Sunday, October 07, 2012

Tselha Anze - II

[Continued from Part I]

In contrast to the hackneyed Chinese items, the Tibetan dishes on offer were genuinely interesting. I think this was the first time I've come across a Tibetan selection more extensive than Momo and Thupka. They were there all right. One whole section was devoted to Momos. It listed no less than eight items including Kothey (forgot what it was), Rechotse (Momo in soup), and the charmingly-named Ting Momo (more on this later). Then there was a separate section entitled "Tibetan Cuisine". Apart from two varieties of Thukpa, it featured Gyathuk (ribbon noodles in soup); Sha Bhaglab (more on this later); Pingsha (glass noodles - out of stock that day); Thenthuk (flat noodles in either soupy or dry form); and a sampler, or Tibetan Thali as they called it. I ordered the Beef Sha Bhaglab, or flat, lasagne-like noodles stir-fried with thinly sliced meat and veggies. It turned out to be a wildly successful choice. What I found most remarkable was that the separate components, even the vegetables, retained their own distinctive taste and juiciness. The carrot was crisp, not undercooked; the spinach retained its texture without wilting. And the meat was delicious - thinly sliced, succulent, well done and yet not overcooked as to lose flavour.

The serving was substantial, enough for a full meal, and as such excellent value for money at seventy Rupees. But given  that long walk on top of a rather sketchy lunch, it simply didn't stand a chance against my starvation levels. I could tackle another full meal. This time I opted for Shabtak. I didn't have my DSLR with me, so had to rely on my phone cam. Its performance is drab as it is; in low light situations it's downright execrable (you really messed up on that front, Motorola). Execrable is more or less how the Shabtak pictures turned out; with the flash switched on the effect was still ghastlier. Which was sad, because actually the preparation looked every bit as tempting as this lovely photo on Courant.com makes it out to be. It carries the caption "spicy sliced beef and sauteed with onion, red and green bell peppers and jalapeno" - as succinct a summary as any, though the jalapeño must have been a western innovation. Tibetan Kitchen, the eatery where the picture was taken, mentions only "long hot pepper". On the other hand this recipe on China Tibet Online, which calls it "browned beef", specifies not only the western jalapeño but also speciality ingredients like ground Emmo (Sichuan peppercorn) and Churu (mould ripened Tibetan cheese), which makes me wonder what sort of audience the site caters to.

[Aside: China Tibet Online, effectively the Chinese government's Tibet portal, is a classic in its own right. One article proclaims, "Official: The Dalai Lama's New 'Prime Minister' Illegitimate". Despite reading it through several times I was unable to figure out just what it was that made the illegitimacy official in character, and on whose authority. A little net-snooping turned out to be instructive. It seems the text was taken from articles that appeared on Global Times (to which it carries an attribution) and People's Daily, but with the first eight paragraphs omitted for some reason. And oh, also with the headline tweaked ever so slightly: both original versions go "Dalai's [sic] New 'Prime Minister' Illegitimate: Official". Now the mystery clears somewhat: not officially illegitimate, but illegitimate according to some official. The missing paragraphs identify the official as Xu Zhitao, a Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee member. Little surprise, then, that he would denounce the appointment. But no, it turns out his remarks were about the putative illegitimacy of the Dalai Lama government as a whole. Even the reason given why appointment is flawed, and should be dismissed as "just another political show by the Dalai Lama", is that the government itself is non-official in character. So the article contains nothing at all about the PM's appointment specifically. Which makes for a rather piece of writing, not to mention insubstantial. But perhaps it might not be fair to blame China Tibet Online for it. After all, not only did it procure the article from other sources, it even took pains to omit the paragraphs where the problem locates!]

At Tselha Anze they happily used regular green pepper. I have no idea what kind of peppercorn they opted for, and don't recall tasting any kind of cheese. Tenzin insisted I have it with Ting Momo (or Tingmo as Tibetan Kitchen calls it) - rolls of dough twisted into interesting shapes and then steamed to a fluffy softness. I shall not wax eloquent about the Shabtak as I did about the Sha Bhaglab, suffice it to say that it was every bit as toothsome as the latter. So much so that even at the end of the meal, when I was close to stuffed, I still found it enjoyable to break off off bits from the Ting Momo, use them to mop up the gravy that had collected at the bottom of the bowl, and then chew them unhurriedly to savour the taste of the gravy. By the time I finished, there was literally nothing left in the bowl, except maybe a dried chilli or two. It cost me eighty-five Rupees, plus another fifteen for the single Momo I had (they usually sell in pairs).

