Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

July 12, 2010


I cook very rarely. If I have to, it means that I have no family, friends, or females around who will make me food or go to a restaurant to eat with me. On the rare occasions that I do enter the kitchen, I am sure to deliver a feast unmatched in taste and texture, untried by the common chef, and untainted by prior cooking experience. I use a combination of heating techniques such as baking, microwaving, burning, grilling, boiling, and toasting to prepare the courses. A pathfinder in the culinary arts, I deliver dishes that the world has not seen before. Since I only cook for myself and never repeat a dish nor write down a recipe, I capture the moments of edible euphoria on camera.


"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~ Luciano Pavarotti

June 17, 2010

Salad Days

"I don't see this 'ballooning' weight. However, I know FOR A FACT that drinking 1 million sugar-packed juice boxes and other similar beverages, and 3 days a week worth of fruit (although natural sugar, still sugar) is INCREDIBLEY fattening. If I did that I would 'balloon' as well… you should try giving up the juice boxes and drink a lot of water, and instead of only doing fruit try and have a nice complex salad and one piece of fruit on those days. I can guarantee you will notice significant changes in your weight and how you feel!" exclaimed my beautiful secretary to me.

She provided the friendly advice after I complained that I was going through a period of significant ARNABloating at ResponseTek. After shedding some extra pounds in India following the infamous Satyam Diet, I had started re-inflating my spare tire at my job back in Vancouver. With a world of dining options in the downtown core, I explored a new restaurant every day. The possibilities were limitless - Monday sushi, Tuesday fish and chips, Wednesday pizza, Thursday burger, Friday burrito!

After my secretary's sound salad advice, I tried alternating salad and eating out for a couple of weeks. I bought a large bag of salad into the office and left it in the freezer. On the first day it tasted fine, although incredibly bland. I could not add dressing as that would neutralize the health benefits of eating the salad. After a few bits of vegetable accidentally fell into my cup of hot chocolate, I tried mixing the salad with chocolate milk to add some flavour but the results were unsatisfactory. Two days later when I returned to the refrigerator to retrieve my salad it was completely soggy. It had become frozen solid while in the freezer and then thawed out in the fridge, leaving it a wet inedible mess. Despite good intentions, my salad experiment had ended in failure.


"You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100." ~ Woody Allen

September 01, 2009

Wangfujing Snack Street

There are many sites in and around Beijing that must be seen at least once in a lifetime, but only a handful warrant multiple visits. Apart from the Great Wall, Wangfujing Snack Street is one of the few attractions that has consistently drawn me back time and again. Wangfujing is a busy shopping district with two main areas where strange treats are sold alongside more mundane fare. Tourists mill about the rows of food stalls, many with looks of complete shock on their face when they see the delicacies awaiting them. Mysterious sea creatures and insects are top draws for the daring. Some merely gawk at others without trying any of the skewers on offer. The footpath is frequently hosed to get rid of the organic materials that have been dropped, spat out, vomited, or otherwise excreted on to the ground.

I compiled an incomplete list of items that I tried for the first time at the mother of all snack streets.

Visit 1
  • Starfish
  • Seahorse
  • Sea snake,
  • Soup made of cows inner organs
  • Stinky tofu
Visit 2
  • Scorpion
  • Snake
  • Silkworm
Visit 3
Visit 4
  • Bees
  • Dragonfly
  • Lamb testicles
  • Under the counter cat

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”
James Beard

August 26, 2009

Guilin Grub

While I was in Guilin it rained continuously. The heavy downpour usually kept me indoors or wandering from one restaurant to another. I had a chance to barter for a variety of fresh fare, from fish to frogs to turtles. Since the precipitation was intense most of the locals had headed for the shelter of their homes, leaving prospective customers scarce at dining establishments.

The managers of the restaurants vied for my attention, energetically trying to usher me in to their eateries. I nonchalantly perused the edible creatures and estimated how appetizing they would be. One shopkeeper grabbed a toad and held it inches away from my face, but his tactic proved to be futile as I moved on to other options. I settled for a large fish after finding the exotic creatures too expensive for my liking.


