Product Reviews: Indian Food

Product #1: Giant’s Frozen Chana Masala

Price: Approx. $4

Giant's Chana Masala
Giant’s Chana Masala

Review: It is what it is.  A cheap, mild-tasting vegetarian dish, it can be an easy lunch to bring to work.  Make sure you microwave long enough to prevent it from being more watery than it has to be.  It’s not the amazing Indian food you may be used to, but homemade Indian food is time-consuming and restaurant-made food can get expensive.  Here’s a passable budget alternative.  Enjoy?

Props to Giant brand for tackling:


Product #2: Bookbinder’s Spicy Sriracha Sauce

Price: Approx. $3

Bookbinder's Sriracha Sauce
Bookbinder’s Sriracha Sauce

Review: I know, it’s not Indian.  Sriracha sauce is originally from Thailand.  But my Husband is always looking for a way to spice up his food, and Sriracha is often the way to do it.  This creamy sauce is more like a spicy mayonnaise than a clear hot sauce.  I used it on a bun-less burger for my first test.  It certainly gave it a kick, but didn’t leave me running to the sink to stick my tongue under the faucet.  I’d say it’s a good condiment for a mixed spice-level household.


Product #3: Patak’s Butter Chicken simmer sauce

Price: $6 – $11 depending on where you buy

Patak's Butter Chicken Meal
Patak’s Butter Chicken Meal

Review: gives it 2 stars for a reason.  I was disappointed for the price I paid (around $8).  Indian curries are rich and complex.  This butter chicken sauce was missing the butter, cream and complexity.  It was thin and heavy on the tomato paste, basically a tomato soup.  If I served this to my MIL, I’d be kicked out of the family.  The only possibility of redemption is if this sauce is not used as the only ingredient besides chicken and rice (as the jar suggests).  It would have to be the base for other vegetables, spices and herbs – as one reviewers suggests: “begs you to add more ingredients like onions, garlic, peppers,tomatoes, thyme, turmeric, paprika, cilantro, etc.”  But honestly, if I’m paying $8 for a sauce (and using the entire jar…) it should be the end all, be all.  Next time, I’ll be trying it from scratch.  Couldn’t be too much worse than this.

I followed the instructions to the tee, even “authentic results on the Mahatma Basmati rice”.  So here’s the pics:

Butter Chicken Directions

Rie Instructions



MASTER OF NONEMaster of None

Where can you find it?  NETFLIX (10 episodes)

Created By: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Prod Co: 3 Art Entertainment, Universal Television

Recommendation: WATCH IT!


Master of None is a scripted comedy in which Dev (played by Aziz Ansari) tries to make it as an actor in NYC.  Doesn’t sound too ground breaking right?  Critics, audiences and I disagree.  The genius of the series comes from Aziz’s portrayal of Dev, as well as the humor and themes that revolve around racism, sexism and the experience of a 1st generation American.

While sometimes the situations and dialogue are frustratingly on-the-nose (aka unsubtle & direct), it ultimately always ends up charming.  One episode that encapsulates that dynamic perfectly is Episode 2 “Parents.”  The episode clunkily jumps right into: “Gee, I don’t know much about or appreciate what my parents went through to get me where I am today.  I should spend more time with them.”  But it moves past being a sentimental PSA to feel raw and authentic because Aziz chose to cast his own parents Fatima and Shoukath Ansari as Dev’s aziz-ansari-parents-netflixparents.  It’s best to watch it to see what I mean.  As more and more people have watched the episode, Shoukath has gathered quite a following.  He stole the show from Aziz when they appeared on Colbert together.  And hearts melted when Aziz announced on Instagram that he burst into tears after his father said he appreciated being on the show because it helped him spend more time with his son.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to the show.  What I call stiff and on-the-nose, other reviewers call “candid” and “journalistic.”  It’s possible that my bar is a bit high because of my familiarity with these topics.  Whether it is fiction (like The Namesake) or non-fiction writing, blogs, movies or even my own observations among friends and family, the identity struggles and experiences of first generation Indians is something I’ve explored.  What Aziz is saying simply sounds too familiar to feel ground-breaking to me.  Note: I’m not saying I’ve experienced these things, but observed/read/watched quite a bit at this point.

Despite all of this, I watched all 10 episodes in a weekend and you should too.

masters_of_none2One thing that rang so true – it struck right to my core- was the relationship between Dev and Rachel, a Caucasian music promoter who Dev has a year-long relationship with (in the course of a few episodes).  I was so appreciative that there was no glaring scene of racism or a goofy scene where Rachel eats something too spicy – oh no!!!  The only difference besides their relationship and a non-multi-cultural relationship was a few subtle jokes.  Even the main twist familiar to most narratives about Immigrant/White relationships – the “You haven’t told my parents about me!” twist – wasn’t too over-dramatic.  It barely lasted an episode, and I was happy for it.  I was a “secret girlfriend” TWICE.  In one case, it ended before we told his parents.  The second time, the reveal turned out well.  (Honestly, I’ve found that parents’ universal desire to see their children married and producing grand-babies overrides a lot of cultural issues…)  Also, check out Ravi Patel’s Documentary Meet The Patels for another example of media tackling this topic.

