Racism Forced LA’s Oldest Mexican Restaurants to Call Themselves ‘Spanish’

Racism Forced LA’s Oldest Mexican Restaurants to Call Themselves ‘Spanish’

Flipboard Los Angeles has a few Spanish restaurants dotted around the city these days. There’s Otoño , the new dinner place out in Highland Park that tackles the usual offerings like conservas and paella. But around a century ago, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles (Los Angeles’s original name , which in Spanish means “town of our lady the Queen of Angels of the River Porciúncula”) was littered with restaurants that seemed to evoke the European countryside. The back pages of the Los Angeles Times were, for decades, filled with advertising for spots like the old Mayan Spanish Inn or Lares in Downtown, each emblazoned with hanging signs outlining their Spanish bonafides. Fair prices and fine chefs were the call of the day, and diners flocked to the restaurants for dinnertime hours and outdoor dancing. The only thing missing in this turn-of-the-century Spanish fresco vision, still idolized in murals around the city, was the actual Spanish food . Beginning in the 1800s, Los Angeles-based Mexican restaurant owners found themselves stuck between an unforgiving, racialized dining public and a need to make a living, so collectively, they improvised, calling their Mexican-born food — from enchiladas to handmade tortillas to chiles rellenos — Spanish food instead. And in some ways, that historic whitewashing endures. Large swaths of Americans still find that they absolutely love Mexican food, but struggle to embrace the people who actually make it The echoes of today’s politically charged immigration and street food vendor legislation issues are apparent: More often than not, large swaths of Americans still find that they absolutely love Mexican food, but struggle to embrace the people who actually make it. One of the first indoor Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles to co-opt the Spanish verbiage was the Belmont Cafe, situated at Fifth and Main streets in Downtown. In 1897 the restaurant advertised its thoroughly “Spanish” menu in the Times. It included enchiladas, carne seca con arroz , and chile rellenados , a misspelling of the classic stuffed pepper dish that traces its roots back to pre-Hispanic Mexico. The Belmont Cafe also sold tamales, a ubiquitous Mexican dish that had found its way north from Mexico and west from Texas, particularly in the decades after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848. Newspapers began reporting on Mexican tamalero men in Downtown Los Angeles as early as the 1870s , though the dish itself has been in Mexico (and Mexican-held land, as California was) for many centuries. By the 1890s, a tamale explosion saw the simple foodstuff being sold from coast to coast, due largely to the emergence of the transcontinental railroad and Westward expansioneers coming into contact with historic Mexican communities. East LA’s tamale building LA Public Library As Gustavo Arellano notes in his seminal book Taco USA, “ A restaurant simply called The Tamale opened in New York’s Tenderloin slum [in 1893]; the restaurant sold tamales, chili con carne, ‘enchelladas,’ and Spanish dishes such as gazpacho.” In the 1900s a Los Angeles restaurant of the same name would jump on the rising novelty architecture trend, opening in East LA in a stucco building shaped like a tamale. Even then, the restaurant leaned on an invented history, advertising “Spanish delights” above its ordering window. Around the same time in Los Angeles, restaurants were beginning to offer similar menus, merging outright Spanish fare with the city’s own Mexican traditions as a way of bypassing local biases. An 1898 cookbook known today as Encarnación’s Kitchen documented many Mexico-originating dishes being eaten across the newly formed state of California at the time, including options like tamale pie and mole. The original title ? El Cocinero Espanol , or The Spanish Cook . Whereas much of America still looked fondly on modern European society in the late 1800s, Mexican and Chinese immigrants were met with distrust, derision, segregation, and outright violence. The Spanish misnomer, then, was a workaround of sorts. The adoption of a false Spanish narrative allowed Mexicans to make a living in a city often otherwise hostile to them, and it allowed even racially hardened locals to continue to enjoy the vibrant flavors that had for generations defined greater Los Angeles. The flavors of Los Angeles, and the people behind them, have always been ingrained in the city’s heart and soul, even if white diners have been uncomfortable with the connection. And so they found a workaround, and the Euro-centric reshaping of an entire cuisine and culture was on. A 1927-era photo inside the El Cholo cookbook Farley Elliott/LAPL California historian Carey McWilliams spent years documenting the city of Los Angeles from many different angles, including its historic insistence on reframing its relationship with its own Mexican backstory, even coining a term for the whitewashing: Spanish Fantasy Past . The notion, as further explored in Natalia Molina’s important book Fit to Be Citizens and elsewhere, is a simple one. LA’s white, landowning, power-holding political center remained uncomfortable with the city’s enduring Mexican population, and sought to repave America’s road to colonization by rolling over population histories completely in order to more closely link the city to a European Spanish ancestry, which they deemed dignified. Nowhere was this retreading more widely seen than at the 1894 La Fiesta de Los Angeles, a foundational multi-day party meant to be a direct competition to the World’s Fair held in Chicago, and the newly minted Tournament of Roses in rival city Pasadena. The city’s influx of tourism, development money, and people made a moment of civic pride seem only natural, but LA’s leaders knew intrinsically that a celebration of the area’s Mexican past would never fly. So they improvised in big, colorful ways, with parades and theater performances lasting for days. The historical references anchored throughout showed Southern California as a dusty backwater run by American Indians (actually brought in by train from New Mexico) and then as a young but starting-to-thrive Spanish outlet city, complete with men in Spanish colors riding horseback and proclaiming a love for the old country. The real actors, of course, were Mexican. Men dressed as caballeros at La Fiesta de Los Angeles LA Public Library Writer Rachel Shuen says in her UCLA thesis paper “La Fiesta de Los Angeles: Race, Ethnicity, and History on Parade in Los Angeles, 1894-1903”: La Fiesta glossed over the city’s violent interracial history. In regards to Mexicans and Mexican Americans in particular, La Fiesta offered a way to forget about the Mexican-American War and instead project the sense that the city’s white Anglo leaders had come to some sort of reconciliation with its residents of Mexican descent; for instance, the Spanish-language name of the parade, “La Fiesta,” even suggested the cohesiveness of the city and its Mexican past. The guise of celebration allowed the city’s Anglo American leaders to “whitewash” and forget the city’s unpleasant past and appropriate different cultures for economic boosterism. The adoption of a false Spanish narrative allowed Mexicans to make a living in a city often otherwise hostile to them La Fiesta endured for decades (indeed, after a few fits and restarts, it still happens today ), swelling with locals, tourists, and recent transplants, eventually coming to be regarded as an annual April precursor to Cinco de Mayo celebrations around the city, despite the overt recasting of Mexican history as Spanish lore. Mexican and so-called Spanish restaurants continued to endure and thrive, despite the inconsistent labeling. Perhaps the most famous of these ostensibly Spanish cafes is El Cholo , the multi-location sit-down Mexican chain that survives to this day. The restaurant was founded in 1923 as Sonoran Cafe, which was itself a somewhat complicated name. Gustavo Arellano explains: “To identify as Mexican in California during the first part of the twentieth century was a dangerous proposition. Segregation was enforced in schools, housing, even in swimming pools… In Southern California, an acceptable ethnic alternative was Sonoran, since it was a group of immigrants from that northern Mexico state who had originally settled [in] Los Angeles… The earliest Mexican restaurants in Southern California therefore called themselves Spanish or Sonoran—anything but Mexican.” An early El Cholo menu El Cholo By 1927, El Cholo had changed its name and relocated to its current address along Western Avenue, complete with a hand-painted sign proudly declaring itself a home for “Spanish food exclusively.” What the restaurant actually served, from day one, were eight different Mexican entrees, including a variety of enchiladas, chile relleno, a tostada, tamales, and beans and rice. It’s worth noting here that even today, the rice served in most Mexican restaurants is referred to colloquially as “Spanish rice.” The 1997 out-of-print El Cholo cookbook says, surprisingly sincerely, of the dish: “It’s a pleasant reminder of the days when Mexican food was referred to as Spanish cooking.” Pleasant, it was not. Other restaurants found similar success. There’s the 1931-era El Coyote , opened by El Cholo co-founder Ron Salisbury’s aunt and uncle. La Golondrina opened in 1924 before relocating in 1930 as part of the build-out of Olvera Street, one of the few places in the city that celebrated ( however awkwardly at times) the city’s Mexican roots. In an April 21, 1930, story celebrating the arrival of the walking street, the Times noted the grand reopening of popular La Golondrina, a “fantastic Spanish cafe.” Glendale had its own celebrated restaurant called Casa Verdugo, while north of Ventura there endured for years a homey spot known as Mando’s Spanish Cafe, which advertised its spicy Spanish zalza , which of course was just Mexican salsa. The Original Spanish Kitchen opened in 1926 with an outright Mexican menu, expanding in 1931 along Beverly Boulevard. The Caretto family continued to own and run the place until 1961, when it was abruptly abandoned overnight, leading to more than a few fan theories, ghost stories, and conjectures. For years the restaurant remained framed in a time gone by, the dusty windows looking in on an empty but untouched eatery with bottles of enchilada sauce still on the tables. The partially-obscured Spanish Kitchen blade sign Farley Elliott The original Spanish Kitchen blade sign still hangs, partially obscured, from the building at 7373 Beverly Boulevard — directly across the street from staple Mexican restaurant Petty Cash today. The name, meanwhile, was resurrected for a brief period by an unaffiliated restaurateur along La Cienega, though that Spanish Kitchen was able to proudly proclaim itself a home for “authentic Mexican” fare on its awning. There were, of course, some local places that bravely opted to call themselves outright Mexican restaurants from the start, including Little Pedro’s (circa 1909) in what is today Downtown LA’s Arts District. The restaurant pitched itself as a Cantina and served traditional Mexican fare (much like its so-called Spanish counterparts) and survived for many decades . The building still stands as the Moroccan Lounge, and has recently been the One Eyed Gypsy and Osso restaurant. Most others, though, found a financial lifeline only in carrying a Spanish label. By the 1950s, more and more restaurants were coming to embrace not only Los Angeles’s still-growing Mexican and Latin American population, but its own culinary obfuscation. Casa Vega opened in the San Fernando Valley in 1956 and El Cholo grew to a second location in the Orange County city of La Habra in 1962, learning to more effectively showcase its tamales and nachos along the way. Today, the dark spectre of suppressing Mexican culture and food through language and taxonomy is largely gone from Los Angeles, though pieces remain. This is a city that still occasionally demonizes Mexican street food and has a long history of calling taco trucks “roach coaches”; it’s a city that can sometimes view Mexican menus as pejoratively cheap or interchangeable. Zarcos menu LA Public Library That’s only the dark part of today’s story, though. Los Angeles is also a city that has Mexican food in its DNA, and understands deeply the importance of regional Mexican cooking , from the iconic La Casita Mexicana in Bell to Sonoratown in Downtown. This city and its people can trace a culinary line from Mexico’s pre-Hispanic roots to the modern Mexican-American movement seen across Southern California, through Orange County’s Taco Maria and Ray Garcia’s Broken Spanish and the incoming restaurants of Mexico City star chef Enrique Olvera. It’s easy to say that, in some ways, Mexican food has never been more popular in Los Angeles than it is today. It’s harder still to admit that it’s always been immensely popular, even if it had to hide behind someone else’s signage for a while. Not all owners and diners found the changes in nomenclature and cultural transitions of the 20th century to be seamless. Restaurants like the shuttered Zarco on Hollywood Boulevard were slow to lose their whitewashing ways even by the middle of the century. In 1956, Zarco carried a hand-drawn image of a regal horse on its so-called Spanish menu and postcards, alongside an explanatory paragraph: Our horseman depicts the Spaniards who brought to California the romanticism, the imagination, and the appreciation of beauty that is inherent in their race. Their contribution to the ultimate culture was basic and important in helping to transform a semi-wilderness into the complex and dynamic California of today. The restaurant, of course, served tamales and enchiladas.