"Tis not the meat, but 'tis the appetite makes eating a delight."
- Sir. John Suckling -

August 04, 2009

Poutine Nation

My love affair with poutine started at an early age and only strengthened throughout the years. As I celebrated Canada Day with an Irishman, a Malay, and an Argentine in China, I was treated to some poutine at the Goose and Duck. This Canadian-owned bar was hosting the July 1st festivities in Beijing. An individual with low cholesterol might ask "What is poutine?".

Poutine is the closest thing to a national dish that Canada has. Its precise birthplace is unknown, but poutine originated somewhere in Quebec. The "heart attack in a bowl" is the perfect blend of French fries layered with cheese curd and covered in hot gravy. As it melts into a single entity, poutine becomes much greater than the sum of its ingredients. Poutine is to the stomach what I am to the soul. A feast for the senses, it is Canadian cuisine at its finest.


"Oh, the tiger will love you. There is no sincerer love than the love of food."
- George Bernard Shaw

June 11, 2009

Peking Dick

Beijing may be famous for its Peking duck, but some other specialties also stick out. At a roadside stall in Wangfujing I was offered a skewer of lamb penis that was being sold by a cocky food seller. He gave me the shaft. Not wanting to be a dick, I purchased and devoured the organ. My roommate did not want to be a member to the act, so he refrained from gobbling the knob. He felt like a wiener as he watched me chew on the sheep schlong.

My flatmate also vowed never to accompany me to the first specialty palace of phallus in the world. The Guolizhuang genital restaurant serves the love skin of various animals, boasting a virile customer base and strong growth prospects. Privately owned and operated, it is not a stop on any of the standard package tours.

June 09, 2009

Swine Dining

The swine flu epidemic has swept across the globe, putting fear in the hearts of men. While most of the world has pig on their mind I have it in my stomach. At Hadilao Hot Pot, I had pig brains accompanied with helpings of duck blood and fungus. A hot pot is a bowl of simmering broth in which different food items can be dropped. It is placed in the center of the dining table so that everyone can participate in the process of cooking and eating. The communal meal is particularly popular during the harsh Beijing winter. For the inexperienced hot potter, it is sometimes difficult to determine when the meat has been fully cooked and is ready to eat. The brain was left in the bowl for an extra long amount of time before being consumed as a safety precaution.  

“It is the quiet pigs that eat the meal.” - Irish Proverb

April 16, 2009

The Birdcage

 As I was wandering around Dawanglu, the neighbourood in which lies my palatial Chinese estate, I stumbled upon a confusing monument. A giant steel birdcage was placed in a small public square, nestled between the skyscrapers of Beijing's Central Business District (CBD). Oddly enough, it was empty. The piece looked rather new, so the empty birdcage could have been a metaphor for the unlimited potential of the people of modern China being let loose on the world. Or it could be that the locals simply ate the creature residing within it without inviting me over for a taste. I investigated further and found several large birdlike sculptures a few blocks away, leaving me further baffled.

February 26, 2009

Orange Crushed

As part of my ongoing study of the eating habits of modern civilizations, I visited a KFC outlet in China. I ordered a Beijing style wrap combo. For my drink, I asked for an Orange Crush. After paying for and collecting my meal, I sat down and began to eat.

With the soothing sounds of the Backstreet Boys playing in the background, I took a bite out of my Kentucky Fried Crab. As I slurped my drink, my tongue started to sizzle. I noticed the smoke first, and then the pain. The Orange Crush was actually boiling hot orange juice. Logically, orange juice is served at a high temperature during the cold winter months. My taste buds would recover in due time for further culinary adventures.

February 24, 2009


My office building has its own food court. A card has to be purchased and loaded with funds. It is possible to pay for items at all the restaurants in the food court by swiping this prepaid card as long as a balance remains. Many of the meals are accompanied by a bowl of thick soup.

I am fond of the soup but my Chinese colleagues could not tell me its English name right away. The direct translation turned out to be "millet gruel". This is what orphans in 19th century had for sustenance as they laboured in factories. Although it has a bad reputation, it has a good taste.


