L&LtakeNYC: Curry snobs, chasing the flavor

Thank God for pistachio, cardamom and chillies. Thank God for the waiter getting the order wrong. And thank God for Halloween.

And I suppose I should say thank God for laughter too because this is all we could do. This is all a curry snob can do when they decide to listen to reviews.

The Place

We, the 2L’s, found ourselves in the heart of Curry Hill on Lexington Ave, in a restaurant called Dhaba. A pretty decent looking place, cosy in size and of course with tons of great reviews.

After a bit of indecisiveness we eventually ordered up the same. 2 vegetable samosas, 2 shrimp curries, 1 tadka dal, 1 rice portion and 1 garlic naan. And intuitively, 2 masala teas too.

Now if you were born and raised in Durban like we were, you’ll know that curry and rice is standard fare. Eating and cooking curry is a ritual that goes back at least 3 generations in our family.

So the general expectation is that if you are going to do Indian eat out/take out it better be good. Damn good. It’s pointless getting a curry that tastes worse than your own. Isn’t it?

The service

Now I suppose we should have known something was up when we asked for the wi-fi password and were firstly ignored and then later told no.

A few more questions and requests to the waiters and we realised we were facing a zombie infiltration. Blank stares and unintelligible sounds coming out of their mouths. Early Halloween perhaps?

The food

The samosas came and went, bleh.

When the rest of the food arrived we immediately realised that we were 1 shrimp curry short. Given the zombie situation we decided on silence. And a good thing at that.

L1 dipped straight into the garlic naan and shrimp curry. L2, attacked the rice and tadka dal. The look on L1’s face told L2 something was desperately wrong. Quick switch.

L2 summons the zombie. Now if L2, the quieter of the 2L’s, calls on the zombie then something must be seriously wrong.

Zombie 1 arrives with a resulting apocalyptic breakdown in communication. Cue to the arrival of zombie 2. The removal of the bowl of shrimp curry a vague indication that some form of understanding was reached.

To put it simply the shrimp curry was not really a curry. Not in our world anyways. It was bland, bland and blander. No spice, no flavour, no heat . Temperature wise or spice wise.

L2 sent it back because it was luke warm and asked for some chillies to be added.

Well, it came back, as watered down as ever with another small bowl of whole green chillies. A first for us. I mean, just imagine sitting at a restaurant table and chopping up your own green chillies to add to the curry.

The chillies helped make a shitty shrimp curry less shitty but still shitty, if you know what I mean. And where the shrimp curry was tasteless, the garlic naan was too tasty. As in the garlic overpowered everything else.

Perhaps sensing our displeasure the manager arrived with two complimentary desserts. Rasmalai which is cheese balls in reduced sweet milk and pistachios and the other, Tawle Ka Gulab Jamun, fried milk balls in cardamom flavoured sugar syrup.

The Rasmalai was really good but not good enough to save the entire meal. When you’re a curry snob and you’re chasing the flavor of a curry you can call damn good, the extras don’t count.

Now usually we would not do reviews .We would simply not return. But let’s just say for Halloween sake here is our first restaurant review:

Above par :

  • Masala tea
  • Tadka dal
  • Rasmalai

Below par:

  • Shrimp curry
  • Garlic naan
  • Samosa

Being the snobs that we are, we should have just taken the 50 dollars, bought all the ingredients PLUS a bottle of wine, gone home and cooked up a storm a la Floyd.

Curry snob tip: In Manhattan, go fine dining for Indian especially if you are familiar with Indian food.

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For Phili She Pines

It’s this time of year when I start stripping. In the privacy of my own home I mean, and maybe for a few of my neighbors. No-one’s complained yet so I’m guessing its all good. We are well into averaging 30 degree Celsius weather now with a good dose of humidity, just in case the heat alone wasn’t enough. I mean sweating before 9am just isn’t pretty. In my previous post I spoke about how this weather makes me wish for a beer and gets me thinking about holidays. Well, here is another good place to enjoy a beer:

In the Philipines, a San Miguel in hand. If Mozambique is an African paradise then the Philipines is an Asian paradise. We spent 2 days in Manila, I would skip that (unless you enjoy a seedy kinda environment then by all means do your thing) and transfer directly to Puerto Princessa.

There are many things to do in Puerto Princessa, namely the Underground River which is now one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World or something along those lines. That was ok, but even more spectacular though was the food at Kinabuch’s restaurant. You can tell what my priorities are, can’t you? Please have the garlic prawns, pretty pretty please.

