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Voyage to India, or What I Ate in India

July 15, 2010

I recently came back from a week’s journey to India. One week to Kolkata and Mumbai, Kolkata being a spot i visited with my father and grandmother when I was twelve and Mumbai being a completely new place for me. It is hard to go from urban Thailand (I was in Bangkok before leaving for India) and urban India. Compared to India, Thailand seems urbane, calm, clean and organized (as a generalization). But I still find that India hold my attention in a way no other country has. Every time.

Downtown Kolkata architecture

Dosa vender, street in Kolkata--Delicious!

Kolkata was smoggy, congested and completely beautiful. We stayed in the random and wonderful Bodhi Tree Guesthouse in South Kolkata, down a narrow street with tall, crumbling Victorian buildings shadowing the lane. It was a Buddhist Art Monastery and a place of solace from the chaos of Kolkata. I was fortunate that my traveling companion also had a penchant for wandering the streets and exploring interesting looking byways, and we scouted out several different areas of Kolkata including our neighborhood (very working class, very congested, shrines crammed into every nook and tree trunk), Downtown (full of Imperial buildings, delicious street cart vendors and businessmen drinking chai from tiny tin cups) and Park Street (a disconcerting upscale street with tea houses and sterile hotel bars). We managed to re-visit some of my childhood haunts. And got caught in a proper monsoon downpour. I must preface this by saying, every single guidebook and resource advises against visiting India at the height of the Monsoon season. The humidity is oppressive and the streets the streets were supposed to be flooded with liquid filth. And the humidity was oppressive. But with the exception of some avoidable streets, rain-boots were not necessary. Although one evening we had to bolt down central Kolkata streets in an absolute Monsoon downpour. The very drops of rain during monsoon season seem bigger and strike the pavement with more force then usual. They also usually do not come straight down to an umbrella is so protection against the deluge. We sprinted to the chants and cheers and claps of Indian men who huddled under overhangs waiting out the storm. Soaked, we made it to what turned out to be an amazing Bengali meal and feasted as our clothes dried.

Best Kebabs in Mumbai, open from 6pm-3am.

Mumbai was nothing like what I expected. I was prepared for unbridled squalor and a claustrophobic jumble of urban wasteland but I adored it. We stayed in the Colaba/Fort area, a”historical” section right near the sea. But everywhere there were amazing hulking Victorian buildings, transformed into Indian storefronts and schools and department stores. It was also refreshing to be somewhere more religiously diverse than Thailand or Kolkata, we spent time in Chorr Bazaar and stumbled upon a celebration for a Bohra festival. The streets were lined with men in long white gowns, stalls selling coconuts and rose bunches, and streamers of white cloth strung from one apartment to another. It did not seem appropriate to take pictures, but we were very intrigued as to who this people were. A stall-owner told us they were the Isma’ili Dawoodi Bohra. Wikipedia can definitely do a better job of explaining who they are than I can. The Bohra women wear a very gown called a Rida. I managed to find the antique Bollywood movie poster my heart desired and Choor Bazaar was deemed a success.

Bohra Ridas

To be honest, the company and the food were the best two things about this trip. Food pictures dominate my photos, and the rest were taken with the film camera. But here is a peak into what we did..or what we ate, anyways.

One of the best meals was at a restaurant called Swati Snacks, in the Malabar Hill area of Mumbai. Its the only restaurant in Mumbai that just serves street food. Its delicious and cheap, and has air conditioning. Bhel Puri, the plate on the right, is my most favorite street food and a classic Mumbaiker snack. Consisting of puffed rice, fried noodles, tomatoes, onions, chillies and tamarind & coriander chutney.

Pani Puri and Bhel Puri, classic Mumbai street snacks, at Swati Snacks, Mumbai.

But I was not satisfied with Swati Snacks alone, and also bought Bhel Puri from on-street vendors. Mumbai’s food really echoes its location as a trading crossroads, with Middle Eastern food, South & North Indian food, Pakistani food & Chinese food being the strong favorites.

Bhel Puri Vendor, Mumbai

We also heard that there was an Iranian bakery near our hotel so on the last day we sought it out. It was filled with ancient industrial baking machinery, regulars eating bread-pudding and rolls, and the smell of chai and baked goods. A phenomenal find. We ate dense bread pudding and sipped chai from tiny cups while old men muttered into newspapers and young women flitted in and out buying loaves of bread.

Iranian Bakery, Mumbai

Chai and bread pudding, Mumbai

4 Comments leave one →
  1. tariq khan permalink
    July 15, 2010 8:26 am

    interesting. when you are coming to pukhtunkhwa

  2. July 8, 2011 6:03 pm


    • Anonymous permalink
      July 30, 2012 5:37 pm

      tola mil ge ta kabar nai kaibe

  3. Anonymous permalink
    July 30, 2012 5:36 pm

    ekdam bhuk lgt he

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