"Please, sir, I want some more." - Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

February 23, 2009

Bird On A Stick

My landlord referred me to an area where I could sample some street fare. I tried a piece of fried chicken on a stick as a starter, and the ordered another bird on a stick. I conveyed my wishes by pointing at my object of desire. This time I could not tell what animal I was eating, although it did seem vaguely familiar. My skewer had four of the small and tasty creatures attached to it. I walked back to my apartment while munching on them, careful to leave one specimen intact. When I arrived back to my flat, my landlord identified the remaining critter as a baby quail.

February 16, 2009

Three Scream

Chinese guy: Have you ever tried three scream?
Me: No, what's that?
Chinese guy: Take a baby mouse. Pick it up with your chopsticks. One scream. Dip it in sauce. Two scream. Put it in your mouth. Three scream.

December 28, 2008


A burger is a special type of sandwich composed of a bottom bun, one or more patties (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable mishmash, etc), other secondary ingredients (cheese, bacon, tomato, pickle, etc), condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc), and a top bun. The bread, the patty, and the eater are usually circular in shape.

Vancouver has its fair share of burger joints. Vera's Burger Shack offers high quality burgers at a modest price. The BC Burger at White Spot is a personal favourite of mine. Fatburger, the "White Castle of the West", is not very impressive. Other outfits, namely Burger Heaven and Hamburger Mary's, offer an unique selection of meats including elk, kangaroo, and ox. Before shutting its doors to the public due to increasing costs, Wally's was another prominent figure in Vancouver's burger landscape.

A low price point and decent taste were Wally's hallmarks. A steady stream of people, some tearful regulars trading nostalgic tales and some just wanting to try it once while they have the chance, were in the line up. I was in the latter category, seizing a chance to savour this portion of Vancouver's burger lineup before it was removed from the roster.

September 21, 2008

Thums Up

It is quite common for a country or region to have a signature drink. Usually it is alcoholic in nature. A small sample from the world of beer would include Steinlager (New Zealand), Heineken (Netherlands), Guinness (Ireland), Corona (Mexico), Foster's (Australia), Medalla Light (Puerto Rico), and Budweiser (USA). The king of beers in India is Kingfisher. United Breweries, run by the enigmatic Vijay Mallya, has the lion's share of the Indian beer market and is the third largest producer of spirits worldwide. Although quite tasty, it is not the beverage that unites a people. This honour belongs to a carbonated soft drink: Thums Up.

After Coca Cola was forced to withdraw from India in the 1970's a homegrown cola rose to take its place. With no serious competition in the cola market, Thums Up ruled supreme. In the 1990's government hard restrictions on soft drinks were lifted, and Pepsi and Coca-Cola soon entered the market. Thums Up stood toe to toe against the massive marketing might of Pepsi Cola for a time, until Coke's entry made it a three way tango. The Indian owner of Thums Up eventually relented against this international onslaught and sold Thums Up to Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola would ideally have liked its namesake drink to be the flagship product in its lineup. so it tried to marginalize Thums Up. Reducing its marketing budget and focusing its promotional efforts on Coke were not enough to eliminate the beverage. The nation's love affair with Thums Up was too strong. Deciding to build on its distinctiveness, Coca Cola repositioned Thums Up as a manlier alternative to Coke and Pepsi. As a drink that distinguishes men from boys, Thums Up was a constant source of refreshment during my journeys through India.


Taste the Thunder!

August 10, 2008

The View From The Top

At the pinnacle of the 177 meter high Harbour Centre building is the Vancouver Lookout, containing an observation deck that gives a panoramic view of the most livable city on Earth and the Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant located directly above. Completing one full revolution per hour, it made for an ideal lunch outing. For patrons of the restaurant, the elevator ride to the top is free. Although entry to the viewing platform is not included with the meal, the prices on the menu already reflect a built-in premium to compensate for the unobstructed views it affords of the city, the mountains, and the waterways that make up the region.