After a short stay in Puerto Princessa, and a horrific 6 hour mini bus ride on gravel road we arrived in a little piece of heaven and our REAL holiday began.

 

Due to the difficulty in getting to El Nido, not that many tourists venture there. Possibly also because there is no electricity between 6am and 2pm. We had no bookings, no accommodation and no plan. No problem. Head straight to the Art Cafe where all central intelligence is held.

We stayed at Rosanna’s Cottages. This is the view from our deck:

Here’s how you know you’ve had a good holiday:

finishing a book under a palm tree ( kafka on the shore by haruki murakami)

walking along old streets that haven’t had a modern make-over:

chilling on a private island

pinocaladas, fresh barbecued fish on the beach, chatting to old friends & meeting new ones

some adventure

 

finding secluded beaches

having too many cocktails which nobody ever needs to know about

and watching sunsets (which speak for themselves)

P A R A D I S E!

How Do You Get Fat in the Land of Skinny?

Who comes to the Land of Skinny and gets fat? This girl does. When I did eventually jump on a scale for a medical my initial reaction was the scale’s broken. Has to be. Just in case it wasn’t I mentally deducted 1 kg for my sneakers and 2 kg’s for my clothes. That felt slightly better. But still how did I gain all those kg’s? I then went to a friend’s house and jumped on her scale just to prove that the doctor’s was broken. Well now I was just pissed, 2 broken scales, what’s up with this?

I got home and all I could think about was how I could have allowed myself to put on 8kg’s. Yes I’ll say it again, 8kg’s. Bearing in mind that when I left South Africa I was still trying to get to my ideal weight (60kg). So in reality fatty boom boom over here was thundering in at her heaviest EVER, 18 kg’s over her ideal weight. Can you hear my silent scream?

Nothing like a reality check to get your fat ass into action, so I initiated the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign in March. I’ve been at it for  2 months now so I thought I’d give you a little update. Firstly, this has not been easy, I’ve had to adjust things here and there but now that I’ve been able to make eating healthy a habit and not just a choice, it has become so much easier.

Here’s the headline news: (drum roll please)

  • I am now 6kg’s lighter. That ‘broken scale’ and my clothes told me so.
  • I have lost this weight just on eating healthy and not exercising. I’m working myself up to the exercising bit. In this area of my life I struggle to multi task. Baby steps.
  • I give myself one day off a week .  And I’ve shocked myself with the responsible adult that I’ve become because even on these days I’ve steered towards the healthy.
  • I’ve become THAT person. You know the person you say you’ll never become. Yes, I count calories, I look at fat content, I eat whole wheat, brown over white, low GI, low fat….the list could go on and on.
  • I don’t drink any alcohol
  • Somehow, the unimaginable has happened and I’ve become an almost vegetarian. I’m still eating chicken and some seafood.
  • I still have friends although I think they have suffered the most. My social life, although it wasn’t much before, is even less now. Because I haven’t been exercising I’ve limited my eating out to my one day off a week. I still see my friends regularly we just not having George Clooney parties anymore.
  • Making healthy eating a habit has forced me to be disciplined.

I’ve kept a really simple eating plan which I prescribed to myself. I have an apple or orange for breakfast, chicken/tuna salad and fruit for lunch and either soup, vegetables and chicken or a small portion of whole wheat pasta and vegetables for dinner. Plain nuts in between meals if I’m hungry.  I have a sweet tooth so an orange after dinner cures my need for a chocolate. And I eat dinner by 6:30 and drink 2L of water a day religiously.

I’ve tried to eat healthy many times before and given up after a week or two. The only reason I’m managing to do it now is because my mind and body are in total alignment. I’ve also had to deal with my emotional eating which is a biggie. Instead of being my own worst critic I’ve become my own best cheerleader. And when you have a cheerleader on your side how could you go wrong?

 

I’ll continue to keep you updated on this journey. I have a long way to go.

Have a  wonderful weekend everyone!

A sobering moment

On Friday I was in a food coma. I was not hospitalised luckily, but I was confined to my bed like a beached whale. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t see properly. Everything around me was a blur; I couldn’t even bring myself to turn on the television. I just lay there asking myself why would I do this to ME, why? Why? Why?