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15 Best Things to Do in Sheffield (AL)

15 Best Things to Do in Sheffield (AL) 15 Best Things to Do in Sheffield (AL)
Sheffield, Alabama has a fascinating history to explore. The region was home to prehistoric man, Indian villages, trading posts and was the terminus for Alabama’s first railroad.
During the 1800s, Creek and Cherokee Indians were forced from their land during the Trail of Tears conflict, and in Civil War times both armies spent time here.
The city was named after Sheffield in England, at the time famous for its burgeoning steel industry.
Today, it’s better known as home to the Muscle Shoals Sound, Wilson Dam and is close to the birthplace of Helen Keller – Ivy Green in Tuscumbia.
Here’s what to do in and around Sheffield: 1. Spring Park Spring Park, Tuscumbia
Spring Park in neighbouring Tuscumbia is a picturesque park with recreational opportunities for all the family.
Located in Downtown Tuscumbia, a few miles from Sheffield, the park has a pretty man-made waterfall and a jet fountain which rises and falls in time to music.
Children are catered for with a carousel, miniature train and splash pad.
Whether you wish to enjoy a relaxing picnic with friends, go for a jog or hike under shady trees, you can do it all at Spring Park. 2. Helen Keller Birth Place Source: Wayne James / shutterstock Helen Keller Birthplace, Tuscumbia
Helen Keller was left deaf and blind following a childhood illness but used her situation to inspire herself and others in her position throughout the world.
She learned several languages in Braille, wrote a multitude of articles and lectured in 39 countries.
Her birth place and childhood home of Ivy Green is located 2.5 miles from Sheffield in Tuscumbia, and visitors can take a tour to discover books, original furnishings and personal mementos of her life.
Each summer, a week-long festival is held at her former home and performances take place in the gardens and grounds. Sheffield, Alabama (AL) 3. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Source: Dailynetworks / Wikimedia Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama was formed in competition with nearby Fame Recording Studios by four session musicians named The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
A number of world-class singers and musicians recorded here over the years including Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones.
Today, you can take a studio tour to see where the greats recorded their hits, see analogue instruments and if you are creative yourself, you can even book some studio time! 4. Wilson Dam Source: Wayne James / shutterstock Wilson Dam
Named after the former President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, this dam spans the Tennessee River near Sheffield, Alabama.
Wilson Dam is one of several dams on the river and was built to provide electricity to the local area and can generate 663 megawatts of power.
It sits at 42 metres in height and stretches over 1,300 feet across.
You can see it close up if you sail through the dam or gain incredible photo opportunities from Fleet Harbour or across the water at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Florence. 5. Old Railroad Bridge Source: Wayne James / shutterstock Old Railroad Bridge
Before the Old Railroad Bridge was built, a river crossing was used in the area by Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw Indians.
In 1817, the U.S Army lead by Andrew Jackson improved the military road and a ferry crossing was established.
Then in 1832, the Florence Bridge Company began to construct a bridge over the river.
The first bridge was ravaged by storms twice but reopened in the late 1850s as a double deck bridge to serve as a toll bridge for livestock and wagons and as a railroad bridge, but in 1862, during the American Civil War it was burned to the ground.
It was rebuilt once again in 1870, and today visitors can walk along the bridge, gain superb views of the river and imagine the incredible historic events which took place here. 6. McFarland Park Source: DavidInPalmetto / shutterstock McFarland Park
Across Tennessee River in Florence, Alabama lies McFarland Park, a picturesque park with campsites, fishing piers, picnic area, jogging trails and a floating bar and restaurant.
You can spend summer days on the beach, walk along trails or photograph York Bluffs across the water.
There are also several museums within a few minutes’ walk if you wish to discover more about local culture.
It’s a great place for a family day out, a picnic or if you want to take a break from sightseeing. 7. Florence Indian Mound and Museum Source: facebook.com Florence Indian Mound And Museum
On the edge of McFarland Park sits Florence Indian Mound and Museum, a fascinating place where you can discover the heritage of ancient settlers in the area.
Exhibits and displays show that the Tennessee River Valley was inhabited during prehistoric times, when tribes realised there was plenty of fish in the river and fruits to forage in the forests.
The museum boasts a range of artifacts discovered in the region ranging from old clay pots, woven textiles, tools, pipes and spear points.
With thousands of items and relics inside, you are sure to learn much about the early inhabitants of the local area in this interesting museum. 8. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House Source: Tim Daugherty / shutterstock Rosenbaum House, Florence, AL
The Rosenbaum House in Florence is a great example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian house concept.
The Usonian house was usually built in an L-shape, was single-storey and suited to middle-income families in the 1930s.
These homes were constructed with native materials and offered passive solar heating and natural cooling for any climate.
You can tour this unique property, complete with original furnishings and landscaped gardens and discover what life was like living in a Usonian house.
If you adore architecture, or are an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, this is one place you won’t want to miss. 9. George’s Steak Pit Source: georgessteakpit.com George’s Steak Pit
George’s Steak Pit in Sheffield, Alabama was founded in the 1950s and has been a main-stay of the city ever since.
Popular with locals and tourists, it’s well-known for its open pit cooking.
Fresh steaks, fish and chicken are fired over hickory logs adding a seasoned, smoky taste to the cuisine.
Their menu is extensive, atmosphere sophisticated, and staff are courteous catering to special diets.
If you are staying nearby and looking for somewhere to dine after a busy day of sightseeing, George’s Steak Pit is a good choice. 10. Tennessee Valley Museum of Art Source: facebook.com Tennessee Valley Museum Of Art
Located a couple of miles from Sheffield, Alabama, Tennessee Valley Museum of Art is home to historic artwork and artifacts including the 3,000-pound boulder known as the Martin Petroglyph which depicts artwork carved by prehistoric settlers.
Other rare objects include a Chickasaw beaded bandolier strap which belonged to Chief George Colbert and a whole host of pottery, shell and stone carvings.
As the museum is located close to Helen Keller’s former home and birth place, there is also a collection of works undertaken by visually impaired and deaf children in Alabama. Sheffield, Alabama (AL) 11. Shopping in Florence Mall Source: florencemall.com Florence Mall
If it’s a spot of retail therapy you’re after, head for Florence Mall in Downtown Florence, Alabama.
With over 60 stores, a movie theatre and food court, this shopping mall caters to all your needs.
Whether you seek the latest fashions, need a haircut or are looking for shoes or electronics, you can find them all here.
There are several coffee shops, fast food restaurants and diners too if you need a well-earned break from shopping. 12. Take a tour of FAME Recording Studios Source: ralph and jenny / Flickr FAME Recording Studio, Muscle Shoals
Fame Recording Studios in nearby Muscle Shoals has catered to some of the biggest names in music over the years.
The studio began in the 1950s when founder Rick Hall discovered a new sound – The Muscle Shoals Sound.
Every musician across the world wanted to record here, and it became known as a place where all musicians, regardless of race and religion could come together to make great music in a safe place.
Today you can take a tour of the legendary studios where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and more recently Tim McGraw, Demi Lovato and Kenny Chesney have all recorded music. 13. Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum Source: facebook.com Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum
If you love all things locomotive, make a stop at the historic Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum.
Tuscumbia was one of America’s first frontier railroad towns and today, you can explore that rich heritage inside the restored depot which dates to 1888. The museum is home to a fascinating photo gallery, interactive railway simulators and knowledgeable staff can give detailed demonstrations to interested visitors.
You can view lots of train memorabilia, old railway carriages and locomotives, maps and information about the railroad.
A great day out for families with children and anyone interested in local history and train travel. 14. Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Bar
This diner in Florence first opened in 1918, a year after Paul Trowbridge stopped off in the city while travelling from Texas to North Carolina for a dairy convention.
Shortly after opening he developed a recipe for orange pineapple ice cream, then throughout the years he began to add more flavours of ice cream, hot dogs and homemade chilli to the menu.
Today, the diner/shop is run by third generation Trowbridge’s and still retains that old-world atmosphere which customers love.
With a menu featuring a whole host of mouth-watering savoury and decadent sweet treats, it’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat if you are visiting the museums and parks of Florence. 15. Spring Creek Golf Course Source: photogolfer / shutterstock Golfing
If you fancy a leisurely day improving your putting or swing, head for Spring Creek Golf Course.
The public course has been open since 1951 and offers 9 holes of fun for beginners, intermediates and experienced golfers.
The 36-par course is located in Tuscumbia close to Sheffield, so if you want a day off sightseeing and a break from driving, you can occupy yourself here for a few hours.

