Steamy Sunday

Some days are set aside for inspection and invention. First the fruits on the table. They had all shriveled up. What a waste of plums and jamun. If I had some liver or bheja I would have added these nearly dry fruits to them. But all I had was big steaks of rawas. We’d harvested some intensely flavourful ajwain leaves a few days ago. We have the Plectranthus amboinicus plant in the balcony. It grows very fast, and every now and then has to be pruned back. I’d put some of the leaves in a salad, converted a large part into an ajwain-and-olive chutney/tapenade, and left the remainder for flavouring other food with.

Coat the rawas steaks with a garlic and ginger paste. Let it stand for a while. Then sprinkle it with Himalayan salt and crushed pepper. Slather the steaming trays with sesame oil. Lay out the steaks on the trays. I wanted only one layer of fish on each tray, so I had to use two of the stackable trays. On a last minute whim I crushed some walnuts over them to give a crunchy added texture. Finally I covered them with ajwain leaves, closed the steamer, and steamed them for seven minutes. It turned out that we ate the fish a day later. The day in the fridge had intensified the flavour. The Family decided to warm it on a tawa. The slight roast gave the surface a crisper texture, and made an interesting contrast between the crisp surface layer and the juicy inner flesh.

Re-entry blues

The Family laughs at me as we scan the menu in a fish restaurant in Mumbai. I said "This is expensive, nothing costs less than 90 RMB". We are still talking about China as we tuck into the Bombay Duck, the squid and the Rawas. Every table around us has a few foreign businessmen: a contingent from Japan to the left, some Germans to our right, mixed in with Indian hosts.

We came to eat shark, but they don’t have it today. The Lotus decides that we stay. I have eaten everything on the menu a hundred times, but I know that the Family has never eaten mussels here. I order a plate. The flesh is hard to extract with fork and knife; chopsticks would have been useful. I use my hands. The spices and coconuts are specific to the Konkan coast. Home feels different after more than a month in China.

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