Babajob Fashion

We received a nice surprise in our mailbox a few days ago – fashionable Babajob shirts, in customized male and female styles, sent to us by our good friends in Bangalore. Now we can show our Babajob pride all over Seattle.

Babajob shirts
Proudly sporting the latest fashions from Bangalore

In other Babajob news, CEO (and our good friend) Sean Blagsvedt was featured in a short spot in India Today magazine a couple of weeks ago. He’ll also be speaking at the SXSW Tech Summit in a few weeks.

Adiga’s

Rating:

In Malleswaram there are a large number of sagar shops where you can get quick, delicious south Indian fare. One of our favorites is Adiga’s, located just around the corner from Sean and Archana’s place.

The main floor is typical of a sagar shop (or “hotel”), if a bit larger than most. You order near the entrance from the cashier, pay, and receive a number of receipts. Each receipt needs to be taken to the appropriate station (e.g. dosa, meals, idly, roti), where a worker will  magically turn your receipt into the dishes listed. At both stages, it’s important to know how to deal with an IndiaQueue. Once you’ve obtained your meal, you grab a section of long, shared countertops and dig in while standing.

On this trip, Archana introduced us to the upstairs “restaurant” part of Adiga’s, which I didn’t even know existed. The upstairs experience is less busy – you are seated at your own table, given a menu, and served by a waiter. The choices are similar, though some smaller items such as roti curry are replaced with larger variations such as dal fry. Prices are higher since portions are bigger and you are getting table service, but it’s a nicer environment to linger in. I enjoyed the experience, though my favorite part of Adiga’s is still the ground floor with its communal feel.

Overall, Adiga’s is a great stop for a quick meal of south Indian favorites. In particular, their roti curry, rava idly, and special dosai are my favorites. I also like stealing a few bites of Sean’s ever-present channa batura.

Happy to be at Adigas
Enjoying an assortment of goodies for lunch

Sean with his channa batura Lauren and her roti curry
Sean with channa batura and south Indian coffee, Lauren with roti curry

Palak Dosa
Palak dosa

Rava idly
Rava idly

Adiga’s
Sampige Road at 15th Cross (+ other branches in the Bangalore area)
Bangalore, India 560003
+91 80 4153 5991

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Jamun

One fun change from our last visit to Bangalore is the availability of different fruits on the street. Mangoes are certainly getting prime billing, and there are at least three varieties on every block. However, there are also many carts peddling oblong, shiny black fruits called jamun. While I was unable to sample jamun-flavored ice cream last night at Natural (they were out of stock), we acquired some of the whole fruits on our way home from lunch this afternoon. The taste had some similarities to goumi, including the side-effect of drying out my mouth, though the overtones were mildly sweet instead of sour.

Street vendor
A jamun street vendor in Malleswaram

Jamun
Jamun!

Auspicious Dancing

Last night, Steve, Justin, Rachel, Lauren and I were walking around Malleswaram, and encountered an intersection filled with people. There were two portable shrines lit by small spotlights, live percussion music, and what I can roughly describe as an Indian mosh-pit in the middle.

In this part of town, a group of five white people clearly stand out. So when we stopped to check out the action, Steve was approached by a few locals and invited to dance. Later he quipped that his “many years of dancing at Phish shows prepared him for this moment.” Ultimately we were all sucked into the action, to the delight of all. I noticed numerous camera flashes going off, and we were surrounded by cheers and laughter. When we were finished dancing, a crowd peeled off with us and everyone wanted to shake our hands. Chandu, the owner of a restaurant overlooking the dancing, offered us a place to stay (we were covered), and cold Fantas (we couldn’t refuse).


Steve dancing with the locals

Shrine
Shrine

Our new friends
Our new friends

Kenny and Steve marked with powder
Proof of our adventure

Why is Western Veg Food So Boring?

During our stays in India and among Burmese people in Thailand this year, Kenny and I have often observed that vegetarian food is so much more interesting – and delicious – in communities where eating meat is not the norm. In the case of our South Indian friends, the refusal to eat meat stems from religious observance, while for our Burmese friends (especially the tribe with whom I was working), it’s simply a result of the high price of meat. Both cuisines feature some of the best vegetarian food I have ever consumed.

This observation was reinforced several times this week, when I heard many of my carnivorous friends proclaim that South Indian cuisine has revolutionized their idea of what non-meat food could be. All of the meals we’ve eaten in Bangalore – especially those at Archana’s parents’ house – have been spicy, varied, and spectacularly delicious. South Indians just make incredible use of lentils, beans, whole grains, tomatoes, okra, coconuts, jackfruit, chilies, and even plain old potatoes.

What a contrast after the steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower that were often served as a side dish in London and environs. Bleh. Even Seattle, which features a relatively creative restaurant scene and a plethora of ethnic restaurants, is fairly boring on the vegetarian front. I’d kill for a real South Indian restaurant.

Monsoon Wedding

This being the monsoon season, Sean and Archana’s wedding reception last night required a few last minute changes due to a prolonged rainstorm. They were forced to abandon their beautiful setup on the lawn in favor of an alternate beautiful setup in the bar area, which offered a bit more protection from the dampness. Archana looked amazing in a blue and gold saree that her mother had designed for the occasion, and Sean was looking dapper in a suit. We were treated to some excellent performances by S & A’s friends and family, as a sort of informal sangeet. We even threw something together ourselves, dubbed “Jai Hora”.

Sean and Archana at reception
Sean and Archana enjoying the sangeet

By this morning, the storm had passed, and the sun shone brightly for the wedding ceremony. Archana had spent months preparing the landscaping in the front garden of her parents’ house for the occasion. Today it was beautifully decorated with orange and white streamers, jasmine, and marigolds, and the grass was strewn with orange cushions for the guests.

