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Archive for December, 2007

Hi everyone,

I’ll be on a flight back to America tonight from Bombay, and I’m now looking forward to the gloomy darkness of winter. I do love Bombay, but I am SO excited to go home. Anyway, last night, my brother and parents went out to eat. Since I couldn’t go, my brother decided to write about his experience. Enjoy!

holler,

I am Shyam, Janki’s younger brother. I’m going to try out this foodblog things because Janki, or Jankiben as we call her in the hood, wasn’t able to attend our latest dinner experience.

We went to Vong Wong, an upscale Thai and Chinese restaurant at the ritzy Nariman Point in South Bombay. Let’s break for two here. First, I’m not sure which ‘_ong’ iteration belongs to which nationality; Vong seems more Thai and Wong seems more Chinese and the menu was arranged in that order, so I might have cracked the code, but we can’t be too sure of that. Two, the entrance was ornately decorated stairs that led to an elevator. Which barely fit three people. And went up one floor. Good news though: there was an elevator operator, just in case we arrived in such a hunger driven frenzy that we couldn’t press buttons. Digression done.

The dining area was nice. It was dimly lit (read: classy as shit), and there were multiple levels of seating, and clean furniture. In the middle, there was a window into the kitchen, a fluorescent view of a sterile, steel cage, which initially struck me as odd, but as time went on (and time did go on), I came to love and appreciate “the window to creation” (which is what I called it. To myself.).

We were seated at approximately 9:30. Sadly, the service was extremely slow. It was 10:00 before anybody came around. The first wine list had no wine, and then, upon request, we received the absurdly priced wine list: wines that go for $10-12 ( Rs.390-468/-) at Trader Joe’s were priced upwards of Rs.2000/-($51.28). Instead, we asked for local Indian wine, which was not on the list. The wine was quite good, actually, fruity and light, but not too acidic, and a seemingly good combination for Asian and Indian foods. Too bad the wine was gone before the food came.

Here is where you’ll find the most difference between me and my sister. She will remember each taste in each dish. Each individual flavour (we’re in India!) and texture. And, more importantly, each individual dish. I remember overall impressions. That said, the food was good. Not excellent, but good: solid Thainese cuisine. the flavour (hooray! again!) came through in each individual dish, even if it was overwhelming basil-ly.

For appetizer, we got the vegetarian sampler: a sampling of vegetarian finger things. we got spring rolls, some fried vegetable thing, paneer…annnnd I forget. The pictures don’t, though. (They will be uploaded upon my return to the States). All was tasty and enjoyable, especially with the 6 or so sauces we got.

Dinner was also good. We got Pad Thai, Prik Paw Something Something Vegetable, Pineapple Rice (fan-freakin-tastic), and, my perennial favorite, red curry. The dishes were noticeably better than the appetizers, each with their own distinct character. The pineapple rice was especially enjoyable–baked brown rice doused in pineapple juice and served in an emptied half pineapple shell. Definitely something I’m going to try to make.

The tastiness of the food and wine (and the missed possibility of combining the two) was overwhelmed by the absolutely terrible service. Though we were seated at 9:30, our food didn’t arrive till 10:45, and our table was visited at appropriately long and frustrating intervals in between. Our waiter seemed unaffected by our complaints, attempting to mollify us by letting us know that it takes time to cook food.

as Confucius say:

“glass always half full, unless you thirsty, then just empty.”

Unfortunately, I was extremely thirsty.

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Pizzeria is awesome because it exists. Back in the day, we used to go to New Yorker for pizza but the food was super Gujufied, as in strangely sweet.

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So thank god Pizzeria opened, to provide competition and variety. It’s on Marine Drive, and the restaurant’s huge open windows look out to a view of the salty sea. Fans whirring at high speed mix the sea breeze with Bombay’s smelly air and sun: it’s a great place to have a beer and inhale the city.

Although they now have “stuffed crust,” I prefer the thin crust plain cheese pizza or the tangy paneer pizza. Pizzeria’s thin crust is crispy, almost like a quickly fried flatbread.

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I ate at Pizzera twice this trip, both times for lunch. On my first trip, we ordered jalapeño poppers for our starter. Total junk food but the jalapeños were actually spicy, and the dipping sauce was pleasantly smoky. Also, the filling was a finely-chopped jalapeño and cheese mixture, instead of just one jalapeño suspended in cheese.

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The second time I went, we ordered the festive looking gnocchi. It was decent, but like fast-food gnocchi – nothing was fresh and the pasta precooked (these gnocchi were rolls instead of dumplings, btw). It wasn’t bad, but again- more junk food than real food.

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I tried three pizzas- the Bombay Masala, the Tangy Paneer and Italian Veggie (not my choice). The Italian veggie was reminiscent of Guju pizza in that the pineapple chunks and baby corn were odd and made the sauce too sweet, and there were no customary jalapeños to balance out a slice. The tangy paneer was great. Paneer in India is unbelievably different from the disgusting paneer in America. On this pizza, it was like ricotta, and the sauce was warm with Indian spices. Yum. The Bombay Masala was plain cheese with masala sprinkled on top, and a slightly sweet sauce. It was just okay- tasted like regular pizza with sweet sauce, and with an aftertaste of heat, from the spices. Apparently, it wasn’t up to its usual excellence on the day we went, said my cousin who visits Pizzeria once a week for the Bombay Masala.

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The other day, my mom and I went to Atria to do a little pre-engagement party shopping. Atria describes itself as “The Millennium Mall.” It has a bunch of international stores, like Guess, Mango, Nine West, Aldo, Levi’s, and even an Apple retailer.

