the pictures from this lovely island.

Singapore is a tropical country, situated just a smidge above the equator, so it doesn't usually get very cold. Unless you walk into an air conditioned building. Singapore has a pretty well developed electrical system, so there are a lot of these-- I usually carry a long-sleeved shirt or cover-up since I get cold easily.

The city is just that-a city; much like NYC or Shanghai, there are lots of skyscrapers, and the city is very modern and Westernized, however, there are still pockets and facets that show a little character and individuality.

Singapore is strategically located in Southeast Asia and seems to be a magnet for people from all over Southeast Asia. The inevitable result is lip-licking, drool inducing, wonderfully delicious food. Not only is there a lot of variety, but the meeting of these different cultures creates a delightful fusion of flavors. I like it a lot, in case you couldn't tell.

Any way, moving on. Here are some pictures of Singapore, and of my family. Enjoy!

P.S. I went to Singapore for Chinese New Year 2012, and here are my posts on those adventures:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

list it

As I mentioned here, I like lists. Lists are good. Sometimes I'll make a to-do list even though I've already started doing, just so I can cross some things off the list. Crossing things off a list is supremely satisfactory.

In the spirit of lists, I have made a list of 25 things to do before I turn 25. It's like a mini bucket list, but it sets a time limit on it, which means my tooshie needs to get in gear before my 25th birthday. Since my 25th birthday is a little over a year and a half away (quick, do the math, how old am I?), it seems a reasonable amount of time to squeeze all of these things in. Some are fun, some are serious and some you might roll your eyes at. It's ok, you can make your own list!

Without Further Ado, ze List:

  1. Go skiing
  2. Stop on the highway, just to take pictures of flowers
  3. Climb a mountain to see a sunrise
  4. Go hang gliding
  5. Scuba dive
  6. Sell something I've made to a stranger
  7. Grow tomatoes and eat said tomatoes
  8. Make a photo book of countries I've visited
  9. Organize my photos
  10. Read the whole Bible
  11. Take a photography class
  12. Make a dress
  13. Swim with dolphins
  14. Learn to drive a manual
  15. Go whale watching
  16. Purge my closet/apt
  17. Learn spanish
  18. Tone up
  19. Join a small group
  20. Go for a midnight picnic (with people, not on my own, silly!)
  21. Visit Harry Potter World
  22. Submit an article or essay to a magazine
  23. Participate in a photo challenge
  24. Fold 1,000 cranes
  25. Find a job I enjoy
I'm also posting this list on a tab above, and as I complete things, I'll cross them off (did you really think I was going to leave out the supremely satisfying part?) and maybe even write about it. :)

Publishing this list makes me a little nervous, because now, you all know. And I need to actually do said things. Eep. *Breathe in, hold, and release.
What about you?! What goes on your list? I challenge you to make your own, be it a over-your-whole-life bucket list, 25 before 25, 100 in a 100 months/days (I dunno, I made it up), but make yourself a list! And hop to it!

Speaking of hopping, how was your Jesus is Alive/Easter Day?

P.S. Sorry there are no pictures. They will come when things get crossed off lists.
P.P.S. Gold star for the first person who gives me an accurate count of how many times I used the word "list" in this post. My profuse apologies.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

picture: India

I am not an authority, because I have spent a grand total of 3.5 days in this beautiful country, but here are some shots I got, and these are the images I remember.

I wrote about my trip in great detail, as it was jam packed with so many sights and experiences. If you would like to read about it, I've linked them up below.

How It All Started: the planning and plotting, what else?

Day 1: flying to India; first tastes of pani puri (be still my salivating glands), Sarojini and Dilli Haat.

Day 2 (A): road trip to Agra; Taj Mahal

Day 2 (B): from the Taj, we went to Fatehpur Sikri; finished with a drive to Jaipur for the night

Day 3 (A): Hawa Mahal, City Palace, the Water Palace, Jaigarh Fort

Day 3 (B): Amber Fort and the drive back to Delhi

Day 4: Chandni Chowk, Red Fort, henna and a plane, whisking me away

Summation: Kind of an overview/thoughts from the trip

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

I loved the food so much, I tried my hand at making pani puri, and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself!

incredibly, India: in other words

City Palace, Jaipur
Because I haven't used enough words to talk about my three and a half day trip to Incredible India, I'm going to use even more (get comfy!).

