Friday, April 26, 2013

Kerala Style Chicken Stew and a Yellow Belt

Sometimes when I write this blog, I feel a tad guilty.

Am I being totally honest here ? Am I portraying only a slice of my life here ? Am I writing only about the funny and smart things my kids say ? Am I hiding from the world that my PMS lasts for exactly 21 days and 5 hours, give and take two ?

The thing is when you read a blog, anyone's blog you see only a slice of the blogger's life there. The slice the author/blogger has chosen to put forward for world viewing in HTML. So it would be wrong to assume a character, a life just based on the posts he/she may be doing.

Just because someone eats organic almond flour pancake for breakfast and posts the recipe does not mean they don't eat phuchka for lunch. Just because someone is proudly posting pictures of masterpieces drawn by her 2 year old does not mean that the said 2 year old did not get a timeout for scribbling on the walls that very morning.If you give it some thought, you are only seeing a small window, like looking through the camera lens.What lies outside of that is nobody's business.

You should neither judge nor form lofty opinions based on that.

In my case, I mostly write about the funny things that my girls do because that is what I want to remember about their childhood. The fun part. I don't want to remember the tantrums, the meltdown, the shrieking screams, the tears, lots of them. They are a part of life for sure but ten years later they won't matter. This will.

But today I want to write something different. Amidst the fun I also want to write about the learning and the growing. Both my daughters' and mine.

So I usually write about LS's smart retorts which are really really funny and she is indeed a sharp kid, sharp as a knife and cute as a button. At four and half she reads menus at restaurants. Have I told you she is also funny?

But also she is someone who takes a little time to warm up to people. Every kid comes with their individual traits and LS, I have realized is not very comfortable amongst a group of people she does not know much. I mean not strangers, just people she is not that familiar with. In that scenario she is a completely different person. She gets quiet, even timid and until few months back she would also be very intimidated by friendly gestures from such people. There were birthday parties where she would resort to howling and gatherings where she refused to talk to anyone. This in sharp contrast to the playful, naughty girl doing somersaults amongst people she is very comfortable with. And by "people she is comfortable with", I mean both friends and families she sees more frequently.

No doubt her transition to pre-school was tearful and difficult. In the firs few months she refused to play with the kids in class and took to sticking to the teacher.There was a point I was also getting a tad worried because BS had been a moderately social child with an easy smile and an eagerness to participate in everything and I had no clue how to make LS more comfortable in a crowd.

"You were exactly like that at her age." my Mother said. "You would chatter and talk non-stop at home and outside you were a bhije beral."  I chose to ignore her statement.

When I talked to her teachers early last year though, they seemed the least bit concerned and stuck to my mother's theory of "every flower blooms in its own time". I need not worry, she is a smart kid and plays with few kids if not all, they said. The only thing they however suggested I could do is to enroll her in some group activity classes to make her comfortable in large groups.

Since BS was already learning taekwondo, I thought to enroll LS in the same class. I knew the teachers very well and if both kids could spend an hour there three afternoons a week, I could spend a good amount of time at Kohl's across the street.Yeah, that was my incentive. Also that my otherwise polite girls could beat up people in future if necessary.

Last summer when I enrolled LS in the taekwondo class, after the first couple of classes she refused to go. Forget Kohl's, I would be sitting there in class with her and yet she cried. Her teacher however was an excellent gentleman with far more patience than mine. He never forced her to do any forms and tried to play games with her. Even on the day LS locked herself in the office and refused to come out, he managed it all pretty well. Didi, too helped by always being on her side. Slowly, and I mean really slowly, over a period of 3 months or so LS warmed up to her taekwondo class. She played tag with her teacher, jumped on the trampoline, punched the dummies and also learned some karate moves. I think the class had a positive effect because even in her pre-school she gladly did the weekly sports classes and made more friends.

"I just want her to be in the class. It is fine if she doesn't test for any belts," I would tell her teacher. At that point I was just relieved that she was at least going to the class and enjoying herself there.

Finally, first testing came up around end of  Feb this year. BS was testing for her brown-black belt. If LS at all wanted, she would get a yellow belt, the second level. I asked her if she wanted an yellow belt.

"Yes, Mr.K has said I am ready, " LS said, very confident, uncharacteristically excited about testing day. I gathered she had no idea that there will be loads of parents that day and she would have to demo her moves in front of them. I tried to prepare her by telling that there might be more people in class on the day but she need not worry and such but she didn't really pay me enough attention.

