Friday, March 22, 2013

Curd Rice Lessons !

We are a vegetarian family and hence during every vacation, finding food becomes an activity that involves a slight amount of additional effort.

Within India of course its not a problem, but outside its sometimes a huge challenge. 

One thing we need to remember is, that just because a dish is listed under vegetables on the menu card, it does not necessarily have to be vegetarian. It only indicates that the main ingredient is not chicken or beef. It could have any prawn or shrimp flavoring.In most parts of South East Asia, anchovies get added to food like we Indians add coriander leaves. Its like the grand finale step!

Once in the US, I went to a restaurant and explained with all possible words and gestures that I don't take meat. After a long stare at me as if she were working out three hundred and twenty seven divided by thirty nine, the waitress suggested a dish. To make sure, I asked for the ingredients and she went on 'pepper, onions, garlic and fish oil'. Fish Oil? Excuse Me! "Well, you said you did not take meat, not seafood. Besides no one told me that fish ain't vegetarian" She did not say that, but I could hear the words in her mind with amazing clarity. Then onward I make it a point to explain 'No meat, no seafood, no fish, no egg' .

Additionally if the language spoken is alien to us then better learn the word for 'vegetarian' before setting foot on that soil.

We had gone to Langkawi with my in laws and hence we were on the lookout for food that was Indian in addition to being vegetarian.

Just before we left for Penang from Langkawi we asked our taxi driver to drop us in some Indian restaurant. Every corner in the world has an Indian restaurant that serves Naan, Rotis , Dal and Dahi. We just need to find it. In most cases the name is usually Taj or Maharajah :). Antartica may be the only exception !

The driver stopped in front of a restaurant and the board outside proclaimed 'Arabic, Western and Indian cuisine'. That indicated that they did not serve Indian cuisine exclusively! Above that, our home food was third on the list. THIRD!!! It was actually a Middle Eastern restaurant that also served Western and Indian food. 'Ah-ah-Aaan' the alarms in our brains chimed in symphonic harmony. "Is there any other place nearby?" we asked the driver with caution. He had found the place after umpteen number of calls to some knowledgeable friend of his. This question had a high possibility of triggering violence in the afternoon heat.

'Why don't you take a look at the menu first?' he suggested.

We were greeted with a very warm welcoming smile by the person in charge. 'Do you have N-a-a-n, Cha-pa-thi?' we asked with some hesitation. Somehow whenever we talk to someone under the assumption that he would not understand us, we tend to say it very slow; giving a kilometer space between each syllable! How on earth would the speed in which a word is uttered make a difference? Anyways that's what we did as well. After all we are also human!

When he said "Yes we do" we thanked Mars, Venus , Jupiter and the whole family of planetary objects who were now spinning slightly tilted in our direction.

 "Curd?" .

"Yes" and then he uttered something which would sound like soul stirring music to the ears of any TamBrahm(Tamil Brahmin) "I can make curd rice for you if you would like that"

We were almost singing "Yankee Doodle went to town" when we entered the place.

They had a nice cozy family room that was secluded and gave us much needed peace and privacy for the meal.

There was no tomato soup in the menu card but he was ready to make it for us. We gave the situation a thought.Curd Rice was no big deal but a never-before-attempted-tomato-soup? We politely declined and stuck to the menu.

Masala Papad, Vegetable Pakoras, steaming chapathis, Dal, Mix Veg Masala - arrived one after another . The taste was heavenly and the aromas had us drifting into a meditative state of inner peace! Impeccably done with everything in correct proportion, the room was reverberating with the blessings that our satisfied souls were subconsciously sending in the man's direction.

Finally when the curd rice arrived we were spell bound. With the mustard, urad dal and curry leaves tempering, it appeared very close to perfection. When a spoonful of that went into our mouths we closed our eyes and uttered 'Ummmm' like the models in Gulab Jamun advertisements. It tasted close to perfection as well.

The basic purpose behind this post was to point out the business attitude and salesmanship of that person at the restaurant.

The effort that went into the curd rice preparation may have been minimal but that was what we needed at that hour. Knowing the need of your customer and going a little bit out of your way in satisfying that will go a long way in the success of any business.

We left the place happy and I am sure if we go to Langkawi again we will definitely pay him a visit. That sort of lasting impression would decide who stays in the run and who does not.

Boy! I never knew that my darling "Thayir Sadham"(curd rice) would get my simple mind to think about such topics like business, sales etc .   (Of course it proved the age old saying that appearances could be deceptive!)

46 comments:

  1. I eas waiting for an anti climax Jsish like meat in curd rice ;P I face similar situations here. Once I was asked to take as much salad I wanted just bcox I wanted veg burger & once I got beef in veg noodles :(. Now its pnly home food for me.

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    1. Oops! Thats bad! Fortunately no such incidents there!

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  2. Wow! When people go beyond their call of duty to help you it gives such a happy feeling for a long long time!

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    1. It does Shilpa and yes of course, a topic for ones blog :)

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  3. Interesting post. I particularly liked the Planetary bodies touch ! :D

    Enjoyed reading it..

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  4. Hi Jaish,

    I absolutely agree with you. Vegetarians have a tough time when they are travelling and they have to eat at a food joint. Most of the places in US as well as Europe do not even understand what a vegetarian diet is.
    However, the increasing population of Indians outside India has given people reasons to heave a sigh of relief. In fact, some of the famous diners and cafes in Washington DC are run by Indians and that too Gujaratis.

