Suitcase and World: Eating!

Monday, May 28, 2012


For me, one of the allures about India is its food. Like so many countries, India's cuisine reflects its rich culture. North to south, east to west, one state to another, the food is different. From what I've been told, southern Indian cuisine will be very reminiscent of what we have in Malaysia. All I know, is that I can get my favorite dish - paper masala dosa which is an über large, thin, crispy crepe filled with a dollop of savory potato filling inside. Typically, it's served with a green (coriander) chutney and a fresh coconut curry.  When I was last in Delhi, I learned to make the batter for the dosa.  It's not hard but it's so much better made on the large griddle.  I eat it every chance I get!

Both Kochi and Mumbai are coastal cities so seafood is king here and I'm not complaining.  One of the specialties in Mumbai is Butter Garlic Crab which looks like crab drenched in a spicy garlic butter sauce.  How can you go wrong with that?  There's also a version with prawns.  Yum!  There's a restaurant, pretty well reviewed, called Mahesh Lunch Home that's just around the corner from my hotel.  If I can get a seat there, that's where I'm heading for a crab dinner.  Yes, I'm eating the whole crab all by myself. If not Mumbai for butter garlic crab, then Kochi!

According to this CNNGo article I read, there are 40 Mumbai foods that you can't live without. I don't have time to try 40 foods so I'm going to try some of the more popular ones. I'm going to poll my Indian colleagues, who are from Mumbai, for their suggestions.

I'm definitely going to fit in a few bites of good Mumbai street food though .  One of the favorites is batata vada which is simply spiced mashed potatoes, dipped into chickpea batter and deep fried.  When the batata vada is sandwiched between two halves of green chutney smeared pav, it becomes a vada pav, another of Mumbai’s famous street food snack.  Pav is the common bread in Mumbai - it looks a hamburger bun.

Last night, there was a special on the Cooking Channel titled, "Today's Special: NY Indian", hosted by the world renown Indian cookbook author Mahdur Jaffrey and Actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi.  Basically, the famed cook was taking a comedian on a trip through various boroughs in NYC, sampling the flavors of India.  I caught the show halfway so I missed out on their visits to Punjabi, Gujarati and south Indian eating establishments.  By the time, I settled on the show, they were at a Nepalese restaurant which is not Indian cuisine but is definitely inspired by it.  Having eaten Nepalese food, I am a fan!  After they left the Nepali restaurant, Madhur took Aasif to eat at a Chinese restaurant called Tangra Asian Fusion.  He was as surprised as I was to see them at a Chinese restaurant!   The restarurant owners and chef are three Chinese brothers born and raised in India.  They spoke with an Indian accent.  So here's the part about how you learn something new everyday.

Photo by the Royal Asiatic Society
The Chinese community in India is primarily concentrated in Kolkata, most of who live in or near the area of Tangra which is commonly referred to as Chinatown.

The Chinese community in Kolkata are descendents of Hakka Chinese who emigrated from China starting in the late 18th century to work at the Calcutta port.

The ethnic Chinese have contributed to many areas of the social and economic life of Kolkata; Tangra was known for its tanneries.

Of course, as with any other ethnic group of immigrants, the Chinese in Kolkata brought their cuisine with them.  Over time Chinese and Indian cooking techniques and ingredients fused to create versions of Chinese dishes that would only be recognized in India and now, thanks to Madhur Jaffrey, a restaurant in Queen/s, NYC.

I know Smitha loves Chinese food so I'm going to suggest that we go out for dinner one night.  I'm usually not a fan of fusion cooking but if Madhur Jaffrey recommends it, I'm willing to give it a try.  A dish called Manchurian Chicken is a hallmark of Indian Chinese cuisine so if that's on the menu, I'm going to suggest we try it.  Should be interesting :-)

And what would food be for me without a cooking lesson.  I've reached out to a woman who offers cooking classes out of her home and am waiting to hear back.  I hope she is available on the dates that I am.

With all the eating I'll be doing in India, I need to now plan some activities to burn off the calories otherwise, they will need to roll me on to the plane!