I shared a mozzarella stick appetizer with my friend who was accompanying me on my high altitude journey, and completed my cheesy experience with some lasagna as the main course. Through the angled windows I watched the SeaBus ply its route across the Burrard Inlet from the Vancouver Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay, while several helicopters landed and took off near the rail lines and the Port of Vancouver. As the restaurant slowly rotated the 360 degrees over 60 minutes, I saw the Simon Fraser University atop the peak of Burnaby Mountain, and then Vancouver City Hall and Vancouver General Hospital, before seeing Vancouver Island in the distance, and the downtown core from up close. I noticed someone walking around on the rooftop of my office building and I was intrigued. The tennis court on top of the Holt Renfrew building in which I had encountered Liz Hurley was also unexpected.

Powell Street Festival

August 2nd, 2008 - A celebration of Japanese Canadian culture and arts, the 32nd edition of the annual Powell Street Festival, took place at its usual home in Oppenheimer Park. It marked the 80th year of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada. A stage and shopping stalls had been set up inside the park, while food was being sold on the side streets. The first performance I witnessed was by Chibi Taiko ("little kid, big drum"). Taiko are Japanese drums and this ensemble beat them with great enthusiasm. I had come to see my friend Daizo perform with the Okinawa troupe. He provided musical accompaniment to the Yuaikai Ryukyu Taiko. After watching a high tempo performance comprising of music, song, and dance, I enjoyed some wild salmon cooked in a traditional manner over a fire.

August 05, 2008

Vancouver Nightlife: Crushed

Recovering from the bitter aftermath of our argument, it was time for my friends and I to locate a suitable club for me to formally debut in. After some tight parallel parking accompanied by colour commentary from one of the occupants of the vehicle, we wandered the Granville Entertainment District in search of a club with decent music, high quality prospects, and a low cover charge. We rejected the Plaza Club and Caprice, before securing entry to Crush. My driver's license was verified and I was frisked by a burly man before I was allowed to enter the premises.

Dark, loud, and sparse, the interior was unwelcoming. Scantily clad women of diverse ethnic backgrounds gyrated in synchronized formations on the dance floor while sinister or ridiculous looking men leered from all sides. The females danced in pairs or triplets, collapsing into a single object when any predatory males neared them. The defensive schemes practiced by them far surpassed any employed by professional sports franchises.

Disappointed, my friends and I went to Denny's. I craved some cheesecake. As the hour was late, the 24 hour diner was a perfect location to wind up the night. After going over the menu it was not the cheesecake that caught my eye, but the brownie. It was rather large and I could not finish it all. When I magnanimously offered to share, my friends believed I would charge them for the privilege, but revenge is not in my nature.


Industry expert Anish infers: "Arnab doesn't need words to charm the women. His grunts are enough to fill even the most reserved of them with insatiable lust!"

August 04, 2008

Vancouver Nightlife: Clubbing with Cheapskates

My long awaited introduction to Vancouver's clubbing scene took place on a steamy summer's night. It was a Friday, so I was already downtown for work. As it takes a minimal amount of effort (if any) for me to look like a heartthrob, I had come prepared in the morning so I would not have to return home after work to change into something presentable. Sporting a dark blazer with a tight gray shirt underneath, slim fit jeans, polished shoes, and a couple of days worth of stubble, I was a morale booster in the office and a traffic stopper on the streets.

On Davie St. there were no automobiles present and a critical mass of cyclists passed through hoping to catch a glimpse of the Indo-Canadian Temptation. Since the clubbing scene does not start coalescing until near midnight, I had quite a few hours from the time I stopped working to the time I would begin clubbing. My friends who were supposed to accompany me had not made any dinner plans. Repeated suggestions were ignored and inquiries were left unanswered, so I had proceeded to have dinner with another friend at Kadoya, maker of specialty sushi, on Davie St. Just as I was finishing up my meal, I received a phone call from the girlfriend of one of the guys who would take me clubbing. She said she would pick me up and take me to Incendio, the restaurant where the rest of the guys had already started having dinner.

