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Showing posts from July, 2017

dinner, Made in Punjab

After arriving in New Delhi, we visited the DLF Mall of India in Noida, a city that is part of India's National Capital Region. The mall is said to be the second biggest mall in the country and is described as a destination mall, which I think means that this mall is like a tourist spot (with a wide selection of dining and entertainment options).

For dinner, we trooped to a restaurant called Made in Punjab. By the time we got here, I've already tried the food in two states in East India (West Bengal and Odisha) and in Telangana. From these experiences, I had formed the idea that Indian food is definitely more than the dhal and the curries that I've previously been exposed to in the USA and in the Philippines.

I was amazed that Indian cuisine had so much more to offer. In Made in Punjab, we were wowed by a famous Punjabi export, the tikka, which I liked very much when I first tried it in California. I haven't finished working my head around Mughal cuisine, but now I wa…

Expert elicitation workshops in East India

Why were we in India in the first place? 
Matty, Jhoanne, and I flew in from the Philippines to join Arindam and Suva in the first of our activities under the Drivers of Food Choice project in East India. The article below is a piece I wrote on paper (it's been a while since I wrote a first draft by hand) while we were in a plane from Kolkata to New Delhi. By the time we landed in New Delhi, the piece had gone around the whole team for their revisions and was ready for submission to the editors back in IRRI headquarters. 
Below is the piece as it got published in IRRI's news section a few days ago. 
Enhancing nutrition through gastronomic research

New Delhi, INDIA—“To find effective interventions that can improve nutritional security for poor families in eastern India, researchers must first better understand what drives their food choices,” says Dr. Matty Demont, senior economist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and leader of the project, Drivers of Food…

chicken egg rolls à la Nizam's

I thought that our East Indian food adventure was at its end as our brief stay in New Delhi was ending. However, Arindam proved me wrong by bringing us to a restaurant called Nizam's Kathi Kabab in Connaught Place.

It looked like a regular restaurant, very unassuming and very homey... that is, until I noticed all the certificates hanging on the wall. These were the awards that the restaurant has won over the past few years for being one of the best dining places in the city. Along with the aromas wafting from the kitchen, I thought that I was in for another round of extraordinary gastronomy.
We ordered chicken egg rolls. These were so delicious! At first, I thought that these were similar to shawarma; however, these chicken egg rolls were greasier than the typical shawarma. It was a good idea to not indulge myself with a heavy lunch before the trip to Nizam's because my egg roll (in the picture) was so filling that I thought it was good as a full meal (but still with a niggli…

visiting the Taj Mahal

Why did I even want to wake up at 5am on a weekend?!? But the day's full of promise; after all, we were visiting one of the world's most famous landmarks: the Taj Mahal! Just to be sure that I had something to eat, I brought some of the choco chip cookies from my hotel room pantry. I shouldn't have worried at all; our driver stopped at a popular rest area to allow us to have a toilet break and to have some substantial breakfast two hours into our trip to Agra (from New Delhi).

I am so thankful for that pit stop because soon after, we were stuck in a very long traffic queue in the expressway. Apparently, there were people on the highway, causing the traffic to slow into a halt. People in cars decided to go down to have a look but I stayed in our car, content with watching the others and the landscape while waiting for the traffic to ease up.

A few hours later, we finally reached Agra, a city by the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh. We were almost at …

lunching at Arsalan

A trip to Kolkata would not be complete without a visit to Arsalan Restaurant, which serves Mughlai cuisine. Mughlai cuisine was developed when India was a Mughal empire (from the 1500s).  The cuisine had strong elements borrowed from Central Asia fused with Indian ingredients. 