On the day of testing, when we reached the school and she saw all those people there, her face darkened as excepted. Soon tears started rolling down her cheeks. She being the youngest student in the class, the other parents were actually happy to see her and more friendly than usual. That made things only worse and she refused to leave our side. Finally after much pep talk by me, the Dad, the sis, the teacher and an incentive of frozen yogurt with loads of topping, she went on to do her form exercises. Her face was still tense and my heart probably beat faster than hers. But I knew she needed this push for her own good. She however did everything that was expected of her albeit with less power and vigor than on her regular days.

Test over we came back and the day was forgotten.

Next week was result and LS got her yellow belt. She had done her form in full and so she passed on to the next level. We tried to make a song and dance of it and she too seemed a little proud of her yellow belt. There is still miles to go for her to be more open of people but we do see a lot of changes. She has quite a few friends in school and her class teacher really loves her.

Thirteen yeras later when she packs her bag and steps into the outside world, I want to remember her first yellow belt. It must have taken a lot of courage for her 39" petite frame, to do those exercises in front of people she did not know but she had survived and survived good.

And I am sure she always will. To conquer her fears and step out, to face the world and say "Hai-Yah"

Now to the chicken stew, which this time is Kerala style. LS loves chicken and every Sunday a chicken curry is made with her in mind. BS is not too fond of meat these days and I try to make a chicken dish that caters to all four of us as a Sunday lunch. We are quiet fond of this Kerala Chicken stew with creamy coconut milk from Mishmash's blog.

I have adapted it and add vegetables like carrots and beans to it sometimes. My method is also a bit different to suit my taste. I also make it less spicy for the kids. To make it spicier for us, I use Preeoccupied's idea of finishing off with fried red chilli and garlic slices.

Spooned over a bowl of rice, this creamy and fragrant Kerala Chicken Stew makes a  lovely Sunday meal for us. It really really is very good. Cannot thank Mishmash and her beautiful blog enough for it.

Kerala Style Chicken Stew
Original Recipe


Marinate about 2lb of chicken pieces with salt, turmeric powder, little lime juice and 2 tsp of ginger-garlic paste

Chop about 4-5 small red potatoes in halves.
Chop a small sized carrot in sticks
Microwave the vegetables

Start Cooking

Heat vegetable oil in a saucier or kadhai

To the hot oil add
6-8 whole dry red chilies and
6 cloves of garlic sliced thin
When you get the flavor of the garlic remove the garlic and red chillies and keep aside. We will use this for garnish at the last stage.

Now to the garlic flavored oil add the chicken pieces. Saute the chicken pieces till they loose their raw coloring. If water is released from the chicken, cook till water dries up. Remove the chicken pieces and keep aside.

Add some more oil if needed to the kadhai.

Temper the oil with
2 green cardamom
2 clove/laung
1 thin stick of cinnamom
10-12 whole black peppercorn
2 star anise
and a sprig of curry patta

Soon the fragrance in your kitchen will be so beautiful that you will forget Dior.
At this point to the oil add
1 medium sized red onion thinly sliced
5-6 pearl onion (optional)
1" knob of ginger peeled and chopped

Fry till the onion is soft.
Next add the potatoes and carrots cooked in the microwave.
Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of home-made Garam masala powder and saute the vegetables.

Add the fried chicken pieces and mix with the other stuff in that kadhai

Now add
1 cup coconut milk + 2 cup of warm water
salt to taste
and let the gravy come to a boil.
Add 1 more cup of coconut milk, lower the heat, cover and let the chicken cook.

Once it is done finish off by
adding a few more curry leaves
the fried garlic + red chilli from the first step

You can also  heat a tbsp of ghee in separate pan, roast some cashews and add it to the stew as suggested in the original recipe. I often skip this step though it boosts the flavor.

Enjoy with some rice.


  1. Thanks for posting this and sharing this slice of yours and LS' life.It really is a powerful life lesson LS learnt from her yellow belt.
    I have a 20 month old daughter who is really sociable most of the time but I have seen her react differently in large groups.I always worry about such things for the future.

    1. 20 months is too young. Don't worry. They all grow up to be fine eventually.

  2. Loved reading this post.Congrats to you and LS :).

  3. The picture of your daughter reminds me of my cousin at this age who was a resident of California and her mom had taken similar pictures of her at a similar age in the school playground. She is in her early thirties now and confident young lawyer. They all conquer their fears as they grow up and make their place in the world.

    I would like to try out the recipe soon, tomorrow to be precise. Could you tell me the bengali for star anise? What should I ask for in a "mudir dokan" in Kolkata?

    1. Ignore the star anise or ask for something called "chakro phool". Make the home made garam masala and use it though

    2. Thank you... will look for the same or ignore as advised. Yes, I'll use the home made garam masala mentioned in the recipe.

