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
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
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.
I recently had an out of body experience. It was called Kobe beef. In a nondescript yakiniku restaurant in a nondescript mall in Bangkok’s little Tokyo area, I ascended the proverbial stairway to heaven, and it’s an experience I’m keen to repeat.
First, context. We’d been wandering around this specialty golfing mall called Thaniya Plaza – yes, such things exist – looking at golf clubs, golf balls, putting mats, golf attire, and mostly useless golf widgets (for example – three varieties of exploding golf ball that will allegedly cause your golfing partners to roar with laughter, or more likely, rage) and we were starving. The kids and I parked ourselves on a bench outside a restaurant with a Japanese-sounding name and waited for our avid golfer to declare his shopping spree complete. On his return, we ignored his plaintive pleas to eat outside on the street (not Thai food again!) and insisted that a sushi binge was in order. Keep reading…
As a sushi lover, I find it very hard to order anything but at a Japanese restaurant. Okay, maybe a platter of sashimi. Or two. But Japanese cuisine has so much more to offer and I resolve to push myself to new frontiers. Step one: Okonomiyaki. Keep reading…