What is Indian food? If you ask a Caucasian, he would probably say Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Naan. But the real answer is, there’s no one thing called “Indian Food”. How do you define it, then? That’s the question that the TV show Raja Rasoi aur Anya Kahaaniyan tries to answer. I mentioned this show briefly in my list of favourite TV shows of all time and believe that it now needs its own post.
Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaaniyan is probably the most comprehensive look into what Indian food is. Each episode takes a look into a different part of Indian cuisine, divided carefully using state/region or cities. They discuss the following parameters for each of these cuisines
History of the cuisine
History of the various produce being used in these cuisines, along with their country of origin and when they came to India
Which meat is used where and why
The evolution of the cuisine over centuries
The role of royal families in preserving these cuisines
My favourite episodes over 4 seasons, in chronological order are the ones below
I am watching the entire series again for the second time and really enjoying it. If you like Indian food and interested to know more about it, I definitely recommend this show. Streaming on EpicOn (All Seasons), Netflix (Only 1 season) and Discovery+ (First 3 seasons).
I love coffee. In fact I love it as much as I love beer. However, unlike beer, I need coffee. I need it desperately to start my day and function as a human.
Part 1: Cheapdisgusting Coffee
The earliest I can remember drinking coffee is during college, to stay up at night to pretend to study. Since we were poor, it was Nescafé Instant coffee that we had. It was disgusting, but it was stimulating enough to keep one awake. The cold coffee at Anna’s was slightly better, although he didn’t put enough of the powder in, unless you nagged him. Anna also used the same Nescafé instant shit, so there was a theoretical limit to how good it could be.
Now, I would rather have an injection of caffeine directly into my veins than drink this cheap shit.
For the real brewed version, we went to Café Coffee Day or Barista. My favourite drink at Café Coffee Day was Iced Eskimo, a kind of slushy which took a long time to melt and finish. At Barista, I almost always had a Vanilla Frappe. Needless to say, we couldn’t afford this regularly.
During the first few years of work, I alternated between Nescafé instant at home and the office coffee machine. Around this time I also went lactose intolerant so started having my coffee black (Americano).
Part 2: Switch to Brewed Coffee
Eventually, I bought my own cheap brewing machine. I used to buy beans from Barista and used a grinder to grind the beans. I remember once I got coffee beans from Brazil and they were amazing and strong. After I switched back to my regular beans, I had caffeine withdrawal for a week.
Soon, I started suffering from acidity from the strong black coffee.
I read about cold brewing and how it is easier on the stomach, so started doing that. The results were great, but the prep was too troublesome and messy.
I also stopped having coffee after noons, as it didn’t let me sleep at night. I also discovered that the Chinese don’t really drink much coffee and view it as an unhealthy drink; preferring tea instead.
Eventually, we almost stopped going to Cafe Coffee Day and almost always preferred Barista.
No prep required, all one had to do was mix and drink.
It was easy on the stomach, while still packing a punch.
For the next few years, Sleepy Owl poured over ice was all I had at home. I remember during the COVID lockdowns, I was once almost out of it and had to ration till I could get another box delivered.
My Sleepy Owl recipe (after a lot of trial-and-error) was:
2 cubes of sugar
75ml Sleepy Owl Cold Brew
I carried Sleepy Owl’s brew bags when I travelled, too.
During this time, I also developed a morning coffee ritual. I wouldn’t look at my phone after waking up. Instead, I would make myself some cold brew and then sit next to the window with my coffee, looking out. I would do nothing else during this time, except sip slowly on my cold brew and savour each sip. I would do this for up to an hour before I would check my phone and start my day. It was beautiful.
Alas, it was not to last forever.
Eventually I moved to Thailand, along with the last 2 boxes of my Sleepy Owl cold brew. They lasted over a month, but eventually I had to look for alternatives.
Part 4: Thailand andNespresso
I looked for Cold Brew in Thailand, but it was rare and not easy to get as concentrate. A fiend of mine suggested Nespresso; so I got a Nespresso machine. It combined the advantages of freshly ground coffee (pods are sealed) and convenience (just pop a pod in and press a button). To keep my acidity in control, I stick to pods with strength levels of 5 and below.
It is no sleepy owl, but at least it tastes good and I can have different flavours every day. My favourite pods are Tokyo Lungo and Shanghai Lungo. My recipe is:
2 cubes of sugar
A shot of Nespresso Lungo
There’s no Cafe Coffee Day or Barista here, but I love Cafe Amazon, a Thai coffee chain. I love their Iced Espresso.