  4. Sandeepa, I love doing the same in my blog...write some anecdotes about Arno and then share some food...wish I had started earlier though...
    wonderfully written....waiting for your book.

  5. Attagirl LS!!! A big hug to you and congrats on that yellow belt!
    Loved this post Sandeepa!
    V1 was exactly like that before he started play school in London. And he would get more tongue tied and shy when his brother put on his "I am so charming act". So the principal at the play school decided to separate them and put them in different groups. I was really unhappy about it but the effect on V1 was dramatic. He has blossomed into this really talkative, confident child!

  6. Good for LS and congrats on the yellow belt! I recently read a book called "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" and it is a great read that celebrates that we have all different personalities and it is not just the social butterflies who excel in life.

    1. Maybe I didn't express myself clearly but LS is not really an introvert. I meant an "introvert" is a person who does not really enjoy company of other people and likes being alone, right ? In this case, LS never likes to be alone or do things only by herself. If she knows the people she is with, family or friends, she will do stuff with them and will play with them or at least hang around them.
      But if she is accosted by people she does not know too well, she gets a bit intimidated by them. Well more than a bit actually.

  7. You write with such honesty Sandeepa, that a sliver like is as emotional to read as it must be for you to write. And you're so right - a blog is no different from a photo album. You freeze the best bits for you and your children, and their children, to look back on and smile. Big hug to LS for being such a brave little person.

  8. True,most of us 'post' for the viewer and there is a different reality that exists.
    But yes, the best is worth remembering.

    1. Don't know about "most of us" but "many of us" DO NOT post for the viewers. To be honest, I never do.

      But many of us do post what we feel/think is worthy to be shared or what we might want to remember.

  9. I loved this post! I have been wondering myself about the "slice of life" point so your insights on it were particularly striking to me. Congrats to LS on her yellow belt. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you. :)


  10. Slice of life indeed! LS will bloom into her own I bet as she grows older. Congrats to her on the yellow belt. I like the potluck dinners after the belt ceremony :)

  11. My son was shy at first too when young. Now he is such an extrovert. But I have a friend who has a daughter. She used to be so talkative and lively and now she has turned out to be such an introvert. So I suppose you never can tell.

    1. I was shy too until 3rd grade and then something happened :-D But I was never really an extrovert. Kids change all the time.
      LS is not so much as an introvert because she does enjoy being in company of other people, people she knows well. But it takes her time to warm up to those whom she doesn't know much.

  12. Sandeepa...are you a mind reader??!! U wont believe it but for the past couple of weeks I have been thinking why my lil one, Brishti, who is now 25 months old hides her face in front of my colleagues..or doesnt even play with the elder kids in our neighbourhood...she loves the tiny tots though!!!Even at her creche, she gets pinched by kids younger to her..and she just stands & cries!!Whereas at home she is a completely different person...she throws tantrums at the drop of a hat!!!At times I get so vexed that I feel like hitting her black & blue!!!!!!!!!!!!!And when I narrate all these incidents to my friends at work...they find it hard to believe...arrrgghh!!But I was not at all a shy kid..I was extremely gregarious!!! I hope our lil ones come out of their shells and make friends!!!

    1. few things:

      1. She is only 25 months. very very little

      2. If she is getting pinched/bullied by kids at the daycare, please please talk to the teacher. It is important. My daughter has a great rapport with the teacher so if anything like that at all happens she has the teacher to help her :) But also I have never seen kids in her class pinch/bully. So that is a thing your school should be aware of

      3. Never ever beat her. Don't even think of it. Chill.

      4. Kids come in all different flavors. I have two and I see it every day. My little one does have her friends and she is extremely friendly with some of the kids in her class. For her it is a matter of time.

      5. Does not matter what you were. The child is a different individual :)

      6. And as I said they all grow up fine as long as you have taught them the essentials:-- being kind, sharing, being brave, politeness

  13. My son was so shy when he started his school days and now he is totally the opposite. Congrats to LS ! Great LS will be happy to read and laugh after many years her yellow belt experience! My sunday lunch is always chicken too, love this creamy curry!

  14. Nice post. Congratulations to Lil S!

    As you said, we write what we write because we want to be remembered in a certain way. I intermittently kept a diary when I was younger. As I grew older, I stopped. I also told myself if I ever went back to writing one, I'd leave out the sore bits because it would just hurt me to read them again. Bad enough we remember all that anyway, with or without diaries!