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Taiwan sees rising growth in Indian visitorship

Taiwan sees rising growth in Indian visitorship TTB’s 2 20:20 strategy On Apr 17, 2019 Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Taiwan is increasingly becoming the destination of choice among Indians, with a recent report revealing a year-on-year increase in tourist arrivals (+41% to 3,608) from India in February.
To further boost tourist numbers, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB) has unveiled its new vision for the Indian market. Titled “2 20:20”, the strategy will target 2% of India’s high-income earners and, by cooperating with top tour operators in India, aim to drive tourist arrivals up 20% by 2020 .
Last year, the bureau expanded its annual marketing budget for the India segment to USD 1.2 million — a sixfold increase. Further expansion to this budget is on the cards as TTB rolls out its 2 20:20 vision, said Dr Trust Lin, director of TTB Singapore.
“To create awareness about Taiwan”
“Our main objective is to create awareness about Taiwan as a leisure destination in India,” he said, citing plans to promote the island’s nature parks, food tours and cruises .
Apart from leisure, Taiwan is also becoming a top choice among Indian companies for business travel. Since 2017, the Tourism Bureau sector of the Ministry of communications has been actively inviting Indian companies to hold their incentive travel in Taiwan. One company that recently made the trip here was steel-making giant Tata Steel Group. Highlights of the trip included a feast where staff tucked into Taiwanese cuisine and enjoyed the night view by the Tamsui River.
Meanwhile, Taiwan earlier this year welcomed over 400 employees from Hyundai Group India to attend MICE conferences, as well as ASUS India for incentive travel. Share this:

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Dine out with Ms. Sangeeta Bahuguna

I connected with this dynamic lady after I saw an article that she had written on women chefs. I asked her if she had heard of the Indian Women in Hospitality and she replied in the affirmative. In fact she added that she was already a member, it made my day. I was more than pleased to see her among the other illustrious professionals on IWH. We got chatting and I wanted to do her story- found her professional journey to be really impressive, more than that was her willingness to keep learning and innovating. Also trying out newer things and accepting challenges after challenges. She is a role model to many hospitality professionals and a mentor to many others.
Here’s the inspirational story of Ms. Sangeeta Bahuguna – a foodie, serial entrepreneur and a marketing professional. She graduated from Delhi University and completed a professional qualification from Institute of Hotel Management, New Delhi. She started her career with the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi. Ms. Bahuguna has worked with hotel brands such as the Imperial, Sofitel Surya, Piccadily, ITDC, Apra Motels and Resorts and The Ambassador Group. Dabbled with Bollywood with the film Magazine – Tinsel Town and has the experience of entrepreneurship; managing first her own travel company and then an Executive Search company – Hospitality Careers.
Along with successfully managing Hospitality Careers; she is writing on food, hotels and travel related experiences. Also on her own page – Dineout Club. It is a foodie group on Faceook, with a strong membership base. Members are passionate foodies and the Dineout Club arranges experiences for them at various food outlets – existing as well as new launches, across the city As part of the food reviews, also arrange Pop-Ups and Events and related to that, Guest List Management including promoting the restaurants through Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
The early life
She comes from a service class family; her parents were well educated and were working professionals. She says that her father was a self made man, who started working to support his education and qualified for IAS and PCS thrice but could not qualify in the interview so his desire was to give good education to his three daughters and wanted them to become an IAS or a good professional in their chosen area. He worked at the Lok Sabha (Indian parliament house) and was highly impressed by the library there. He made his daughter Sangeeta study Library Science at the under grad level, she found the course to be tough and even after completing it didn’t feel like working in a library. Her sister suggested the Hotel Management stream to her and after graduating from PUSA in 1984, she just didn’t look back. Ms. Bahuguna started her career with the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi and she loved every bit of working there and that spirit as well as enthusiasm hasn’t changed till date. She being the youngest in the family her mother never wanted her to start working early but she was so fascinated by the Industry that she grabbed the opportunity and took up the assignment.
She started at the Front office in Hyatt in June’ 84 and that’s the year when Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated in November. Riots started and the staff were not allowed to go out of the hotel that night. Her family was worried and there was no means to inform of her safety at home. That was the end of her stint there and she was not allowed to work; family being over protected about her. But after situation normalized she went to the Imperial Hotel directly as a walk in candidate and she was absorbed immediately at the front office. But banquets too needed someone like her, leading to a tussle between the two departments to keep her in their operations. Finally she ended up working for Banquet Sales and that changed her line to of work to Sales. After two years with the Imperial, she joined Sofitel Surya but Imperial hotel realizing what they missed, called her back with a promotion and doubling her package as the Sales Manager.
Three years with Imperial was long enough and she wanted to explore other avenues that would give her opportunity to learn something new. That lead to her working with a film magazine for a year but love for the hospitality industry brought her back. I launched the Sales office of Ramanashree Group of hotels; a South based chain in Delhi. After two years she felt the need to do something challenging so started with her own company promoting various hotels at domestic destinations. Then domestic tourism took a beating, business was low due to various reasons one of them being natural calamities leading her to join her first love, the hotels again.
This time it was The Ambassador Group of hotels in the year 2002; she came onboard as the Sales Manager eventually being promoted as the General Manager Sales & Marketing. She worked there for six years. Her creative juices and the innovative mind wanted her to do something even more challenging; so got into business development for a Global Hospitality- chain of fine dining restaurants. After a successful stint there; she launched the sales office of Piccadilly Hotels, headed the office for a year and moved to Milestone Group of hotels as Head Sales & Marketing.
After being with hotels for nearly two and a half decades she embarked on a parallel business and started recruitments for the industry. She also started writing about hotels, food, travel and events related to the hospitality and tourism Industry. She has been promoting cuisines and expertise of chefs, writing about the stalwarts of the industry and the unsung heroes who have been working tirelessly in the kitchens and doing wonderfully well with their creations. Ms. Bahuguna also organises cookouts by chefs and food events on a regular basis.
I also had a couple of questions for the lady and she was gracious enough to answer them with utmost sincerity.
IWH: What challenges have you as a woman in the industry? Ms. Bahuguna: I haven’t really faced any challenges as such being a woman, infact being a woman it was easier to meet the higher ups of the corporate world who were decision makers. And they were always very delighted to meet sales people from the hotel Industry, then and was able to bring in volumes of business for the hotels. It is tough for Sales & Marketing professionals now as access to decision makers is not so easy and one has to deal with a number of people in the organisation before you can actually meet the right people for business development.
I am still a hard core hospitality professional and love doing what I am passionate about and happy and proud to be a part of this Industry where discipline, warmth, courtesies and hospitality are integral part of it and is one of the best industries to be in.
IWH: Your advice to the young professionals. Ms. Bahuguna: I would like to mention here for the younger generation that do what you like then only you can give your hundred percent. Hotel Industry is as safe as any other Industry for women, one has to be smart enough to know the right and wrong and be able to handle situations and people.
IWH: What do you think of IWH? Ms. Bahuguna: IWH is a great initiative to bring together the women professionals of hospitality Industry which could be a great learning experience for all of us, to share, care and grow and be inspiration for the generation next.
We had a great chat with Ms. Bahuguna, the lady who can say, ‘Been there done that’. She has tried her hands at many different aspects of hospitality industry and excelled in them. I know a very few people who would be as experimental as her. She is certainly an inspirational lady and her story will make others to dream big and follow their hearts.
Read more at : http://www.theiwh.com/ms-sangeeta-bahuguna/ Website: http://www.theiwh.com

