Locomotoring

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

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Eating fish in Calcutta

leave a comment »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Som

June 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Calcutta (Kolkata), India

Tagged with , ,

One river to bind them all

leave a comment »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Som

October 27, 2010 at 8:06 am

Kathi roll – Calcutta vs. San Francisco

with 2 comments

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

leave a comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ankur

July 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm

A Foggy Day (in London Town Delhi)

leave a comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Som

March 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Delhi, India

Tagged with ,

Famous kathi rolls of Calcutta

with one comment

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Som

March 1, 2010 at 9:50 am

Tea and Cakes at Flurys

leave a comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Som

February 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm