Today many of Newcastle’s inhabitants braved the rain and flocked to Exhibition Park to soak up some Indian culture at the Mela.

And rain it did, of course, being a bank holiday in the UK. But thankfully it didn’t seem to put too many people off as the crowds just keep coming.

The Mela is the north east’s free festival event celebrating Indian culture and food, based around Punjabi, Pakistani, Bengali and Hindi and other South Asian cultures. Packed with stalls peddling jewellery, brightly coloured Indian silks and saris, a large stage for the acts and performers and, best of all, assorted Indian foods.

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Curries of all flavours, heats and colours were bubbling away in huge pans next to enormous piles of rice waiting to be dished up, huge naan breads to be used as bowls and for dipping into cool minty raita, along with a number of delicious examples of Indian street food I’d never even tried before. The Jalebi for instance were a real treat. Served as a celebration sweet, these bright orange shapes are made by deep frying wheat batter in wild swirls, then soaking in syrup, and are best eaten hot.

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They have a sort of crisp skin and are chewy inside and taste like pure sugar. A bit like candy floss maybe. They went down well with the child anyway!

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We also tried a sort of dessert corn noodle thing with bright pink condensed milk, basil seeds and ice cream. It looked a bit bizarre, like the food one eats in Never Land (‘Hook’ movie reference!), but tasted nice! I think 9 year old boys will eat anything that looks strange and like… well, make-believe food. And we’re happy because he’s trying things from other countries and cultures.

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By the time we’d finished eating everything in sight we were pretty soggy but we still threw ourselves around on some fairground rides (yes, in the rain. My hair was massive by the time we left) to appease the boy. Actually that was quite fun too. I haven’t been on a ride that felt like it might actually break since my teens. It adds an extra dimension to the danger. We even managed not to sick up any of the food we’d stuffed our faces with earlier.

Needless to say, we’re looking forward to next year’s Mela and some more Newcastle based culture.

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