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Eating India

April 15, 2019 • India , Travel
“Coffee madam?”
“Milk?” I nod yes.
“And to eat?”
“Do you have scrambled eggs?” The waiter nods and bows slightly, closes his notepad, and retreats.
I’m sitting in the breakfast room at a modest hotel in New Delhi, waiting for my daughter to join me. (Two weeks later when we return here after seeing so much of northern India, the hotel will feel downright luxurious to us.) We’re both moving slowly after two long haul flights to reach India from Denver. We landed at 4:30 in the morning, an hour late thanks to an air traffic control diversion around Pakistani airspace, and I didn’t fall asleep until nearly 6:00. Fortunately, the steaming coffee is helping to clear the cobwebs.My daughter has arrived by the time my eggs are served, and I tentatively take a bite. They are silky, just the right amount wet. “Wow, these are really good.” We’re both cooks, and both know preparing eggs correctly is the sign of a good cook.
The eggs have been plated with a small roasted tomato which instantly reminds me of the breakfast room at the hotel in Madrid that was my home for two months in 2016. My husband was hospitalized there, and every morning before I went to the hospital, I had one of those roasted tomatoes. I cut into the tomato now and think just briefly of that difficult period of my life. Food does that – imprints memories permanently that we forever link to a place and time.
That fated trip to Madrid, in some indirect way, is the reason why I’m in India at all. While my husband fought heroically to recover, in the end the damage to his brain took his life six months later. He had never wanted to come to India, and so I had never even considered a trip. After losing him, propelled by a sense that time is fleeting (and also possibly using travel as a way to escape my loneliness at home), I decided I really wanted to see India. I asked my daughter, a wandering soul with a great sense of adventure, if she’d like to join me.
My daughter and I both have worked in the culinary world – she as a restaurant chef and me as a cooking teacher and food writer – and while we’re excited to try the food in India, we’re both worried about too much too fast. The creamy eggs, while not remotely Indian cuisine, are comfortable and familiar. They seem safe. Our first day in Old Delhi is a complete assault on all of our senses. The smells, ranging from poori frying in street stalls to incense, from curries to urine, slam into us. It seems all 25 million people in this city are intent on blowing their horn, which we realize might be of necessity with so many cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and tuk-tuks all weaving in and out of traffic lanes at breakneck speed, all while trying to avoid the cows, oxen, monkeys, dogs, and kids. And the colors! They’re outrageously bright and vivid, from the sarees on the Indian women to the produce stands lining the streets, and we can’t stop photographing.
That night, we’re jetlagged and overwhelmed as we head to dinner at a restaurant in the relatively calm area of New Delhi near our hotel. Although we have arranged for a private driver, it doesn’t occur to us to call for him and instead we request a taxi from the hotel. As we set off for the restaurant, the driver wants to take us on a tour of the city, but we repeatedly try to explain we’ve already done that all day long. When he finally drops us at the restaurant we’ve chosen for dinner, he refuses to leave and refuses to take money, insisting he’ll be waiting to take us home. We feel like we’re being scammed, but we give up arguing, since he’s only asking for 700 rupees roundtrip – barely $10. Later, we’ll be slightly ashamed that we were skeptical about his sincerity.The restaurant is one long, dark room, nearly empty room, with one couple seated at a two top at the very back. We’re ushered to a table right next to them, and the restaurant quickly starts filling – with locals, with tourists, and with a large German group.
We missed lunch because of our city tour, and we’re famished, ready to try authentic Indian food. We start by ordering the more common dishes we know: rogan josh (lamb slow cooked with wild sandalwood and spices) and chicken makhani (tandoori morsels of chicken braised in a classic tomato and butter sauce). And garlic naan, because my daughter has talked obsessively about it on the long trip here. As an afterthought, or maybe because we’re anxious to start tasting something new, we order an appetizer of hara kabab (spinach patties with cheese and nuts).As the waiter brings us glasses of wine, he drops off a platter of crispy wafer-thin crackers. It will take three more servings of this across three more cities before we finally understand that this is papadam, a thin cracker made from chickpea flour. Sometimes it’s served with a tomato chutney, but it’s best, we think, when accompanied by the creamy coriander chutney that we will find served at every meal. We’re both intent on making it as soon as we get home.
The food is good – familiar flavor profiles, but distinctly different than what we have enjoyed at say the Indian food truck that my son drove in Denver a couple of years ago. Clearly, we’ve over-ordered – each dish looks family-sized, which we will find everywhere we go over the next two weeks. We do our best to eat what we can, neither of us comfortable wasting food, especially in a country with so much hunger. We surrender early, and head outside to find the taxi driver waiting exactly where he said he would wait. He charges us just what he said he would, and I tip too much, because I can’t relate to the difference in cost of living. Our driver is maneuvering through the throngs of traffic at the edges of Old Delhi. He pulls to the side of the road, double parked, setting off a string of cars honking, and points to a young man on the corner. We’ve arranged a walking food tour through Old Delhi, and he must be our guide. Over the course of the next three hours, we wind our way through the narrow, crowded streets of Old Delhi, from one food stand to another, bombarded by smells, noise, cows, people, traffic, and general chaos.
The guide explains he’ll only be taking us to the stalls they trust – the ones who’ve been in business long enough that they feel it’s safe to eat the food. All I can think is I sure hope he’s right. The last thing I want is Delhi belly.
We eat a ridiculous amount of food in rapid fire as we move quickly from one stand to the next: Aloo Tikki, Nankhati, Paranthas, Daulat ki Chaat, and Samosa. Then we move on to sweets and I’m relieved to think we must be coming to the end of the tour. Jalebi is a funnel cake dessert that is drenched in a heavy-duty sugary syrup. I take one small bite and feel I’ll vomit if I eat this, so I pass it over to my daughter to work on.At the Chai stand, they’re making it the old-fashioned way, with a kettle over a wood fire. The guide steers us inside and then brings us each a small serving of masala chai in Styrofoam cups. We notice everyone else is drinking from small glasses, and I realized this is to protect us from the probably poorly washed glasses at this stall.
After sweets and tea, I’m thinking we surely must be finished, but the guide tells us we’re just getting started. The jalebi and chai were simply to clear our palates, and up next are the meat courses, he explains. Both of us groan, then get in the tuk-tuk he’s commandeered. Until this point, he tells us, we’ve been eating the vegetarian dishes of the Hindu neighborhoods within Old Delhi. Now we’re crossing over into the Muslim neighborhood. “What’s the biggest difference?” I ask.
“More meat, less women on this street,” he says, and I laugh out loud. We’re heading to the famous Karim’s for goat seekh kebab and mutton korma. When I hear mutton, I think strong flavored, gamey tasting meat, but it seems to me that in India they just call lamb mutton. The steaming bowl of korma has a thick layer of grease floating on the top when our guide sets it down, which gives me heartburn just looking at it. “Here’s the trick,” he says as he gently tilts the bowl to let the fat drain off the side.We dig in with the naan bread he’s brought to the table, and the flavor is so intense, the meat so tender, that for a few moments I dismiss any concerns about hygienic cooking or the intestinal problems or the heartburn I might encounter later.
I’m really ready to call it quits when we stop in front of another meat stall. One guy is tossing marinated chicken quarters onto a 10-inch round wooden platform that serves as a cutting board and then throwing down a meat cleaver in rapid fire to cut each quarter into four smaller portions. He’s moving so quickly, the cleaver ripping right through the bones, and his final cut on each piece is within an inch of his left hand holding the chicken. I can’t look away, even though I fear with each thwack of the cleaver that he’s going to lose a thumb.After he’s cut the pieces, the other guy quickly skewers them and throws them on the grill over the open wood fire. He has about ten skewers going at once, and he’s continually rotating them, grabbing the ends of the metal skewers with no hot pads at all. When the chicken is cooked through, he slides the pieces off the skewer in one swift movement into a stainless bowl. The first guy ladles yogurt on top, then an obscene amount of melted butter, uses a quick flip of the wrist to toss the chicken in the yogurt and butter, and pours it quickly into a bowl to serve. This is a unique take on chicken makhani, or butter chicken, because it doesn’t include the usual tomato sauce in the mix. We sit down to eat, slopping up the buttery yogurt sauce with very thin roti, and although we are far past stuffed, this is the best thing we’ve eaten since arriving in India and we don’t stop until we’ve polished it off.
We’re now into the dessert part of the tour, but neither my daughter nor I really love sweets, plus we really don’t think we can eat anything more. The guide seems heartbroken when we ask to skip the kheer. Just looking at the rice pudding reminds me of being forced to eat it as a child. I just can’t do it. Because the guide feels he’s letting us down by not filling us with desserts, we agree to stop at the kulfi stand. The sign shows a vast array of ice cream flavors, and we agree to try four of them: the saffron pistachio which is supposedly a classic, and then mango, blackberry, and pomegranate. I’m prepared to just have a small lick of each, but the mango and pomegranate are so refreshing we nearly polish them off. Neither of us can stomach the saffron pistachio, which is made with sweetened condensed milk and is cloyingly sweet. The blackberry is so tannic that it leaves our mouths feeling dried out and parched that we pass on it.We can barely breathe we are so full. We are also completely disoriented, lost somewhere within the narrow streets deep in the heart of Old Delhi. The guide helps us into another tuk-tuk who will take us out of the old city to meet our driver, but the old city is completely gridlocked at this hour. It’s dark outside, and many of the tiny, narrow streets have no lights whatsoever. Every small alley seems packed with people, bicycles, motorcycles, dogs, kids and general chaos. Oxen are being hooked up to carts for vendors to take things home for the night, making it even more difficult to maneuver through the crowds.
The tuk-tuk driver is whipping around corners, coming within inches of animals and people and buildings, and hitting every pothole as we go. I’m trying to hold on for dear life, increasingly concerned about the food that is bouncing around in my stomach, worried I’m going to be sick at any minute. Just when I think I can’t stand it another second, we mercifully exit the old city to a wide boulevard by the mosque that divides Old Delhi from New Delhi where our driver is waiting. I finally exhale. We have come to the rooftop of the Gateway Hotel in Agra, to the Skyview Restaurant, not because it’s swanky. Unlike the upscale rooftop bars my son in New York likes to frequent, here the AstroTurf on the uneven flooring is ugly and the tables and chairs a bit rickety. But the view is spectacular. We are sitting in a corner table right by the glass, with views of the majestic Taj Mahal off in the distance to one side, and the sun preparing to set on the other side. I order a bottle of Sula Brut Indian sparkling wine, tickled that I so easily found my drink of choice – bubbly – in India.
We’re the only ones here because it’s early, really too early for dinner in India, but we’re starving. During the long drive from Delhi to Agra, our driver stopped at a roadside rest stop, and we didn’t understand we were supposed to order some lunch. If I’m truthful, we were too scared to eat what we saw there and instead downed a bag of Lays potato chips (they’re everywhere in India). When we checked into our hotel in Agra, we left immediately with our guide to visit the Baby Taj and the Agra Fort, so now we’re ready to eat.The town of Agra offers little beyond the Taj and the Fort, and as we look out over the town from the roof, sipping our bubbly, it looks poor, rundown, sad. The Taj is sitting out there in plain view but is far away and looks rather tiny. Even with the telescope the hotel has mounted to view it from this roof, it’s hard to get the feel for its true grandeur. The next day we will be completely blown away when we enter through the arches to the sun rising over the Taj, the reflection of its beauty shimmering in the water in front.
But for now, we’re glad we came early. The waiter is very attentive, wants to make us happy. After the trip when I see the price of this meal in comparison to the others, I’ll know this was a splurge. We tell him we don’t want to rush, that we want to watch the sunset and relax, but that we’re also very hungry. He’s very accommodating and brings us a bowl of papadam with the coriander chutney we’ve already fallen in love with. We like his suggestion of ordering the thali – a large silver platter with 9 small silver bowls of various foods accompanied by some varieties of breads – and he suggests that we wait on that and let him bring us some kebabs first to take the edge off our hunger. We’re instantly grateful.The thali is phenomenal. We’ve opted for the non-vegetarian, which means we have both meat and other dishes: mutton, lamb, and paneer each in a different kind of sauce with a nice bowl of basmati rice, a mixture of cauliflower and other vegetables with spices, and rich, savory black lentils. There’s a big bowl of freshly cut vegetables with some sauce to dip them in, but we’ve been warned about eating raw vegetables, so we skip them. The dessert is the Indian classic gulab jamun, which looks like a doughnut hole, but is made from reduced milk solids. It’s soaking in the typical cloyingly sweet syrup and I only take a small taste.
