The Travelling Belly comes home. The thrill of holding my first book & tales from The Market Place

The first author copy of the The Travelling Belly

Link to ordering The Travelling Belly on - Kindle and paperback
Link to ordering international Kindle edition on

I've been trying to write this post all morning but have been caught up on calls and messages and what not. I've finally brewed myself a cup of coffee (instant Davidoff) and have decided to let life wait for a bit and blog.

(PS: I finished the blog post late at night, as at 3 pm I decided it was time to have lunch, shower, cat nap and go to yoga)

The Travelling Belly
Author: Kalyan Karmakar
Name given by Kainaz Karmakar
Cover design & photography: Harshad Rajdhyaksha
Inner Illustrations: Mistunee Chowdhury
Publisher: Hachette India
Commissioning editor: Poulomi Chatterje
Editor of the book: Sohini Pal
Marketing: Avanija Sundaramurti & Poorti Soni

But I do need to tell you what happened exactly one week back and hence the post. You might have heard the news on my other social media channels but do bear with me and read on as you have played a big role in what happened.

Getting my first copy of The Travelling Belly

Well last Thursday, the bell rang at about 8. 45 am. No-one comes to our house at that hour. I was getting ready for the day inside. The bell kept ringing and then there was insistent banging on the door.

I was about to head to the hall to open the door when I heard K grumble and mumble and get up and head to the door. We are not morning people.

I went to the bedroom, by which time K had snuggled back under the duvet. I saw a plastic pouch beside her.

I pushed her gently and said, "wake up, I think it's the book!!!" 

(Hachette had told me that they were sending it a few days back).

And so it was, the first copy of The Travelling Belly, my first book. The book was named by Kainaz so I was happy to have her around when I received it.

We both looked at awe at the wonderful cover our friend Harshad Rajadhyaksha had designed after many intense brainstorming tele-calls between the folks at Hachette with K occasionally listening in  on the background and me mediating at times. The book is a result of team work. 

I was clear that we 'should be many in body, one in mind,' to quote the Japanese Buddhist monk and overall cool dude, Nicherin Daishonin, and it shows in the book I am sure.

K and  skimmed through the pages and our smiles grew wider. 

I Instagrammed, Facebooked, whatsapped and tweeted too!

I wanted to write a book right from the time I was 8
This is not the Science Fiction novel I had planned to write then
Nor the Mumbai noire romance I had planned to when K & I started dating
The Travelling Belly is the story of my love for food

I was too excited to do any work and we went off to the Atrium at the Taj Land's End to savour the book. We met a couple of friends from the hotel and showed the book.

Bengalis and Parsis both celebrate happy occasions with fish
The salmon sandwich with pumpernickel bread at the Atrium was spot on
The shehnai was missing but when they found out about the occasion,
the folks at Taj said that lunch was their treat

Then Harshad came in and took the book and held it in the light streaming in over the Arabian Sea. He was checking the reproduction of the colours and he wholeheartedly approved of how Hachette had rendered his baby...the cover... in real life.

Kainaz Karmakar
Seeing if the copy in the book measures up to the name she had given
Harshad Rajadhyaksha, her partner at work in Ogilvy
Checking the colours of the cover
The food trails that fed The Travelling Belly

When Poulomi Chatterjee of Hachette India first met me to discuss book ideas, she had suggested that I do a book themed on the concept of the Finely Chopped Food Walks that I had just started then.

So, it was rather fitting that the next day I met Mark Jordan from LA for a customised Finely Chopped Food Walk in Bandra. We exchanged stories about our separate worlds and our lives. 

Jordan seemed to love the chops and pan rolls and chips at Candies and the salli par eedu at Snack Shack, bhel and pani puri at Punjab Sweets and then the bombil fry with saol kadi at Jai Hind.