Now that I've gotten the details and chronological order of things down on your computer screen, I think I'm going to break it down a little. I like lists, so prepare yourself! I didn't get to share all of my favorite pictures either because they didn't fit with what I was sharing or because I felt like there were already too many pictures and I just couldn't add more, so a few of those will show up as well.

Let me start with some general thoughts and observations. I sprinkled a couple of them throughout the retelling, but here is where I may get a little deeper than the sights I saw. I took a little notebook with me and whenever we were driving somewhere or still for a moment, I would try to jot some things downs so I wouldn't forget the moment or the thought that I had. Let me share a couple of those with you.
Outside Delhi, from the metro.
>>The air was visibly hazy when we landed. Immediately, I thought of China and the smog that lingers over the cities. This was even more blatant than that, for some reason. Despite the haze that would cause a place like Shanghai to seem overcast and gloomy, India was BRIGHT. The sun shone without impediment and this surprised me. You can see evidence of this especially in some of my pictures from the Taj Mahal, and the fact that we wore sunglasses everywhere.

>>Poverty and wealth appeared to coexist on a regular basis. A lot of places I have been strive to hide or push out poverty. Yet, I could see no such evidence of an effort to do this in India. Perhaps it is evidence of how deep the Hindu belief of caste systems has been embedded in society.

>>Arranged marriage is different than my understanding. Mama G had an arranged marriage. However, my conception of it was a lot narrower than how it actually happened. I'm sure this is not how it happens/happened in all societies that practiced a form of arranged marriages, but I had never really thought much about the practice. In India, there are arranged marriages, however, they are not set in stone and made without the input of the individuals. Yes, parents will choose a partner, but then, there is a trial courtship period where the couple can decide if this is what they both want. If they are not happy, they can break it off and the parents will find a new candidate. I'm sure even within these parameters there are extremes at either end, but this sounded a lot more reasonable to me. Mama G had an arranged marriage, but it wasn't something where she met her husband the day they got married and was forced into it. Their parents arranged the match, but they dated for a while before deciding that they wanted to marry each other. This scenario sounded much more like teamwork, and a lot less a form of power usage or control. (PS. I'm not saying that everyone should go and ask their parents to find them someone, or for all parents to suddenly give out applications. This was merely an observation and learning experience into a cultural tradition and practice that was unknown to me.)

>>Honking horns seems like a form of greeting. I know this happens a lot in big cities, but even if there wasn't traffic, people seemed to be honking.

>>I saw a lot of arches grouped in threes. This may or may not have led to a slight obsession with taking photos in said groups of threes, but hey, there were three of us...there were three archways... c'mon who WOULDN'T make that connection? No, but seriously, I noticed them everywhere. Is there a cultural significance to the number three that I missed? Three symbols of India (camel, elephant, horse)?  

>>Driving along, I noticed lots of walls that had brand names painted on them. Whole stretches of brick wall with "Coca Cola" painted in its iconic red and white. There weren't any shops or even hawkers near them. I thought this was curious. Did Coke just have lots of extra paint? Low budget advertising? I'll have to ponder that for a while.
Amber Palace, Jaipur
>>Traffic rules are more like suggestions. Suggestions might even be too strong a word. I thought traffic in China was poor, well I hadn't seen anything yet. I guess when you throw in herds of cows, camels pulling carts and the odd elephant bus, things tend to get a little...improvisational.

>>Men and women were separated everywhere. From the entrance to the Taj Mahal to security check lanes at the airport, there was always a separate line for women and men. This is where the gender population gap was very evident. There was always a long line of men waiting to get in wherever we were standing in line, but the women's line was always short or empty. I did appreciate a women's line for security checks of my person, though.