Such fusion of cultures and flavours led to dishes such as chicken biryani. Previously, I've eaten this dish in Bahar Multicuisine Restaurant in Hyderabad and I found the Hyderabadi version to have a strong personality, intimidating almost, because of the combination of strong flavours. Naturally, I was very curious about the Bengali version; after all, the introduction made by Arindam and Matty before the dish arrived made the biryani sound delicious.
And indeed it was so yummy! I have to admit, though, that I still prefer the Hyderabadi chicken biryani. Having said that, I could say that the Arsalan version is the mellower cousin that still packs a good punch; not overwhelming but still memorable. It is…

A tame session of wildlife photography

During my first trip to India, I was able to go on a bird photography walk at the ICRISAT headquarters in Hyderabad. This time, once again with my Canon Powershot SX720 HS, I went to four cities (Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Agra, and New Delhi) with Matty, Arindam, Jhoanne, and Suva... and I tried to capture photos of urban wildlife when I had the chance.
In Bhubaneswar, Odisha, I was able to see some ducks at the Mayfair Lagoon. Matty spotted a red iguana lounging in one of the chaises longues (why my camera was dangling by its lanyard on my neck that time, I do not know), and Jhoanne and I were startled when a Hanuman langur (the largest uncaged monkey I've seen) jumped on the café's roof while we were having breakfast there. I was quite upset that I didn't bring my camera to breakfast and had to use my phone's camera to take a photo of it... at least I got it. I've only seen cows in farms, either in cattle farms or free-range in pastures. But in Bhubaneswar, it was m…

They call it "kabaddi"

I was having dinner with Arindam, Matty, and Suva at Bhojohori Manna when I looked up to the telly and saw a game I initially described as patintero on steroids. Patintero is a street game I grew up playing (and something my nephews and nieces have no concept of, with their tablets and smartphones). The objective of the game is to cross over a line without being tagged by the person guarding the line. This is why I was quite shocked that a game that looked similar was being played by muscular athletes as an actual sport!
Turns out that this sport is called kabaddi. The players' objective was to cross from one side of the court to another, and then go back to the "home" side, all while reciting "kabaddi". The opposite team had to make sure that the other team couldn't go to the other side of the court and/or they couldn't return to the home side. See, sounds very much like patintero...
But kabaddi is a whole different level altogether because it's a…

on seeing transgenders as beggars in Kolkata

I come from a country regarded as one of the friendliest towards the LGBT community; though there is still discrimination, the community is tolerated. Members of the community are integrated into the rest of the society economically and socially, typically visible in occupations involving beauty and show business.

On my first extended trip outside my country, I stayed in a suburb in Sydney where my professor said the highest concentrations of same-sex couples lived. Each night, when I walked back from Uni to the terrace house I was staying at, I could hear flamboyant productions being performed at a pub along King Street with "It's Raining Men" being the song the performers close every single night I was there. And I was thinking then, "Don't they know other songs?!? Why do they always sing this when I walk back from school?!?" I didn't know then that it was a gay bar. Melissa had to point it out to me when I told her about my observation.

Anyway, my p…

Visiting Mother Teresa

For someone who isn't from India, my first thought when hearing the name Calcutta is Mother Teresa helping the multitudes of poor people. This thought has perpetuated the idea, in me and perhaps in many more naive people, that India's economy didn't improve since Mother Teresa's time. This has been proven wrong, of course; despite the millions of people who do still need development aid.
Mother Teresa's convent, the Missionaries of Charity, is located in the southern part (but felt like the financial centre) of the city now called Kolkata. Jhoanne and I got down on AJC Bose Road and entered a narrow alley; we then entered a recess in the wall and ended up at the convent.
The first floor is where Mother Teresa's tomb is found. I thought that this was the end of our pilgrimage; instead, it turned out to be the beginning of a contemplative evening (at least for me). We were met by nuns who hurried us towards the tomb because we arrived as the convent was closing …

British vibes in Kolkata

It's my first time in Kolkata and Arindam organised a field trip for me and Jhoanne. This city used to be the capital of the British Empire in India, if my memory of Asian history lessons isn't failing me. But it is also widely known as Mother Teresa's territory; her Missionaries of Charity is in the heart of Kolkata, working closely with the poor and the sick... images of poverty in this part of the world has stuck in my head so it's such a surprise to hear again about the British cultural heritage.
Our driver brought us around the city and let us visit the Queen Victoria Memorial (built after Her Royal Highness died) and the St John's Church (the third oldest church in the city). The architecture of the Queen Victoria Memorial is breathtaking. I felt like I wasn't in India, but rather in a European city. On the other hand, St John's reminded me of the churches and the old buildings in Australia. These weren't Roman Catholic churches; hence, the aesth…