Little carts with striped awnings are quite a common sight on the streets of Istanbul, the OH tells me. These carts largely sell boiled corn and smoked water chestnuts, the latter known locally as ‘Kestane’. I am guessing this is a winter thing, and that the corn and water chestnuts will soon be replaced by some other delicacies as summer sets in.
The OH knew that I would have wanted to try out the Kestane, had I been with him. He was quick to grab a bag of raw chestnuts from a nearby departmental store, to carry back home with him, in spite of being subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, he tells me. Just hearing that made my day, for obvious reasons. :)
One of the perks of having a husband who travels a lot on work is that you get to see the places you might never have thought about earlier, through his eyes. That, and the fact that you get souvenirs of all kinds, from all of these places, water chestnuts included.
For my benefit, the OH went on to take a few close-up shots of the cart, again only to be subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, so that I could know exactly how the chestnuts were cooked – on a charcoal fire. Apparently, there are no trash cans around and the peels left over after the smoked chestnuts have been eaten are added to the hot coals in the grate. They then create energy to cook more chestnuts.
The water chestnuts that the OH got home gave us the perfect opportunity to fire up the Rajasthani charcoal stove that we had picked up ages ago at a fair in Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore, but never used. We set up the stove in our balcony, kindled the fire, smoked the chestnuts, and went on to hog them. They tasted delicious – sweet and smoky and very different in taste from the singoda aka singhada aka Indian water chestnut. Thanks to the Internet, I now understand that the singoda and this water chestnut come from different plants, and are not the same. This is the water chestnut that is used in the preparation of several Chinese dishes, and not singoda.
It was a beautiful experience to shell these chestnuts and eat the sweet kernels, enjoying the warmth of them in our hands just when the evening had started to get chilly. I can see why they are a favourite snack out of India on winter evenings – as I have read in quite a few books. I just love it when books and real life intersect like that!
I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to sit with the OH on a bench overlooking the busy Turkish street where he bought the water chestnuts from, eating them out of a paper cone. Some day…