I remember my early under-graduate days in Delhi. First time I was away from home, pangs of home sickness would strike me every other day. My folks, my dogs, TV and home cooked food! Now after all these years, in a different city, Bangalore, doing my M.Phil, I’m totally used to life away from home. I have learnt to cook basic stuff and I’ve become more adaptable to different tastes. But still when it food, there are still a couple of stuff which I miss dearly..that still makes me think of home or rather my homeland ‘Assam’! These are lime and chilies which are a basic accompaniment to an Assamese meal.
A slice of lime or as we call it ‘nemu’ and chilies or ‘jolokia’ plucked from our backyard would perk up any boring meal! The lime with its incredibly fresh aroma and the pungent chilies are enough to titillate the taste buds! These two items add the zing to any meal whether its simple local chicken, mutton or fish curries or simple daal – vegetable meal or even khicdi!
So when I go to buy vegetables in the supermarkets (as these are nearby and convenient and I have no idea about those ‘exotic’ supermarkets) here in ‘namma’ Bengaluru, I’m saddened by the poor quality of vegetables and what could be worse than the extremely bad chilies and the sad yellow lemons that are available here! The chilies here smell terrible and are rarely hot…whereas back home you get so many colours and varieties. Also, you don’t get lime here and instead you have to buy the yellow lemon which is no match to the incredible variety that we get in Assam like the ‘gul’, ‘elaasi’ etc. etc. each with its own distinct smell that literally freshens you up! But thank god for small mercies, occasionally these yellow lemon shelves are full of unripe green ones! Boy,I grab as many as I can and while picking up the unripe ones, I always noticed how others always pick the ripe yellow ones and remembered how once a friend commented “how can you have ‘kachaa nimbu’ “??? I still haven’t succeeded in explaining why we ‘Axomiyas’ or North Eastern prefer the unripe ones.
But no luck with the chilies! In this case, home made pickles come to the rescue! The chilly pickles we get in the market are no match with the fiery ones made at home!! With different spices or mustard paste and always in mustard oil! Or any other pickle in that case, olive or ‘jolphaai’, bamboo shoot, mango…phew! Wait..Oh God, my last bottle of chilly pickle is over!!!