Okay! So this post comes a little late. Three days to be precise. But then, when most people were summing up their year, I was busy making the most of the remaining days of 2017 by travelling some more.
2017 was a year full of travel for me (which one isn’t?). It started in January with Hyderabad, and went on to Calcutta, Bolpur, Shantiniketan, Lucknow, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Ghent, Bruges, Jaipur, Jamshedpur, Bishnupur, Bangalore, Allahabad, Jabalpur, and of course Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai. This also meant a lot of good food and some unforgettable experiences. From the biriyani of Hyderabad, to the kebabs of Lucknow, from the fries of Belgium to the cuberdons of Ghent, from benne dosas in Bangalore, to papad ki sabzi in Jaipur.
Here is a little recap of some of the great meals I had in 2017.
1. This, perhaps, was the most unexpected of all of my food experiences ever. A wrong train, an unknown station, being stranded for hours, unsure of what to do next. But food saved the day. The rasmalai from this man at the platform, followed by two air-light luchis and alu tarkari and some freshly cut cucumber nourished me on this cold January morning.
2. They say if you haven’t eaten at Kusum Rolls in Calcutta, you have not eaten anything. Okay! I made that one up. But then the rolls here are legendary and world famous. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside, filled with the most flavourful chicken, finished with a dash of chillis, fried onions, and sauces. Okay! I am not salivating.
3. It could also be my bias towards the city and its food (after all I am a lucknow girl), but then I truly believe there is no better chaat in the world than the one found in the streets of my city. The burst in your mouth pani ke batashe, the tangy dahi-batashe, the tender nimbu ki matar, the crispy alu-tikki. If you have not eaten the chaat in Lucknow, you must do that now. (I will help you get there and eat also if you want!).
4. While most people were busy eating mussels, I was content with my fries in Brussels (that’s poetic, I know!). Dense, rich, and doused in mustard mayonnaise or ketchup. They were quite a handful and a mouthful too, and nothing like the limp, tiny fries you are used to in India. But, I must admit, they were too many and by the end of it I was looking at someone who could rid me of the burden.
5. I have a confession here. Until May this year, when I went to Belgium, I had never had waffles. I had had the waffle cone with ice creams, but I had no idea that the real waffle was soft and airy, almost bland, and yet satisfying. Thankfully that changed this year. The waffle I had was freshly made by a frowning woman, and handed over after waiting for more than 10 minutes in a long queue. It was crisp on the outside and airy inside. Topped with rich beligian chocolate, and icing sugar, it was, by far, the most beautiful dessert I have ever had.
6. Akoori, Cheese rolls, and Parsi Bhonu in a town set up by the first Parsi family of India. My experiences in my home-town-in-law are mostly dominated by husband’s choice of places. But the town is ever evolving in terms of food and we got to experience that at Cafe Regal in Jamshedpur this year. The akoori was smooth and spicy, velvety and flavourful, the coffee was world-class, and the cheese balls were fried to perfection. We went there thrice in three days. The final day was made of dhansak, brown rice, sweet and spicy chicken, and apple pie. Cannot wait to go back.
7. While MTR is an inseparable part of me, this time, I discovered Airlines hotel in Bangalore. I had always known about the place, but had somehow, not gotten down to eating there. On a nippy Sunday morning, I finally made my way to one of the oldest Dosa places in town and spent more than an hour devouring this piece of art under hundred year old trees, among kannada speaking people, and with strong, sweet filter coffee. I think MTR has competition now.
8. Nothing explains the law of diminishing marginal utility like a meal. The first few morsels, are the tastiest and most satisfying, the last few, often seem like a burden. On this morning, when I was famished by a three-hour long early morning drive, a warm meal of luchi-ghugni at a nondescript place in Bishnupur filled me with warmth and happiness. I can still feel the softness of the luchi and the flavour of the ghugni. The mishti that came afterwards was the icing on the cake.
9. I am not an idli person, so having a meal of idlis on this list means something. This, also, is the second place from Bangalore, which is hardly surprising: I could make the entire list out of the garden city, and maybe I will soon. Anyway, the idlis were a discovery in the land of dosa. They were soft and fluffy and melted in the mouth. The chutneys were so hot that I sweated through the meal, the sambar was so falvourful that I am salivating as I type. I think I am shifting back to Bangalore soon.
10. What’s in a samosa, you may ask. A lot, I say. Having spent almost all of my life in North India, I have had the chance, or should I call it a privilege, of eating samosas day and night (I know it shows!). I have had it from the most fancy shops to the most dilapidated stalls, from those filled with exotic dry fruit and fried in ghee, to the ones with barely any filling, fried in overused oil, but one thing is for sure, there is no samosa like the Allahabad ka Samosa. The crust is flaky, crisp, and perfectly fried. The filling is tangy and spicy, and it hits you hard if you are not used to it. Take a small piece of the crust with a tiny portion of potatoes, and dip it in the sweet and sour chutney, and you’d never eat any other samosa again.