>>Across India, violence against women is frequent and often goes overlooked. It is almost a norm--however this puzzles me. There is a population gap between the genders, yet violence against and trafficking of women occurs often. Wouldn't something that is scarce be valued more? I didn't have time to really try and get into this, but it makes me wonder what elements are missing within family and even societal structures that could prevent this. Women should be valued inherently, but also because they are in shortage, yet they seem not to be. At least, not to the standards that I am accustomed to. This is a pretty big topic, and perhaps when I know more I'll delve into it more deeply.  

Produce sellers, Jaipur

I couldn't resist
>>The food is AMAZING. There is so much flavor and variety! I didn't have much experience with Indian food prior to this trip, but I loved it! Almost everything I ate was vegetarian (except I might have had meat at our continental breakfast, but I'm not sure), since Anu is vegetarian, but I didn't miss the meat at all. The spices and the flavors made the food anything but boring and I am excited to try and incorporate these types of foods into what I eat on a regular basis. Also, I know I mentioned this before, but I am in love with saffron lassi. Amazing. It cuts the heat and is so scrumptiously yummy. This also made me appreciate the lack of diversity in American vegetarian food options-- it would be tough to go from all of that flavor to having salad be the only veg option in a restaurant.

Well, I believe this is the last of my India saga. I wanted to wrap it up and add in anything I didn't talk about in the other posts, and I think I've done that.

I know you must be tired of reading about India by now, but I hope you saw how much I loved it and should you have the chance, take the opportunity to visit it yourself. I'm so thankful for my friends and for the chance I had to spend this time with them in India-- it was priceless!

Anything you noticed from my retelling or pictures that stuck out to you? Which photo was your favorite? Anyone know where I can get me some good lassi?

P.S. If you want to catch up, or re-read (bless your heart) any of my stories, I've made a page on the top bar that has links to all the days. Enjoy!
P.P.S. There's also one for Singapore, in case you're extra interested :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

incredibly, India: Day 4

A sari shopper
My last and final day in India. Did you get tired just from reading about all the things we packed into four short days? I got a little tired just writing it all out. But, I didn't want to forget about anything and I wanted to give you a pretty complete picture.

A couple days on the road, filled with walking, seeing, shopping and taking many pictures eventually caught up with us a little, and we slept in on the morning of the fourth day. Originally, Anu wanted to take us to the Lotus Temple and to Chandni Chowk, but we ended up cutting out the Temple and Nikka and Anu took a little more time to do that on Nikka's extra day.

We took our time in the morning, then the three of us and Anusree's mom headed to the subway station to go into the city. The subway car filled up quickly and we had a great time, talking about arranged marriages and her mom's experiences in the world of design and fashion.

Eventually we got to our stop in Old Delhi, and walked around for a bit. Anu's mama was looking for a particular sari designer that she had either known before or bought from before.
Exclusive designs! No plagiarism, got it?
Sari storage
Much like in China how there are people waiting for you when you get out of the subway stop advertising their wares and products, there were people waiting for us when we got off too. But, we had to follow them to their shops (also like in China). I guess carrying designer saris around just isn't done. So, we followed a young man who seemed to know the shop we were looking for through a couple allies and stepped into this little two story store front. To view the saris, we took off our shoes as we went up to the second floor. The floor was padded and covered with a white cotton-like fabric. I suppose this helped to keep things clean as well as provide a place to display the sari designs.

The colors were so rich and vibrant. I felt like my eyes were being dazzled and overwhelmed by the intensity of the colors. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of a piece they pulled to show us. The beading and designs are unique to each designer, so after I took that picture, they asked me not to take pictures of an actual piece, though I was welcome to take pictures of the pieces that were folded and stored on the open shelves.

A woman trying on saris

The beading of the sari is done on a sheer piece of fabric and then when the piece is purchased, they cut out the design and sew it onto a backing to fit the client.
One of the alleys

Anu and her mom didn't buy anything right then, so after we were done, we went looking for some jewelry makers. Chandni Chowk has a main street with alleys branching off of it. Each alley generally has a specialty-- saris, jewelry, paper, etc. I was looking for a particular gift. I had seen silver plated versions but wanted a full silver version. It took a while to find what I was looking for because the piece I had seen was actually Rajasthani in design and they didn't have the same thing in Delhi.

