Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Bhut Jolokia @ Dzükou tribal kitchen

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Dzükou tribal kitchen in Hauz Khas market.

Bhut Jolokia or Naga Mircha (Bengali/Naga name) or Ghost chili pepper – call it what you want but it is the second hottest chili pepper in the world. And Dzükou tribal kitchen in Hauz Khas market serves chutneys from the chili. Yum!

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Written by Som

January 3, 2015 at 5:43 am

Chai by river Hooghly

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Chai-wallah. Super sweet milky chai with hints of ginger. What is special are these earthen cups in which the chai is served. The pots are size of a child’s fist. So even though the sweetness of the tea hurts your teeth, it lasts only a few tiny sips. Tea gets a slightly earthen flavor when served in these pots.

I remember the pots being nicely proportioned back in the days.

Post Peter Cat, we decided to do a family outing to Outram ghat and threw in a boat ride. Last similar trip was in 2008. We had desperately needed the exercise but instead our boatman got some. The ghats along the river are full of untapped tourism potential but as a third generation Calcuttan, I have now finally given up hope. However, it never fails to provide some elements of interest. During this particular boat ride, we drew close to Prinsep ghat and found a long haired baul singer entertaining the crowd. When he got up for an ovation, we realized that he was a hipster to boot. We found remnants of bisarjan, a long legged goddess, dangling by her ankles at one of the canal bridges.

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Written by locomotoring

November 20, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Peter Cat of Kolkata

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Peter Cat of Kolkata, started in sixties, it is unclear how much has changed since. My brother is pretty convinced that absolutely no changes have occurred in last 2 decades.

A mindless concoction of a bloody mary. Completely avoidable.

Sizzler. This is not on the menu but clientele seemed to know of it. Various kababs, liver, shrimp, paneer doused in a creamy sauce. Quite nice.

Tandoori shrimp, my favorite this time. The shrimps were amazingly tender and disappeared rapidly.

Spicy chicken liver. I got some back home to try with the Kentucky bourbon.

Chelokabab plate. The sheek kabab was over spiced but the tandoori skewers were tender and juicy. We had a lot of left over tandoori chicken which came back home – to be converted into tikka masala.

Written by locomotoring

November 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

Posted in Calcutta (Kolkata)

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An assignment in Bhopal

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“ At first we thought somebody was burning chillies. In ten minutes the air was full of smoke. There was so much smoke you couldn’t see the ground through it. I grabbed my three children and ran with my husband. I had to leave my blind mother-in-law behind. In half an hour my 2-year-old daughter’s skin was like boiling water had scalded it. She developed sores on her eyes, later a hole in the heart and died after seven months. My two grandsons were born disabled”

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Written by Ankur

June 2, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Posted in India

Red Fort and a food walk in Old Delhi neighborhood

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My fondest childhood memory of visiting Delhi includes the Sound and Light show at Red Fort. Visiting Red Fort as an adult is a bit of emotional roller coaster ride for me. Looking at the damage caused by years of artillery practice during British Army’s residence here can be depressing. On the other hand, it is an exhilarating place to watch visitors from small towns of India, their excitement very palpable and uplifting. Away from the congestion of Old Delhi, vast spaces such as Red Fort make your imagination soar. While it is practically impossible to imagine Yamuna flowing next to the fort, it is relatively easy, thanks to Bollywood, to imagine the beautiful Moghul women in their flimsy silk sarees walking by Yamuna fed Nahr-i-Behisht in Rang Mahal. In any case, Red Fort is still a place that awes, particularly if you live in Delhi. For this photo series from summer of 2009, click here.

Red Fort Red Fort
Red Fort Red Fort

While navigating Old Delhi is never easy, some of the food shops here have been serving generations of loyal customers. For a walk with a group of foodies this summer that includes Jalebi, Kheer, Stuffed naans and parathas click here.

Written by Som

August 1, 2011 at 5:45 am

Posted in Delhi, India

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Photo tour of Hauz Khas Complex in Delhi

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For slideshow of Hauz Khas Complex, please click here.

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Written by locomotoring

June 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

Posted in Delhi, India

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How to take on the summer heat in Kolkata

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The smaller "bubblegum" variety

Immature seeds of palm fruit

Summer in Kolkata is typically not hotter than 100F but your skin feels like a dripping faucet, each pore that is. After a while, you don’t even want to wipe off the sweat. It is cooler to not have to make that effort. At times like this, the only remedy is to take a cool shower. As the cooling begins, feel free to sing aloud in bliss. After the shower, move as quickly as possible to the nearest air-conditioned room. Switch on the ceiling fan at full speed and sprawl on a bed – maximum surface area for the skin-air contact. When you need to be out in the heat again, do so and repeat the cooling regime.

