Many moons ago, Swati sent this tag my way. I’ve been lazy in replying, partly because I developed a complex after reading her intense food-descriptions. (At such times I regret not having worked on the foodie beat – phrases like “dumplings stuffed with condiments” and suchlike would then have come as naturally to me as eating does.)
But here’s my trifling attempt. Not a comprehensive list because I’ll probably think of something else as soon as I’ve posted this. So heartfelt apologies to the many food dishes that have given me joy over the years, and which I’ve ungratefully overlooked here. Also not sticking to the original meme, just naming some favourite dishes, and a lot of this is restaurant-specific:
- Nasi goreng rice at Chilli Seasson restaurant: with chicken and shrimp. Feels very spicy when you’re actually eating it but leaves no nasty after-effects, just a feeling of well-being and – two hours later – a yearning for more. Incredible how a dish with such a pungent flavour can be so easily digested.
- The steamed fish cakes at the above restaurant: the most flavourful fish dish I’ve ever had.
- The methi aloo made at my grandparents’ place: both ingredients have a slightly burnt quality, the brown skin on the potato is still largely intact, and it’s dry and wrinkled. Doesn’t sound great I know (and probably not the traditional way to make it), but good food is better eaten than read about.
- Tandoori chicken with naan: a staple, preferably ordered from Madhuban but will pass muster almost anywhere else.
- Maa ke haathon se bana khatti daal: give me this with rice and any potato dish (preferably beans-aloo) and I won’t complain about there being no non-veg – at least not for the next eight hours.
(Note: separate post exclusively on home-food to be written soon.)
- Slice of Italy pizzas: especially the Trio-on-Trio (smoked salami, onions, minced lamb and jalapeno peppers). Prefer these pizzas to the ones at Domino’s and Pizza Hut by a long way – the secret’s in the sauce.
Used to love their calzones too (the ones with ham-and-mushroom filling) but that was in the old days, when they were made with soft, doughy bread. Now they are just over-sized samosas.
- Rava masala dosa with lots of sambar: preferably from Sagar. (By now you might have cottoned on to the fact that I’m a potato-person.)
- Kai Yudd Sai (at last, a chance to be exotic!) at Bangkok Degree One: a great Thai omelette containing minced chicken. The question of whether the chicken or the egg came first may remain unanswered, but they both disappear equally fast when I’m having this dish.
- Prawn pepper butter garlic at Swagath: contains, as you may have guessed, prawn, pepper, butter and garlic. Unbeatable combination, best had with a spoon, straight out of the bowl.
- Hot Chocolate Fudge from Nirula’s: especially in winter and with, needless to say, extra fudge. People often wonder why it’s so pleasurable to eat ice-cream in winter. The way I see it is, if it’s a milk-based product it’s a heat-producing one regardless of its external temperature. Most of my best ice-cream memories are winter ones.
Favourite foods that I’ve had only once
- a brilliant, succulent shepherd’s pie with ale at a quaint pub in the village of Lacock during my Britain tour last year. It was treasured all the more because it came after days of sampling and being disappointed by various dishes that made up “staple English cuisine”.
- a Cullen Skink soup near St Andrew’s, Scotland, during the same tour. Fish soup (though it’s better to call it broth, a word more indicative of richness) with bread on the side. In the largest single-person bowl I’ve ever seen (at least I think it was a single-person bowl), but no trouble finishing it.
- a piping hot, mixed thenthup (a variant on thupka, the Tibetan noodle soup), with everything in it - flour, egg, many different meats and vegetables – consumed one cold, cold night in a monastery during my visit to Bir. Come to think of it, most of my trips in the last few years have been to very cold places – so warm foods are high on this list of one-offs.
My guilty little food secret
Most of my non-veg friends instantly turn into Pavlov’s pups when they see a shammi or galouti, but I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of minced kababs. There’s no texture, and the idea of meat and masalas being randomly mish-mashed together feels strange. In this post, K tells the story of the galouti’s provenance – apparently it was an improvised recipe for an old king who had lost all his teeth. Well, I say leave such “delicacies” to the toothless, I’ll take my meat chewy any day. Nothing beats a good, juicy seekh kabab. Or a pepper steak, preferably bee.. – er, tenderloin.