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Archive for June, 2010

Mangooooooo!

Did you know that India produces over 50% of the world mango crop, but only accounts for 2% of world trade. These guys love mangoes and in the run up to the rainy season, when the mango season ends they’re on sale everywhere.
he most famous and the most prized cultivar is the Alphonso mango – named after Afonso de Albuquerque, caeser of the east who used to take them on his journeys to Goa. When ripe it has yellow skin and soft orange flesh that’s super sweet and has a fragrant flavour. Its nothing like the flavourless, sour mangoes you see in supermarkets around the world which are picked unripe so they don’t rot during transport. The Alphonso only last for about a week after picking so need to be air freighted to Indian communities around the world.

Alphonso are grown all over India, but the most sought after are the ones grown on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra – These fetch the highest prices at market here and make up the bulk of the overseas trade. In fact the finest mangoes come from a small area around the towns of Ratnagiri and Devgad. These are the mangoes that people are coming to buy in the Crawford market. In fact mangoes seem to take up half of the market.

Although the chunks of fresh fruit are amazing on their own, my personal favourite has to be the mango lassi. The mangoes pureed with curds and served like a smoothie. Its like drinking nectar – I’d definitely choose it as my desert island drink.

In fact I though I’d tasted the best at Kailas restaurant in Aurangabad, where I drank Lassi and pure fruit juices that made it seem that I’d been injected intravenously with an overdose of the endorphins that the juice produces, until I tried the mango lassi at Sai Baba juice bar in Nasik. This was the daddy – Chopped Mango, Mango Puree, Cashews, Almonds, Sweet Curds, dried cherries and A scoop of soft ice cream. I wish I had one right now.

Sadly the Alphonso mangoes are finished for another year, as soon as the monsoon hit’s the fruit begins to rot quickly and a work starts to affect it. Lucky for me, I’m off to Rajasthan where the Kesar mangoes Like this bad boy which must weigh nearly a kilo are still in season.

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Finally Some Photos – Kerala April

Check out these photos on my new photos page above or click the link below

Kerala April 2010

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Ziya

Yesterday was my birthday and that meant going to the best place in town and having a slap up meal.  The latest and supposedly greatest in Mumbai is Ziya, opened by Vineet Bhatia in the same place where he was head chef before he left to move to London and become the first Indian chef to gain a Michelin star.

The whole modern Indian food thing has just arrived in Mumbai strangely.  You’d have expected the pretentious upper classes here to be desperate for some new way to show off their wealth but it seems they just don’t get it.  They prefer their Indian food in a more traditional format.

In fact, just after opening, they had to call all the reservations to explain that the food would be served plated, course by course.  Not trusting people to remember this when they arrive, the first page of the menu is devoted to a further explanation.  Even still a table of four walks out after they realise that they won’t be getting their food in a little copper pot.

This doesn’t leave very many people in the place, just us a table of four, a single whitey, and a couple eating Michelin standard food with their hands – I’m definitely going to try this! So even with years of eating in European restaurants this way I’m not sure eating Indian food this way is going to catch on in Mumbai.

And in all honesty the food isn’t that great.  We go for the seven course tasting menu and have an extra portion of foie gras.  There’s a lot of repetition, like kitcheri twice – don’t they do other rice dishes in India, and the lobster mayo from the prawn dish makes three appearances. It just feels as if everything is not quite right.  The only thing that I really enjoy is the masala foie gras with wild mushroom naan, but even this is served with a pointless fennel salad thing and the foie gras “coins” are grey and bland.  At a price tag of 1800 roops it should be flawless.

 The restaurant is just opened and maybe they need time to get everything right and even with the faults I had a great time there, but If Ziya wants to become the landmark restaurant I think they want it to be then they will definitely need to up their game a bit.

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Bademiya

Down a back street in Colaba is one of the most captivating restaurants in Mumbai.  In fact it’s not really a restaurant; it’s a stall selling kebabs that puts out a few tables at night.  But this place is run like a restaurant with a team of servers and chefs pumping out food for hundreds of people without making mistakes.

Its a pet hate of mine when waiters don’t write things down, especially when it comes out wrong, but here they are taking orders for three or four tables and the food still comes right.  When I see them run off to tell one of the clerks with their clipboards and bunches of pink papers I realise they probably don’t know how to write.  The clerks keep track with an ongoing check for each table and hand it back to the waiter when the bill is requested.  A complicated system but one that works and has probably worked for along time.

The food is a long list of melt in the mouth kebabs served with relish, onions and the freshest flat bread you could hope for.  I could eat here every day.  We ate Chicken seekh, mutton kebabs, a mutton curry and some grilled chicken legs.  Everything except the legs, which were a bit tough, was melt in the mouth.

But it’s not only the food which makes this place.  The setting down a street which cars are still trying to get down, the tons of smoke coming off the char grill and the buzzy atmosphere make it a place that really draws the crowds.

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Mumbai

I’m not totally sure what I expected from Mumbai.  I thought it was going to be a mess, a total assault on the senses.  So many people had an opinion, some liking it some not.  After leaving now I’m still not sure what to think.

Sure there’s a bit of a buzz and a couple of bars but its no real centre for nightlife.  I was expecting to find a European style alternative scene with places to go and see live music, comedy.  The kind of things you’d find in any world class city.  I just couldn’t help feeling it was a little bit boring.

On a whole though, it’s not a bad city.  The traffic isn’t too bad, the taxi drivers use a meter, and it’s clean – well compared to other Indian cities it’s shining.  I can’t understand why people hate it because it’s a messy, chaotic place.  On the other hand however, I just don’t see it as a unique cosmopolitan city either.

Honestly, I’d have preferred to have hated it.  At least that way I’d have an opinion.  Hopefully Delhi assaults the senses a bit more.

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Some Real Goan Food

We’ve a few hours before our train, the Konkan Kanya Express, leaves Margao so we decide to walk into town to look for some authentic Goan food.  Margao’s not really somewhere you would want to stay for more than a day but it’s a nice enough place to visit for an afternoon.  There’s a few nice colonial buildings, a great market and of course lots of beer.

It’s the market we stumble on first – a great big covered place with lots of stalls and even more people crammed into tiny alley ways.  We stop at one of the places serving lemon soda for a refresher before hitting the meat section, which is usually a pretty grim scene in most Indian markets.  This one is a pretty sedate affair with reasonably clean stalls and fresh looking meat.  But the speciality seems to be the local Goan sausages.  They look like mini chorizo and I cant help thinking I’ve gotta get some of those.

And get some I do at a place called Longhuino’s.  Great name for a restaurant, takes a couple of attempts to say it though. We order Pork Sorpotel, Chorizo, Chicken xacuti, some rice and bread.  The Sorpotel is really rich and spicy, with various bits of pig which I don’t mention to Andrea.  The chicken is in thick cinnamony gravy with chunks of potato.  Its good but the chicken is a bit bony and there’s not much meat.  But the chorizo is lovely, quite spicy and with a bit of offal in the mix giving it a rich texture.   

I finish off with a slice of bebinca, a kind of layered cake – it’s so easy to see the Portuguese influence on the food here.  While eating my cake I’m thinking how much of struggle it’s been getting decent Goan food, it’s all been mediocre tourist crap.  I’m so glad I’m not leaving without trying something memorable

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