  15. Read the lovely experience that you shared about your " kol pocha " , you will be knowing that it is the term we bengalis' use while referring to our youngest child. My daughter is 2 yrs and 4 months old and she is some sort similar to LS; very talkative and interactive at home but just clams down in group that she is not much familiar with. She is going to a playschool; but the first few weeks were very teary.....every morning she would howl that she wont go to school...but just a week back the first thing she uttered as she woke up was...' aami school e jaabo ' ( i want to go to school )......i just realized that my baby has crossed a milestone and she is growing up..............maybe a bit too fast.....i am sure we all moms' feel the same way....

    1. Good for her. Yes, LS loves going to her current school these days too and tells me to pick her late. But there is a transition in September and we have to see how it goes

  16. Hey reading your post made me so nostalgic.I have two young ladies at home and my older one is very friendly with one and all.My Chutki who is all set to leave the nest is so much like your LS.A chatterbox at home always laughing she clams up in front of outsiders.Friends and relatives who meet her find her very serious.I dread to think what will happen once she leaves home and enters the portals of college.

    1. Awww don't worry, she will be fine in college. Kids behave totally differently in front of relatives and then peer groups. But then we all do that too right ? I mean I don't behave exactly same with A, as with B. So diff people see diff side of my persona

      LS is fine with close friends and relatives, the same naughtiness at home continues. It is with new people that she takes time to open up

  17. Sandeepa, That was so beautifully written and described. My son does that too - talks up a storm and behaves so differently amongst people he is comfortable with versus people he has met not so very much. He is a very sensitive kid too and that worries me :(.
    Hope LS blossoms into conquering all her fears and anxieties on this matter and more :).

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  19. Lovely post Bong mom! I am also mother of a shy child and have gone/going through exact steps I was a shy child too and my other don't need to remind me that, I exactly remember how I used to hold her Saree's Anchal in-front of so called less known uncle and Aunties! Now I can make blog friends also :) I make friends cross department in my office. But you know what I still can find that shy girl in me, and they overpower the new social one at times, though social me have now more control on that process :) and yes many coaxing and cajoling of my parents and several relocations in childhood helped to empower the social me while growing up. I try the same way for my daughter and then give her own time to do things too.

  20. Kudos to LS for facing her anxieties and coming out on top. congrats on the yellow belt too!

  21. Was so proud of LS that I forgot to mention that I made Kerala stew a few times, started with a playdate, from Sailu's recipe. And also ended up adding some veggies. We had ours with bread.

  22. Aww ... Congrats LS! Onek ashirbaad ... I wish I was as brave when I was small. :-)

  23. Sweet, heart warming post. So easy to relate to that feeling of dread when you know that your child will most likely behave a certain unpleasant way and you still have to go through with it for they have to survive in the world and you have to grow up to know that your child is a different individual. I have 2 daughters and very similar situations were presented to us during pre school for the younger one and she recently started martial arts too. I am glad we enrolled her. The disciple and hierarchical respect they teach there comforts me somehow.
    Why is it so often the younger one....based on yours, mine and some of the above comments?
    Was there a recipe up there? Let me go re-read :)

    1. Well, I think people are reading this post in different ways :) But I DO NOT think my child behaved in a "certain unpleasant way". Maybe in her own way but definitely not "unpleasant". Also I did not dread going through it because of the way she behaved but because I felt that she was at discomfort and not enjoying a scenario which she would have otherwise.
      Taekwondo definitely helped or maybe that she has grown up. But recently she shows lot more courage in confronting people

  24. Awww San, this post is really connecting with me in a big way! My lil one who is probably six months younger than LS is she won't cry but is extremely quiet, timid, won't smile etc etc if there are too many unfamiliar people or if the focus is on her. I do reward her when she does what she has to in situations she is not comfortable with and yes, I want her too to remember her "yellow belt" moments when she's older :)

  25. Awww San, this post is really connecting with me in a big way! My lil one who is probably six months younger than LS is she won't cry but is extremely quiet, timid, won't smile etc etc if there are too many unfamiliar people or if the focus is on her. I do reward her when she does what she has to in situations she is not comfortable with and yes, I want her too to remember her "yellow belt" moments when she's older :)

  26. And I also need to catch up with all the posts I missed!

  27. Such a lovely post, Sandeepa. Hearty congratulations to the proud winner of the yellow belt and her proud family! God bless.

  28. I tried this one last night and it was mindblowing. I followed your recipe down to a T - just skipped the cashew nut part but still added the ghee and I added some sugar as well. It was so good and tasted almost like thai chicken and the sliced ginger and garlics actually felt like bamboo shoots :-) Will make it again and again!



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