Five Must-Eats Before You Die

Taking inspiration from BBC's 50 things to eat before you die, Melissa of Traveller's Lunchbox came up with Bloggers' Picks of Five Foods to Eat Before You Die. I don't blame her for being taken aback by BBC's list and wanting to come up with foods that are more specific, for BBC's list includes sandwiches and burgers! How generic is that?!

Faith tagged me for this meme a few weeks ago. I was very excited and thought I'd do an initial survey with the family. Medha came up with: rice, tomato, and peaches. At this point, I wondered if she had some British genes. Where were her favorite foods in that? So she added idli and lime pickle to it. As for my husband, all he wants to eat before he dies is Mensaf stew from Diana Abu Jaber's The Language of Baklava, made with goat meat. Our Bosnian neighbor has goats hanging in his garage from time to time. I am very tempted to ask him for 2lbs of that meat. I borrowed his Hollyhocks for the Flower Fest, some tender mutton would be good, too! I'd pay for it, of course!

My list does intersect with BBC's list. Curry. Yup! That's me, too! Mango. That's me! Maybe I am responsible for Medha's choices, not the British! But I will get into specifics, just like Melissa wanted us to. So here goes...

Hapoos Amba or Alphonso Mango

I know what you're thinking. How predictable! But really...everyone must get a bite of this luscious fruit at least once in their lifetime. The Ratnagiri Hapoos is the more coveted of the two famous varieties grown in my home state of Maharashtra. The other being Devgad Hapoos. If the mango is often called the King of all fruits, the Hapoos is the Emperor! The best hapoos are available during the month of May. I haven't eaten these for over 8 years now and I often wonder whether I should brave the summer heat and make a visit to India in May just for hapoos!
Photo credit: Gauri V was very gracious about letting me use her fantastic picture of the Alphonso Mango on Indian Food Rocks. Gauri's photostream has some simply amazing pictures of nature and a whole other bunch that make me plain nostalgic!

Idli Any-which-way

In the southern regions of India, idli is a popular breakfast food. For me, it's an anytime food. Idli-sambar. Idli-chutney. Idli-sambar-chutney.

Dahi idli. Fried idli. I'll take idli any which way.

And at any time of the day or night. In my home or out camping in the bitter cold. In fact I had the ultimate idli experience last weekend when we camped in the Moraine Campground in Rock Mountain National Park. It was 35F, windy and raining hard. I had carried frozen idlis that I had made a few weeks earlier and lots of sambar. We huddled around our little camping stove sipping on tea that went cold almost as soon as it was poured out. Luckily we had winter-wear: jackets, hats, gloves, the works. I heated the sambar and as soon as the sambar started boiling, I set the idlis loose in the sambar and after about 5 minutes, turned the heat off. We sipped on ice cold tea in great anticipation. The piping hot idli-sambar was the best I have ever had in my life. It warmed us up so completely and filled us with awe at what lay around us: wet ground, biting wind, raw nature and elk poop. The rain turned into snow as we heated more sambar and more idlis. The snow fell and melted into the sambar bringing us even closer to nature cos now, along with feeling it, we were eating it, too! I was just too busy heating and eating to take pictures. Once we were done, I tried to take pictures and this was the best I could come up with. It's very lame and not quite representative of the experience but I thought I'd share it anyway...

Garma garam roti or Hot off the Flame Roti

There's nothing as satisfying as a 100% roti. A perfectly round roti that puffed up to all its goodness, served right off the flame of the burner to your plate. With a dollop of ghee, if you like.

Dinner at Charlie Trotter's, Chicago

Housed in two gorgeous Chicago walk-ups, Charlie Trotter's is a dining experience that must be had at least once in a lifetime. In many ways it's better than a Broadway show! The food is simply divine, right from the amuse guele to the seven course meal. It's a medley of flavors, one even more delightful than the other, balanced by the right wines chosen by the resident sommelier. Mmmmmmm!

And, after the meal, you can tour the kitchen and even see the wine cellar which has over 1800 wines from the world over.

You can choose to dine in the kitchen itself. A 15 course meal is served when you do. You have to make reservations at least 4 months in advance. This makes sense if you need to see how the food is cooked and plated but it was far too noisy for me. I get to hear clanging pots in my own kitchen for free, I'd preferred the meal away from the intensity of the kitchen.

Avlyachi Supari or Amla Supari

Avla or amla is the Indian gooseberry. According to Aurveda, it is a balancing food because it has 5 of the 6 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent tastes. The only missing flavor is saltiness. Well, according to me, avlyachi supari makes it complete! Avlyachi supari is made from Indian gooseberries that have been sun-dried and coated in salt. It's a taste that has to be experienced to be fully comprehended. As the salt layer wears off, the other flavors kick in. The lingering flavor is one that can best be described as: if you drink water, it will taste sweet!

If you've reached the end of this post and you've experienced what I have, I think we're both ready to die!

I know I am supposed to tag 5 more bloggers for this meme but since I still seem function on IST, everyone I know and read has been tagged. In fact, I am so late with this meme that two other bloggers did me the honor of a tag: Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes and Meena of Cooking Pleasures. If I missed you and you'd like to do this meme, you're tagged!

I am going to be on a brief hiatus from food blogging. I need to recoup my strength after a very cold but exciting camping trip, a bad back aggravated by a terrible slip last night, and a huge overload at work that must be plowed through with an earthmover. I'll be back in a couple-two-three-four weeks!


Anonymous said...

Hi Manisha! What a great list! A friend was just trying to describe the Indian gooseberry to me, so I was delighted to see it here. Can you get avlyachi supari in the US? It sounds wonderful.

Also, it's funny - I started a batch of your lime pickle last night and I was about to ask you a question about it. It's still 90+ here in Orlando so I think it's still hot enough to cook it. But I wondered - do I have to bring it in at night? I already forgot last night...

I am so sorry to hear that you are not feeling well - best wishes for a speedy recovery. I am also in awe of your family's intrepid camping exploits!

Meena Kandlakuti said...


nice meme..and all the things you would like to eat in lifetime are really wonderful all time favourite....nice reading your was a good journey along with you.Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Manisha - your description of idlis in piping hot sambar has my taste buds watering. I too love Amla Supari - supposed to be a repository of Vit C.

Anonymous said...

Wow..thats a great list Manisha. Thanks for posting this :). Idlis and rotis are my fav too.

BTW..looks like all the food bloggers are taking a break now. Next in the list is me. My career things have kick started today and I think I will take a break from next week or so. Hope to see you back soon....

sra said...

hi manisha, thanks for the suggestion, it didn't do it, though. come back to food blogging soon

Anonymous said...

Thanks,Faith! I haven't found avlyachi supari in the US. A friend of mine always had some at home from her frequent trips to India. It's on my list of 'must-gets.'

90+! Yes, it's hot enough to cook! It's preferable to bring it in at nights so that it does not cool too much. If it does then instead of cooking in the sun the following day, the energy will be used to warm it instead. That said, I've been guilty of forgetting to bring it in. It shouldn't spoil; it may just take longer to cook overall. Do let me know how it turned out.

No more camping till it warms up again. My back can't take it. But we're totally equipped for it now. I heard my husband tell all his friends from their bachelor days together how different this is from what they did - with bare essentials. Funny thing is that every time I asked him whether we really needed something, he'd say: "Just take it along." Huh?!

I'm working on my back: yoga, walking, getting rid of some excess weight. I'm hoping it will help!

Meena, I'm rather predictable, aren't I? But I miss Hapoos!

N&M, we were gathered around the stove in the rain and snow; our sleeves wet, our hands freezing and our faces near numb. The idli-sambar was the most amazing ever! I love avlyacha loncha or amla pickle, too! I haven't seen any amla in the stores here. I must ask on my next visit. Is there a season when it is available?

Shilpa, summer's officially over. The autumn equinox was over the last weekend. There are so many changes: weather, routine, health. I find it helps to take a break. Right now, I don't have much of a choice!

Congrats to you once again and my very best for a successful career!

