Scholastic of India & Name that Spice

Yesterday, feeling particularly adventuresome, I told a rickshaw driver the general area we wanted to visit and asked him to recommend a restaurant. (Actually, the exchange was much more complicated than that and involved a passing motorcyclist, whom the rickshaw driver engaged as a translator while we were navigating an intersection. But I’ll skip the details.)

We ended up at Aasife Biryani, which the driver assured us had great food at a reasonable price. Some very reputable places are rarely frequented by women, but I was reassured by the sight of the first play structure I’ve seen at a restaurant in Chennai.

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I needn’t have worried on account of the food. It was delicious. Brianna ordered Chinese-style fried noodles with chicken and tucked away more of her dish than any restaurant food she’s eaten outside the hotel. My mutton masala with steamed rice was flavorful but not too spicy (I requested “mild”). The mango lassi (yogurt and mango smoothie) was superb, with a uniquely tangy flavor. All together, including a bottle of water, our meal came to just under $10.

The setting was attractive and comfortable; the table inset with a row of ten spices added a craftsmanlike touch. When we first entered, around 2:00, we were surrounded principally by men. However, many of them cleared out before long and groups of women took their place, one with two schoolgirls in green uniforms.

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The little pot on the left holds a hot, tangy green chutney, and the one on the right a sweetish red chutney. Both quite tasty.

Can anyone identify the second-from-the-right spice above (admittedly difficult to make out here)? Hint: I’ve only had it in Iranian and Indian food. It’s supposed to be quite healthful sprouted.


Assuming the spice on the left above is peppercorn (it’s a little crumblier than I’m used to–any informed guesses?), I was fairly certain of all of them except the spice on the right below.


And now on to books … It never occurred to me that Scholastic might hold book fairs in India, too–and on parent-teacher conference days. Just like home. On Wednesday we visited some new friends and had the opportunity to drop in at the book fair at their son’s school.

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Of course, I found a few good books:


Fabulous Folk Art of India, by Benita Sen, and The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System

We bought The Mystery of the Nizam’s Jewels, below. That, Zigzag, and The Case of Disappearing Colour seemed to be the primary fiction selections by Indian authors.  


A nice series of biographies, but I decided to pass in favor of books we’re less likely to find at home:


Middle row: Einstein, Edison, Hawking, Picasso, Van Gogh

A collection on Indian government. We bought Amazing India, with a nicely illustrated full-color spread on each of India’s twenty-nine states.


Middle row: Amazing India, The Judiciary, The Union Executive, Our Constitution, The Legislature

India in Space, below, caught my attention, in view of the book I had just been discussing with our host: NASA in the World: Fifty Years of International Collaboration in Space, by John Krige, Angelina Long Callahan, and our friend Ashok Majaraj.


For more on that topic, check back in a day or two for “Books in Chennai, Part III: Higginbotham’s.”


3 responses to “Scholastic of India & Name that Spice

  1. George & Roxanne Kent

    The casual mention of a rickshaw before the blog bolted to its continuing theme of tomes, tofu, thali, and travel — well, the idea of a carefree rickshaw ride caught our fancy. Did you stand curbside to wait for an approaching rickshaw, then hail as if to a New York City taxi? Did the rickshaw puller wear Nike running shoes? How far will a rickshaw travel before fatigue overtakes the puller? And does the puller normally expect a tip, perhaps a few rupees? As your writings allow, we would love to read more. (Our imagination is alive with rollicking, runaway rickshaws!)


  2. Wow–all that alliteration. I won’t even try to top that. … I guess I should have mentioned that it was a “motorcycle rickshaw,” also known here in India as an auto rickshaw or just “auto.” Stay tuned–I’ll try to find an excuse to post a photo before long … or you can just Google it. Brianna likes them–she says it’s like a carnival ride.


  3. Delighted to see my book, Fabulous Folk Art, here. Although it has been well over a year that George and Roxanne Kent asked about the rickshaw pullers, may I try and answer that: Rickshaws are still manually pulled in the east Indian city of Kolkata (earlier known as Calcutta).


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