Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Guest Post: Enjoying Holiday Food, Staying Guilt Free

Holiday food can inspire anxiety or ecstasy or both. The good news — average weight gain in the holiday season is just one to two kgs. The bad — while that might not sound much, research shows that if we don’t lose it that adds up year after year. Sweet treats and rich meals can be landmines for health-conscious people, yet no one wants to feel deprived during this time of the year. There’s no need to fear as there are sensible ways to navigate this territory. Here are my tips for making it through the holiday season without feeling guilty:

My Christmas plate. Enjoying everything in small quantities!

My Christmas plate. Enjoying everything in small quantities!

Eat what you love, leave what you like

Instead of piling your plate a mile high with things that don’t really tantalize your taste buds (fruit cake, we’re looking at you!), pick only the foods that give you true enjoyment. If something doesn’t make you swoon, leave it.

Keep your treats to one day a week

The biggest mistake we make is feasting on all days instead of a one-day indulgence. Rather than letting your holiday feast roll into pie for breakfast, limit your splurges to one event per week.

Nix the guilt

Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviour. So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track the next day.

Indulging in one brandy butter frosted red velvet cupcake!

Indulging in one brandy butter frosted red velvet cupcake!

Eat low to high (when it comes to calories)

Start with a broth-based soup or salad, then move on to lean protein, and by the time you reach those triple fudge brownies, a few bites will be all you need to feel satisfied.

Alternate alcohol with soda water

On an average, most adults consume almost 100 calories a day from alcoholic beverages. Since avoiding alcoholic beverages altogether may be hard during this time of merriment, alternating between alcoholic and a zero-calorie lime water can help you avoid pouring on the pounds. Bonus: You’ll avoid entering the hangover zone, a not-so-happy holiday tradition!

Balance acid with alkaline

Holiday foods are full of ‘acid formers’ like sugar, alcohol, and meat; so make sure you balance all those rich foods with plenty of ‘alkaline formers’ like lemons and greens. To not upset the Ph balance, eat plenty of greens with heavy dishes.

Veg-out on veggies

Try swapping light pureed cauliflower for carb-heavy mashed potatoes and add side dishes with more vegetables, like bell peppers and broccoli, to bolster nutritional value.

Don’t be fooled by the ‘health halo’

File this under sad-but-true: You can gain weight even if you eat healthy. You can overdo it with the veggies and dip or creamy asparagus soup, just like you can with ice cream. Make sure you’re not eating something based solely on its health-food aura. Keep in mind PORTION SIZE.

Bring out the skinny jeans

Elastic waistbands, ‘relaxed fit’ sweaters, and other loose clothing are practically an invitation to overeat. Bring out the dresses, skinny jeans, slim-fit suits. Not only will you look good but the outfits will stop you from over-indulging.

Just say NO… to food pushers

Whether biscuits or chocolates, you may feel forced to keep eating because people keep offering them to you. Put on a smile, politely decline and then offer a compliment. “These chocolates look amazing. I’m too full now but could I take them home?”

Be a snack smuggler

Traveling, shopping, and running errands during the holidays can lead to fast food and skipping meals. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Choose options like nuts, protein bars, fruits and greens.

Detox your taste buds

Over time we adapt to eating ‘hyperpalatable’ foods (high fat, high salt, high sugar or all three). We often erode the ability to appreciate subtle flavours, and train our taste buds to accept hyperpalatable as normal. You can reset taste buds by cutting out processed foods for just one week. Then, when you indulge, you’ll be able to appreciate all the flavours and be happy with just a few bites.

Three bites and good night

For desserts, the first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same. In three bites, you get the full dessert experience.

Trim the trimmings

Most traditional holiday dishes are not that unhealthy—think lean chicken, vegetables and nuts—but adding in all the additional trimmings make the calories soar. Simply eliminate extras like gravy, cream sauces, butter and pie crusts.

Eat mindfully

It sounds silly, but lots of people don’t even realize when they’re eating. Taking the time to choose foods you really want to eat and then actively focusing on enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you’re full.

Eat breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast as that leaves you more likely to overeat later. Start with something that has lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and some healthy fat to give you energy until your next meal. My favourite is an omelette made with one egg and two to three egg whites; easy-to-cook veggies like spinach, mushrooms, or sautéed onions; fresh herbs and a touch of grated Parmesan cheese. Add fresh fruit and whole-grain toast to round of the meal.

Use the ‘fork trick’

It’s hard to be able to tell when one is full. So try this: Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate and let go. Chew your food, swallow, and then pick up your fork again. The key to this trick is actually letting go of the fork so you eat slowly and realize when you’re body is telling you to stop.

Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water

It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger leading to mindless snacking. Drink half your body weight in water.If you weigh 70kgs, aim for 70 ounces of water in a day.

Deepa Nandy is a Mumbai-based consulting nutritionist and diabetes educator. She can be contacted on deepanandy@yahoo.comFollow her Facebook page — Deepa Nandy’s Nutriguidefor day-to-day tips!


Happy New Year folks! Hope it was a great year for you all. See you in 2016 with new travel stories, food recipes, reviews and much merriment. Thanks for tagging along with me this year 🙂

Food in Calcutta: Tiretti Bazaar’s Chinese Breakfast


Homemade Chinese delicacies

Homemade Chinese delicacies

The steaming bowl of broth and fish balls beckoned invitingly. The woman who had set up her stall by the roadside looked at her container on the fire that kept the soup warm for customers. She had just ladled out a serving along with handmade fish balls in a red bowl keeping up with the Christmas week celebrations. I bent down to smell the contents. All it needed was the customary decking with soy and it was ready. The table next to her is always kept ready with seasonings and cutlery. Break the generous fish ball and take a bite. Wash it down with the hot broth and that’s when you realise why you made that early morning journey to Tiretti Bazaar in Central Calcutta (Kolkata). (Do pardon me but I’m used to calling the city I grew up in Calcutta and not Kolkata).

