Last time we went to Thailand, we visited a beautiful town on the bank of the Mekong River. Sadik took some stones from the river beach to keep as souvenirs. They were big, round and gorgeous. But while we were having lunch at our relative’s shop, my cousin’s husband noticed the stone which Sadik took on the table. He asked “Where do these stones come from?” I could see his face went pale, and he was shivering a bit.
“From the river,” Sadik answered casually.
The guy seemed nervous and said “You shouldn’t do that!” Then he explained to us that these stones on the river are cursed, and no one should take them away from the river. Everyone who took the stones ended up being haunted by the river spirit. They would also be traumatized by scary bad dreams that they had to come back to town to return the stones to the river. We laughed it off because we didn’t believe in this kind of thing. Sadly, Sadik forgot the stones at the shop when we left so we never really found out that the curse was real or not.
I believe in taking something from the trips that could remind me of our journeys, but I do understand that we shouldn’t take natural resources from these places back to our home. Imagine if every person who goes to the river takes one stone back with them. In a week, there won’t be any left. Maybe these scary tales are meant to protect the beauty of these places. On the other hand, buying handicrafts and arts from local stores can not only help you cherish the beautiful memories of your trip, but it also helps supporting local economy. So when we travel, we like to look for a thing or two to take home. I want to fill my house with travel memories, with pictures, beautiful handicrafts, and maybe a few curses hahaha.
Our last trip to Kerala, we bought traditional cast iron cookware. I always want a strong cast iron pan, but it’s very expensive here in India. This local handwork is cheap in Kerala.
I got a small wok that I meant to use for deep frying. This size is perfect for my family. It’s strong and heavy. I love it!
Another cast iron pan I got is Appam Chetti, a pan with half-spherical moulds. This pan will work great for making delicious South Indian mini rice cake. I also plan to use it for Takoyaki, Japanese Fried Octopus Balls and Khanom Krook, Thai Coconut Rice Cake.
Before using cast iron cookware, you need to season them. Seasoning is the process of treating cooking vessel. Usually, it’s done by cleaning and rubbing a thin layer of oil into the cookware before baking it for an hour. But I do the work on the stove. I scrub them real good with metal wool and clean them well. I wipe them dry and heat them on the stove with a thin layer of oil for about 2 hours on medium-low heat. Occasionally, I add more oil onto the surface of the cookware with kitchen towel.
When we go to Kerala, we have to always get Nurook, a crispy rice snack. I believe it is also called Chakli or Murukku. This delicious snack is made in a small family-run business.
The owner is Sadik’s friend so we always get a fresh batch delivered to our house every time.
Oh, here is something very interesting and childish. I don’t know if you have hard candies like this at home. We bought this candies from a local store. Sadik told me it used to cost 1 paise per piece, and that meant you would get 100 candies for 1 rupee. It’s the children’s best treasure. The color on the candies used to stain his hands, and he would always hide them from his mom in the pockets. But later she would find out because the candies melted in the clothes and became a laundry nightmare for her. In my childhood, I also had the similar kind of candies. But in Thailand, years ago, these candies were super special. You wouldn’t get them in regular shops, but you could get them in exchange of empty glass bottles. Once a while, a wandering pickup truck would stop by at my village to buy glass bottles for recycling. In exchange of the bottles, we would get the colorful hard candies as the payment. I remember collecting the bottles and waiting for the truck to come by. It’s such a sweet memory.
Here is another sweet stuff we brought from Kerala. Since Kerala is influenced by Middle-Eastern culture, food and ingredients from the Middle East are popular in Kerala. You will get delicious and bold Arabic food here. Dates are one of those imported ingredients that are common in Kerala. We get a lot of good quality dates here. Dates are delicious and healthy, and we always buy a few kilos back home.
While in Kerala, we read about Coconut Research and how there are several products developed from coconut coming to the future market. Every part of coconut tree is useful. From the root to the fruits, coconut is the most important produce in this region. We are very intrigued by the information, and we want to support this program. On the way to Goa, we decided to visit Central Plantation Crops Research Institute Kasaragod, Kerala.
Here we got Natural Coconut Sugar which is made from coconut nectar (Neera) collected from the top of coconut trees. This organic sugar is very healthy and it tastes amazing. Right now, it’s my favorite ingredient in the kitchen!
At the institute, we also got seeds for our humble balcony garden. The green ones are the seeds of lady fingers. The black ones is red spinach. We also got pumpkin seeds, cucumber seeds and bitter gourd seeds. Can you tell which one is which? We already planted some of them, and I will share an update with you real soon.
Oh, I almost forgot! In Goa, we bought some cashew nuts. Cashew nuts is famous in Goa. I planned to make some Mushroom with Cashew Nut Rice with them, but the boys have already finished the whole jar as snack.
I think the most important thing we got from our last trip is “knowledge.” I posted the world is a big book on facebook recently. This is how I think about it. Travelling is really one of the best way you can learn about a lot of things. Oh, this remind me to invite you to join our facebook family on Tes at Home Page. Here you can interact with us and share your stories as well. We are quite active there, so please drop by anytime.
This trip, we went to the zoo, we learned about wild animals, we went to new places and learned something different from the locals. Many things are not taught in schools, and they are not always available to read on the internet. You need to get out to see, to feel, to learn and to experience. Travel is rewarding, rejuvenating, inspiring and motivating and making you so better and smarter. So tell me, where do you guys plan to go in 2016?