By this time it had become dark,and pleasantly cool. So I decided to take yet another walk. A different sort of walk, though. Unlike the unseeing frenzy that characterised the earlier one, this was a gentle saunter through Shanthi Nagar. An old neighbourhood, surprisingly heterogenous, and with some really pretty houses. I couldn't take pictures of them, there was hardly any light around. But these murals painted on the walls of a nursery school (and fortunately located just below a street lamp) proved too strong a temptation to resist.

6 comments:

leftwrite said...

Good to see you back to blogging! :)

...and well written ;-) Though i wish you had written more about the food :P

However, how can I let go without some quibbles? but out of politeness will keep them to only two

(i) I am sure you have eaten at Majnu ka Tila in Delhi, and they have a few pretty good Tibetan joints. So how do you say that you have not seen a Tibetan eatery with choice beyond Momos and Thukpas? One restaurant, Wongdhen, in MkT has an extensive menu, amazing food and is pretty cheap.

(ii) why have you broken the post into two? It only breaks the flow of the thing and I thought it was quite unnecessary...

Anyway, eat more, write more, and chato less!

Abhik Majumdar said...

Many, thanks for the comment Aniket. I agree I should have written more about the food. The problem is, there's only so much one person can eat. Even after such a hefty walk I could manage only two entrees. Always a good idea to do things in groups.

> I am sure you have eaten at Majnu ka Tila in Delhi . . .. One restaurant, Wongdhen, in MkT has an extensive menu, amazing food and is pretty cheap.

I've been to MKT a few times, yes, and have even written about it:

http://foodscapes.blogspot.com/2006/10/majnu-ka-tila.html

Unfortunately, though, my experience there has been restricted to the seedier chhang-and-sukuti joints. Never did come across a more elaborate restaurant. I may've been Wong (or at least unfamiliar) Dhen, certainly plan to make up for it the next time I visit those parts.

> why have you broken the post into two?

Funny you should say that. Only yesterday someone was saying my posts were to wordy! I generally go by a simple rule-of-the thumb: if the post exceeds ten paras, I split it into two. This one extended just beyond it. Maybe I should raise the bar, then.

> and chato less!

I guess it's futile to hope you'll ever outgrow your JNU lingo.

Alice Samson said...

I think this is quite an interesting way of letting your readers know how you experienced the phenomenon of Tibetan food. I really love your descriptions of the dishes although they are funny at times e.g the carrots weren't undercooked??? shud we expect Tibetan cuisine to be so? don't know what you meant there.

Some great suggestions for those of us who rarely pay attention to whether something is Tibetan or not...everything until now was 'Chinese' for me.

I disagree with Aniket that you shud stick to writing about food I think the 'Aside' was a superb idea what's all your gyan for!

but I really wish you used some better pictures of the dishes good resolution ones hopefully and it really helps people like me with minimal concentration powers if the text is broken down with interesting fonts, headings and you could use a lot more color in your blog....looking forward to reading more

Alice

Abhik Majumdar said...

Enjoyed reading the comment Alice, many thanks!

> e.g the carrots weren't undercooked??? shud we expect Tibetan cuisine to be so?

Ahem, I said 'crisp, not undercooked'. as in they remained crisp but not raw.

> I disagree with Aniket that you shud stick to writing about food I think the 'Aside' was a superb idea what's all your gyan for!

:) :) :) This makes my day!!

> but I really wish you used some better pictures of the dishes good resolution ones hopefully

I fully agree with this one. Hopefully the next few posts won't suffer this problem. On my jaunts to the Hole in the Wall Cafe and Cafe Thulp, I had my DSLR with me.

> if the text is broken down with interesting fonts, headings and you could use a lot more color in your blog....

Hmm. Actually the present design emanates out of conscious choice. I've come across too many blogs, especially food blogs, that seem to consider bells and whistles an acceptable substitute for content.

But yes, I'll certainly think about it, and see if the blogs's looks can be tweaked a bit without overshadowing its contents.

Unknown said...

Hey - great one! And yes.... good to see this blog revived after a long time! Only wish you had combined the two parts. Reading the first one was rather unsatisfactory since there was hardly any mention of the food. Of course Part 2 made up for it, but I think making it one straight presentation would have definitely added value.

Abhik Majumdar said...

Point taken, Ani. Will certainly review the policy of splitting posts. OTOH, I've received comments in the past that some posts are too long.