    It was great listening to this experience of yours. I hope and pray you do not have to face a harrowing time again when it comes to food. :) :) :)

    Regards

    Jay
    My Blog

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    1. Thanks a lot Jay. Hope your wishes have everlasting effect :)

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  5. It feels good to read such posts when you realise that such people do really exist :)

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  6. 327/39 ... hahaha :D.. Hilarious post. I generally hang arnd wid a bunch of my TamBrahm frnds so i totally get it :)

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    1. :) So I guess you should know what a high position curd rice gets in the list of Tam Brahm priorities in life ha ha

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  7. how interesting! nice to read yr curd and rice story.

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  8. Interesting, We vegetarians have tough time going to places where vegetarianism is an alien culture. But something like this really brightens up your day and entire trip.

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  9. Hmm...that was curdlicious story, Jaish. I will have to face similar stories soon. I am a vegetarian for the past one year but manage to eat any veggie food. But my in laws are going to be here shortly and they need RICE...donno how I am going to manage on their trips...I have to pack a wagon of food and rice cooker, rice bag, yogurt tins..ufff!!!

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    1. I actually thought of rice cooker but then decided against it ! :)

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  10. this thought crossed my mind recently... about the food options for vegetarians abroad. As you said, many dont consider fish and even eggs as non-vegetarian ( what kind of logic is there in that, i'm not quite sure. )
    Still, as you said, it was heartening to watch someone make the extra effort just to please the customer.. not a common sight sadly today

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    1. Yes Roshan . Very uncommon today but it does have an impact . Talk about veg options . In some places raw carrots would be ur only means to survive !

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  11. Really, I was waiting for a twist in the climax. But it turned out so sweet that you got curd rice with mustard, urad dhal tempering. A real spell bound experience it should have been. And thanks to God that I ve not been to foreign to suffer the way for getting 100% pure vegetarian food like the people who do. Nice one :)

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    1. Well Hari, you must venture out specifically for that. Only when exposed to scarcity will we appreciate what we get back home. And finding food in unknown lands is an adventure by itself :)

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  12. A high five Jaishree, as I am just like you when it comes to eating ! A pure vegeterian and I could almost feel enjoying the curd rice in Langkawi! I have faced many a similar situations:_ A lovely read and do tell more stories of Langkawi!

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  13. Jaish! long time later spell bound and smiled with your post...
    Good punch to end with :)) good one :)

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  14. Ha ha ha:):D
    Wonderfully written, Jaish, as always:) Thoroughly enjoyed:) Thank you!

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  15. I had similar experiences. Life is so easy when one can eat anything... Chinese people would conquer the world one day!

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  16. 327/39... LOL

    Curd rice has always been a TamBrahm favourite, right? To think that it's so famous that it's made it's way to USA also... WOW!

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    1. Yeah vishal . Always . Can associate it with home made food :)

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  17. Your post has given a very nice humorous start to my day Jaishree,thanks!

    All the while as i read it,i was thinking that now a lump of something was going to pop out;but thankfully you had a nice meal.

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    1. Luckily nothing of that sort happened

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  18. I laughed out at the 327/39 too! LOL. Yeah it's tough if you're a strict vegetarian. Most cuisines don't have a lot of options.

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    1. Usually the cuisines do , the restaurants don't ! :(

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  19. Hmm! coming in late is a problem - someone has said what you would want to say :) Anyway, I think it is the curse of the times that we cannot even take a breath without thinking of management sales etc. :)

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    1. Looking at words like late, curse, management etc. I was thinking you commented on the wrong post by mistake before I realized you were talking about yourself coming late in here!

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  20. You created poetry around food. I agree finding good veg food abroad is a huge challenge. I could almost imagine your facd when you saw that curd rice appear :).

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  21. I am averse to curd - I puke out the moment it hits my taste-buds - have never been able to sample lassi, chhaas and the very thought of tasting them makes me want to puke!! However, this post made me smile :)
    Restaurants abroad do their best to please the customer - it is one thing I really appreciate about these places. Most places in India, esp. the posh restaurants, act very high and mighty if you start asking them to tweak the menu even a little bit. I have never faced such issues abroad.

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    1. Oh Oh! Thats bad, I was a little averse to curd during my first trimester of pregnancy, otherwise I can dive into the bowl :)

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  22. I had been a Quality Analyst and would check on the data that had the Veg column. Most of the subordinates got it wrong confusing the Vegetable and Vegetarian. If facing that on an Excel sheet can be difficult, I really can imagine your helplessness in a foreign land.

    I have to tell you this - You've written the post expressively. I couldn't help but chuckle reading your food-ulous experience. :P

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  23. Hello Jaish. This is my first visit to your site. You have an excellent command on the language. . The manner in which you started the article and built it and ended optmistically (though unexpected for the readers) is very enjoyable. Food is a real problem when we, vegetarians go abroad.My Husband went to Pakistan some years back. There too even an egg is considered as vegetarian.

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    1. Welcome here Usha. Thanks for the kind words and yes, outside India vegetarian is extremely tough !

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  24. Getting vegetarian food in SE Asia is truly a task! My husband had such a tough time in Japan, he often remained hungry when his group went to a restaurant!

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  25. I know it can be tough for pure vegetarians travelling the world. The other day when I was out with some relatives at a Mexican place, we found that they had little option for the vegetarians in the group. We asked them if they could make a veg burrito and they said they had the black beans and chicken pre-mixed. :( The only option left was some Nachos. :-|

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