It’s peaceful being up on the roof, removed from the traffic, noise, congestion, and chaos of life in the city below us. We end up sitting here for hours, watching the sun set, watching the colors and shadows change on the Taj, marveling that we are really here in India, so far from home. For just a brief moment I miss my husband, wish that he could experience this, that I could share this with him. I shake it off, grateful that my daughter has joined me for the trip. We’re facing a long trip to reach Bundi from Agra – an hour-long drive to Bharatpur where we’ll wait to board a train for the five-hour trip to Kota; from there, a new driver will pick us up to take us the final hour drive into Bundi. The last thing we want is to try to eat food served on the train or in a train station, so we stop for lunch at a restaurant in Agra before we hit the road.
We’re a few days into our adventure, and we’re feeling confident about the food. We peruse the menu and order quickly. Palak Dahi ke Kabab (deep fried spinach and yogurt kebabs), Barra Kabab (tender lamb chops from the tandoori oven), Murg Garlic Tikka (chicken in a creamy garlic sauce), and Garlic Naan. I order my first, and what will turn out to be my only, Kingfisher beer, thinking of my husband. This one’s for you.
As we wait for our food, we’re watching the table of four women next to us. They’re speaking in Chinese as the waiter places a large platter of meat kebabs on their table. One woman says she’s not eating, and I notice she’s sipping some sort of space aged food out of a pouch. Allergies, I’m guessing, and I turn my attention back to our table as the waiter arrives with our food.The platters are enormous and gorgeous, and suddenly the Chinese women, who it turns out are from New York, are all over us. “Oh my God, how did you know what to order?!” they want to know. “We can’t figure out any of the menus!”
One of them leans over and starts photographing our dishes, then actually stands up, grabs one of the platters, and moves it into a position to get a better photo. I’m shocked at the intrusion and wish they’d leave us alone. We tell them about the thali from the night before and they are frantically looking it up and making notes on their phone. As they exit, my daughter and I dig in. It’s delicious, it’s far too much food, and we eat too much too fast, knowing our train won’t wait. I begin to feel strange sometime in the middle of the night. At first, I think I might be hungry. We didn’t arrive at our hotel in Bundi until ten at night after the long journey and hadn’t eaten anything since our lunch in Agra much earlier in the day. The festivities for Holi were already underway, and we had been forced to walk just inches from a massive bonfire to get down the tiny alley to our hotel. After walking up the four flights of stairs to our room and unloading our luggage, we had begged the man on duty at the small hotel for something to eat. He produced some dry toast and a banana, and then we went to sleep, exhausted from the day of travel.
Now it’s a few hours later, and I realize I’m not hungry; I’m ill. My stomach begins cramping and I change positions. Before I know it, I’m dashing for the bathroom. Within a couple of hours, I hear my daughter up doing the same. We will spend the better part of the next day, when we had fully intended to be playing Holi in India, groaning in our beds and taking turns in the bathroom, counting the hours until we can take the next dose of Pepto Bismol. We are at the point where we need to make a decision – are we getting better, or do we need to move on to more aggressive drugs? – when the pain finally, mercifully, starts to ease.I seem to have gotten sick first, by just a few hours, but now I’m starting to also recover first. Our guide and the hotel have both warned us it isn’t safe to go outside alone, but I can’t stand it. We timed our trip to India specifically around Holi, the celebration to welcome spring, and I don’t want to miss it. I put on my old white jeans that I’ve brought along specifically for this day, with the long white Indian tunic I purchased in Delhi at the Janpath Market, and I walk the thirty feet from our hotel to where the alley meets the main road in Bundi.
I can hear the chaos before I even get close. There is a steady stream of motorcycles, with an occasional cow or oxen in the mix, and many people walking. Everyone is lubricated, doused in paint colors, and rowdy. As I stand there in my pristine white outfit snapping a couple of pictures, a group of young men across the road see me. They have handfuls of paint colors and one of them nods in my direction, as if to ask, do I want color? Slightly terrified of what might happen, I nod ever so gently yes.They are on me in seconds, smearing the powdery paints on my face, in my hair, on my clothes. They want pictures with me, and as they surround me, I struggle to keep their hands off me, while they snap selfies. As soon as they get the shot I push away from the group and run quickly back up the side street to our hotel. I’ve only been playing Holi for two minutes and already I’ve had enough. I retreat to the room and shower off the paint before getting back in bed and falling asleep; it’s only mid-afternoon.
By dinner time, feeling well enough to finally leave our room, we head to the rooftop patio of the hotel. The views over Bundi are pretty at night, and we see groups of people on various roofs washing off their Holi colors and celebrating with friends. The hotel is flanked on the backside by the giant Taragarh Fort, and we watch the monkeys playing in the deserted fort and around the buildings near our hotel. As the sun sets, we see a massive flock of bats fly from the fort to round up bugs just as the full moon is coming up near the fort. We relax and sip water slowly to prevent our stomachs from cramping, grateful to be out of our room.Our waiter, who is also the bell man and the front desk man, knows how sick we’ve been because we’ve requested more toilet paper from him about ten times today. The rolls in India are only single ply with about a quarter of the number of sheets in those big Charmin rolls we get at home and are completely insufficient for two sick women.
The waiter thinks it best if we just eat some plain white rice and plain yogurt for dinner. We ask if we could also have some plain naan bread with it, but he denies the request, telling us we’re not well enough for that. Wow. We don’t argue, as it seems he knows what he’s talking about, and we are desperate to be well.We try eating the fragrant rice alone, then the tangy yogurt alone, then discover that the yogurt on the rice isn’t half bad. We eat slowly, our stomachs tender and our confidence tested. There is only one other couple on the rooftop. They aren’t staying here but have come for a multi-course romantic dinner with views of the sunset. We watch as the waiter brings them dish after dish, and the smells alone are hard to stomach.
After we finish our rice, even though we can hear the Holi celebrations continuing through town, we head straight to bed, praying for an uneventful night. The drive from Bundi to Jaipur takes only three hours, not the five we had been told, and fortunately neither of us is sick on the way. We’re famished, having eaten very little in the past 24 hours, when we head out for dinner. We’re more than a little tentative about Indian food at this point, so we order continental food: vegetable fried rice, rosemary chicken, and vegetables. We eat slowly, pausing between bites to make sure the food is going to settle, to make sure we’re really okay. It feels like a waste of a meal opportunity on our adventure, but we don’t care.
After a full morning of touring the Amber Fort, our guide brings us to a restaurant for lunch. “We haven’t seen saag on any of the menus,” my daughter says, and the guide looks shocked. The creamy spinach or mustard greens are served either alone or with mutton, chicken, or paneer, and it’s a favorite of both of ours.The minute we open the menu, we see it: Mutton Saagwala. My daughter closes her menu quickly, knowing that’s what she’s having. For variety, I choose the Chicken Lehsuni Tikka, chicken pieces cooked with chili and garlic, a popular dish in the Punjab region of India. I order some steamed rice, still not quite sure about our stomachs. My daughter insists on Butter Naan.
The food is great. We eat everything. We don’t feel sick at all. This will be the turning point for us. Yesterday we were both ready to board a flight home, but suddenly we’re excited to continue our journey together. Despite both of our culinary careers, neither of us has much experience with Indian food. We’ve arranged for a cooking class in a private home, and we don’t really know what to expect when we arrive. Our hosts are descendants from two different royal families. Their marriage was arranged, and now they have a 5-year-old daughter. We’re captivated hearing their story, intrigued about the whole arranged marriage tradition, and more than ready to try our hand at cooking. We’re served a rose water drink while we’re waiting to start, and I can barely stomach it. I sip slowly, not wanting to offend, but it tastes like I’m drinking perfume. I’m relieved when I can set it down to start cooking.
Nadhi starts by demonstrating pakoras. She makes a version with potatoes in a thicker batter, then with thinly sliced onions in a thinner batter, and finally with cauliflower, which require a two-step fry process to flatten the patty. It’s basically just crunchy fried food, but it’s good and we nibble away while she moves on to the next dish.
We’re making daal with yellow lentils, and both Jenny and I gasp at the amount of oil that goes into the dish. It’s not like we’re frying something and removing it to discard the oil; in this case, all of the oil is incorporated into the dish. I expected a heavy hand with the spices but am in shock at the amount of salt that’s used.Next Royal (his nickname) is up. He’s making zeera aloo, which are cumin spiced potatoes, and again, a large amount of oil is used to start the dish and heavy salt to finish it. The potatoes are delicious, but I’m wondering just how swollen my fingers and ankles are going to be after this meal. I’ll lose four pounds the first couple of days I’m home just from the water I’m retaining on this trip.
The final part of our lesson is taught by one of the men who work in the house for them. He has a large ball of dough on a platter and he teaches us how to make chapati, a simple flat bread like a tortilla but without any lard in the dough. We use the same dough to make paranthas, a flat bread that is stuffed with the cumin potato mixture then rolled back out flat. The final bread is poori, and the man shows my daughter how to slip the rolled-out disk of dough into the hot grease where it instantly puffs up and turns golden brown.We’re invited to sit down for dinner and Royal brings out two bottles: one a brand name vodka and one a rare Indian rum. He asks us to choose which we want a shot of and we both pick rum, even though neither of us really drinks hard alcohol. We try to politely sip, but it’s burning our throats. Royal shows us how he mixes his vodka with his rosewater drink. I try it with the rum and it’s only marginally better.
When we are served all of the food we have made, along with a couple other dishes they have prepared ahead of time, we find that our hosts are not going to eat with us, but rather just sit there and watch us eat. Our hosts explain they do these classes four or five nights each week, and I’m sure they are sick of all of these recipes by now. I can relate – I too find I can’t eat the dishes I repeatedly make with guests in my cooking classes. Before we leave, after a short visit to the night vegetable market, we exchange information and plant the seed for them to come teach Indian classes in Denver. We are picked up at 5 am for our flight from Jaipur to Delhi and given a sack breakfast to take along. We ditch most of it, eating only the bananas before boarding the plane.
Now we’re in Delhi, where we need to wait for several hours until our connecting flight to Amritsar. The airport is a sharp contrast to the rest of Delhi. It’s new, it’s modern, and it is filled with stores, resembling more of a shopping mall with a food court than an airport terminal. As we make our way to the lounge where we will wait my daughter sees it: KFC.
Neither of us really eats fast food at home, but we succumb and order chicken strips and fries. We inhale the food in minutes, a little ashamed of ourselves to be doing this in a foreign country. We’re members of Slow Food after all. It’s the only meal we don’t photograph during our entire two-week trip. Dining in Amritsar turns out to be the strangest experience of our entire journey. The restaurants listed in the guide from our travel company are all in a single block on a street well outside of the city center. When we ask about eating somewhere in the center, somewhere near our hotel and the Golden Temple, we’re assured there is nowhere in the city safe for us to eat. Instead, out on this strip sits a combo restaurant and bar/pub that was the brainchild of a famous Indian chef who was appalled that visitors to his city weren’t able to safely eat the food. He created this spot, along with a system for hygienic restaurant practices, to make it safe for tourists. The result is a strange feeling of being shuttled away from the action, sort of like when they put American tourists in the bland upstairs dining halls of Parisian restaurants.
Not willing to risk another round of stomach issues, we heed the advice and end up eating three meals in the same place over 36 hours. We order Indian the first night: Sarson ka Saag (mustard butter garlic), Tandoori Murgh (chicken), Pakhtooni Burra Boti (lamb), garlic naan, and rice. We order Italian at the same restaurant the next day for lunch: Penne Arrabiata and Fettucine with Pesto Cream Sauce. And we order Chinese at the same place that night for dinner: Thai green curry chicken with rice, dim sum, and vegetables. While nothing tastes quite authentic, it’s passable fare, actually quite good. More importantly, neither of us gets sick in a city where it sounds like the odds are stacked against us. **

