You know what, I had been having this stupid craving for asam rebus ikan bawal putih and seafood tom yum since I came back to Mumbai from my last break in Malaysia. I had all the ingredients brought all the way from Malaysia, except serai (lemongrass) and daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves). Gosh, where shall I find these in Mumbai? I absolutely had no idea!

Serai (Lemongrass) – One of the basic aromatic ingredients of curries and Thai food. Only the white bulbous part, just above the root is used in cooked dishes, while the dried lemongrass leaves can be used to make a zesty, refreshing drink.

Daun Limau Purut (Kaffir Lime Leaves) – Its sharp, lemony aroma enhances the flavor of a dish, mainly used as an ingredient in Malay and Thai soury dishes like asam tumis, asam rebus and tom yum.

I told my hubby (more like pestering him actually) that I needed just a few leaves of these plants. Elly, Yazurin’s wife, once had told me she had found serai somewhere within our apartment’s compound. Hubby and I went down and took a tour around and yes, we found some serai plants. And now, where could we possibly find the daun limau purut, eh?

After a few hours of searching for daun limau purut, we finally gave up and decided to look for a pot to plant our serai instead. So, off we went to find a pot and some fertilised soil. Senang gitu, lepas nih cabut serai kat balcony je.

We found a nursery somewhere in town near our home that sold all kinds of flowers, plants and trees. Instead of asking for the pot and soil, we tried our luck by asking the nursery guy (who could not at all speak English), if he had serai and daun limau purut anywhere in his nursery. Here’s how the conversation went, macam ayam dengan itik…

Hubby: Do you have lemongrass here?

Nursery guy: Lemon? Nahi, hey! (Means, no lemon)

Hubby: No, not lemon. It’s lemongrass. For cooking tom yum and curry, you know?

Nursery guy: Curry? Curry nahi, hey! (Means, no selling curry here. At this point, he might be thinking that we’re out of our minds to find curry dish at a nursery!)

Hubby: You know, grass that smells nice.

Nursery guy: Aaaahhh… come! (That was the only English word we heard thus far from him. He showed us to a tree that didn’t at all look like a lemongrass)

Hubby: Nahi, nahi. It’s a grass. Small.

Nursery guy: Come! (Walking a few yards away and urging us to follow him. Showed us to another tree. This time, it’s a flower plant)

Hubby: Nahi, nahi. Wait! (Went to the car, took out the serai that we plucked from our apartment compound and showed it to him)

Nursery guy: Aaahhhhhhhhh! (Ushering us to a corner and showed us where he kept the lemongrass plants)

Hubby: OK, we take one pot. Egd pot! (‘Egd’ here means ‘one’. Hubby could now speak a few Hindi words, not bad!)

Nursery guy took one pot of serai and stored it inside our car. Then, came a more challenging part – to ask for daun limau purut as we did not have any sample to show him.

Hubby: Do you sell lime trees?

Nursery guy: Lime? Errr… lime… (Looking down, frowning. Probably thinking “Damn, I should have learned my English!”)

Hubby: Lime. Like orange. You know orange?

Nursery guy: Orange? (Looking rather frustrated this time and still frowning. Probably thinking “I must take English class after this! I must take English class after this!”)

Hubby: Hmm…like this… Slurrppp, slurrrpp, nyam nyam (Performing an act of drinking and making lime juice, something like ‘perah-perah limau’ act)

Nursery guy: Aaaaahhhhhhhh! (Leading us the way toward the backyard and pointing his finger frantically at a lime tree)

Hubby: Achaa. Egd pot!

Pheww… at last, it’s over. No more the ‘chicken and duck’ talk. There, one pot of lime tree went into our car! And sitting next to it, was the pot of serai plants. And what do you know, we had finally found our much needed ingredients and my asam rebus and tom yum will be ‘complete’. I said my thanks to dear hubby for being so supportive as I asked him for just a few leaves but he gave me trees instead!

lemongrass  lime-tree

Note: Mrs. Julia Idaly from Navi Mumbai, India shared her experience conversing with an Indian who owned a nursery in Nerul and could not speak English. At the time this incident happened, Mrs Julia Idaly and her hubby were new to the area and tried to settle down in their new home in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Now, they have been living in Mumbai for more than a year and know where to find their ‘very much needed leaves’.

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