Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It Ain't Coffee and Donuts

Breakfast came to us this morning: masala dosa and chutney. Spicy as usual, and delicious. I found this particular dosa a bit heavy, almost pancake-like, but who's complaining?

The Food

I'm sorry I have no pictures. I left my phone in the room when I wandered down to the kitchen to grab a Kingfisher from the fridge and caught a meal in the making. A viscous white liquid bubbled in a very large pot, while the wok next to it simmered furiously, a collection of vegetables and chili and ingredients not unforeign to MacBeth. Green lentils stood by. Around the counter something seethed in a pan, obscured by an ill-fitting lid, steam escaping. Upon reflection, I think that was the point. A black cat wandered through, complaining loudly.

I've never eaten this well in India. After yesterday's rava dosa, and the following dinner (can I talk to you more about those prawns? and the pepper mango swathed in the devil's own chutney?), today's lunch combined the known—murgh makhani, onion pulao—with the unknown—a red pickle of sorts coated with sesame—to my favorite thing of all: tava keema.

The tava is a sort of Mongolian grill, but smaller. It's a barbeque on a plancha, ridiculously hot cast iron over a flame. Lamb shanks on one side, and seriously marinaded, seriously hot ground lamb on the other. Wrap that stuff in a paratha, dump some raita and salad on top, and you've got what I call an Indian taco. It is easily the best taco on the planet, though I got some funny looks for the innovative assembly.

Speaking of which, there's a market for good Mexican street food here.

Anyway, my hosts are most gracious, and they humor me. I want to learn everything, and the one older gentleman who speaks limited English put up with my inquiries: they purchase 4.5 pounds of red chili powder every month; 12 onions each day is normal for four people; all the burners use individual propane because you can't trust the power; and, oh, what's under that pan with the ill fitting lid?

I caught a peek. I got a bite, or five, but not until I'd examined the scaling, the scoring, the seasoning. Salt, red chili, and lime. That's all. In an old cast iron skillet, in a quarter inch of sunflower oil. It must be sunflower.

River fish. Small, maybe 8 inches long. They pulled one out for me because that's the kind of people they are. It was perfect. It was glorious.

I tend to write a lot about food because I regard the planet as one enormous buffet and I've tried nearly everything on the menu, but this fish, from this little faculty residence, managed by a small family with one very cute kid, there is no comparison.

Monday, September 28, 2015

To Reassure Karen

That I'm not just off playing Lawrence of Arabia (Michael of Karnataka?) and really am working. Ice breaker dinner. Mangalorean food. Spicy from the pit of hell, but I like that. The prawns were delicious.

I suppose I should offer some explanation of this endeavor. Ram Nidumolu, a fellow professor at Woxsen, has been running business innovation courses for various companies here and invited me to join him as the design guy. He's got the morning classes; I take the afternoons. Day 1 starts in 30 minutes. We'll see how it goes.

In the Kitchen of Hotel Rajesh

Nothing like a little stand up, street side dining. My associate Ram pointed me toward this place and it didn't disappoint. One rava dosa, please. 40Rs (about 65 cents).

We'd been talking about Bay Area South Indian places last night. While we're both fans of Madras Cafe, he stated that while good, the flavors just weren't the same. And he's right. The dosa here are smaller, lighter, and spicier, with some other flavor going on. Good sambar, too.

I don't think they get many white guys, though.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It’s Raining in Bangaluru

I was able to send that last post right before everyone had to turn off their phones, and then…Cathay Pacific doesn’t offer in-flight Wi-Fi, so goodbye world. I did get caught up on my Pixar/Disney movies however, and here’s the deal: Pixar rocks the world; Disney kinda sucks. Inside Out is easily one of their best, Big Hero 6 has nothing for the adults, and I can’t even remember what else I watched.

Anyway, HKG is always delicious, but the plane left late (they waited for a straggler, which I’ve never heard of; must have been a Person of Some Importance) and we got into India an hour behind schedule. At least I had the row to myself.

Speaking of India, customs almost didn’t let me leave the airport. Though my visa is valid until the 16th, I didn’t seem to have the right tax documents prepared. Then they cautioned me that I would require an exit visa and handed me a piece of paper they claimed to contain the address of the appropriate office, but actually contained instructions for my hotel to register me as a guest. But they let me pass, meaning I needed to go through security again to leave the airport. Welcome back to the subcontinent.

BTW, the hotel, it turns out, is not a hotel. It’s the faculty residence of the Indian Institute for Human Settlement. It’s lovely, really, kind of like a college co-op meets the ambassador’s villa. Only problem was that I got in at 2:30 am, woke up at seven to the sound of howler monkeys and the morning call to prayer, couldn’t find anyone, had no Wi-Fi password, and didn’t know where I was. Then the power went out (it seems to do that every morning from 7:30 until 9:00), so I went and played in the traffic.

When I got back the power was on and the resident den mother was making breakfast for all the interns. Fantastic. And all veg, which is how I try to eat over here. The chicken is…of questionable provenance.

Then the sky opened and a significant portion of the world’s fresh water poured out for the next 14 hours while the god of light and magic threw a tantrum. At least it keeps the bugs down.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Right, More of This

Please take your seats as a representative sampling of humanity boards your aircraft. Make some new friends; there's time. It's only fifteen hours to Hong Kong.