Discovering India's flavors
How to discover a country, a culture and its men? With food, with the fruits and vegetables, mother earth gives to them, with arts and handicrafts and all the daily activities... so where to find this lively seething place?
In the market of course !
The one of Pondicherry, full of colors is no exception: a morning walking through its paths would teach you more about India and Indians than any book or museum.
Let's start with the Fish market: like everywhere in the world, this is fishwives' auction, everybody bumps into each other, nostrils are assaulted by fish smell, and a man pulling an ice block tries to make his way through it. Dare to come closer to the stalls: fish is fresh at very reasonably prices and you get a lot of choice.
You would have to decide between big prawns and crabs, maybe you would get the opportunity to catch some lobsters. What are the fish you can recognize? Sometimes you will get tuna, more often small sharks or sea-bass and off course plenty of tiny fishes perfect for fritters or cooked in spices dark brown gravy typical from Pondicherry: meen kozhambu.
Bananas and coconut
Now we cut through a quiet path, under blue tarpaulin shades which protect us against sun beams. There, Coconut and bananas are delivered.
Even bananas leafs are useful, packed together and sold, it would be the plate in restaurants and at home.
Fruits and vegetables
Then we are arriving in the fruits and vegetables part. Here you have a huge choice between vegetables similar to the ones you get in your own market like carrots, onions and potatoes and a bit further away some unknown and strange gourds and greens.
Don't be afraid to have a try to those ones, those vegetables are delicious and really healthy.
Let's go a little far away to discover the flowers market.
Visiting the flowers market
Here, no stems studded with flowers to put in a vase but long garlands to ornate gods statues, newlyweds or people at important events. Admire how fast these skilled men make those garlands so deftly.
Flowers are also sold cut under the petals: have a big bowl full of water and finely put down roses and marigolds, combining colors and creating floral patterns. You can choose jasmine as well and learn how to braid those
sweet-scented little flowers in garlands in order to embellish your hair. If you are not soc lever with your hands, just simply buy garlands!
Go back track, in the center of the market under the clock tower, to enjoy tailors fresh place. Take your time to choose the fabric you like, a steamed hot Chai tea in your hands.
If you take on the right, you will go directly into the butchers block. Manu Indians are not vegetarians. Here in Pondicherry, Muslim and Christians communities as well as some Hindus families cooked delicious fried beef or tasty lamb curries. (In some Pondicherry families, cooking specialties could be tripe, mutton's feet or head!) Better to have a strong stomach to dare going further away in front of the butchers stalls.
Finally, going back to the entry on Mahatma Gandhi Road, we would pass by some groceries. Here as well, I am sure there are some strange and unfamiliar bags contents you would like to taste. Higgledy-piggledy, there are rice of course, as well as a large choice of dhal, beans and pulses, noodles, different spices, big garlic cloves, cashews,... also various funny colored noodles, what is it? You are giving it up? Well, so come in SITA, during our walk to the market before the Indian cooking class, I will explain about it.
Tea or coffee...always Indian style!
I'll let you enjoy this market glimpse in front of the coffee merchant. Mmmh, what a good smell! Tamil Nadu is one of the only places (except Coorg region in Karnataka) where coffee is produced and drunk. Unlike other parts of India, with mainly tea drinkers, here we enjoy both tea and coffee. However, both of them are prepared in the same way: with milk and plenty of sugar!