For over a year now, I have been curating a weekly food-themed page for my paper’s weekend edition. Sometimes, we plan a themed edition: music festivals, summer, street food, what have you. It so happened that we planned a monsoon edition, even though there was no sign of it then, and we are yet to see any rain in Chennai.
The immediate idea was to go for monsoon foods and recipes. However, the morning that our pages get made, I decided to change things a little bit a wrote this:
Hot bajji, crispy pakoda, steaming momos and freshly brewed tea spiked with spices… India’s rainy day snacks are legendary. Gloomy weather calls for comfort food, and each country finds solace in traditional dishes that infuse warmth and cheer. Here are some favourites from around the world.
A recent survey revealed that apple crumble might be this nation’s most preferred comfort food to combat their almost perpetually overcast climate. Flour, demerara sugar and butter are rolled together to form a breadcrumb-like topping that covers a caramelised apple filling. The filling to crumble ratio is very important, as the fruit shouldn’t seep through and soften the crispy crust when it comes out of the oven. While it’s traditionally served with custard, it’s not uncommon to have it with a dollop of fresh cream or ice cream. Other favourites include shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash.
The tropical climate ensures that there are heavy rains from June to November, but the Filipinos have a long list of wholesome dishes to sustain them. Batchoy is a popular noodle soup made with stir-fried pork, chicken and beef served in a broth with round noodles called miki. Then there’s the lugaw, a rice pudding that’s similar to the congee served in China. Those with a sweet tooth go for the bibingka; it’s a rice cake made with coconut milk that’s usually eaten during the Christmas season. The soft, spongy cake is served warm or hot.
Photo: John Herschell
The iconic macaroni and cheese is a year-round staple, but there’s something about indulging in this cheesy delight when it’s pouring outside. While some brands of instant mac and cheese have a large following, it’s also quite simple to whip up at home — add your favourite veggies or crispy bacon strips for additional flavour. Southern favourites include buttermilk biscuits with gravy, chili con carne with cornbread apart from the universally appealing cinnamon rolls, pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Photo: Steve Johnson
The island nation gets its share of rain between May and October. Their cuisine incorporates Spanish spices and techniques with Caribbean flavours, like the picadillo, made with ground beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices and vegetables sauteed in olive oil and white wine; raisins, potatoes and capers are sometimes included. It is generally served with black beans and rice. Ropa vieja, made with shredded steak, is another favourite, eaten with soda crackers or warm, soft Cuban bread. Buñuelos — anise fritters with syrup — are a sweet treat with the earthy flavour of star anise.
The largest country in the world might be associated with extreme cold and snow, but the areas bordering the Black Sea have a humid, subtropical climate with mild and rainy weather for the latter part of the year. Steamed cabbage rolls, or golubtsy, stuffed with beef, are reassuringly familiar and comforting to the average Russian. There are also some strange winter soups, like the Solyanka, which is made with lean beef, fatty pork, pickled cucumbers and black olives, and the hot milk soup with noodles, which is served to small children.
A version of this story can be found here.