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monks from Thailand: Chandigarh: Monks set for Himalayan walk to spread message of preserving nature | Chandigarh News – Times of India

CHANDIGARH: For the last three years, a large group of five-to-six hundred monks from Thailand have been walking through treacherous paths of the Himalayas starting from Dharamshala to Leh on foot for one month to spread the message of Budhism and protection of Himalayas. This year, Save The Himalayas Foundation – run under the aegis of Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC) which had been spearheading the Thai walkathon – has decided to invite people from India to become part of this year’s movement. MIMC branch at Ramgarh near Chandigarh is the epicenter where the modalities for the mammoth event is being chalked out.
Bhikku Sanghasena, founder of MIMC and world renowned Buddhist preacher, talked to TOI at Ramgarh saying: “The walk which is likely to begin in the last week of May will end in the last week of June, followed by a three-day international conference on the theme of protection of Himalayas teaming it up with world peace to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi as the nation is commemorating his 125th birth anniversary this year.
“The international expert in the conference will deliberate upon the effect of melting of glaciers which have precipitated the crisis of water shortage due to global warming and climate change, promotion of renewable energy sources and ways to encourage responsible and regulated tourism in Ladakh and other parts of Himalayas,” he said.
He said that Indian people must get motivated by the Thai who fly from Bangkok to Bodhgaya in Bihar and then travel to Dharamshala from where they start one month’s odyssey on foot to Leh. “If people from Thailand, which is the land of mountains, glaciers and cold weather, can walk for a month in the hot climate of India to awaken people about fragility of Himalayas and urgency to protect it, our Indian citizens must also come forward and contribute to the mission by being part of the Himalayan walk . We are expecting a lot of people from Chandigarh and tri-city this year,” he said.
He cautioned those willing to join saying since this is a sacred walk held for pious causes, as Himalayas does not only belong to native people but to the entire world, so those who join walk must show reverence to the mountain and its eco-system by abstaining from vices like liquor, smoke, non-vegetarian food and should be sensible and sensitive to Himalayan resources and local people. They should not indulge in loud music or litter the surroundings with garbage or plastic.
While passing through some of the most scenic and adventurous locations of Himalayas, the participants will also see and learn about local culture and savour local cuisine while halting at nights in the nearby villages. They will also gain traditional knowledge with which the locals have been able to survive the challenges of climate change.

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EAT Club Acquires Taro to Offer Clients Unique, Globally-Inspired Food Offerings on Demand

EAT Club , the food delivery service for businesses that personalizes the way employees eat meals together, announced today that it has acquired Bay Area-based Taro to offer new globally-inspired gourmet food items to EAT Club customers. A one-stop culinary shop with healthy, authentic, international menu items that are not available in markets or restaurants, Taro reimagines home-style food for the modern consumer. As part of the deal, EAT Club and Taro teams will integrate, and EAT Club will acquire Taro’s assets, including proprietary recipes, culinary equipment and distribution technology. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Taro is recognized for authentic home-cooked Indian, Korean and Chinese food, and we are thrilled to add their distinctive offerings to our menu,” said Doug Leeds, CEO, EAT Club. “EAT Club is committed to delivering employees the best curated menu that satisfies their individual meal preferences, and Taro enables us to add even more of the high quality Asian cuisine that our customers crave.”
Taro is the second EAT Club acquisition since the appointment of longtime internet executive and former CEO of IAC Publishing, Doug Leeds, as CEO last year. During this time, EAT Club also acquired Bay Area-based Farm Hill Foods, accelerated YoY growth, and now serves nearly 1,000 corporate clients each month, including new customers Facebook, Postmates and Wag.
“EAT Club is the only food delivery service for businesses that treats eating in the workplace as a personalized culinary experience,” said Krishna Mehra, co-founder and CEO, Taro. “When we set out to expand our reach and distribution beyond family dinners, EAT Club emerged as a natural partner with its unique approach of delivering employees individualized selection within a collaborative atmosphere. EAT Club is making it possible for thousands of new workers to experience Taro’s food and flavors, and we are proud to join forces with them in increasing workplace satisfaction.”
Great companies know that providing food as a benefit increases employee collaboration, productivity and workplace culture. But corporate cafeterias are expensive and traditional catering often result in long lines, frustration with food options and waste. With EAT Club, employees have the power to choose their meals each day, from a mobile app featuring a curated menu of over 100 different dishes a week, satisfying all tastes and dietary restrictions. EAT Club is also the only corporate food delivery service that owns every part of the customer journey – from ordering, to food procurement and preparation, to on-time delivery – all within one integrated solution.
“Taro believes employees deserve far better than traditional takeout or fast food, and we agree,” added Leeds. “Together, we’re raising the quality of food in the workplace, one individually ordered meal at a time.”
EAT Club’s expansive culinary offerings have been created by an exclusive team of talented chefs catering to a sophisticated, global palate. EAT Club has successfully delivered more than 17 million meals to employees in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles since launch.
About EAT Club
Inspired by the Dabbawala delivery system of India and the bento-box office delivery model in Japan, EAT Club was founded with a hunger to solve the office meal problem in the US. EAT Club applies sophisticated technology and logistics solutions to power a new model, making it easy for businesses to offer individualized office meal experiences that suit everyone’s palate, at scale. EAT Club leverages a massive food supply network, including professional chefs and a large selection of meal options, to serve every employee’s specific cravings while meeting the needs of today’s businesses. EAT Club has served over 17 million meals to employees – averaging 25,000 meals each day – and is trusted by Facebook, Postmates and nearly 1,000 other great companies in the Bay Area and LA. For more on EAT Club, visit: eatclub.com .
About Taro
Taro is re-imagining homestyle food for busy professionals and families with a focus on fresh, authentic, and traditional food from around the world. Taro was born out of the kitchen of an educator in Palo Alto, who found very high demand for her delicious food in the local community, and has now grown to a brand serving tens of thousands of families all over the West Coast. Our signature dishes have been co-created with intimate customer feedback through our direct to consumer offering at www.tarobites.com .