Sra, I left you another suggestion - check it out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Manisha! Actually, in that case I'll leave it out, then, since it doesn't get cooler at night here, like in Colorado. My apartment is definitely cooler at night than it is outside! I spent a summer in Colorado and I miss those cool nights... Here it just gets stickier.

sra said...

Manisha, thanks for your help and patience. I followed your suggestion, the colour came back but the expandable post summary stopped working - in the sense that now the entire post showed up, AND the 'Read More' Link. I'm flummoxed.
Your message gave me the clue that the problem lay in the EPS so I've trawled Blogger Help Group and posted another query! Don't know what else I could be doing wrong, but lots of complaints in the group about how EPS is whimsical!

Anonymous said...

Faith, I wish it were like that here in summer! I can tell you that I don't miss the humidity.

Sra, this conversation will soon become like those awful Orkut scraps! No thread and spread over two blogs. I personally don't like EPS just like how I don't like summaries in RSS feeds. Are you on the new Beta Blogger? I haven't looked into how templates work there so perhaps I should just zip it up, eh?! If you aren't on the new Blogger then just make sure that all your styles properly enclosed within the style tags. Currently it looks like you have three styles tags one after another and only one of them is closed.

sra said...

Will look into it, thanks.

FH said...

Hi Manisha! nice to read your MEME!! THose Alfonso look delicious!! And idlies,rotis!! YUM!!

Btw, I am going to link your 'Copy rights' article this friday in my blog,so more people can read and learn!! Hope you don't mind!!:)

Anonymous said...

Sra, I don't know what you did but your blog is back in color, again! Yay!

Asha, isn't that picture of the mango fabulous? All credit goes to Gauri and I am just grateful she let me use it on my blog! Feel free to link away. The more people that become aware of copyright issues the better. The discussion following the post is full of gems of info.

SH, I hear ya! My sister the doc says one easy remedy to a bad back is to strengthen your abs. Easy?! For her maybe. She's the same as she was 25 years ago. When I show up, folks think I am the bigger (sic) sister, even though she's a whole decade older to me. Right now, I'm walking a lot on the trails and that is helping. I will start going back to the gym when it gets colder and maybe try to get rid of those love handles! I could do with my head on a pillow for long uninterrupted periods of time! :-D

sra said...

Yes, I followed your suggestion on style commands, the colour came back, but my face is gone! I'm not going to bother with it, though, will tinker with it on a Sunday or something.

Prema Sundar said...

Hi Manisha,
The pictures of Idli and hot roti are so inviting..Nice list ..

Piegirl said...

Idli is one of my favorite Indian foods!

Anonymous said...

Hi Manisha,

I'm a many time visitor but first time poster to your blog...i LOVE it!!

anyways, the mention of your Shahi Haleem recipe brought me here, can you post it sometime? thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

oooooo...that idli slipping into the hot sambar..... its like taking a bubble bath, i guess? :)

Unknown said...

Hey Manisha,
Just read on a comment that it's your birthday on 2nd Oct - Many many happy returns of the day- have a wonderful year ahead! Searched for your mail id on the blog, since I didn't find it, wishing you here!

Anonymous said...

Sra hope you have your face back by now!

Prema, thanks and welcome!

Piegirl, they are good, aren't they? You should try making them. Shilpa has a tutorial on her blog.

sumrina, welcome to IFR! I made shahi haleem a couple of weeks ago. This recipe is the one I use. But I make mine in the slow cooker instead of on the stovetop. It's really very good! I'll post my version once I have worked through my backlog and can come back to blogging as frequently as I used to. You can subscribe to my RSS feeds as that will let you know as soon as there are any new posts or updates.

Inji, it's total bliss! And the sambar needs to be spicy as well as piping hot!

Nandita, thank you very much! It was indeed my birthday yesterday. Thank you for remembering!! I was quite thrilled that it was Dassara also. My email address is polarmate[at]gmail[dot]com, if you need to reach me. I got the best birthday present ever: five $1 coupons for full body massage that are valid only on weekends, because my masseuse is busy with school during the week. If I run out, the weekend massage is still available but it needs to be paid for. Same price!

