My Bangalore food bucket list

Inspiration has struck at last dear readers! I have found my elusive muse, she captures all my senses and always leaves me asking for a second helping. It’s time we meet another true love of mine – food! They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well gentlemen, the way to my heart is also through my stomach. So if you’re looking to win my heart, all you need is some rad culinary skills or the dough to afford one with said skills.

Coming from a khaata peetha khandaan (translation: eating-drinking family i.e. a family which loves food and eating), I don’t just love eating, I live to eat. Spicy, savoury, salty, sweet, you name it and I like it. Food is the biggest reason why I can’t wait to rush back home every year. My mum is an excellent cook but since I can’t invite you all home for dinner, here’s my list of favourite places to stuff my face in my hometown.

I find the best food to be associated with memories. It always takes you back to a place, incident or person. It doesn’t just leave you with a warm and full tummy but also a very warm and full heart. These are the places closest to my heart. I’ve been a loyal customer in most of these places for the better part of my life and in some cases, even before. This is food I grew up with and which laid the base for my love of food.

Sri Sagar: Or what most people in Malleshwaram know it as CTR aka Central Tiffin Room, is always packed! I remember going here as a kid, back then it was much smaller than it is now and it used to be packed. Fast forward twenty years and the crowd remains the same. All that has changed is the size of the masala dosa and of course the price. Inflation Sir! It doesn’t matter when you turn up, you will never find a place free. Trust me, I have tried. I live about 800 metres away and I’ve tried different times of the day. You will have to wait. And the trick to getting a seat? Stand around the tables and gaze hungrily at their food. Don’t bother with families with small kids, you’ll just earn ugly looks instead, go for the mid-aged groups. They are most likely to be sympathetic to your stomachs cravings. Bonus points for tummy rumble! Order while you stand so that your hot benne masale (butter masala dosa) greets you as you finally get to park your backside. The Mangaluru bajjies are another speciality here.

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The Benne Masale at CTR

Sri Raghavendra stores: Or Railway station idli as my sister and I know it. Why? because it’s right in front of the Malleswaram Railway Station. Despite my mother’s aforementioned cooking skills, she makes the most awful idlis. I love the woman but not those idlis. They’re dry, crumbly and everything else that will make you hate idlis. To compensate for it, we get a treat some Sundays in the form of hot, melt in your mouth soft idlis. They are like little cloud pillows. Especially if you are eating at the store and get some butter on top. I usually get 2 idlis, 2 vadas and a kesari baath to go now-a-days. I call it my 1 euro breakfast because it all adds up to about a euro.

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My 1 Euro breakfast

Koshy’s: This is yet another of the old school places around Bangalore. I’ve just realised that I’ve only ever been to Koshy’s for lunch. Strange! Anyway, Koshy’s is known for it’s continental and malabar cuisine. Strange mix, I know. Their breakfast spread has rave reviews but unfortunately, 25 years and I’ve never tried it. Like I said before, only Lunch. What I can recommend is their fish and chips but my absolute favourite has to be their Biryani. Unlike most biryanis which are spicy and heavy this is the Malabar version. It is light, aromatic and flavourful while not being overwhelming. That is an achievement!

Sri Sai Ram Chats: Also known as Rams. Please note, I’m not talking about the one near MES college. This is the original and now relocated onto Temple Road. I’ve been going to Rams since I was in 9th standard and Rams was in a Garage. My friends and I used to order almost everything on the menu (back then it was not as long) and chocolate milk shake. We all used to eat at least 2 plates of chaats per person on a daily basis. Mahesh uncle, who runs the store, is someone I know since then and who still recognises me even though I now go only once a year. There are a lot of things to recommend in Rams – from the chips masala to the Sai Ram special, a lot of Rams chaats are store specialities which can’t be found anywhere else. I order based on my mood but my staple is a grape juice with less sugar and more salt and pepper. Yes! Loyalty gets you customised orders.

Sweet Chariot: Another Bangalore staple, Sweet Chariot is known for their pastries, birthday cakes and other snacks in general. You can find outlets all over Bangalore, if not there are always smaller bakeries which get their food. Unfortunately, the closest Sweet Chariot is on MG Road and going their often is not exactly an option. However, there was a small bakery close to where my mum worked which got stuff from Sweet Chariot. Now, my absolute favourite form Sweet Chariot is their Japanese cake. I have no idea why it’s called that, it has nothing to do with Japan, believe me I’ve done my research. But it’s so hard to resist that cream filling sandwiched between two crunchy layers. This small bakery received freshly baked japanese cakes every Thursday and without fail, I would call my mum to get me one just before she left work for home. These days, I always eat one and pick up another to go whenever I am in MG Road. Another favourite of mine here is the plum cake you get during Christmas. Rich, moist and just so so good!! I can’t wait for December and it’s only May now!