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I was hungry so we made our way up to the food court. My options were plenty: dosas prepared any style; nachos with Mexican beans, sweet or savory crepes, kati rolls, bhel puri, pani puri, Chinese food, cheesy garlic bread, and two full, sit-down restaurants, one Chinese and one Japanese. After a little deliberation I decided to go with Dosa Plaza.

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I ordered a spring dosa because that’s something I can’t find in the States. It was a while before I realized that we paid Rs. 134 (tax included) for a dosa; a ridiculous price given that many of the other ones listed on the menu were going for Rs. 29. I figured out why soon enough- I had unknowingly ordered the Spring Roll Dosa Value Meal. That was a ton of food: a dosa, 3 deep-fried vadas, sambar, chutney, and, surprise, a Coke. I was actually really shocked to see these various “value meals” with Cokes on the billboard.

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At this point, since I was the only one eating an apparently gigantic meal, we told the Dosa Plaza employee that we had only ordered the spring roll dosa, not the value meal combo package deal. He was like, “yeah, but you got the value meal, and the regular spring roll dosa is really small.” We didn’t think we’d gotten our point across and doubted he would change our selection, so I decided to eat what I could and bag the rest for someone hungry.

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The food was okay, not great. Dosa Plaza’s spring roll dosa’s filling included cabbage, scallions, and red onions, and the dosa itself was slightly thick and soggy. I’ve had better.

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The vadas were inedible; the chutney was delicious. The soda I brought back with me because I didn’t want it then; it’s still sitting on my dresser in my room. I definitely couldn’t eat the whole meal- I was stuffed after four of the dosa wedges and half of the chutney and sambar.

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Soam’s having a Khichdi Festival, if anyone’s down to go. I just find this really funny, because my dad would make khichdi to “settle his stomach” after many nights of heavier dinners. I always hated it because I found it so boring- rice and daal mashed up in a yellow porridge. But apparently, it’s all the rage at Soam.

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The fruit in India tastes 100% better than the fruit in America. I barely eat any fruit there. Maybe I’ll have a banana once a week, and I do like pears and plums, but they are super seasonal, and even then, I’ll only eat a handful.

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The weather here allows for a variety of delicious fruit, and also builds my cravings; in the heat, few foods sounds as good as a cooling kiwi or juicy strawberry. And here, each fruit is sweeter, each flavor more pronounced. Above is a lunch box of fruit. I really love eating fresh figs because they feel so delicate and look so much prettier than the ugly dried figs. I also enjoy eating guavas here! Guava juice and jam are so yummy, but the fruit itself is known as a “superfruit” because of it’s extremely high quantities of vitamins a, b, and c.

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I naively assumed that the fruit sold in these street stalls grows locally. But my grandmother explained that fruits and vegetables sold in Bombay come from all over India- apples and pears come from Kashmir, bananas from Vasai- a far suburb of Bombay, and guavas from Nasik, which is close to the city. Many of the fruits and veggies that feed the city are grown in Vasai, like the karela (bitter gourd), dhoodhi (white gourd), bindi (okra), etc. The papdi used to make undhiyo, a winter specialty, comes from Surat, as do the mini eggplants and kandh. They are deposited at a mass market in Navi Mumbai (New Bombay); the fruit and vegetable sellers buy from this market and transport their goods into the city. The other day, my mom and I ate a sitaphul, or custard apple, from Bangkok that was supposed to have only 1 seed, as opposed to around 30. (It had 8, we counted.) Custard apples, by the way, are sweet and creamy, like ice cream.

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Crossword bookstore opened in Kemps Corner when I was in middle school. Since then, trips to Bombay became exponentially more fun, because I knew I’d get to spend hours browsing through the sunny, peaceful store. I could walk there from my dadi’s (old) place and contentedly sit among books and read. Back then, I didn’t have much else to do.

Before Crossword, there was (and still is) Strand, my cousin Krupa’s favorite, and Oxford, another one she likes. I agree with her that those two bookstores have an excellent selection. But in Strand is there is barely any room to browse and no room to sit; the store is cramped, the rows are narrow and luxurious sunlight doesn’t pour through the windows as it does in Crossword. Oxford is a nice bookstore, but it’s at Churchgate, which is a little far from me. Also, upstairs in Crossword is Café Moshe, a cute Mediterranean cafe that beats the Starbucks-Barnes and Noble pair.

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Crossword is a chain, with locations throughout India now, though I think the Bombay store was the first one to open. Its selection has definitely improved over the years. True, sometimes I get incredibly frustrated that they don’t have a particular book that is a classic, or a best seller, or just plain famous; and I get annoyed that books are definitely NOT arranged in alphabetical order; and some of their sections are kind of weird- the section on homes and interior decorating is enormous, but the poetry section is tiny. However, going to Crossword is kind of like visiting Bombay: I know I’ll be frustrated at times, but I’ll ultimately leave with a bunch of good memories.

This time, I added the following books to my collection:

(more…)

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My cousin Chelna and I both arrived in Bombay late Saturday night. She is getting her masters degree in London; I’m twiddling my thumbs in New York. To celebrate our arrival back into the city of senses, Dadi made us ragda patties– a favorite dish that we share. I really wish I had a recipe in addition to my photos but I missed Dadi cooking, what with all my unpacking and eating chaklis for breakfast. But I promise to make some soon, when I return to New York.

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[the patties and ragda- black eyed peas- cooking on the stove]

 

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[the garnishes: tamarind chutney, mint-coriander chutney, hot green chilies, and diced onions and cilantro]

 

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[ten patties, gobble gobble]

 

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[piled high: patties, ragda, chutneys, kanda marcha (onion green chilies)]

 

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[yum]

 

related posts: Bombay foods and babies; at last

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