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Written by Som

June 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Eating fish in Calcutta

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Fresh caught fish

Bengalis are enthusiastic fish eaters. We eat fried fish in rich curries. We steam fillets papillote style. We fry fish heads with rice or slow cook them with lentils. The fatty fish entrails are fried and eaten with rice. In dhabas, bones from large fish are added as flavoring to vegetables. Small bait are fried whole and eaten as snacks with tea. Fish eggs are made into fritters.

I am sure I eat a pound of fish a day when I am visiting Calcutta. So when my father offered to take me fishing, I decided to follow the fish trail from source to plate. Unlike the last fishing trip, this was a visit to the a nearby village where he has friendly access to a pond. From the comfort of my city lifestyle, I sport a very romantic view of villages in Bengal with their dirt roads and banana trees, and little kids playfully swimming in ponds lined with lotus and lilies, a vision born out of watching Satyajit Ray movies. Our air conditioned car landed us within a couple of blocks of the village pond in question. A recent windstorm had shredded the leaves of the banana plants lining the dirt path. Otherwise it was a picture perfect village.

Picture perfect village

Dragging the pond

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Written by Som

June 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Calcutta (Kolkata), India

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One river to bind them all

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In cities like Calcutta or Paris, the river is the precious that brings together the livelihoods and lifestyles of the people of the city. There is no denying the differences of course. In Calcutta, Ganges river is wide. Wide enough that on a regular traffic clogging business day, crossing one of the two bridges can take an hour or more. For many in Calcutta, the river is everything. They live in small precariously placed shacks along the riverside, cooking on crude stoves, bathing, urinating, defecating in the river, making a living off odd jobs by the riverside. Every once in a while the city police comes by and tears down the shacks and the cycle starts up all over again. For other Calcuttans, the riverside is a sanctuary from the hot and muggy interiors of the city. Often in the evening, when the rays of setting sun make the silt laden water look like gold, the Bengali babus can seen heatedly debating politics and cricket accompanied with roasted peanuts and hot chai. The local train line is just by the banks so every once in a while the toot of the train pierces the surrounding noise and the din. Is it just the mugginess that makes everything feel slow even in that throng of moving bodies? Large ferry and cargo boats crawl past without attracting attention. Tiny little picturesque boats offer rides to young lovers who can perhaps steal a kiss away from the throng of hawkers and gawkers. Nothing spectacular but nevertheless stunning.

Goddess idol being prepared for immersion

Goddess idol being prepared for immersion

Traveling priest or a homeless person

Traveling priest or a homeless person

Live music between Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis

Live music between Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis

Notre Dame and cruise boat

Notre Dame and cruise boat

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Written by Som

October 27, 2010 at 8:06 am

Kathi roll – Calcutta vs. San Francisco

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Kasa in San Francisco, serving Kathi roll

Kasa in San Francisco, serving Kathi roll (click for more)

Making of Kathi rolls at street side vendor in Calcutta

Making of Kathi rolls at street side vendor in Calcutta (click for more)

Kathi or kati roll – kababs wrapped in paratha, flat fried bread, and served with a variety of condiments such as chopped onions, spicy green chillies, yogurt, chutneys and salsas. Admittedly, these rolls originated as street food in Calcutta. Close variations on the concept exists in other cuisines – replace the paratha with a naan and you can be standing at Khan market in New Delhi. Put the kabab and condiments it a pita pocket and you end up with the popular gyros.

But when you set up a hip taqueria on the gentle rolling hills of beautiful Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and serve home style Kathi rolls, you have done something brand new. For one, the milieu is orthogonal to the neon lit battered stall on the crowded Calcutta street that serves a hungry crowd of pedestrians on hot summer evenings.

And secondly, can there even be a concept of homestyle Kathi rolls? Did Kathi roll not originate to satisfy the hunger for spicy, juicy meat held together by flaky, chewy fried bread? Are these rolls not to be had in the anonymity of street crowd  – away from the watchful eyes of the dear spouse, away from the responsibility of being the ideal parent? Why would the average Calcutta babu seek out nutritiously balanced and healthy food on the street.

For food purists, Kasa will never reach the divine heights of unwholesome Calcutta street food. However, for the rest of us, there is something to be said about enjoying a glass of mango lassi with a turkey kathi and not having to worry about the number of sick days one has left.