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The yummy japanese cake

Lakeview Milkbar: Most Bangaloreans will swear by Corner house ice cream. Now in all fairness I do like corner house, but when I’m miles away like I am right now, it’s the ice cream at Lakeview that I miss. Lake view Milkbar is one of the oldest eateries you can find in Bangalore. Today they occupy a blink and you’ll miss place on MG Road. But if you’re in MG Road after a night out you are sure to see the Lakeview waiters standing outside, by the road, menus in hand. Having been a loyal customer longer than my life, I recognise a couple of the staff. One uncle (I’ve known them forever so it feels weird to call them waiters) even remembers my order – Veg cutlet and chocolate ice cream with cream and nuts. Having tired almost everything on the menu, these are my favourites. The veg cutlet is one of the best I have ever eaten and the ice cream is just something else. You will be hard pressed to find something like it anywhere else.

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Chocolate ice cream with cream and nuts

Tandoor: Another place on MG Road that I absolutely love. This is a restaurant that my dad used to bring any guests we had on any special occasions. Everything from the decour to the cutlery in Tandoor is old school. The chandelier and the painting on the walls is from another era. The food is every bit as luxurious as the ambience. I sincerely recommend their seekh kabab. I’ve tried other restaurants that serve north indian/Mughal cuisine but I am yet to find one that stands up to Tandoor. The kebabs are exquisite! The meat is tender and every single mouthful is filled with rich flavour – try it with the chutney it is served with and I challenge you to get to the main course! Another Tandoor staple I miss is the garlic naan. You will never again eat a garlic naan in any other place once you’ve had it here! Even when you do, it’ll just feel so wrong!!

I have to stop here before I make gluttons out of you all and before I burst into tears thinking about all my favourite dishes that I have to wait for another seven months to eat. It is 2:30 in the night on a working night as I type this. So never question my dedication to food!!

Have you eaten at any of the places mentioned? Do you have any stories associated with them? Drop a line below!

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Bangalore in a nutshell!

It’s been a week since I got back from home-sweet-home aka Bangalore. Now, as my stockpile of food from home starts to come down, the blues steadily rise. So of course, there’s a rant about Bangalore waiting to happen. Let there be no doubt that I do think Bangalore is the most awesome place in the world to live in, Bangalore traffic and pollution included. Now when you make statements like this people are always tempted to argue otherwise or expect you to prove the same. A friend of mine who happened to visit Bangalore for three days, especially had a bone to pick with me over this issue. And ever since then I’ve thought long and hard about how to explain to him the awesomeness that is Bangalore. It wasn’t until this time that it finally dawned on me what was going on.

You see, every big and famous city in the world is associated with something that makes it famous. New York has Times square, Agra the Taj Mahal, Vegas it’s casinos, Venice the canals. These places have come to symbolise these cities and are what you look forward to most when you travel there. Then there’s Bangalore. Now, we have Lalbagh, Cubbon park, Vidhan Soudha, the Bangalore palace and many other places but in the end none of these places individually or even collectively symbolise or stand for Bangalore. Bangalore doesn’t have the fast paced life of New York/Mumbai. At the same time it isn’t quiet and slow like a small village tucked away in the Himalayas/Alps. Bangalore is like a river, with ebbs and flows and you would do well to let the flow take you where it will.

Bangalore is not a traveller’s city. You will never be able to “see” Bangalore. Not because there’s nothing to see but because Bangalore is not just meant to be seen. Bangalore needs to be heard, savoured, felt, and above all, lived! You can’t put Bangalore in any mould. It will not fit. It’s not a rebellious teenager or an experimental twenty-something, a mid-life crisis waiting to happen or even a pensioner who’s seen and done it all. You can’t go looking for Bangalore in just one street, building or corner. It is all around you. It is as much UB city and Phoenix market city as it is Malleshwaram 8th cross and K R market. It is as much ITPL and Manyatha tech park as it is Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. It is as much 100 feet road Indiranagar as it is the food street in VV Puram. It is Chitra santhe, soul santhe, Kadalekai parishe and Bengaluru habba.

Bangalore is the silence and stillness in Lalbagh/Sankey tank within the chaos and traffic that surround it. It is the Benne dosa at CTR, the fish and chips at Koshys, the beer in Pecos and the Hamburger in The Only Place. It is the misty chill mornings in December and the hot sunny afternoons in May. It’s the random 5-10 minute long showers in July and the cool breeze in October.

