We have, of course, been doing a lot of things besides eating. But as a basic requirement of life and an important element of culture, not to mention an enjoyable social experience, food naturally commands a lot of our attention. So here are a few of our dining experiences thus far.
Every morning starts off with the phenomenal breakfast buffet provided by our hotel, the Radisson Blu GRT airport hotel:
- At least a dozen cooked Indian dishes (more on those in a later post)
- Waffles, omelets, dosas (see below) and pancakes made to order
- Fresh papaya, pineapple, apples, bananas, dragon fruit, figs, oranges
- Halvah (a sweet dish made from sugar, ghee, and pumpkin, carrot, beets, or other starches)
- Tea, coffee, lattes made to order, “South Indian filter coffee” (see below), masala chai, fresh squeezed orange juice, fruit smoothies, a salted yogurt drink, a sweet yogurt drink that tastes like my mom’s eggnog (way better than the fake store bought stuff you get at Christmas time), watermelon juice, grape juice …
For lunch Brian usually has chicken biryani (a spicy rice dish) and/or dahl (lentils) with his students in the company cafeteria. The substantial portions cost about a dollar—sometimes less. The cost for Brianna and me to eat in the hotel is considerably more—think mid-range U.S. prices. Sometimes we eat in our room: cold leftovers, cheese, yogurt, fresh fruit, fried and salted legumes (usually peas, garbanzos, or lentils–quite tasty!).
We do get out, though. This is a dosa—a South Indian specialty. They usually come lying down and rolled very loosely, like a stiff rug:
Like idli, dosas are made of rice and lentil batter. Unlike idli, they’re very thin and crispy. They usually come with a small portion of vegetable sauce and three chutneys: white (coconut), green (coriander), and red (chili?). I can usually only handle the coconut. All three are too spicy for Brianna, but she’s quite content to just eat the dosa. We had this one at a Saravana Bhavan, a reasonably priced and reliably good chain of restaurants scattered all over the city. This Saravana was at Spencer Plaza, a good mall for less expensive Indian crafts and clothes.
Coming from apple country, we were initially suspicious of the apples in our hotel room, but they’ve turned out to be consistently crisp, sweet, and juicy. However, if the hotel ever fails to supply our complimentary apples, we’ll always have dosas:
You can get a wide range of world cuisines here: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Arab, Tex Mex, “European.” Of course, like ethnic foods in America, they are likely to take on a local flavor.
A visit to the upscale Phoenix Mall, Chennai’s newest, led to lunch at “Jonah’s Goes to Japan.”
We were a little confused about how to eat here: American style with a fork, Japanese style with chopsticks, or Indian style with the hands?
This appears to be India’s answer to Coldstone Creamery–also at the Phoenix Mall, along with at least five other ice cream shops (yep–we counted), including Baskin Robbins, Haagen Dazs, and an Australian shop, Mr. Cookie.
Without doubt, the best ice cream we’ve had (and expect to have) was at Amadora in the Nungambakkam neighborhood.
Check out the signage and slogans–looks like something you could find in Eugene/Springfield.
Amadora could seriously give Red Wagon a run for their money (don’t tell RW I said that!). Read more here: Amadora
This is where we had lunch on Saturday:
Incidentally, I’ve been an unintentional vegetarian here, since most of the available meat is chicken, which doesn’t agree with me. I didn’t think I was craving meat, but my Mexican burger was fabulous–possibly better than TGIFriday’s in the U.S. (not that I can remember when I ate there last).
Non-spicy food for Brianna is a little hard to come by in local restaurants, but the thin crust cheese pizza here at the hotel is a reliable and tasty standby.
And there’s always smiley fries. It’s our first encounter with them, though we’re told they’re quite common in Canada.
The director of operations here at the hotel saw Brianna eyeing the fancy creations in their pastry shop and ordered this cake to be sent up to our room on a Sunday afternoon.
On the subject of hotel service, it’s hard to beat poolside coffee. “South Indian filter coffee” looks like molasses and is served with lots of milk. The flavor is a little different, but it’s still coffee.
As you can see, we’re going to miss both the food and the service when we get home. Maybe I can get Brianna to serve me poolside. Oh, wait–first we have to get the pool.