Mark Jordon
The first Finely Chopped reader gets to see The travelling Belly
The stories behind our food

Jordan told me about what's happening in the US as far as food tends are concerned. Apparently, folks in the US are done with their fixation with foreign cuisines (read French) and also the foam and froth of molecular cuisines. He said that the focus is now on local produce. Food lovers there want to know where the produce that went into their dish was grown. In which farm they were grown. What's the history of the meat they are eating. It's all about conscious and local eating among food mavens in the US from what I gathered. They want to know the story behind what goes into their food.

Which is what I promise to tell in my blog. Which is what I have tried to tell in my book. The stories behind our meals.

I have seen this sort of pride in local produce in Australia, specially in Masterchef Australia. 

It's great to know that the US is taking this up too.

Tales from The Market Place

The Market Place, Vedic Village Kolkata

I saw an example of this in India too last weekend. I was in Kolkata for The Market Place event as a guest of Salmoli Mukherjee and of The Vedic Village where it was held. 

The two day event was focus on celebrating local market produce. They had set up a market where men and women from rural Bengal including Darjeeling in the north, aided by NGOs, came and displayed their produce for urban Kolkata folks who shopped like there was no tomorrow.

My friends Manishita and Kaniska came to visit me at The Market Place
They star in The Travelling Belly

I got to learn from some ladies from Noygar in rural Bengal, who were unfazed by my questions, about how muri is made and how different type of rice leads to different types of muris.

I got to learn about the goyna bori, a jewel shaped dumpling (vadi) made with a lentil paste layered with a thin film of poppy seeds and then formed into the shape of jewels (goyna). It is said that Rabindranath Tagore's wife, Mrinalini Devi, encouraged the women in East Midnapore in Bengal to make these boris. My granny later told me that the boris were often meant to be eaten by themselves.

 I was enthralled by the different types of rice on offer including wild rice. And by the produce - kiwi (!), squash, mustard green, tangerines and cheese (!) - from Darjeeling. Grown with step farming due to water scarcity. All organic. As the lady from the organisation supporting them wistfully yet proudly said, "it's organic as the farmers in Darjeeling are too poor to buy pesticides.""

The richness of the vegetables produced in such harsh conditions in Darjeeling reminded me of the Buddhist credo of 'turning poison into medicine.''

The spunky ladies from Noygar and the young girl from the NGO
 who was with them braving the harsh sun
Many types of rice on offer from rural bengal
Including wild rice. As organic as it gets

Produce from Darjeeling

Goyna bori
The champions of The Market Place 

I was happy to see the support that these farmers got from everyone. There was the West Bengal government Additional Chief secretary, Dr Sanjeev Chopra, who pledged to stand by organic and local farming, and emphasised the need for creating a market where such native and small-scale producers and farmers could be encouraged.

This, to me is important, as I believe that in order for organic produce to succeed and for producers to be encouraged, demand needs to grow which will happen only when prices are more affordable. Otherwise they will remain a fancy of the champagne classes to be indulged in like the occasional flirtation. 

With Salmoli Mukherjee & chef Saby Gorai

It was encouraging to see the Salmoli and The Market Place team get in local Kolkata chefs to come and cook with their own native produce at the event. It was encouraging to see senior chefs such as Abhijit Saha, Sujan Sarkar, Sabyasachi Gorai and Vicky Ratnani take the time out to mentor the chefs and support the crusaders of good produce from the villages of Bengali. It was encouraging to see senior writers and bloggers such as Sangeeta Khanna, Marryam H, Reshii, Kaniska Chakraborty and Sourish Bhattacharya take the time out to support and cover the moment.

With Chefs Vicky Ratnani and Sujan Sarkar and the young Kolkata chefs
Just before this session, Vicky Ratnani did a spontaneous cook
entirely with produce that he found in the market.
Most of which was unfamiliar to him

There were two memorable culinary experiences from the event that I took back with me.