You will be hard pressed to try to figure out Bangalore if you come as a traveller. I go back home every year for a month and I still find it hard to visit all my favourite hang outs, let alone try the new ones. Bangalore is always changing. Just as you are. And yet, it’s also the same. It finds a way to take the new and make it a part of itself without getting rid of the old. Bangalore is limitless. It cannot be confined. Believe me, they’ve tried. The first road around the city is now called the inner ring road while the city continues to expand beyond the newer outer ring road.

The truth is, you can’t put Bangalore in a nutshell. It is not the place you go to for 3 days and 2 nights and come away with a fridge magnet or a scaled model of a monument as a souvenir. You don’t come to Bangalore for a vacation, you come for life.

Of the theory of relativity, beating hearts and PhD topics

The last month and a half have been the longest of my entire life. I’m not being dramatic. They really were. It feels like the first ten months of this year happened at warp speed and then everything just started going in super slow motion. I know what you’d say, “You were occupied with internship and thesis so you didn’t realise time passing by but now with everything done and nothing left to do you’re bored and hence time seems to pass by slowly”. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve had plenty to do since I finished my thesis. For one there was the report, which by the way, is a nightmare in itself. Then the job applications, online tests, telephonic and personal interviews. You name it! Last but not the least, there was also the master thesis defence presentation. I was by no means idle.

I’ve also tried everything in my power to make the day go faster. I’ve slept in. That usually does it for me. I sleep in, wake up late and realise half the day is gone. But not this time, the rest of the day just seemed to taunt me. Even the sun which used to set so early in the day towards the end of the master thesis seemed suspended just over the horizon as if mocking me. And don’t even get me started on today. Waking up late, taking a long shower, watching lots of anime, roaming around the city, hanging out with friends and still it was only 8 when I got back. As I sit here typing this post, it feels like time has stopped just to annoy me.

I never quite appreciate Einstein’s theory of relativity as much as I do now. When I say now, I mean every time I am flying back home. It always seems like the days before my departure are extremely long. Even the flight seems longer than its 6 and 3 hours and the waiting time during transit, Good lord!! It seems like an eternity as you wait for the boarding to your flight to be announced.

Sometimes I feel that the closer I get to going home the faster and louder my heart beats. Maybe that’s why I feel like the day goes slower. How’s that for a theory to research? Any takers for a PhD? I’ll willing offer myself up as a subject. When I say faster and louder I mean crazy fast and loud. Just like it does when you run a race or some equally exerting physical activity. Right now I can hear it despite the sounds from my keyboard. That’s pretty loud.

At times like these I really wish I were a more calm person compared to the excitable idiot I am being right now. It doesn’t really take a lot. A free shell sticker that you get at the petrol bunk, an orange candy, hearing a song I like playing on the radio. What amazes me is that despite my racing heart and the adrenalin coursing through my body, I still function as I do on a normal day. Just more high pitched and talkative than usual. It’s like my mind is above my body and looks down at it sneering, “Oh! You pathetic little thing!”. At times like this I really wonder how my heart will take some really shocking news. Aren’t heart attacks a result of too much excitement? Maybe I need to be doing more cardio. Or more like start doing cardio.

Can’t wait!!

It’s 3 a.m. and I’ve tried everything to try and sleep. It’s been the same the last few nights. And contrary to popular belief, no, I don’t have an exam (well, at least not for a couple of months). My sleep deprivation has to do with my longest love affair. Again, don’t get cheeky, I’m talking about Bangalore. In just under 12 hours I will start the long journey to reunite with my beloved city. In just 24 hours from now I will get to see, smell and breathe in my city.

I can’t wait! I’m excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time. It’s almost a year since I was last there and it’s the longest I’ve ever been away. Time has flown by but some days it’s harder than most to stay so far away and long for something that’s so dear. Something that’s been in my life so long now that it no longer feels separate. The city feels like an extension of me and I really do feel physical pain every time I leave. It takes a lot of convincing myself as to why I am doing it. A lot of convincing to realise, yes! the pain and the longing is indeed worth it.

But as hard as leaving Bangalore is, coming back has it’s own sweet sorrow. I’ve been away for a year. A year is a long time. A long time to be apart. Has it changed? Have I changed? Will it still be as comfortable as it always was? Will the time lost change the feelings I have for it? Will it still be the way I remember it? The questions are unending. The fear almost paralysing. But even the fear can’t drown out the excitement, or maybe it’s the heady concoction that these two make up keeping me up until I finally get there and get my answers.