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Spices don’t start out looking like this

Spices don’t start out looking like this See the roots, bark, berries and seeds that set the stage for dinner. Robin Shreeves April 17, 2019, 9:13 a.m. Would you know the plants that these spices come from if you had to identify them? (Photo: FotoSajewicz/Shutterstock)
If you came across the plant that produces cloves, would you know it? Most home cooks know what cloves look like, but they aren’t familiar with the plant the spice originates from. Spices come from the non-leafy parts of plants, including roots, bark, berries, flowers and seeds.
Take a look at the plants — and the parts of the plants — that many of the common spices you use in your own cooking come from. Then, make a plan to use up those spices up before they lose their potency. Kept in a cool, dry space, most spices will keep their potency for two to three years — although it’s often unknown how long they’ve been dried before you put them in your shopping basket, so that doesn’t necessarily mean two to three years on your kitchen spice rack.
To help you use up your spices while they’re still in good condition, I’ve included plenty of recipes that make good use of each spice, and many of the recipes use several spices. Cumin
When these flowers go to seed, the dried seeds become cumin. (Photo: Tukaram.Karve/Shutterstock)
These pretty white flowers eventually go to seed. When they do, they become cumin. The spice comes in both seed form and powdered form. In its powdered form, you’ll find it in the spice aisle of the store as a single spice, but it can also be found in spice mixtures such as chili powder and curry powder, according to McCormick Science Institute . It’s a spice commonly used in Indian, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, and its grown primarily in the Middle East.
Although cumin often is used in spicy foods, the spice itself isn’t hot. It’s pungent and has earthy flavors with green, grassy notes. The spice is rich in iron, and it may aide in weight loss. One study found that women who ate a little less than a teaspoon of cumin daily while also following a low-calorie diet lost more body fat and more weight than women who didn’t add the cumin to their low-calorie diets, reports WebMD .
Cumin seeds and cumin powder are used in a lot of Indian and Mexican recipes. (Photo: hongchanstudio/Shutterstock)
Use up the cumin on your spice rack in these recipes. Ground Beef Taco Seasoning : Not only will your use the cumin on your spice rack with this recipe, you’ll use several other dried herbs and spices including oregano and paprika. You’ll never go back to packaged taco seasoning with preservatives in it once you see how easy it is to together this mix. Spicy Cauliflower Stir-Fry with Peppers and Heirloom Tomatoes : You’ll use both cumin seed and cumin powder, plus other spices such as turmeric and coriander, in this super healthy stir fry. Jeera Biscuits : Cumin seeds go into these tea time biscuits. They’re savory and sweet, salty, crispy and addictive. Cacao
Inside this cacao pod are seeds that are dried and turned into cocoa powder. (Photo: PixieMe/Shutterstock)
The dried seeds from cocoa pods are roasted, ground and turned into cocoa powder, which is technically a spice. The beans are full of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, which is why dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or higher can be good for you in moderate amounts. These flavonoids may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
It’s believed that the Mayan Indians were the first to discover the wonders of eating cocoa sometime around 600 AD. It wasn’t until the 1800s, though, that cocoa powder was used to make what we know as chocolate bars, according to Mobile-Cuisine .
But cocoa powder’s flavonoid power to work in some baked goods. (Photo: martiapunts/Shutterstock)
You probably keep cocoa powder with your dry baking essentials such as flour and baking soda. Use the powder in these recipes. Dark Chocolate Truffles : You get a double dose of cacao in these easy-to-make treats. The dark chocolate used to make them contains 70 percent dark chocolate and they’re dusted with cocoa powder. Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats : Who says you can’t have chocolate for breakfast? Mix up cocoa powder with oats, peanut butter and a few other ingredients before you go to bed. When you wake, you’ll have a healthy breakfast with the flavors of a candy treat. Avocado Chocolate Pudding : A full 1/3 cup of cocoa powder goes into this pudding that also has a dose of healthy fats in from avocado. It can be made with milk and honey, or a plant-based milk and agave to create a vegan version. Ginger
These green leaves hold a surprise underground — the ginger root. (Photo: Tukaram.Karve/Shutterstock)
Ginger is the root of the the perennial herb Zingiber official. Above ground, the leaves look like tall grass. Below ground, the roots grow to be about 6 inches long. When the leaves start to die off, the ginger is ready to be harvested. The spice is used in cuisines around the world, and is frequently used to flavor beverages, both alcoholic like the Moscow Mule and non-alcoholic like ginger ale.
This spice that’s been used for centuries as both a medicinal — it’s known to help with digestion, for starters — and a culinary ingredient has a bit of zing to it, along with a little citrus and musty flavors plus a bit of heat. Fresh ginger has more of a kick than ground ginger.
Fresh ginger and ginger powder can add zing to a variety of recipes. (Photo: pilipphoto/Shutterstock)
Ginger can be used in any of these recipes. Golden Milk : A soothing combination of milk, ginger (fresh or dried), turmeric, cinnamon, honey and little coconut oil can be good for what ails you. Fresh Ginger Moscow Mule : Instead of making this cocktail with ginger beer, fresh ginger and club soda are combined with the vodka and lime for a cocktail with a kick. One Pan Orange Ginger Chicken : Citrus, ginger and Asian sauces and vinegars combine to make a sticky sauce for drumsticks. Nutmeg
See that brain-like seed? That’s where nutmeg comes from. (Photo: Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock)
When the red part of the nutmeg seed dries, it turns brown (and looks a lot less like an alien brain) and becomes what we know as nutmeg. The outer part, by the way, is dried and turned into another spice, mace. Nutmeg has a very long history. A recent discovery by archeologists in Indonesia found nutmeg residue in 3,500-year-old clay pots, the oldest evidence of the spice being used .
We sprinkle this spice — which may kill of bacteria and fungi — on eggnog and hot chocolate, bake into cakes, and stir it into stews.
Whole nutmeg and nutmeg powder have more uses than punching up the eggnog. (Photo: pilipphoto/Shutterstock) My Father’s Eggnog : This classic, boozy eggnog is the one my father made. It has nutmeg right in the beverage, but you can sprinkle a little on top, too. Spiced Zucchini Carrot Bread : Use up the summer’s bounty along with your spices in this quick bread that turns out moist and delicious. Sweet Potato Soup with Nutmeg and Maple Syrup : This sweet pureed soup uses ground nutmeg and real maple syrup to create something satisfying and warming. Caraway
The seeds from the caraway plant are used for savory dishes. (Photo: Shutter Chiller/Shutterstock)
Caraway originates from North Africa, Western Asia and Central Europe. The spice comes from the stems that grow out of the plant’s leaves that can reach up to 30 inches. The “seeds” that we often use to cook and bake with are actually the flowers of the plant, according to Soft Schools . When dried they have a sweet and pungent taste.
The seeds contain a small amount of oil that can be extracted and used for various purposes, including flavoring the Scandinavian spirit Aquavit. Caraway is most often used in its dry, seed-like form for baking and flavoring savory dishes.
Dried caraway seeds can be used in savory dishes. (Photo: Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock)
Try the caraway seeds in your spice pantry in these recipes. Hungarian Goulash : This beef soup (or is it a stew?) with vegetables is seasoned with caraway seeds, paprika, bay leaves and peppercorn. Caraway Seed Loaf Cake : The ingredients in this cake, including 28 grams of caraway seeds, mix together quickly before they’re poured in a loaf pan and baked to create a treat. Nappa Cabbage Salad with Apples and Caraway Seeds : The caraway seeds are toasted before being tossed in with the other salad ingredients and dressed with a simple mustard vinaigrette. Coriander
When a cilantro plant goes to seed, those seeds become coriander. (Photo: PP Meth/Shutterstock)
If the leaves of a coriander plant look very familiar with you, it’s probably because coriander comes from the same plant as the herb cilantro. Coriander is the dried seeds of the plant after it has bolted. Coriander has been used for thousands of years. It’s even mentioned in the Bible. It’s name comes from a Greek word, koris, which means stink bug or bedbug because of the plant’s strong aroma.
The ground seeds are frequently used in Asian, South American and Mediterranean cuisines. It brings a spicy, citrus flavor to meat dishes, curries and soups. The whole seeds are frequent used in pickling and they’re one of the ingredients frequently used in amaro liqueur.
Coriander seeds and powder often show up in Mediterranean recipes. (Photo: SMDSS/Shutterstock) Vegetarian Chili : You’ll use many of the spices in your kitchen, including ground coriander, in this spicy chili that gets its protein and heartiness from mixed beans. Carrot and Coriander Soup : Sweet carrots and ground coriander are nice complements in this pureed soup that can be spiced by adding some pepper flakes. Chickpeas Simmered in Masala Sauce : Serve these chickpeas that are seasoned with coriander, fresh ginger, cumin and more over rice. Sumac
From these colorful spires comes the sumac spice. (Photo: Algirdas Gelazius/Shutterstock)
Sumac comes from the bright red berries of the sumac bush, which is completely different than poison sumac. This tangy and fruity spice is used frequently in Middle Eastern cooking. It’s color comes through in the foods it’s used in, and it’s frequently used in soups and stews, rice, salad dressings, dips and more.
This pretty spice has medicinal properties, too. It can be used in anti-inflammatory diet and help to lessen the effects of coronary heart disease and diabetes.
Sumac berries and ground sumac are often used in Middle Eastern cooking. (Photo: mahirart/Shutterstock) Corn and Sumac Salad : Corn, roasted right off the cob, cherry tomatoes, olives and feta are tossed with a dressing made with sumac and lots of fresh parsley. Sheet Pan Sumac Chicken with Roasted Vegetables : Chicken pieces, cauliflower and carrots are roasted with sumac and olive oil all on the same pan. Cinnamon
Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. (Photo: Ciprian23/Shutterstock)
There’s some evidence that not all cinnamon is created equal. While both types of cinnamon, Ceylon and Cassia, have potential health benefits that help those who suffer from diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and hyperglycemia. Ceylon cinnamon contains less coumarin, a potential liver-damaging compound.
Taken from the inner bark of a cinnamon tree, cinnamon is one of the most common spices found in most people’s homes. It’s used to sprinkle on hot beverages, flavor cookies, cakes and pastries, and season various savory dishes.
Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon are something most cooks always have on hand. (Photo: Dionsvera/Shutterstock)
Sprinkle some cinnamon on these recipes. Candy Apple Cocktail : This bourbon-based cocktail made with apple cider is sweetened with a cinnamon simple syrup made with cinnamon sticks. Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Cardamom Frosting : Light and fluffy cupcakes are topped with a spiced frosting. Perfect for the holidays but just delicious in mid-summer. Almond Butter with Honey & Cinnamon : Make your own almond butter and customize it with honey and cinnamon for a lot less money than a grocery store jar costs. Cloves
Once dried, these magenta flowers will look like the cloves you’re used to seeing. (Photo: Tropical studio/Shutterstock)
Cloves have many benefits, including relieving toothaches, reducing inflammation, helping to control blood sugar and supporting healthy digestion. They may also be an aphrodisiac. Eugenol, a compound in the cloves, is an oil that contains antibacterial properties.
This spice comes mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, and it’s used to spice baked goods, meats and dressings. Cloves can also be used as a pickling spice.
Ground cloves and whole cloves can be used in a variety of recipes. (Photo: moving moment/Shutterstock)
Use these cloves, named for the French word “clou” that means cross, in these recipes. Spiced Orange Shrub : This vinegar-based shrub uses many spices including cloves to make a holiday season-worthy shrub. It can be mixed with club soda, or mixed into a cocktail. Smoked Ginger Chicken with Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon : A butterflied whole chicken is rubbed with plenty of spices then cooked on the grill to get smokey and crispy. Stewed Apples with Cinnamon & Cloves : A simple and healthy dessert with some Greek yogurt on the side to complete the treat. Juniper
The dried berries from a juniper tree are one of the most common botanicals in gin. (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)
Juniper looks like a berry, but it’s not a fruit, it’s a cone. Juniper is the only spice that comes from an evergreen tree. It’s another spice that’s mentioned in the Bible, and the Egyptians were using it as far back as 1500 BC. Its flavors are earthy and a little pine-y.
You probably know juniper best as the spice that’s most associated with gin. It’s also used to season meat dishes, flavor jams and pies, and balance the sweetness of baked goods.
Dried juniper berries can be used in drinks and even meat dishes. (Photo: bekka/Shutterstock)
Try juniper berries in these recipes. Gin and Tonic Cake : Juniper is baked in the cake and gin is used to create a boozy glaze to top the cake. Aromatic & Spicy Juniper Berry Sugar Stars : Cookies with a spicy juniper glaze. Juniper & Tonic : All the flavors of a G&T without the booze. A juniper syrup made with orange and cardamom is added to good tonic to create a non-alcoholic cocktail.