MAster of None RachelTo top it off, the relationship dynamics spoke much more to our generation’s feelings about love and dating than intercultural dating.  When they have a stand-off in a later episode about how “sure” they feel about each other, and how “sure” you’re supposed to be to stay with them, I felt the writers had reached directly into my brain and put it on the screen.  I won’t spoil anything, but the last episode was literally cathartic as I related it to my own experiences.

All this led me to wonder how a first generation Indian American might feel about it.  So I asked a close friend (a bridesmaid in fact), who is also single, dating and in the entertainment industry, how she felt about the series… and there’s not much to report.  She stopped after the first episode, because she didn’t quite get the humor and didn’t know where the story was going.  She promises to watch a few more episodes and get back to me.  But the conversation did bring up an interesting point.  While it’s great that there are tv shows breaking tired Indian stereotypes, she thinks you can also go too far.  She said something similar to: “If they seem too white-washed, it’s just not real.  If you have Indian immigrant parents, then it’s in your DNA.  Sure, you don’t walk around wearing salwar suits, but you still do cultural things.”  Specifically, she pointed out The Mindy Project, which frustrated her and and some of her friends.  It’s not until Season 3 that you even know or see that she has Indian parents. She thinks Mindy’s character is just too whitewashed for her to buy it.  I have a feeling that if she watches a few more episodes of Master of None, she won’t have the same complaint.

Hmmm… all very interesting.  I’ve got a few more reviews on their way that aren’t so on-the-nose for the blog: Chennai Express & Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

If you have any suggestions for tv & movies email me at

Wedding Trial #2: One Wedding or Two?

Great!  You’re engaged!  And your fiance is Indian.  Now it’s time to plan a multi-cultural wedding.

You’ve worked through so many cultural difference in your relationship, this one can’t be that different, right?  Maybe.  But more likely, this will be the most complicated and fraught merging of cultures so far.  Just to start, it involves the complexities of culture, religion, emotions, social pressure and In-Laws!  I’m going to walk you through our process (or more like my process, because as much as I love my Husband – we haven’t mind melded just yet.)

First thing first, I took some time and asked myself, “What do you want?”  A lot of people will ask you: “What has your dream been since you were a child?”  But I think this is more harmful than helpful.  There is no guarantee your image has stayed the same or that you even have one.  The question is: What will make you happy?  What will you not regret (regret doing or not doing)?

Second, what do your two families want and how much do you care?  It’s a fair question – you can disregard their opinion all together.  But when you’re in the moment, that may be harder than you think.  I know I would have regretted not at least asking my parents opinion on certain things.

Side Note: One factor in our decision was that my in-laws pleaded that we not move in together before we got married.  We already lived separately, but we were so ready to start the next phase of our lives and be together that this was a big concession.  However, it did mean our wedding planning would not linger.  We got engaged Jan 1.  And we wanted a wedding August – October of that year.  Good news – it can be done!

This is what we netted out with after some soul-searching:

I want: A modern American ceremony (loosely structured on Christian traditions) in central Massachusetts where several generations of both sides of my family have lived.

He wants: To go to Court tomorrow, move in together immediately and save a bunch of money

My family wants: Whatever I want as long as they’re there

His family wants: A traditional South Indian Hindu Ceremony with as many of their family members involved as possible – close to 300 invites

Everyone wants: A really fun party

Conclusion: Since my Husband respects and loves his parents dearly, he was inclined to do what it took to make them happy.  **Note: This decision was debated and fought over on at least one destroyed date night. We almost decided to not have the wedding and save the money.  But only minutes later, I caved.  Life is short.  What if one of us died young?  I wanted the memories.  I wanted my family to feel involved in creating our new family unit. As they say, “You can’t take it[money] with you!”  So, Court was out and at least one wedding was in…

But it was then that a running theme emerged from the discussion: equality.  If we had an American wedding and not an Indian wedding, it would be difficult socially and emotionally for his parents. So it was either court or two weddings.

Now, how do you make it work?  The easy answer might seem like – have two ceremonies and one reception in a day!  But this is easier said then done.  We had friends, a North Indian and Chinese couple, get married this way.  It worked because the North Indian ceremony is relatively short and the Chinese tea ceremony was even shorter.  However, the Tamil ceremony can run 2-4 hours.

Here’s how it broke down for us:

My Worry #1: Could we find a space that holds that many people that would also give me the ceremony I dreamed of?  I’m a fan of nature, historic buildings, gardens…  I would need a hotel ballroom to hold 300.

Answer:  I would do the American ceremony elsewhere and then end up at a ballroom for the reception.  No problem!

In-Law Worry #1: If I feel strongly about Massachusetts, can we get the Indian family there?

