Karaikudi: Chettinad Charm

It all started with my fetish for cast iron pots and pans. A friend mentioned in passing that   cast iron cookware – usually elusive and expensive – was available cheap, and in abundance, at a place called Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu. Within a week, I was headed to Karaikudi with a single-minded mission: to buy a cast iron soup pot. Or two. Or maybe even three.

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Go Goa: Fernando’s Nostalgia

This post is long overdue… like several years overdue. Partly due to laziness, and partly due to a selfish desire to keep it to myself, the only mention I have made on this blog of my favorite Goa restaurant was brief – and didn’t focus on the food. Having just returned from our annual Goa vacation, where we had yet another fabulous meal at Fernando’s Nostalgia, I’ve decided that it’s time to bite the bullet.  …Keep reading

Bhutan

Bhutan’s Happiness Quotient is visible everywhere

Bhutan has consistently been rated as the country with the highest Happiness Quotient in the world. Hardly surprising, when you consider that the Bhutanese invented the concept of quantifying a peoples’ happiness as an indicator of the country’s socio-economic (rather than purely economic) growth. As in Sikkim, not once during our stay did we see an angry face, hear an impatient voice, or witness an argument. Perhaps  I had my rose-tinted spectacles on, but time seemed to slow down in Bhutan, and the Bhutanese we met seemed to exude an air of contentment. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t ambitious or worldly wise; it’s just that they seem to lead a simpler existence. There’s still an innocence. People are hard-working, even-tempered, and accommodating. Perhaps Bhutan’s less-than-friendly terrain and climate make these traits a necessity. As Mr. Small put it: Bhutan is a cold country populated by warm people. …Keep reading

Full Kee: Dining in DC #2

Chinatown in DC: as authentic as...

This October, the Giant Vacuum Cleaner had to take his 10th grade board exams. The Spouse felt it would be a great idea to whisk me away as far as possible in order to prevent mother-son meltdown. We ended up spending a couple of days in my favorite American city – Washington, DC. Despite having lived in the area for several years, we had never ventured into the District’s Chinatown neighborhood, other than to drive through it on our way to someplace else. Despite knowing that DC’s Chinatown is kitschy and about as authentic as an Elvis impersonator, I thought it would be fun to make like a tourist and eat Chinese food in a Chinatown restaurant. … Keep reading

Bhutanese Cuisine

My Bhutanese alter ego 🙂

Bhutan, the last true Himalayan Kingdom, has worked hard to retain every aspect of its cultural identity. Every home that is built must conform to guidelines that mandate traditional woodwork and craftsmanship on the facade. Whenever a Bhutanese citizen sets foot on the  premises of a government office, a school, or a college, they are required by law to don traditional attire – the gho (for men) and the kira (for women). The Kingdom of Bhutan not only keeps its traditions alive from within – it also takes active steps to limit outside influence while reaping the economic benefits of tourism. Only 21,000 foreign tourists are allowed to visit each year, and each of these tourists is required by law to a) book all travel through a licensed Bhutanese or international travel agency; b) spend a minimum of US$ 200 per day, paid in advance, for food, transport, sightseeing and accommodation; and c) enter the country via air, thereby filling the coffers of DrukAir, Bhutan’s state-owned monopoly airline (as of August, Buddha Air, a Nepalese airline, is also being allowed to operate flights into Bhutan).

Happily, thanks to the bonhomie between our two countries, none of these strictures apply to Indian citizens. Indians are allowed to enter Bhutan by road, without a visa (you need a permit-on-arrival, though); make their own travel arrangements; and spend however much (or however little 🙂 ) moolah they choose. … Keep reading

Sikkimese Cuisine

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Entering: Sikkim state border

Most people are drawn to Sikkim for its cloud-shrouded hilltops, snow-clad peaks, and punishing yet fulfilling trekking opportunities. Me? All I could think of was the fact that I would be able to embark on yet another exciting food adventure.

Sikkim is India’s second-smallest (Goa is the smallest) and least populated state. That said, it also represents a confluence of diverse peoples and cultures. It is home to the indigenous Lepcha tribe, thought to be Sikkim’s original inhabitants; the Bhutias who migrated from Tibet in the 14th century; and the more recent migrant Nepalese (now almost 80% of the populace). Sikkimese cuisine is a reflection of this diversity. …Keep reading

Odiya Cuisine

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Gud rasgulla: Odiya origin

As home to the ancient Jagannath Temple at Puri, which cooks for and feeds an average of over 10,000 people each day, the recently renamed Odisha boasts a rich culinary heritage whose dishes are often wrongly attributed to West Bengal. Did you know, for instance, that the gud (jaggery) rosogolla originated in Odisha? Odiya cooks then took their talents to West Bengal, where they were employed in the homes of rich Brahmins. According to many historians, this sweet has been offered to the Goddess Lakshmi at Puri for several centuries, predating the Nobin Das story.

We glimpsed the complexities of Odiya cuisine as we traveled through the state. Although we only spent a few days in Odisha, visiting Puri, Konark, Bhubaneswar, and Chilika Lake, the few dishes we sampled made an impression for their distinctly different flavors. This cuisine is neither heavy nor oily, and its flavors are a subtle meld rather than a loud, joyous cacophony.

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