My diet during the two weeks I spent volunteering at an orphanage in Pokhara, Nepal can best be summed up by something I saw on a t-shirt at a local souvenir shop: Dal bhat power 24 hour.
Dal bhat, you see, a combination of lentils and veggies (that’s the dal) and steamed rice (the bhat), is pretty much THE staple dish of the nepalese diet. And no kidding, they eat it 24 hours. What’s for breakfast? Dal bhat. How bout lunch? Dal bhat. And dinner? Yup, more dal bhat.
All day, every day
Sure, there are lots of variations on the traditional dal bhat plate, and in cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara, which have seen a large influx of international travelers over the last few decades, you can certainly find other things to eat, but generally speaking, dal bhat is the national culinary star. At a self sustaining rural orphanage that grows and provides all of its own food this was certainly the case.
I should pause here for a moment to say that in no way am I complaining about my dal bhat heavy diet, nor did I complain at the time when I was eating it twice a day. The women who ran the orphanage and prepared the food were pros and worked magic with herbs and spices. Simple lentils, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and other things grown right behind the orphanage turned into rich, delicious, saucy, curried meals that left kids and volunteers alike scraping their plates and going back for seconds.
My fondest memories of my time volunteering in Pokhara will always be those when we huddled around picnic tables outside in the January chill with a group of giggling, goofy, squawking kids, pouring rich lentil soup over fluffy white rice, mixing in chunky, comforting curried veggies over it all. Makes me kind of wish I had bought that t-shirt.
As a personal rule, I try and not order anything with shrimp, crab or lobster in it when I’m eating with Flaneur because as I’ve mentioned before, he’s allergic to them. Every once in a while though, I break that rule, and most recently I did it in Mexico.
In New York, I can always go back to a restaurant with friends but in Mexico there was no such thing, so when at dinner one night the house special where we were eating (La Habichuela in downtown Cancun) was a plate that involved two of the three in the trinity of shellfish allergies, I bent my rule and ordered it anyway.
House special: cocobichuela
How could you not be curious about a dish that involved lobster and shrimp cooked in curry, served with rice, all inside a coconut and garnished with pineapple, coconut shavings and sweet plantains? I mean really. I wished the beau could try it, but there was no reason both of us couldn’t.
I won’t say it was the best thing I ate during my vacation, but it was probably one of the most interesting and definitely got the most points for presentation. Though you can’t see it in the picture, the inside of the coconut was full of a rich, hearty bunch of rice with fat chunks of sweet lobster and shrimp in a peppery, sweet and earthy tasting curry sauce.
Maybe I was a little selfish in ordering this, but the boyfriend understood. Plus, vacations aren’t about following the rules anyway.
The end of NYC Restaurant Week is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, I’ve had lots of really great food over the past two weeks and tried lots of new dishes and new restaurants. On the other hand, all this eating out is making me feel like an absolute cow. I’ve been avoiding the scale at the gym like it’s an old boyfriend. I walk into the locker room and immediately look down, as if I make eye contact, I’ll be forced to go over and say hello. And then everything will get awkward and uncomfortable.
Spiced chicken samosas with cilantro yogurt
But of the different lunches and dinners I’ve had over the last couple of weeks, my favorite was at Spice Market, the massive Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in the Meatpacking District. With two choices for each of the four courses offered, Flaneur and I successfully managed to get everything that was on the southeast asian inspired restaurant’s RW menu.
But instead of writing about everything and making this an obscenely long post, I’ll tell you this much: the chicken samosas were delicious, and probably my favorite savory item. The slaw was good but my least favorite, and Flaneur thought it was way too spicy (although he’s a weeny about spicy food so take that for what it’s worth). The desserts were both fantastic and if they sold the ginger ice cream by the gallons, I would totally keep my fridge stocked. Everything was beautifully presented, with each plate artfully designed to be just as appealing to the eye as it was to the tongue. The colors, like the flavors, were vibrant, bright and bold. Beautiful and delicious? A meal after my own heart. Continue reading