Monday, August 7, 2017

India 2017- Annual Report

Dal Chawal 101: 

It was exactly thirty years ago, around July-August, that I was officially introduced to the art of cooking by my first cooking teacher- my dear Dad. One morning, as I sat in my room, probably day dreaming and missing my Mom and baby brother, I was summoned to the kitchen. Dad was going to teach me how to cook the two basic foods a true Indian must know- dal chawal- lentils and rice, utilizing the most important cooking utensil that a real Indian must know how to operate- the pressure cooker. Once you know how to cook your dal and chawal in that noisy yet nifty pressure cooker, you are set for life in the cooking department. And so I stood beside him observing, as he showed me how to cook. I have come a long way since then!  

This time when I visited Wellington, when the car stopped in front of that old flat in Gorkha Hills, a strange mixture of pleasant and not so pleasant, mostly the latter, memories came flooding back. My most vivid memory is of that afternoon when Dad came back from the MH (Military Hospital), and headed straight to the guest bathroom. I quietly followed him and saw him cry for the first time in my life. He sobbed, and I just stood there watching him. There was only one thought that crept up in my twelve year old mind- is my brother dead? He splashed water on his face multiple times, and I still just stood there, watching. The next thing I knew, I was blankly staring at my six year old brother in delirium with IV drips poking his tiny body, while my mother sat beside him crying. I felt relieved at seeing my brother alive. That was the only thing that mattered to me- that he was alive. For the next entire year, that was how it was going to be. Dad and I in the house, Mom and brother in the hospital.

Those houses are now abandoned, and some passersby told me that they were soon going to be demolished. It felt, for lack of a better word, strange. The next time I go there, the house will no longer exist.

The House where I learned to cook from Daddy

Annual Food Report: 

My annual trip to Bangalore this time was filled with food aplenty, with most of it being insanely delicious. My holiday always begins with my Mom's special preparation of either sabudana khichdi or poha. This time it was sabudana, and as always, before I put a spoonful into my mouth, she delivered her disclaimer of how enthusiastically she made it, but it didn't turn out as well as she wanted it to, and then the drill is that I taste it and say, are you kidding me? This is yummy, mummy!!! And then, as always, I gobble it all up, while she tries to hide her joy, and fails. Yep, it's the same every time! :)

Mom's sabudana khichdi 

Then come the benne masala dosas. I like to always begin with THE CTR benne masala dosa, followed by Vidyarthi Bhavan. Dad likes to take me to Hotel Janardhan too. Well, there's many more dosa places he wants to take me to, each of them somehow serving "the best" dosa ever. But then there's never enough time to do so. My favorite dosa by far is the one I eat at CTR. It is an attractive golden brown color, crisp on the outside, spongy on the inside. Delicious!

My favorite benne masala dosa at CTR

Vidyarthi Bhavan Masala Dosa

Hotel Janardhan's Masala Dosa

I am usually not into idlis, but this time I tried the "thatte" idli. Thatte in Kannada stands for plate. They pour the idli batter into small plates and steam it. At the end of the steaming process, what comes out is this extremely soft and spongy deliciousness. First I poke a hole in the center of the idli, pour some ghee into that, and then eat away with simple coconut chutney. Mm!

Other than the dosas, idlis, and vadas, I unabashedly over-indulged in umpteen plates of chilli fish, gobi, and chicken manchurian, chicken tikka, seekh kabab, and more chilli fish and chicken manchurian. Every time I ate, I cried a little inside. That's your Instagram hashtags- foodporn, foodgasm, foodcoma- all clubbed together. Literally!

RSI Dosa 

RSI Vada Sambar Chutney 

RSI Appam with Vegetable Stew

Rasovar food- ate and ate and ate....

Jilebi topped with Rabdi- Mmmmmmm! 

To Wrap Up: 

Overall this India trip was extremely pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Somewhere along the trip, I realized that now there's only two things that take me back to India each time: My parents, and the food, in that order. Then again, the food is replaceable.

In case you are wondering what happened to my baby brother- he is a Dad of two now. And a mighty good one too, I must say! I have a feeling that he might be his kids' first cooking teacher too, just like our Dad. The only thing that causes him major delirium now is a restaurant menu!! ;)  

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