The steaming soup container

The steaming soup container

Recently a lot has been written and discussed about the unique Chinese Breakfast in Calcutta. Many have called it a recent discovery while some have ventured out to try the food because of the visibility on social media. But for the old timers, it’s a matter of habit. I was introduced to Poddar Court about 10 years ago on a chilly winter morning by a dear friend. Having picked me up from home in the wee hours, we drove through the empty roads to reach the central part of the city.

Fish ball soup and Pork Bun

This time round when I visited home for Christmas and impromptu brekkie plans were made, I realised I was going there with the same friend. We were older but not wiser, yet our appetite for Chinese food remained the same!

Get them buns steaming hot. You get a choice between chicken and pork

Get them buns steaming hot. You get a choice between chicken and pork

You can shop for wallets as you devour pork spring rolls!

You can shop for wallets as you devour pork spring rolls!

Years ago, Chinese immigrants made Calcutta their home. They brought their food and culture to the expanding city and today, they form a unique part of Calcutta’s cultural heritage. As Chinese restaurants blossom, a visit to Tiretti Bazar will give you a taste into delicious homemade Chinese delicacies. From dumplings filled with minced meat to steaming buns with homemade fillings, sausages to prawn crackers, delicate broths to deep fried meat balls.

As you enter the road, you’re greeted with the view of a market. Fresh roses the flower seller sets up are gorgeous and red. Walk further down and you encounter fresh vegetables and greens – from bok choy to Chinese cabbage. Then you have the meat and fish sellers showcasing their wares and finally, the smell of steaming dumplings tell you you’ve reached your destination. The number of sellers has dwindled over the years but that does not stop a handful of enthusiasts from selling their homemade delicacies every single day no matter the weather. “Even if it’s raining, you will find one of us at least selling food so that no one goes back empty handed,” said the man who sells crumbed spring rolls along with wallets. The stalls are set up early in the morning, about 5ish and they wrap by when their stocks run out, which is pretty early if I can add. If you decide to come here at your leisure, you’ll be disappointed. The earlier you arrive, the more food you will get!

Steamed dumplings

Steamed dumplings

You want more? There's plenty!

You want more? There’s plenty!

Work never ends. Preps for the buns start in the evening while for items like dumplings and rolls, early morning plays a crucial role. As I dug into fish ball soup, prawn spring rolls, pork and fish dumplings and steaming pork baos, I craved roasted pork. If you want to try it, make sure you go there on the weekends because that’s the only time you’ll get it. If you’re in Calcutta and want to do something local, eating Chinese breakfast at Tiretti Bazaar must be on your to-do list!

Get some sausages to cook at home!

Get some sausages to cook at home!

Buy what goes into the sausage so you can attempt making them yourself!

Buy what goes into the sausage so you can attempt making them yourself!

After breakfast, why don't you complete your veggie shopping too?

After breakfast, why don’t you complete your veggie shopping too?

The roses that greet you when you enter and leave the breakfast road!

The roses that greet you when you enter and leave the breakfast road!

PS: Pocket pinch for 2 hungry eaters: Rs 300 approx
How to reach: Nearest metro station is Central. The food place is walking distance with the help of strangers whom you’ll have to ask for directions. If driving, then park in front of Poddar Court, near Lal Bazar

Nostalgic Egg and Vegetable Noodles

Bengalis have their quaint idiosyncrasies. We often get ridiculed for the ‘monkey caps’ in October or our love for Boroline (it IS a magic ointment, I swear) and of course the abundant respect for fish. Among all things, there has to have been that one moment when a Bengali child brought homemade Chinese to school which would be shared during a lunch break.
I don’t know much about other places but in Calcutta, one could buy these ‘Classic’ noodles from any shop. The maida (flour) noodles came in red coloured pouches which were about Rs 10 for a packet. When the tiffin boxes would be opened, a smell of homemade Chinese would engulf the air. With lots of vegetables of course, the noodles would be tossed with a dash of soy and vinegar and we would be very happy with that. The boxes would be passed around so all could take a bite. The days we felt rich, we would buy heavenly greasy noodles from the school canteen and share among us.
Recently, I had this craving for homemade noodles. As I searched the stocked shelves, I came across this red packet which instantly reminded me of school days and tiffin boxes. There was no question of not making them. But just to compensate for all the empty carbs, my fridge foraging led me to find lots of greens!

1 packet noodles (Use any sort – glass/rice/wheat/flour/egg)
1 egg (whisked)
1 carrot (julienne)
1 onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 inch ginger (sliced)
1 capsicum (chopped fine)
1 bok choy (shredded)
3 button mushrooms (chopped)
1 small broccoli (chopped)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs dark soy
1 tbs chilly vinegar
1 tbs oyster sauce
Salt to taste

Favourite from the school days in Calcutta. Pix credit: Barnik Bardhan

Favourite from the school days in Calcutta.
Pix credit: Barnik Bardhan

– Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and keep aside. Toss with a bit of oil to keep from sticking
– Heat 1 tsp sesame oil. Cook the egg tossing it about in the wok. When done, take out of wok and shred into small pieces
– Heat the remaining oil. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Saute till fragrant
– Add the carrot, capsicum, mushrooms and bok choy.
– When the vegetables are slightly soft , coated well with the oil, add the vinegar, soy and oyster sauce.
– At last, add the shredded egg.
– Mix well and serve hot

A long view!

A long view!

Delicious dinner

Delicious dinner

PS: Best accompanied with a book, eating in bed!

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