Written by locomotoring

July 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Self checkin at a heritage fort hotel in Rajasthan

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Pachewar Fort Heritage Hotel, Rajasthan

Pachewar Fort Heritage Hotel, Rajasthan

Pachewar Fort, Rajasthan. I doubt if many people have heard of Pachewar Fort. I am not even sure it exists in reality.  At least that’s how it seemed when we landed there in the dead of night, expecting to be welcomed warmly, and finding nothing … not even the hotel.

I and my business partner, our two women film brigade, were on our way to the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, one of the oldest fairs in India, where farmers and camel breeders congregate annually to buy and sell camels. Colorful, quaint, dusty and crowded, it has been a big tourist attraction for decades now.  We were going to shoot a film about the relationship between camel and their breeders. Or maybe something rooted in today’s India, say, about how there are more cell phones in this back-of-the-beyond place than camels.

We were driving from Delhi and the travel agent had made arrangements for us to stay overnight in the Pachewar Fort Heritage Hotel. The hotel had looked splendid on its website. “Remembrance of Bygone Splendour” the site claimed, “a 300 year old picturesque and luxurious” heritage hotel it went on to say. It looked pretty all lit up at night in brilliant golds and yellows.

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Written by Ankur

July 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm

A Foggy Day (in London Town Delhi)

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After nearly a decade, I had the chance to be in Delhi during winters. Delhi’s winters have changed so much over my lifetime – as a child I remember foggy mornings and clear afternoons of the late seventies. On weekdays the mornings used to be a torture – the brick houses would be practically as cold inside as it would be outside, sometimes as cold as 3-5C. I showered and shivered, then huddled in the cold school bus as it careened through the fog, and folded into myself during morning school assembly in the cold open fields. But the afternoons were clear and warm and lunchtime typically meant sitting out in the sun with friends sharing our packed lunches. Weekend afternoons would often be spent eating oranges or roasted peanuts while sunning oneself on the porch or balcony. I remember the nineties winters as a dirtier version of my childhood – the fog became smog, the afternoon sunny sky was grayish brown with sun never quite managing to poke through the smog screen.

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Written by Som

March 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Delhi, India

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Famous kathi rolls of Calcutta

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Kathi Roll vendor on Park Street

Kathi Roll vendor on Park Street

Kathi rolls are Calcutta’s specialty cuisine. What is a kathi roll? It is a wrap – the outside is a flaky shallow fried flat bread and inside can be scrambled eggs or sauteed chicken or slow cooked mutton or a combination of meats with fried onions, chutneys and other spices. There are a few shops along the famous Park Street of Calcutta where the best kathi roll makers are to be found – the shops are typically small shacks and the popularity can be gauged by the length of the queue outside the shop.

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Written by Som

March 1, 2010 at 9:50 am

Tea and Cakes at Flurys

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Flurys, Calcutta

Flurys, Calcutta

Considered a landmark on Calcutta’s mindscape, Flurys on Park Street is an old tearoom in Calcutta that has been serving tea and pastries since late 1920s. Don’t expect mustiness of a hundred years – a few years ago, it underwent a total re-haul and was turned into a retro styled patisserie. It occupies a charming spot in the fashionable part of Calcutta, inviting the loitering visitors and busy locals alike for a spot of hot tea and fresh baked cakes and pastries. With a girlish pink in the logo and its old world black and white tiles, Flurys continues to engage a cosmopolitan clientele.

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Written by Som

February 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Day trip to Neemrana Fort Palace

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Neemrana Fort Palace

Neemrana Fort Palace

Many of the old palaces in Rajasthan and other states have been converted to hotels. Neemrana, now on Delhi-Jaipur highway, is one such 15th century fort-palace. While it is only a 100 kms from Delhi Airport, it is half way to Jaipur and can take 3-4 hours from Delhi depending on where in Delhi you start from.

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Written by Som

January 9, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Afternoon at Triveni Kala Sangam

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Lunch at Triveni Kala Sangam

Lunch at Triveni Kala Sangam

Triveni Kala Sangam hosts classes in art, photography, music and dance. Lunch here is popular among students and people of artistic temperament. Well known for its parathas, it is possibly the only proper restaurant in Delhi that serves home style north Indian food.

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Written by Som

January 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Oh! Calcutta, My Calcutta

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Mocha: Banana flower

Mocha: Banana flower

When I land in India, my first port is usually Delhi. And if I am craving for Calcutta food, my only option is to head out to Oh! Calcutta.

This time, for lunch at Oh! Calcutta – here is what I ate.