Eventually I found something similar, and made my purchase. They were going to oxidize it for me, so we had to come back to get it. While waiting, we went to this shop that was well known for it's food (EEP! Street Food! Huzzah!). I was pretty excited. Both Anu and her mom said that they would have never have come to this place if we had not been there, and that they were surprised that we were willing to eat street food. This is where I shrugged in response. I didn't really know any better. Street food has always been the best in my experience, and so I was excited to try this food. We ordered bread that was fried and they came with different curries (I don't know that they're actually called curries, but that's as close a definition as I can come up with in my limited Indian vocabulary). Anu wouldn't let us eat anything that hadn't been cooked, so that narrowed our options a little, but it was still delicious. What was interesting to me, was that it seemed as though were were buying the bread and the curries came as a side. And we could have more of the curries if we just asked, but had to purchase more bread if we finished it.

Anu and Mama G. Cue "awww"

Our food. We were allowed to eat the top middle section and the two curries in the same section as the bread.
Yay! We're honorary locals!
After we ate and were declared honorary locals, we split off from Mama G (Anu's mom. I'm leaving off the rest of their surname for privacy's sake) and went to find the Red Fort. We had trouble getting transportation because apparently we weren't worth the short distance...even though they were already going in that direction (insert confused expression here). Oh well. We eventually found a ride and got to the Fort.

We saw another tourist with a fancy camera taking video and pictures and offered to take a photo for him. Then he kindly offered to do the same. We thanked him after he took the picture. Then I looked at the photos he had taken. They were blurry. And he had cut out the Fort! I was so stunned. I thought since he had a dslr he would have known how to use mine, but apparently I shouldn't have made that assumption. I was bummed we didn't get a good picture in front of the fort, but that's ok, we got the gist of it.

This is the picture. I don't think anything is in focus. I'm actually a little confused about how he was able to get everything blurry.
We went in and walked around, and again I was struck by the intricate details, not just in the structures themselves, but in the detailing and latticework. A lot of it had fallen into disrepair and I wondered if there wasn't some university or museum that knew about this-- I feel like there would be a lot of historical art experts who would love to be a part of restoring these places.

Red Fort, Old Delhi

Red Fort, Old Delhi

We didn't have too long here, so Nikka and I made a few more purchases, then we went on our way. We got back on the subway and headed back to Anu's house. On the way, we picked up a henna artist since Nikka and I were getting henna'ed up. Nikka went first so I could pack up my luggage before my hands became incapacitated.

Henna and masala chai. What more could a girl ask for?

I swapped some photos with Nikka since Anu didn't carry a camera and then we sat around drinking masala chai and eating biscuits until we couldn't because our hands had to dry. Then we got straws and Anu fed us. Quality bonding time. You should try it.
Pretty. And temporary. Nice.

Before we knew it, it was time go. We loaded up my luggage and headed out. We stopped for some dinner and then finally drove to the airport. I dislike goodbyes. They're awkward and don't give me fuzzy feelings. I also feel awkward walking away from hugging someone goodbye and having tears running down my face. It feels like everyone is looking at you and wondering why you're crying. Throw in the whole "white girl in India" bit and I was a textbook spectacle.

I was able to contain myself until I was past security, but I definitely felt bereft. These are two of my best friends. We have the shared experience of having gone to school together internationally and have the history of having gone through rough stuff together. In short, we know each other pretty well and we've known each other for a long time (for TCK standards- to read about what TCK means, go here). I don't know when we will next see each other, but I hope it is sooner rather than later.

My flight was at about midnight, so I slept some on the plane. I don't sleep my best in a sitting up position, so I woke up a couple of times. At one point, I lifted my window and saw the most amazing colors shining back at me. It was reassuring to see this beautiful creation and know that its Creator had and has everything under control, even when  I'm sad.

And that, my friends, was my trip to India. I spent one day in Singapore before flying back Stateside, trying to meet up with a couple friends and then spending time with family (doing what else, eating, of course), and it was delightful.

I might post one more entry on India, just summarizing my thoughts and including my favorites. Maybe that'll be the abbreviated version of this very long retelling of my adventure.

Until next time, let me know what you think! What was your favorite part of this trip? What would you have added or taken away from your itinerary? Anyone else love henna?