Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Seefood diet-Part 1

These words from Virginia Woolf has become my undoing. I haven't indulged in my favorite pastime for a few weeks now. Instead I have diligently followed the above mantra.  I am halfway across the world in India, where I have been wined and dined, always with an amazing amount of love and affection and always accompanied with many a culinary delight. I truly wish I could paint you the panoramic version of the many scrumptious meals I have consumed. But you will have to settle for this abbreviated mouthwatering verbiage.

I start my Bombay journey with a eye-popping meal at Masala Library. We sit down to a succession of small plates. Our meal is launched with an amusing bouche of molecular gastronomy....an air bubble filled with thandai!! Dried mushroom and truffle chai follows, poured table side. An exquisite thair sadam or yogurt rice, with chili coated plantain chips comes with a melt in your mouth curry leaf spiced fried prawn, nestled into the cool rice. I am transported to Kerala in a bite. Crispy, spicy, cool, I marvel at the perfect marriage. An explosion of southern flavors echo with each bite. I do not want these mouthfuls to end. I look in askance at the next course. The delightfully presented chicken tikka doesn't fail to delight. Across the table my sister slices a peanut coated masala scallop, cooked perfectly. G tucks into a large pork rib, covered with a bhoot jolokia chile. The spiciest chile in the world sets his mouth is on fire. Ours too as we nibble from each other's plates. Masala coated lamb chops and duck wings in a spice laden plum sauce amaze our taste buds. All of are treated to patra-ni-macchi, a small square of fish blanketed in coriander sauce. The fish swims in a rasam like broth flavored with the same sauce. One mouthful satisfies a whole range of emotions!! At this point I would like to walk away from the table replete. I cannot as the main courses arrive with much fanfare. We cover all proteins. Fish moilee, duck legs and laal maas are plated with maa ki daal, mini dahi vadas, fresh kulchas and rice. We look upon in horror and fascination as I know I would like to eat a few spoonfuls of dessert. I raise my fork valiantly and eat small bites. At this time the concept of small plates is long gone!!! Desserts wow. A ras malai tower teeters as we chip away at it. The crunch of jalebi caviar and rabdi amuses the palate. The check comes with pan flavored cotton candy. Jiggs Kalra elevates the ordinary and treats us to an extraordinary feast of the eyes and senses. 

Another delicious meal is eaten at Pancharatna in the heart of Pune. We are there to attend my niece's wedding.The celebration starts at Ayesha's Roce with chili fry spring rolls, batter coated Chinese style fried mushrooms, kismoor or dried shrimp salad, sannas (yeasted rice cakes) and fish curry. I am afraid to fill my plate for fear that the dress I have brought for the wedding, will not fit!! Though it is a fleeting fear.

The wedding passes in a flurry of feasting and fun. We are off to Penang to eat roti canai in its native land. Penang is familiar and different. Walking past colonial buildings reminds us happily of Goa. Our hotel is a hidden gem, literally, tucked away behind a row of ginger blossoms. Our friend and Penang resident Sharmila, guides us to the right places. I tick items off my mental check list as we dip into curry and roti at 10 at Line Clear. 

She lives in Penang so we see the island through a local's eyes, walking through wet markets, bakeries, and fruit stands. We eat the same way too, mounds of rice with fish head curry. Penang Hill draws us up in the funicular just as the sun sets. We watch as dusk turns into night, a spectacle of twinkling lights spreading below us. Dinner is a ridiculously cheap meal. Beef rendang, chicken kapitan curry, murtabak, roti jala, huge plates of rice and drinks come to a princely amount of $6. The food is fresh, tasty and cheap cheap cheap!!! We do not miss out on the coconut sorbet and kit kat ice cream at Safe Room. We have fallen in love with this small island paradise, where the street food is fabulous and people are all smiles. We are loathe to leave.


Onward to Kuala Lumpur where Vic, Carla and Leah are the perfect hosts!!!

Confirmed foodies like us, they steer us in the right direction. Their neighborhood is filled with mom and pop restaurants. Satays and mee rebus engage and enchant. Blazing hot Thai food sends our taste buds spinning. Bite size pandan pastry and coconut pancakes filled with gula jawa are the perfect sweet ending. The banana leaf set meal at Ravi's is a gastronomic delight. Vegetables, fried bitter gourd, cucumber pachadi, an immense mound of puffy white rice, fish curry, chicken curry, sambhar, rasam, a heap of papads that G makes quick inroads into, mango pickle, lime pickle, fried chilies, a fried pomfret... Should I stop??!!!!!! All this costs $1.50! I am startled and surprised by the cost of restaurant food in Malaysia. Not only is it cheap, but retains it's home grown tastes. No hint of artificial or fortified flavors. This devout chicken hater has eaten chicken at almost every meal in Malaysia with gusto and relish!! 

We end the trip by introducing the family to ABC...yes that's what the Malays call shave ice covered in coconut milk, sugar syrup, corn, adzuki beans, pandan jelly, palm nuts and topped with ice cream!!! As revolting as that sounds, do not be put off!!! It is cool, refreshing and absolutely addictive. The Texans are converts!!!

Back in Bombay, the feasting continues. Tom Collins and gin balls at the Radio Club. Fresh sugarcane juice and sev puri at Willingdon Club. Crisp fried bombay ducks and prawns at Highway Gomantak. Chili chicken rolls and lemon tarts at Theobroma. It's a wonder my clothes still fit!!!  Now I'm off to Pune to be spoilt rotten by my sis Prasanna!! Look for more foodcentricities in part 2 of the Seefood diet!