This Saturday, the India Association of Memphis hosted the 11th annual India Fest at the Agricenter. My friends and I go every year, and we stuff our faces with samosas and dosa and all manner of Indian fare. It's a huge event with thousands of people roaming the aisles of food vendors, getting henna tattoos, and shopping for saris.
Here I am in front of the awesome chariot they built to honor the past kingdoms of India.
And here's my friend Cassi with her son Keithon.
When we arrived, we were famished, so we went on a mission for food. Vendors sell regional fare from most of the states of India, so there's plenty of variety. I always seek out chaat (Indian street food) because it's usually super-cheap, and eating snack foods means I can eat more before I'm full. I started with Pani Puri.
Pani Puri are these little crispy, hollow pillows that you stuff with a chickpea and onion mixture. And then you pour a sweet and tangy tamarind sauce inside. These are fun because you get to build your own snacks. Here's a pani puri that I assembled and promptly stuffed in my face.
Next, I grabbed a Samsosa, because, samosas! Nothing says comfort food like a potato- and pea-stuffed fried dumpling.
When I spotted the Bhel Puri at another vendor table, I had to have it. This is one of my favorite Indian snacks — crisp puffed rice, crunchy sev sticks, cilantro, tomato, onions, and bits of fried dough coated in tamarind sauce.
By this point, I was getting pretty full. But I couldn't do India Fest without a Masala Dosa served with Sambar and Coconut Chutney! Dosa is a thin, savory pancake, and these were stuffed with seasoned potatoes. You tear off bites and dip them in the sambar (veggie stew) and creamy chutney.
With full bellies, we were finally ready to venture into the marketplace area where people were peddling saris, bindhi stickers, and all manner of shiny jewelry. These necklaces were 5 for $20!
Cassi and I both picked up lots of jewelry we intended to buy, but in the end, we put everything back and Cassi settled on a scarf. I bought this adorable statue of Ganesha, the Overcomer of Obstacles.
I usually get a henna tattoo on my hand while I'm there. Most henna artists there charge about $5. But last year, when Cassi and I both got henna, Cassi quickly learned that she's apparently allergic. Her hand got all puffy and itchy under the henna ink. I didn't want to make her wait on me to get henna since it takes awhile. So I forwent the henna this year. We had a lovely time, and now I have some serious exercising to do to work off all those fried carbs.