My morning coffee is still the best part of my day. I can’t wait to return to India once again and get myself some Sleepy Owl & Barista.
I remember seeing McDonald’s in American movies and TV shows when I was young. I can recall the hype when their first outlet opened in India back in 1996. Still, it was years later when I first went to my McDonald’s in Mumbai. Although I was fascinated by the drive-through concept, I was much disappointed by the food being served.
The burgers were pretty generic, portions small and taste average (at the best). The fries were excellent, but I got turned off from this chain for a long time. I did eat there now and then (especially at the daughter’s insistence), but only when I needed a snack and had no other options. My impression was that they served cheap, sub-standard food, not fit for a proper meal. Why would anyone have things like Aloo Tikki burgers McVeggie burgers for dinner? Why, still, would people boast to be VIP members of the place?
Consequently, even when I travelled to other countries, I never went to their outlets, considering them inferior. But during one of my trips to China, I was in a situation that I had nowhere else to eat, so reluctantly went to a McDonald’s.
When I saw the menu inside, it blew my mind. Unlike India, they had a full menu with proper meals. They had actual Cheeseburgers with proper meat, full rice meals, salads, pies & various other dishes. The portion sizes were huge. Most importantly, everything was really tasty. Unlike a typical Indian fast food outlet, this place was also a proper restaurant. I went back multiple times during that trip alone.
Since then, my impression of McDonald’s has changed considerably. We eat there quite frequently now and hope to continue to do so. Now if only they can stop the McFlurry machines from being out of order every time.
This year, I had the weirdest birthday ever. Normally, my birthday is spent with a close family lunch and a wider family dinner. This year, however, I had to travel to Bangkok for work & since this was my last week in this particular company, I didn’t say no.
I went on the company trip and planned my family to visit me on the weekend before my birthday and stay till the day after my birthday, but because of the Covid-19 situation, their trip had to be cancelled. On top of that, my birthday was a Thai holiday, so I was staring at spending my birthday alone.
I started the day waking up late and having a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.
I saw a couple of movies, and then was surprised by the Hotel staff with a birthday cake. The cake was delicious and heavy, so I skipped lunch.
In the evening, I took a long walk to Benjakiti Park, took the Skytrain From Asok to Phrom Phong station and spent some time at the Emquartier mall. After roaming round the Glass Quartier, the Waterfall Quartier, I headed for dinner at the Helix Quartier.
The Helix Quartier is a beautifully designed section of the mall. As the name says, it has a gently sloping walkway in the shape of a Helix without a clear distinction between different floors, with restaurants lining both sides of the walkway. I found a nice Korean Organic Chicken and Rice place and had a hearty meal.
After dinner, I went back to the hotel, alone, watched some TV and fell asleep, thus bringing to end, the weirdest birthday ever.
Today was a good day! And luck was totally in our favor. I would give lady luck many points for her good behavior today.
The weather was awesome; not raining but cool breeze and hardly any sunlight (pt.1). We headed out to CP a little early than usual which actually turned out to be a great thing because we were able to get tickets for Prince of Persia at CP (pt.2), which is no mean feat as we never get movie tickets in CP unless we book beforehand. The weather at CP was excellent (though a little humid). The parking slots were all full but we were able to park our car easily at the Palika Bazaar parking (pt.3). The elevator (pictured below) is still scary though. You can kill a man and drop him through the shaft and no one will notice for months.
The movie was good (though some parts were quite Bollywood like) and the actress did RR the whole time. Towards the end you wish she would just die.
Anyways after the movie we left the cinema and discovered that it had rained and the weather had improved. We had planned to go to All American Diner so we headed out there. The place is in the India Habitat Center at Lodhi Road. The IHC structure is huge and confusing and finally we reached the Diner. We had to sit at the bar for sometime because there were people waiting already but after half hour we were seated at a booth.
The Diner is quite good and modeled after the 60’s style american diner.Beer is quite in-expensive (125 for a Carlsberg) and food is not-that-expensive. They serve breakfast all day long and also have everything a diner should have. Luckily, they don’t entertain only couples (pt.4). The music is 60’s rock n roll and pop.
We downed alternate bottles of beer and courses of meal. In the end we were so full that we could not order the shake.
Considerably heavier, we left for home. also considerably happier.
It felt great to drive with the windows down after a long time.
PS: Thanks to Karthik for telling me about this place