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Written by Som

January 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Durga Devi Namo Namah

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Enjoy this year’s Durga Puja photos, brought to us by Ankur. Click on any one of them to see the slideshow of entire photo gallery. The slideshow is captioned by stories – mythological and social – of Durga festival.

Durga Goddess

The Goddess

The Demon

The Demon

The Devotees

The Devotees

Durga Puja is celebration of warrior Goddess Durga killing the buffalo demon Mahisha who was could not be killed by a man or an animal. Durga worship among Bengalis coincides with north Indian celebration of Dussehra when Rama conquers Ravana. Although this is a ten day celebration, the seventh through ninth days are most glorious when communities get together to worship, eat and set up music, dance and theater performances.

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Written by locomotoring

September 29, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Biodiversity park in Delhi

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Yamuna Biodiversity Park

Yamuna Biodiversity Park

Any green space in the naturally arid Delhi is always welcome. The Biodiversity park is an artificial wetland created to attract and study migrating birds. It is spread over an area of approximately 450 acres near Wazirabad village in North Delhi.

Park authorities are still learning to cope with visitors and may not necessarily be too helpful. But most scientists love to talk about their work. So if you find one of the field researchers, ask him or her about their work, and enjoy a guided tour.

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Written by locomotoring

August 18, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Heritage walk – Chandni Chowk, Delhi

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Here is a recent article on a heritage walk down Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk. The walk focuses on the old havelis – palatial homes of the rich from hundreds of years ago. Contact information of the guide is provided in the article.

Chandni Chowk is steeped in history and chaos. For visitors to Delhi, Chandni Chowk metro station has been the port of easy access to Red Fort and the spice market. Here, once you step out of the cool and modern station, you drown in human activities. From beggars to 200 year old sweet shops to an assortment of temples – Hindu, Jain, Gurudwara and mosque, to modern day internet coffee shops, it is all here. And behind the shops, crowds and the tangles of overhead wires are these havelis. Some look like a collection of loosely arranged bricks – one push and they all come tumbling down….

Written by locomotoring

August 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Coffee and Chocolate – Chokola, New Delhi

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Chocolate cake at Choko la

Chocolate cake at Choko la

We continue our occasional series about Chocolate and Coffee with a cafe in New Delhi called Chokola.

The place is done up in chocolate-y colors, the menu is the size of a small book with overwrought foodie descriptions of cocoa, single origin chocolates, and truffles, followed by the standard cafe fare of sandwiches, pizzas, etc.

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Written by Sachin

August 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm

A walk down Delhi’s ancient quarters.

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Rajon ki Baoli Mosque at Jamali Kamali Behind Dilkhusha

You are a conscientious visitor to Delhi. You have read your Lonely Planet India, done some web searches, and know that Delhi is an ancient city, the site of seven capitals over millenia. The Red Fort is on your list, as is Humayun’s tomb, and perhaps the Qutab Minar. And then you make your way to the Taj in Agra.

But surely Delhi must have accumulated a few more ruins than what India’s lackadaisical tourism industry would have you believe. Here are just four examples, all of which can be reached on foot from Qutab Minar.

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A splatter of paint in Delhi

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Sculpture at NGMA

Sculpture at NGMA

Sculpture at NGMA

Sculpture at NGMA

In the midst of being stir fried in Delhi heat, I decided to cool off at NGMA – National Gallery of Modern Art. For a museum that is by no means a world class facility, it houses a handful of world’s finest art pieces. So I found out this trip when I chanced upon a special exposition on Nandlal Bose’s artwork.

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Written by Som

August 6, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Late night crepes in Delhi – at Yellow Brick Road

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Yellow Brick Road, Hotel Ambassador, Delhi

Yellow Brick Road, Hotel Ambassador, Delhi

I am visiting Delhi for two weeks. I shouldn’t be hankering for crepes in the midst of this heat and mangoes and parathas and samosas and the kababs. But I am. So, I am at Yellow Brick Road, a cute little cafe at Hotel Ambassador near Khan Market. It is painted bright and cheerful with a touch of toy-store feel about it. Judging by the clientele, it is popular with all – eastern and western, young and old, men and women.

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Written by Som

August 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

In search of sun – solar eclipse in Delhi

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Partial solar eclipse of 2009 in Delhi

Partial solar eclipse of 2009 in Delhi

It was the eclipse of the century – the longest full eclipse lasting more than six minutes. During the days preceding the eclipse, media’s handling of it was like watching a schizophrenic – one moment all scientific with graphic visualization of solar and lunar orbits and astrophysics the other moment a discussion on fasting and soul cleansing and astrology.

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Written by Som

July 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Delhi, India

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