The Happy Food Dance:
“I have no idea what that was, but it tastes amazing!!”
I’ve said or thought that more times already in this trip than I can recall.
I’ll try almost anything (sorry Ma for all the years of me being a fussy eater, I’ve evolved. Except for tomatoes, still can’t do those, although I did eat half of one in Udaipur because it just looked amazing… (and the “yes” thing made me try it), but no more after that, cuz they are still squishy and grossssssss.
Fluffy saffron Malaeo
Er… where was I? Oh ya, loving trying something completely new, more so when it is a recommended local favourite.
Eating is the easy part, remembering to take a picture or write down the name so there is at least a slim possibility of finding it again, or even making it (??) is harder.
Somethings, like one of this morning’s adventures, I will never taste again, unless perhaps I return to Varanasi in a future December.
Varanasi was two kinds of food adventure for me, the “surprise me” (happens often) and the “back alley” food jog (first time).
Best (and laziest on my part) food always comes from the request of the restaurant (chef or wait staff) to just bring out what “they” love.
I had this experience last night at the resto, with four stunning dishes that got me into full happy food dance mode (you would have to see it to understand it, but it involves a big stupid grin and some sort of awkward body motion while sitting at the table that seems to make people giggle. Imagine a very happy, and large, penguin.
My waiter was fully into this, maybe it’s not often that he gets full control of someone’s experience but he was almost giddy as each dish came out and it became very obvious that I was loving it (see happy food dance note above).
Since this was damn fun, I’ll describe it (partly so I remember it). Started w regular papadam but he pointed my attention to the house special potato papadam (which he bought more of as soon as I devoured the first). I’d describe it as Crack-Pappadam. A Dahi Papadee appetizer (amazing!), sweet, spicy, cold, creamy and crunchy, then the most amazing (and spicy) eggplant main dish with again, the most incredible fluffy rice from heaven. This, and just to note that I typically hate eggplant. (again, sorry Ma!). All finished with a cheese ball dessert (angouri rablii). Food heaven.
This morning was, literally, a food jog through old Varanasi. Ricky met me at just after sunrise, then wound us through the extremely narrow alleyways of Varanasi. All about 4 foot wide’ish which apparently is still wide enough to handle a moped a cow a line of pilgrims and… me, at any one time and all going separate directions.
Note to self: ALWAYS walk looking down for cow poop (or other), and straight ahead to see what’s coming, listen behind for motorcycles, bikes or mooing (Ricky got a horn in the rib from a bull) and look up to see the view… Always, all ways at once!
After a quick Temple we stopped at Varanasi’s Street dentist spot, where this guy, and now his descendants set up a full service dentist office, straddling the gutter.
Then Street food: deep fried bread with some sort of amazing lentil and spice filling and “Jullabee”, bright orange (once cooked), honey soaked sticky heaven stuff!
I think both Eddie and Arsh told me about Jalebi, thanks guys! I think one or both may also have told me not to eat street food…
Gulped that down, then off to find Malaeo, which is massive vats of yellowish curdle milk, that, if I got his right, is curdled on rooftops each night (in December only and only in Varanasi), mixed with a bunch of spices and something sweet then cooked street side and served in these tiny, disposable clay pots. It’s like textured whipped milk or warm ice cream frothiness, with saffron. I could eat that all day (but as I managed to dump part of it on my pants it’s safer not to have another right then…)
After that, a hike/jog to the master masala tea maker of Varanasi, who, with his four cows in the inner courtyard is the fifth generation of spice and Ayurvedic oil makers.
Drank Tea, got doused and sent out with a bunch of ayurvetic oils, then ran back to the hotel (because at this point we were 40 mins late for the boat which takes 25 mins to travel to where cars can enter the city. Tourist late for his plane, apparently sets off ALL the alarm bells as every employee of the hotel appeared to come help poor lil ol’ miss Daisy (of Driving fame) down the Ghat, into the boat, then off the boat (around a bunch of families a kids doing their morning Ganges ritual, up the Ghat, into the car, then literally raced with horn blaring the whole time, for the 60 min drive to the airport. I have rarely felt so… precious (and not in the good way). I’m twice the size of most of these guys but they will not allow me to carry my own suitcase (or tiger print which is now its own piece of baggage in its plastic tube).
Postscript: plan was 5 hrs late leaving Varanasi. But I was well fed and smelling like sandalwood (and grass oil and Ager and…), and with stains of curdled milk all over my pants.
Note to self: the happy food dance should be moderated while sipping sticky hot milky stuff containing super staining herbs such as saffron. (You spill everything Toph!)
Future entry: how to wash your pants and shirt in India.
My Varanasi guide, Ricky