After I was delivered to Incendio and offered a seat at the table, my companions enticed me to share some of their leftover pizza and wine. When the waitress appeared with the bill though, they insisted on splitting it evenly amongst everyone. I objected strenuously, as I had barely touched the food. Not only that, my friends had began eating without me, I had not been present when the food was ordered, and it was not common practice to charge money for samples. They began cursing loudly, offending the parents of young children seated at nearby tables. Several times the waitresses came by to check if they could help in any way (such as by providing a calculator). When I was offered a sample of the leftovers, I had believed it was a gracious gesture, but it was not to be. I stood my ground bravely and calmly, one man against many. Possessing much more than a modicum of decorum, I remained civil and offered to pay half of what they would pay for the meal. This offer was flatly rejected and we were at an impasse. The argument had lasted many minutes. This was my final offer. A neutral observer till now, my friend's girlfriend sprung into action and offered to pay the remaining half so that my combined portion of the total cost would match theirs. With no shame and little dignity, they accepted the offer. It had gotten quite late, so we rushed off to find a club.


One of my companions suggested going to our desired club in the daytime before they began to start charging an entrance fee, getting a stamp on our hands as proof, and then returning again later at night.

Anish, an expert in the field, responded: "I suggest you regale the ladies with your strategy to get in free. Women love frugal men."

July 31, 2008

Taste of the City

The 6th annual Taste of the City was held on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) on July 19th, 2008. Top restaurants and caterers from around the Lower Mainland were selling bite sized portions of food so that the general populace could sample them. There was a great diversity among the cuisines, matching the multicultural makeup of the city. Unlike EAT! Vancouver, where there was an entrance fee and plenty of other forms of culinary entertainment available to sooth the palate, this event was free and focused on filling the belly, one morsel at a time.

July 06, 2008

Origins of the Rosogolla

While at a Bengali cultural event, I mentioned to other attendees that the birthplace of the rosogolla (or rasagolla or rasgulla) was Orissa and not West Bengal, but nobody was impressed with my sweet talk. Rosogollas are sweet, plump, and juicy delights of non-female form. It is the favourite sweet or "mishti" of Bengalis and many other Indians. It is the state of West Bengal that is generally associated with this treat. During my days with Satyam, a coworker from Orissa informed me that in reality the rosogolla was created in his home state. I was shocked by his statement and proceeded to verify this information from secondary sources.

I checked the usually reliable centralized collection of mass knowledge known as Wikipedia. Sure enough, what was written there was in line with my colleague's comments: "The rasagolla was invented in the state of Orissa, where it has been a traditional sweet dish for centuries. The recipe for making rasagollas eventually spread from Orissa to neighbouring West Bengal. This was during the Bengal renaissance when Brahmin cooks from Orissa, especially from Puri, were routinely employed in richer Bengali households. They were famed for their culinary skills and commonly referred to as Ude Thakurs (Oriya brahmin-cooks). As a result, many Oriya delicacies got incorporated into the Bengali kitchen".

It goes on to explain that a man named Nobin Chandra Das of Bagbazar, Kolkata "modified the original recipe to extend the shelf life of the highly perishable sweet" and made it more marketable to the masses. Looking for further verification on the origins of the sweet, I checked Yahoo! Answers and the results were the same:
"By the time the recipe reached Nobin Das (which was either in 1868 or a few years earlier through another confectioner, Haradhan Moira), it was already a traditional item in Orissa - standard fare in the cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, and of course in Puri."

Jayanta Mishra mentioned that "One can easily see how the popular misconception that Rasagulla originated in Bengal arose. It gained nationwide popularity only via Kolkata, with its better marketing infrastructure. Besides, one must not forget that when Rasagulla became popular, the state of Orissa was itself a part of the province of Bengal under the British". The only related article of interest yielded by Google Scholar was on the prevalence of coronary heart disease in Kolkata due to the eating habits and sedentary lifestyle of its inhabitants. For true lovers of the sweet delight, it does not matter who invented the rosogolla but that someone did.