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News: Forte Village to welcome the Cinnamon Club this summer

Forte Village to welcome the Cinnamon Club this summer 21 hours ago
Forte Village has announced an upcoming collaboration with award-winning chef, restaurateur and author Vivek Singh.
Singh has attained a reputation as a pioneer of modern Indian cuisine through his London based restaurants.
The Sardinian opening at Forte Village will be his first venture abroad and will open under the flagship name, the Cinnamon Club.
“The restaurant will serve fine Indian food that showcases the philosophies of pushing boundaries and combining really good quality Sardinian produce, which will be given the spice treatment from different parts of India,” said Singh.
“Forte Village is a phenomenal location and I’m really looking forward to it.” ADVERTISEMENT
Forte Village Resort, Sardinia is the ultimate foodie escape with 21 permanent restaurants and bars set in 47 hectares of beautiful gardens along a white sandy beach in southern Sardinia.
Every summer, the resort hosts a spectacular array of Michelin-starred chefs who cook up their famed dishes for guests for a select number of nights.
Chefs so far have included Enrico Cerea from Da Vittorio, Frank Reynaud and Aimo e Nadia.
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Forte Village is considered the World’s Leading Resort by voters at the World Travel Awards. Older Cartagena joins Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Newer Canopy by Hilton Venice City Centre pencilled in for 2021 opening Tagged With:

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Review: Ramen Shop [2018]

Home / Movies / Reviews / Review: Ramen Shop [2018] Review: Ramen Shop [2018] By: Jared Mobarak | Posted April 15th, 2019 photography: courtesy of Strand Releasing – Share this page –
“He kept her memory alive with every bowl of ramen”
While Eric Khoo ‘s Ramen Teh [Ramen Shop] is at its core a story about a young man looking to reclaim a part of his heritage that was lost, it’s also a rather poignant account of the lasting scars of war and the struggle to separate hate from love when two worlds collide. Because it’s not simply that Masato ( Takumi Saitoh ) never returned to Singapore after leaving with his parents at age ten. He wasn’t welcome there. Despite the country being a veritable melting pot of ethnicities with their unique palettes mixing to create new delicious recipes, Masato’s place within it had been stripped for some unknown reason. His mother ( Jeanette Aw ‘s Mei Lian) died before she could explain and his father ( Tsuyoshi Ihara ‘s Kazuo) unfortunately never stopped grieving.
So it was a foregone conclusion Masato would eventually leave Japan for his former home if for no other reason than to rekindle a relationship with his Uncle Wee ( Mark Lee ) and learn how to make his famed pork rip soup. That dish is what he remembers when thinking about his mother and the ramen his father and he sell at their restaurant simply never satisfied that psychological craving. Masato hoped his online friend Miki’s ( Seiko Matsuda ) packages of Singaporean spices could start to get him closer to bringing that memory to life, but it never quite proved enough. If she could take him around Singapore and perhaps find his uncle, however, he could merge the soup’s flavor with Kazuo’s ramen and honor Mei Lian everyday.
It’s not long after arriving, though, that Masato begins to acknowledge the rough history between his parents’ nations. Japan occupied Singapore (known as the Syonan-to) after the British fell in World War II. Many people died and the result caused an unavoidable strain for those who were affected. We can therefore start to imagine deeper-seeded reasons for why Masato’s parents took him away to Japan—reasons that will become clearer once Miki translates his mother’s diary and Uncle Wee sheds light on the particulars of what went on when he was boy. And while you may think using food as the catalyst to bridge such a historically dark divide seems a bit easy, it actually proves to be the perfect scene for common ground this family has.
Not only that, but having these dishes become so prevalent a plot point also allows Khoo to nudge screenwriters Fong Cheng Tan and Kim Hoh Wong ‘s heartwarming tale of love overcoming prejudice into a visual smorgasbord of food porn. I do believe it will prove impossible not to find yourself checking your phone for the closest ramen shop near the theater as soon as the credits roll. Sadly, whatever restaurant you choose probably won’t have the wild stuff like chili crab or Indian curry noodles available for purchase. So you’ll have to live vicariously through the perpetual slurping of ramen and drinking of broth while pork boils for ten hours on-screen. Famed Singaporean chef Keisuke Takeda even makes a cameo and can’t get enough of Masato’s latest soup.
Beyond this aspect, though, is a well-constructed script with as much humor as heartache. Despite starting with a death, the latter’s amount may still surprise because Masato’s tour of Singapore cuisine with Miki (a relationship that works so well since it doesn’t fall prey to romantic ambitions—mostly) seems so far-removed from the historical context waiting in the wings. Once his grandmother ( Beatrice Chien ‘s Madam Lee) enters the equation, the real drama that kept him in Japan is brought into focus with a mix of regret, nostalgia, and hope for the future. Khoo utilizes flashbacks nicely to pull back and replay happy moments as sad and sad as happy once we learn the appropriate context to let such transformations land best. Masato’s return therefore becomes Mei Lian’s too.
Ramen Shop ends up simultaneously being a pilgrimage and exorcism. Masato is reclaiming a part of his identity that was stolen by frayed relationships and Mei Lian’s spirit is being cleansed of the guilt that had been projected upon her in life. That the lead discovers he’s a metaphorical Singaporean dish and thus as much a product of his parents’ love as the ramen he and Kazuo sold to countless Japanese customers is merely a happy byproduct of the journey. All the food is ultimately symbolic—manifestations of memory and culture to be passed down generation to generation. It’s something we don’t perhaps see these days with fast food fusion restaurants and limited time to cook ourselves, but so much of who we are is embedded in recipes.
That those flashbacks show how food brought Mei Lian and Kazuo together in the first place says so much because it separates them from the war their elders have yet to escape. Their cooking for each other proves more intimate than any conversation about childhood or ambition could because they put their heart and souls into these meals. Soon it takes one sip or bite for everything to come flooding back in an instant and so Masato’s new dish possessing enough of both worlds only enhances the experience further. Ramen should never have been a stand-in for Japan’s atrocities anyway since its own origins are steeped in Chinese cuisine too. And if those disparate flavors can mix so well, two people a sea away can too.
Score: 7/10
Rating: NR | Runtime: 89 minutes | Release Date: March 29th, 2018 (Singapore) Studio: Golden Village Pictures / Elephant House / Strand Releasing Director(s): Eric Khoo Writer(s): Fong Cheng Tan & Kim Hoh Wong – Share this page –
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