Of course, many of us foreigners were a bit confused at various times during the ceremony, but the couple had compiled a comprehensive program that helped us follow along as best we could.

Sridhar taking photos
Sridhar playing photographer, which his daughter apparently found amusing

Bride and groom
Bride and groom

Father and groom
Father and groom

Puffed rice
Dropping puffed rice into the fire

Streamers

Kenny and Lauren

After the ceremony, we enjoyed a delicious and abundant vegetarian banana leaf feast in a tent that had been set up just across the street.

This may sound like it’s been an epic celebration already, but the festivities aren’t over yet! Tonight there will be a party for the “kids” at Jaaga, and then we all take off for a Jungle Retreat weekend early tomorrow morning.

Hallimane

Rating:

Hallimane was one of the best restaurants that Archana introduced me and Kenny to last fall, and we returned this week with our Seattle friends for a decadent lunch feast. It is conveniently located in Malleswaram, just a short walk from Sean and Archana’s apartment and an even shorter walk from the wedding hotel.

Its name is Kannada for “village house,” indicating that the menu features the typical foods of rural Karnataka. Of course, for variety, there is also an array of North Indian dishes available, but everything is vegetarian.

Like many casual lunch joints here in Bangalore, Hallimane has a system where customers order and pay at the counter and then deliver receipts to various stations to collect their food. Most hot dishes can be picked up indoors, while ragi and akki rotis as well as parotas must be collected from the men working the flat grill outside. Because Hallimane is always packed, this process involves elbowing your way through throngs of people, and is not recommended for claustrophobics.

Two of their signature dishes are made of ragi, the grain of Karnataka: ragi roti, and ragi mudde, which is a mushy steamed ball of grain. The mudde was certainly not for me, but Kenny and I love love loved the roti, which is made from a batter that includes onions, chilies and dill. We even tried making our own in Archana’s kitchen last fall, but had problems with the rotis falling apart. Thus was born our invention of the ragi waffle.

On our visit with the Seattle friends, we devoured a huge two-round feast, including several orders of ragi roti, two akki roti (made of rice flour), two aloo parota, one ragi mudde for everyone to try (no one enjoyed it much more than I had on the first visit), and a rava idly. We even tried a couple of North Indian dishes this time – channa masala, shahi paneer, naan, and kulcha – and they were excellent, probably the best North Indian I’ve had in Bangalore. For less than $2/person everyone was in food heaven, followed by a huge food coma that threatened to impede our last-minute wedding reception shopping.

Overall, it was an epic food day, starting with Veena for breakfast, continuing with Hallimane for lunch, and finishing off with a huge dinner buffet at Jayamahal for Sean and Archana’s wedding reception.

Lunch at Hallimane
Mini-feast at Hallimane with Kenny and Archana last fall

Kenny and Archana
Kenny and Archana love Hallimane

Hallimane feast
Hallimane feast with the Seattle friends

Hallimane chefs
These guys make the delicious ragi and akki rotis

Hallimane
3rd cross Sampige Road
Malleswaram
Bangalore, India 560003
+91-80-65611222

Indian Dress-up

This morning the rest of the Seattle crew arrived in Bangalore. Although they were jet lagged, we only had 34 hours remaining until the wedding, so we were forced to ply everyone with coffee and take them downtown for an Indian wedding clothes shopping trip.

Lauren and I had brought our outfits from last fall, and while we were in Delhi Gio purchased two kurti in Karol Bagh (though no pointy shoes). So this afternoon on Commercial Street, Justin, Steve and Brad were the stars of the show.

On Sean and Archana’s recommendation, we started our adventures at Prestige the Man Store. While most of their sherwanis were a bit over the top decoration-wise (and quite pricey), they also had a large selection of reasonable kurti. After about 30 minutes of fashion shows, we had fulfilled half of our mission; Brad walked away with two outfits, and Justin with one. Furthermore, since we were shopping at an upscale store in India, we were served another round of coffee. While Steve was a little distraught that he had come up short at Prestige, he struck gold (well, rust actually) at FabIndia. A few street-side shops provided the last two kurti, as well as an assortment of stoles to complete the new ensembles.

With wedding preparations behind us, we celebrated our purchases over drinks at the 13th floor, a bar in the tallest building on MG Road that provided a great view of the daily thunderstorm (it is monsoon season), followed by an awesome meal at my favorite sit-down restaurant in Bangalore, Coconut Grove. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone decked out tomorrow night for the main event.

Justin making shopping decisions
Justin finally narrowed his choices to two…but how to decide?

Brad's kurta Justin's kurta for the reception
Brad decided on the “Greek god” look for the ceremony, and we got to see how Justin would fit into the Indian royal court

Drinks with a view
After jet lag and heavy duty shopping, it’s important to unwind with drinks overlooking the city parade grounds

Passage Back to India

We’re back in the Motherland. After five days touring around London and environs, and yet another red-eye, we’re in Delhi. We’ll be here for a couple of days playing tour guides for our good friend Gio, including a one-day stopover in Agra. Of course, Kenny insists that we will have a meal at the new and improved Khan Chacha. I just can’t wait to try Indian mangoes.

On Tuesday, we head down to Bangalore to join the fun for Sean and Archana’s wedding festivities. I can’t wait to see them and to revisit the neighborhood where we lived for two months this past fall. I’m also extremely excited to take all of the folks coming in from the US shopping for Indian wedding clothes. We already have ours, of course.