I’m a big fan of suparis. My absolute favourite are big pieces of chikni supari, dried paan and some mixes that aren’t overly fragrant or coloured. But I try consciously to not let them become an obsession. After all, how good would be betel nut, and all the additives used on it, for one’s stomach or teeth? Not much, I’m sure. Yet I like the challenge a piece of hard supari offers while being chewed, and then it also keeps me off frequent munching on snacks.
I was, therefore, quite taken in by the sight of roasted imli (tamarind) seeds included in a sectioned-box of saunf and digestives in a small eatery in Gir. I liked the idea of finding an alternative to suparis that was simple enough to arrange and devoid of suspicious food colours. Upon airing a general question about what and why of it, another restaurant customer helpfully clarified that the seeds were roasted and had to be peeled before eating the white seed inside. And that it offered a great ‘time pass’ activity! I grabbed a couple and resolved to look for a shop selling those seeds.
After a couple of reminders, our driver managed to find a tiny shop in Ahmedabad that sold them along with roasted peanuts, popcorn and channa. I picked up small quantities of all the items and felt mighty successful in securing imli seeds. About 200 gms cost Rs10 and were packed in a newspaper cone. On return, however, I was disappointed to find them tasting stale and soggy. Sogginess was remedied using the Microwave oven but their staleness made them unpalatable. Since then I’d been on the lookout for regular imli seeds but could only find a few in the stock of imli at home as branded imli packets carry seedless imli these days. I kept them visible to work on them in some manner. At some point, I roasted them on a tawa over 5-6 minutes, switched off the flame and left them on the tawa itself to get crisper. Later, I was worried to find one side almost charred. I’d no idea they’d cook so rapidly! But I was surprised to find those semi-charred seeds tasting wonderful. They were a little like well-roasted peanuts without their disadvantages, and gave me both the challenge and company I seek of suparis! I’ve finished that small stock in the last couple of days and am now hoping for more to surface so I can roast them!
Have you ever chewed imli seeds? I remember chewing even the raw, unroasted ones as a kid. They didn’t taste good but provided some activity on long walks back from school 🙂