Whether I’m arriving or leaving, there’s always a fair share of self loathing. They’re among the only moments I actually hate myself, and the reason is the same why did I leave/why am I leaving? As long as I’m away from Bangalore this vicious cycle will continue and unfortunately for me while my heart and soul truly do belong in the city, my head has a mind of it’s own and ends up winning the struggle. But it soon, very soon, I’ll be able to come back and come back for good. Who knows, maybe someday I may even get tired of the city. Okay, who am I trying to kid?! That’s NEVER going to happen!

Bangalored!

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I returned from home. Now with all the goodies from home finished and the empty packets in the bin, homesickness is slowly starting to creep it’s way back in. Little everyday things are all that are needed to trigger off a string of memories and start the waterworks!

They say you can take a person out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the person. I’m a city girl through and through; I revel in the chaos, the noise and everything else that comes with a city. Having been brought up in Bangalore I’ve seen the city go from the Garden city with a pleasant climate to the IT capital of India with a serious traffic problem. I’ve done more than just watch Bangalore evolve, I’ve lived the evolution. As a kid, Bangalore was just the city I lived in. I saw the city through my parent’s eyes. I hated leaving the city during the holidays but I always thought the hatred stemmed from my dislike of port of destination rather than the sadness of leaving the city behind. I never gave more thought to the city or what it meant to me.

But as I got older, the vision started to shift and suddenly there was so much more to see. Or may be it was always there but I could only see what was pointed out to me. But as I grew, so did the city around me. It was changing just the way I was and somehow it provided a sense of comfort. There was nothing said nor done but a strong bond was forged. One of understanding, security and mostly the sense of belonging – the feeling of home. The city stopped being just the place I lived in and became so much more. A friend, confidant and refuge. I was dead tired from the long journey home this time, but the moment I stepped out of the plane, all the fatigue just vanished! Just the Bangalore International Airport board was enough to make my heart swell up like a giant balloon! Nothing beats that feeling of homecoming, the sense of belonging and home that you experience.

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My mum grew up in a small town and moved to Bangalore once she was married. She could never understand the appeal the city held for me. For her, the city was big, crowded and chaotic. She couldn’t understand how you could live without knowing everyone around you. She found the pace of the city rapid and the people too weird. It was almost a weekend ritual for her and I to debate about which was better. Needless to say Bangalore always won! I don’t know why but I always have this inexplicable urge to prove the city is amazing. I can’t stand the thought of hearing something bad being said about it. You’d get a stronger reaction from me for insulting the city than you would from insulting me. And then there’s the fact that I mindlessly hate anyone who doesn’t like the city.

For me, being Bangalorean is a big part of who I am. It’s one of the things that defines me. The city has the same contribution in making me who I am today as my family and school. For a long time after I moved to Aachen I pondered over the deep sense of homesickness I felt. I would speak with my family everyday, most days over Skype. Talk to almost all my friends but the sense of loneliness never left me. I felt strangely displaced and out of my element. Like a fish out of water. Only once I went back for vacation did I realise that it was the city that I missed. No one understands why I’m so attached to the city. Frankly I don’t either. But I just adore it!

When you miss your friends and family, you call them, email them or skype with them. And once you’ve spoken to them you always feel much better. But what do you do when you miss the city? Now I know most people will wonder what I miss about Bangalore. The traffic? the pollution? When I lived in Bangalore I constantly grumbled about the traffic and the amount of time it took me to get somewhere, about how I had to plan my day around my travel time. But now, I actually miss it. The time I spent in traffic usually let me catch up with my friends. On the off day that I was traveling alone I got to think, some much needed time for myself.  Everyone complains about the noise and chaos but to me it’s comforting. Maybe it because I’m loud and the noise around drowns me out but I would give anything to hear the noise than the constant silence. The truth is, once you get past the traffic, you will actually find yourself falling in love with the city.

Bangalore does not have much to offer in terms of sightseeing the way cities like Delhi or Mumbai. You have to live here and you will fall in love with it. The city has so much to offer no matter who you are, where you come from or what you want. It doesn’t require you to learn a different language or change your ways, it’ll accept you the way you are and welcome you with open arms the way no one else could. That’s the most amazing part of the city. You will always fit in. You can never be too weird or too ordinary. You won’t be judged in any way. The city will always find a place for you and some for itself in your heart.

Now when I go back, I find that I can never fall asleep. I feel too alive. Like I’ll miss out on something when I sleep. I can never get enough of the city. Any amount of time spent seems short. No matter where I go or what I see, Bangalore continues to hold a special place in my heart. No matter where life takes me, I’ll always make the time to go back. No matter where I move, what the place holds or who I meet, Bangalore shall always remain home.