that's the exact feeling one gets after drinking the first sip of "cona coffee with cream" at the United Coffee House.
thanks to my friend ankur suman, i'm sure he knew that i will find this concoction amusing enough when he first took me to this restaurant in connaught place with an old world charm. anybody who wants to walk back a couple of decades to experience delhi, just walk in to the United Coffee House. the chandelier, the upholstery, the decor everything is well preserved from the last generation.
now about "cona coffee with cream" well it seems like it had been prepared by a scientist and not a chef. the waiter walked to my table with a "volumetric flask" fixed on a "ring stand", and in the volumetric flask is a dark coloured potion made out of these magic beans after being roasted and ground. he gently pours the potion into the a white cup which had already been placed on the table. and now one needs to be careful the potion starts acting on your senses, it's smell may already start intoxicating you. there maybe sudden urge to pick the cup and bring it towards your lips. but the waiter is in complete control, he does not let you touch it. instead he picks one of the polished silverware and starts pouring rich cream into the cup. while he is engrossed in the act of pouring the cream his eyes are in contact with your to get the hint when you want him to stop. after this you are left all by yourself to indulge in the moment, but just before leaving he slides the sugar cubes towards you. also you may find another silverware with hot milk in it (which in my suggestion should be avoided, the name says "cream" so stick to it do not dilute the magic).
now it's turn for you to pick the cup an enjoy a creamy but robust cup of coffee. soon the cup will be empty but the effect remains on you for a while.
flight attendant "sir what would you like to have for dinner" I "what are the choices" flight attendant "veg food or normal food"
i knew that i was heading in the right direction. for the next few days i will survive only on normal food.
next six hours will take me far enough from the kebbabs of karim's to the land unknown. to a language unknown. only thing that made me feel safe was that the food will be normal, nothing will be vegetarian about it. be it the donkey meat or the solid blood of duck. it was amazing what all came on my plate and ended up in my tummy, i would have been happy enough to write down the names and ingredients of all of them. just that the language was a bit to alien for me to know what exactly was there on my plate.
the first day was a bit of an issue. to eat with chopsticks was a pain for me, anyways i let go of the embarrassment and put my fingers to optimum use on the table.
next day onwards i made sure of carrying a fork all the time with me. that proved to be my most important weapon during the trip to beijing. to get the dumplings out of the soup or picking the meat out of the wok all those wars where won by the help of the mighty fork.
along with the fooda bit of delicate chinese tea was always welcoming. and the way they prepare and serve tea is almost like a ritual. the love and respect for the process is outstanding. little cups as in really little cups would be filled with tea, little enough to be poured with a sip of transparent, mild fragrant tea. tea would be served time and again. whether it's tea at a posh restaurant or sitting with the cab drivers and sharing tea with them, all the time it would be refreshing and elating.
the other interesting liquid coming on the table would be baijiu it's simply 38% alcohol made by fermenting rice. the first neat gulp tastes like drinking liquefied fire by the next gulp your mind and body gets acclimatised to it.the beauty of baijiu is not just about how it tastes but also about the beautiful ceramic bottles in which they come to the table.these bottle will generally be earthy in colour with the names in chinese calligraphy, it would be foolish to leave behind the empty bottles. they would make excellent souvenirs from china.well i managed to carry back two such bottle in my bag.
overall rating would be 10/10 for people who are passionate about food without bothering to know what it is. it's pointless to waste time in cracking the ancient chinese codes to know the name of the bird or animal or the egg on your platter. rather just eat and enjoy the moment. eat as much as you can as you are running out of time, soon there is flight to catch back to chandni chowk.
four days of normal food and i am back to my real life.
back to gurgaon.
sitting on my book shelf are the empty ceramic bottles remind me of the drizzling, the small restaurant overlooking the great wall, the beef curry, the over boiled rice, the pork fry, the over eating, the joy... ...all this is now fills up those ceramic bottle. the alcohol is no more in the bottle but the spirit of chinese food will remain there tightly locked in those little bottles. the reddish cubes in the front are solid duck blood ready to be heated in spiced oil and eaten.
no clue what they are but the taste was really good and price was really cheap, all this in a road side shop in a hutong.
tea with the bunch of drivers and workers.
never knew of so many varieties of eggs that too being sold as food product (lack of knowledge).