Answer: “It might be too difficult, so let’s do a completely separate Indian wedding.  Sunshine, be free and go plan your American Wedding.  We will plan separately, that way we won’t interfere with your dream.”  This was difficult for me as I wanted everyone to feel involved, but I was overwhelmed and trusted it was the right course.

In Law Worry #2:  If not Mass., Where?  And how much would it cost?

My husband’s parents live in D.C. – wouldn’t it be easier to orchestrate something there?  The prices would be higher than India, but fewer people would attend since price and visas would be an issue for international visitors.  Most of the extended family lives in India – wouldn’t it be better to have a full Hindu wedding in India? Their family would be closer, but amongst their peers, his parents would have to fully embrace the traditions, making it much larger and more expensive than holding it in America.

Flash to me on the venue hunt for the American wedding.  I was trying to balance atmosphere, price & convenience.  I was torn between the Colonial Inn and Chocksett Inn – the pros and cons were not the same but seemed to balance themselves out.  I would wake up at 3am unable to sleep and tortured by the choice.  My time was running out.  Each venue had only one Saturday or Friday date left that year, and it was going to go fast.

Colonial Hotel - Venue Option
Colonial Hotel – Venue Option
Chocksett Inn - Venue Option
Chocksett Inn – Venue Option







That is until my mom insisted that we check out The Harding Allen Estate in Barre, MA.  The historic mansion was built to be a replica of the Newport Mansion by an eccentric, wealthy New Yorker.  It had the exact “Jane Austen” feel I wanted, with immaculate gardens and a real historic flair.  Plus, the ballroom was built to look like an elegant tent, but with climate controlled. The owner was the caterer, making the packages extremely well-priced.  I made sure to read between the lines and found a few hidden charges/rules, but felt I could comply.  They could fit 225, way above the 180 that my Husband and I felt was the maximum we wanted to attend.  The one major con… it was 30 minutes from any hotels.  I felt guilty for giving on the convenience category, but promised myself that we would hire transportation.  There was one Saturday left – Labor Day weekend.  Crap… that means some people would be upset that they had to spend the vacation at the wedding.  My parents insisted that anyone I truly want to be there, would make the effort to come.  After a quick call to my Fiance, who wasn’t able to make this trip up North (we made a venue trip up 2 weeks prior), I wrote a check for the deposit on the spot.

Harding Allen Estate - Winner!
Harding Allen Estate – Winner!
Harding Allen Estate Ceremony Space
Harding Allen Estate Ceremony Space







My parents, sister and brother-in-law sat with me at an Au Bon Pain to digest what had just happened.  I was slowly letting myself accept that I committed and get excited.  I called my future MIL to tell her the good news.  But right after I told her, she replied, “Good.  We decided that we’re going to have the Indian wedding following right after the American wedding.  That way our closest relative traveling from India only have to travel once.  We’re heading up to MA to check out venues that can accommodate our number next weekend.”

Then I did something unexpected: I burst into tears.  I had just made a commitment on a venue catering solely to my dreams based on one set of information.  Now, I was being told my base information was incorrect, and there was a whole other set of variables.  I couldn’t handle the pressure or the guilt.  His entire family would be traveling from far and wide to the middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts and go to an American Wedding 30-50 minutes from their hotel and 2 hours from Logan airport.  Both sides of my family worked to calm me down.  They emphasized that at some point you have to make a decision and move forward and told me everything would be perfect.

And they were right.  Everything did turn out perfect, but it was a long road to get there.  Part Two of this post will include how we determined the location of the Indian Wedding and exactly how we would schedule two weddings in one three-day holiday weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Please email me at samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com if you have any questions about this post or want me to elaborate further.



Welcome to Samosas & Sunshine!

Here’s a little info to get this all started…

The goal of this website is to give readers advice, anecdotes and resources from a non-indian bride who has recently married into a South Indian family.  From info on where to get your family outfits for the wedding to the hilarious tale of my first puja and from my MIL’s semi-secret samosa recipe to a guide detailing what you’re supposed to call you FIL’s elder sister, Samosas & Sunshine will be a humorous resource for Indians and non-Indians alike.

Why Samosas and Sunshine?

Since I’m not quite ready to share my name with the world, please call me Sunshine.  A smiley blond, Sunshine has been my nickname since childhood.  In college, I became interested in Indian culture and made my first trip to India in 2006.  When I went back to school that fall I met and woo’d my now Husband with my extensive knowledge of Bollywood.  After dating for 8 years and another trip to India, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about Indian culture.  But nothing could prepare me for what happened after my Husband popped the question, and I said yes.

The full force of a new Indian family and the wedding planning process was a crash course in family relations, South Indian traditions, Hinduism, DIL obligations, Indian food, the Indian American community and so much more.  I finally became a South Indian wife in the fall of 2015 (and will be a South Indian mother soon if my grandmother-in-law has her way!).  I hope my experiences could make someone else’s less overwhelming.  Plus, I want to hear from others out there, so I have the tools to cope as I enter this whole new phase of life.

Next Post:  Everyone’s an Auntie! Jumping into the deep end with a guide to Tamil family names.