The first was the amazing Gobindobhog rice risotto with the Darjeeling cheese, with a spicy chilli kick, and the juicy Darjeeling fresh shitaake mushrooms and with a fried goyna bori on the side and gondhoraj lebu to squeeze on it. This was the art of an overall amazing meal cooked by chef Abhijit Saha for us. He used rural Bengal produce from The Market Place, vegetables from the Vedic Village gardens (tomatoes, cauliflowers etc) and cheese and cocoa from his local suppliers in Bangalore. 

This was possibly the best risotto I've had in my life.

Abhijit Saha's very Indian and yet Italian risotto

The other dish was the brilliant Joynagorer moa which was there to welcome us in the beautiful and luxurious bungalows at The Vedic Village. This winter special dessert brought back memories of my childhood. This was one of the first few local Bengali treats that I took to when I first moved into Kolkata from Iran.

Joynagorer moa at Vedic Village from
Ghosh in Joynagor, south of Kolkata

I don't like moas these days as I find the ones from local sweetshops in Kolkata too chewy and sweet. My friend Kaniska tells me that this is because they are now mass produced in Kolkata and sugar is used instead of the wintry patali gur. Which is sad as the Joynagorer moa has GI status.

The moa in my room had a lovely aroma that whispered memories of my childhood, when this a fat and chubby kid loved moas and could finish them by the dozen. 

The moa in my room was juicy and moist and flavourful and each bite was a joyful hug from the past.

The folks at Vedic Village told me that they had sourced the moa from a sweet shop called Ghosh in Joynagorer Moa. That this was khaati or artisinal stuff. The real thing.

When I went over to my granny's house after the Market Place and told her about all that I had learnt, she smiled. This was her little grandchild was telling her stories of her life you see.

The secret to the aroma of the moa that I had was good quality khoi (puffed rice crisps) she said. That goyna bori, she told me, were offered by mothers to their son in laws. We both marvelled about how the addition of posto (poppy seeds) added magic to the lentil paste based boris. Way better than Fryums that we had as kids in Kolkata and I hadn't even heard of them till I came to the fair. My granny told me that there was another fair called Saras mela going on in Salt Lake where you would get such produce.

To new beginnings

2017 is where I promise to bring you more stories from the world of food. Stories of hope and happiness and good cheer.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

And please do buy The Travelling Belly!

Was lovely to come back to Mumbai and see myself included in this list of bloggers to follow by the much experience food writer, Sourish Bhattacharya. The Christmas gifts kept pouring in this year

Here's a phone video that I shot of the ladies selling muri. Also scroll down for more pictures

An earlier post on Joynagorer moa

Lots of pictures below so keep scrolling down

The Travelling Belly and its friends

My first book event
The Dadar Parsi Trail at SodaBottleOpenerWala, BKC

First page of the book from Kindle

Allison Hendricks, first blogger friend to see the book.
She had dropped in from Sydney and surprised us.
It was so good to catch up with a friend who has been
with me through rosy and rocky times. She liked the writing in the book!
Rajveer Kaur of Taj Land's End
First non Karmakar and non Hachette employee to see the book

Chef Anirudhya Roy of Taj Land's End
A chef who likes to read and who said he liked the prose

The Market Place

Abhijit Saha's menu at the Market Place

A cauliflower dish by chef Saha. Using vegetables grown at The Vedic Village
You could get the aroma of the fresh winter special cauiliflowers

A lovely bisque made by Saha using local scampi

Loved the dessert made by chef Saha using iced cocoa
crumble with cocoa from South india supplied by David Belo

Our happy table at the

Chef Saha in white and
David Belo who sources cocoa from South India
And makes chocolates
Pictures from the market:

Pottery barn
Finally met Sangeeta Khanna after having interacted
often on articles this year

Varieties of rice

The programme from the market
Dr Chopra

The Vedic Village: The trip to Kolkata was courtesy them and I I got to meet my granny thrice this month with this. This is the lovely cottage I stayed in

Dining table

Hall. There was a lovely pond outisde

Bedroom (the bathroom was massive too
and had an alfresco shower apart from a sink in tub)
The view that I woke up to and did yoga by