Naturally this was self inflicted. Let me backtrack a little to give you some context. Last week I launched the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign. This campaign’s goal is to essentially get me back to fitting into my jeans without looking like a muffin top, for my triumphant return HOME. And up and until Friday at exactly 5:30pm everything was going swimmingly well. I took my mother’s advice for breakfast, which is to eat only half the portion you would normally eat. So I had half the amount of cereal. And I took Commonsense’s advice for lunch and had chicken salad, an apple and yoghurt every day. Now I’m not gonna lie to you. Dinner time was a little wobbly on some days, I wouldn’t say I fell off the campaign trail but I came pretty close.

And then Friday happened.  On my walk home from school, I passed a pizza place. Firstly the smells wafting from the oven drew me in like a snake charmer’s whistle, and then, the warmth and safe shelter it offered from the cold rain outside found me inside the door, and then finally, I saw George Clooney’s face on the pizza saying, “You want me, take me, have me”. Now we all know I can’t resist George and those bedroom eyes and seductive smile so I wanted him, took him and had him. And boy, did I pay the price for my sluttony. Some people need to hit rock bottom to change their situation and I guess I am one of those ”some people”.  The “during” part of devouring George was sensational but the after effects were disastrous. Just ask the beached whale.

Like I said, luckily for me I wasn’t hospitalised so on Saturday morning I rolled out of bed and saw that my ex-almost-sister-in-law had sent me a healthy recipe to try. Determined to regain some dignity and self respect from the morning- after -guilty-conscience which we tend to feel after a night of sluttony, I scrambled to find some paper to write down the said recipe. Of course, none to be found but what I did find is a notebook from 2006 which I brought with me to Korea. I don’t know why but in that notebook in my own handwriting, amongst other things, I wrote, “At some point we all need to have a sobering moment”.  And at that point I knew the Universe was talking to me, so I sat down and had my sobering moment.

If your body is your temple, and I believe it is, and it happens to house things as precious as your heart and soul, why would you do anything to harm it? This was my sobering question.  Now I don’t want to bore you with stories about the army of deep scars that hide in dark holes in my soul, that come out just to taunt my insecurities, which ultimately leads to the sluttonous behaviour. But I do want to share with you how I came to the decision to put up the GOOD FIGHT for the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign.

Over a year ago, I went on holiday to the Philippines and experienced one of the greatest lessons people get philosophical about all the time.  A friend and I decided to hire motorbikes and a do a day trip around one of the islands. Now we were warned that only a short stretch of the trip would be tar and the rest would be gravel but we thought, hey, how hard could this be.  Indeed.

I wore sandals, not a good idea. Stones tend to fly when you least expect it. I wore a little summer dress, not a good idea. The sun blazes and burns when you least expect it.  The vegetation scratches and hurts when you ride into it. I don’t know how to dance, not a good thing when your bike is doing the electric slide across the road. I can’t break evenly, not a good idea when you about to cartwheel  head first down a hill. I fell off, I got up, I got wedged between the bike and the side of a cliff, and I got on again. We got lost, we continued. Eventually, gravel turned to sand and road turned to a narrow “walking path”. The open road turned to thick green vegetation enveloping us. I didn’t know where we were or how we got there. I couldn’t see where we were going. But just as it seemed as if we were heading to a precarious place called, nowhere, we happened upon this.

An untouched, naturally beautiful, secluded beach, just for us.  I’ve never seen anything more picturesque. And that’s when my friend turned to me and said, “This is a good metaphor for life. Sometimes you have to go through hardship to reach a place of beauty”.  And we sure did have to travel through a long rough gravel road to find this little piece of heaven. And all through the trip we never complained, never worried, never gave up. Each little thing that had happened all formed part of the greater adventure.

Fast forward to today and I’m thinking about how you have to go through hardship to reach a place of beauty. If I’m going to lead the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign then I need to put my big girl panties back on and continue on the campaign trail. I have to do the work, have the discipline, go through the tough times and get to my little piece of heaven. My campaign manifesto is to try any and all suggestions given to me.  Today it was the healthy recipe from my ex-almost-sister-in-law.

I have to admit to being like a manic banshee trying to make this and take pics. I am no photographer, not even close. So if the pictures don’t do this meal justice I urge you to try it here. Scroll down the comments for the ingredients.

The ingredients

The salad:

The chicken stir fry:

Put a bit of the chicken stir fry and salad in a lettuce leaf and wrap it up and eat it:

It was healthy & DELICIOUS. It tasted of summer – fresh, zesty and light. It made me feel the same way I felt at the end of that long rewarding day in the Philippines – serenely happy & content.

PS my sister suggested a detox. I have to do it now. Pray for my students.