Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kochi and Dinner with Nimmy Paul

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

I'm still writing about our travel in India in March.

All over India, trucks were colorfully painted with ornate designs: peacocks, lotus blossoms, religious symbols, famous personalities, sometime political slogans. Drivers love to personalize their vehicles;  they're always named. Sadly the truck paint artists are under threat of extinction now because of the increasingly popularity of decals and stickers. Highway art as it's called,  began during the post-war era when a surplus of military vehicles were converted for highway transport.  These trucks were waiting to off-load from ships coming into Kochi harbor.

The Taj Vivante Hotel on Wellington Island in Kochi was terrific. We enjoyed the luxury after the night on the house boat..not that the boat wasn't comfortable. It's just that the Taj was so elegant and we were treated so very well. 

 The restaurant in the hotel has a rice boat decor theme. The meal we had there was splendid. You can't get better service when you're the only ones in the place!

We got a bit of shopping done in Kochi on the streets and in small stores. Knick knacks and cheap clothes. Debra brought along wads of rupees for the trip and it was looking like she had too many so we didn't need no stinking ATM's or money changers. Debra was our bank, trading dollars for rupees when we needed them. We called her the Bank of Debra.

Our fearless little group: Bank of Debra, Zouzou, me, Richard

We enjoyed a walking tour of the old streets of Fort Kochi, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and now a heritage Zone. Every tourist takes an obligatory picture of the Chinese fishing nets.
They don't really use them seriously anymore - just for tourists, although they still catch things every time they lower the nets which I think is amazing so close to shore.

In the evening we were feted by Nimmy Paul, one of the foremost culinary people in India,  in her home where she did a short cooking demonstration and served us a very fine dinner:  tomato basil soup with tiny perfect tomatoes from her garden followed by a cutlet and a delicious fish with coconut milk sauce garnished with fried shallots. Here's more about Nimmy from her web site.

 Nimmy Paul is the only teacher at her school. She started out as a local caterer and cooking teacher. In the late 1990s, when Kochi experienced a foreign tourism boom, she began to offer cooking demonstrations in her home. The late R.W. Apple Jr., a celebrated New York Times food and travel writer, happened on Nimmy Paul’s classes, and was so taken with her that he recommended her for the 2004 Worlds of Flavor, an international conference organized by the Culinary Institute of America. Her home-based cooking school has since garnered international attention and is now considered a must-stop for foodies passing through Kerala. Nimmy Paul is cordial and welcoming, but takes cooking very seriously, so be prepared for an intense experience. You’ll also meet Nimmy’s husband and business partner, V.J. Paul, who, following the local custom, is known simply as “Paul.” The two have a loving but bickering dynamic, rather like India’s own version of The Honeymooners.

When we arrived at the house, we were ushered into a kind of patio area, dimly lit. We sat at a table where several large bottles of water and a coke were set out for us to drink. Nimmy sat down with us and really grilled us about who we were. She was very charming once the ice was broken but initially we felt a little uncomfortable. She explained that she offered the coke because many travelers arrive with Dehli Belly.  

Once we were all on the same page, she started her demo.

Wouldn't you just love to stick a bill on that plain white wall? Nimmy's house is an oasis on a madhouse of a street crowded with shops. Hundreds of people an hour probably pass that wall. It's a miracle that it stands unblemished. 

Nest stop: Bangalore.

1 comment:

  1. Oh,that shrimp looks so good. Did you learn much from the cooking class? Have you tried anything that you learned? Love those painted trucks.