Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bit of Bugs

Since arriving in Delhi, I have become somewhat addicted to the vegetarian chow min from Parmeshwar, one of those little roadside type eateries right behind my office. Had I actually seen the place before I had the food for the first time, I would have politely declined, but I have to say the food has always been excellent. Fast forward to yesterday when I had my normal cravings for the chow min. It got delivered, I piled it all onto my plate and started inhaling my food, stuffing in as much as my mouth would hold in one go. I still have that particular habit left over from when I was 4. If a little is good, a lot is better and so I make alike a squirrel, stuffing my face until my cheeks puff out.

So there I was with overstuffed mouth, noodles hanging here and there and sauce dripping down my well shaped and chiseled chin (well, there just is no elegant way to eat the stuff, so why not make the most of it?) and was just about finished with the meal when I saw it. Well, I didn’t really notice it, per se, what I noticed where its legs. I quickly became apparent that a bug had been chopped, seasoned and stir fried right into my dish. I went immediately into denial and called a colleague for a second opinion. Perhaps there I some odd vegetable that grows legs and I was simply over-reacting as I like to do every once in a while. He was not about to let me keep my head buried in the sand, he told me I had indeed found bug bits in sprinkled amongst my noodles.

I have eaten chocolate covered bees and ants, snake, crunched on grasshoppers and almost ordered king toad for dinner once in Beijing, but this uninvited guest was giving me major issues. Of course, it didn’t stop there. My colleague told me about the time when someone found a cockroach in the food and I almost had to make a mad dash for the washroom to evacuate any residents I may have unknowingly taken on board. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be ordering from them anytime in the near future.

But that is not the end of my culinary adventures, oh no. In fact, my friend Abdul has scored some major points by taking me to the most fantastic place in Old Delhi, just a hop, skip and jump away from Jama Masjid. We took the metro to Chawri Bazaar where we emerged in almost total darkness. The power was out so we did what any modern citizens of the world would do, we had some chai (well, Abdul had chai, I stuck to my barbaric ways and had a Diet Coke) and then grabbed a bicycle rickshaw to Jama Masjid where the lights were on and everything was buzzing. He led me through this narrow doorway and down a short hall to a small courtyard that was Karim’s. Aaaah, Karim’s. The place was absolutely amazing and the menu made my mouth water, all except item number 29, the brain curry. I left the ordering to Abdul who I implicitly instructed not to order brains. I had visions of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when they have dinner and the monkey heads are opened. Abdul suggested I try them, but I stuck with my philosophy; With this bone structure, who needs brains? I was glad to discover he was joking (or at least I think he was… Hmmm… come to think of it, he might have slipped me some grey matter and be laughing about it right now). But seriously kids, the food was amazing and I can’t wait to head back this weekend.

After dinner I had yet another new experience in India. We took a bus from Old Delhi to Defence Colony. Busses in India don’t really stop, they just slow down a bit and you grab the handle and pull yourself up, trusting the people behind you to either shove you into the bus or provide cushion in case the whole thing goes wrong. But I did well for a gora and we were soon navigating the windy streets at hyperdrive speeds, taking corners on two wheels while the latest in Hindi Hop provided the musical backdrop. It was soon time for us to leave the bus, which proved a bit trickier than getting on… One must stand in the doorway (with no real door, mind you) and hold on for dear life. As the bus slows a bit near the stop, you count to three and jump into traffic, hoping for the best or at least a good hospital in the hood. I managed to come out of that little adventure relatively unscathed and after a few nerve calming cocktails, I felt like my old self again.

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