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.

Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Tomato and Coriander Chutneys

When Kenny and I go to Delhi, we like to stay at Saubhag Bed and Breakfast, run by our own adopted Indian auntie, Meera. During our visit last month, I complimented Meera on her delicious tomato chutney, and she promised to send me the recipe. Here it is, with a bonus recipe below for coriander chutney. I haven’t tried either yet (the second will be difficult, as I am mixie-less here in Kampala), but I am hoping to try my hand at the tomato soon.

Meera’s Sweet Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 2 kg tomatoes
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 large onion (80 gm)
  • 7 flakes garlic
  • 1 large piece ginger (30 gm)
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chili powder (10 gm)
  • Garam Masala (2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp pepper, 4 small pieces cinnamon, 5  cloves)
  • 3 tsp acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Blanche and peel ripe red tomatoes. Cut into small pieces (I put them into the blender for a few minutes).
  2. Cut onion and garlic very fine, grind ginger
  3. Add sugar to tomatoes. Put in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on fire.
  4. When chutney turns a little thick, add salt, chili powder, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Cook for a few minutes more. Turn off fire and add acetic acid.
  6. Cool chutney and enjoy!

Meera’s Green Coriander Chutney
Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium bunch coriander leaves
  • 1 small onion
  • 5-6 flakes garlic
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground cumin
  • 3-4 green chilies
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ lemon squeezed
  • Salt to taste

Instructions 

  1. Grind all above
  2. Add one heaped teaspoon plain yogurt if desired

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.