Anonymous said...

Manisha, I will miss you on your blogging break! And that list must be one of the best I read in this whole meme business. Hope your back gets better soon. And thanks for the reminder about the Flower Fest.

sra said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Gini, thanks! I am on a total food break. I'm not cooking much either! I am putting quick salads and soups on the table. I also have frozen haleem, marag, sambar, idlis, pulao from a bumper batch I made last month. And lots and lots of tea, black and herbal. I was just told about 'white tea' by a friend - so that's going to be a new adventure for me.

My back is much better - I have been going on a 1 hour brisk walk at least 3 times a week. It ends up being a short hike each time as the I explore more trails in the area. Yoga and plain old stretching are also helping. And my new Mirra chair has also helped tremendously. Two of the most important pieces of furniture in our homes should be the mattress and the chair. We usually spend more money and time buying the 'perfect' sofa when we really need to focus on these two things instead. The money spent on these chairs is well worth the investment in my health!

Sra, thank you so much! I had a great birthday!

Anonymous said...


I'm really enjoying going back to the beginning and reading this and can't wait to try some recipes. Your Chicken Jeera will definiely be on our table this week.

Lee - from Boulder

Anonymous said...

Lee, welcome! It's a pleasure to have you at IFR! Use thin sliced chicken or chicken tenders for the Spicy Jeera Chicken to work well. Do let me know how it works out!

Anonymous said...

Artizen, you'll have to wait for the next mango crop, which will be next year. Once the rains start (by June), that's a signal that it's the end of the mango season, at least for the Hapoos. The season peaks in late-April and May. You can get canned Alphonso mango pulp - look for the unsweetened variety. If you can't get Alphonso then Kesar is the next best.

These mangoes have pips. It's just the way that they are cut that it appears like they have no seed. And all the kudos for the picture need to go to Gauri, who took this picture.

I am doing much better! Thank you so much for your warm wishes. The only time I get concerned about my weight is when my back gives way. That's a sure sign that I am carrying more on my frame than my bones can bear. You are so right about meditation. My current meditation is the afghan I am crocheting; the repetitive stitches (280 in each row) help me relax a great deal. I spent some time regretting that I didn't do a swatch for this afghan. It's the very first time I am crocheting so it took a while before my tension/gauge settled down. The afghan has narrowed a bit but hey! it's handmade and I'm not perfect!

There is a company in India called Bangoes that delivers mangoes worldwide but I don't see Australia on the list. Does Australia have a ban on import of fresh fruits from other countries? The US will not allow Indian mangoes to be imported, although not for long, because of the way they are treated for control of pests. From 2007, we expect to get the Hapoos in the US. Let me know if you find canned pulp in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Manisha, Hope you are feeling better now. I hurt my back a couple of years ago and it still haunts me in winter.
Hope you will be back up for Diwali, waiting eagerly to see what u come up with, but please take care of the back!

Ashwini said...

Manisha, I didnt know you were on a break coz of your sorry to hear that.
Hope you are feeling better now?
I was ao waiting to see what you would cook up for Diwali...anyway there is always time but its best to heal your body first.
Diwali greetings to you and your family...naveen varsha anand ani sukh samruddhiche aso :-)

Jaya M said...

Hi Manisha, I am all new to this food blogging world, and what a great world it is ...I got this first chance to get here on your blog,I am an avid Admirer of your Allrecipe 's recipe and reviews ,be it Rajma or Catfish Nuggets...I just didnot know that You have a blog , my ignorance otherwise I would have come a long time back to this wonderful collection of recipes ,pics (I loved the Hapos aam phopto)here ...oh my I really feel so excited to be just writing this to you ...Just be well soon ,you will be on my Prayers and come back with some more interesting and delecious recipes...

Indian Food Rocks said...

Jaya, welcome! I'm sorry I missed seeing your comment before this. I'm glad you enjoyed my recipes from Thanks for all the good wishes! I needed them!

Looks like you have your own blog now! Congrats and I hope to see you there and here!