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India from a Chinese perspective

September 11, 2012

Following Dev Lewis’s articles as an Indian in China, below is the first in a series of experiences chronicled by young Chinese professionals in Indian megapolis’s.

On a bright Sunday morning, I ventured for the first time to Vile Parle a suburb of Bombay, and went for brunch at the well-known restaurant Gajalee. The restaurant is famous for its seafood, which is quite unusual in Bombay especially under the monsoon season, where it becomes extremely difficult to catch some fresh fish. The only available ones are pretty pricy. No wonder that on the menu, prices of all the fresh seafood were marked as “market price” instead of numbers, which basically means expensive. Unsurprisingly, a big crab cost around 1,000 rupees. Just like in China, waiters brought out the actual fish to customers to prove its freshness before cooking them. At the same time, it was also a show-off moment that gathered everyone’s attention and some occasional children’s screams.

The best and most essential part of the meal was the Tandoori crab. A friend who had been here once highly recommended it. And it was amazing. I was never used to eating spicy food at home, but still couldn’t take my hands off it. It was grilled to the perfect degree that it reinforced the enticing flavor of the spices, which well complemented the crab meat itself. I could suck out the tender chunks of crab meat covered in spices and oil. Crabs here were very different from those back home in Southern China. They were much bigger in size, in fact too big to fit into an adult’s both hands. Their humongous chunks of meat compensated for a lack of roe. Due to its huge size, it took me a while to finish a mere crab leg, and that was enough to feed me for half of the day.

Another interesting dish was called Bombay Duck. It wasn’t a literal name. Rather, it was a local fish. Freshly fried and served, it was crispy on the outside and tender inside. With some lemon juice squeezed on it, Bombay Duck was a great appetizer, which in my point of view, surpassed most fish fillets I’ve had in my life.

What’s also worth mentioning is this pink drink on top of the picture below. Don’t be deceived by its color and think it’s some strawberry or pomegranate juice. It was neither sweet nor sour. We each ordered one because our Indian friend highly recommended this local drink and claimed it would go perfectly with the seafood. I therefore expected highly of it, and waited anxiously until it was finally served. I immediately took a gulp. And I almost spitted it out. It was an interesting mix of spicy and salty. Far from my expectation of a sweet and sour summer drink, it was then left intact throughout the meal. I later looked it up online, and found out that it was called Sol Kadi, consisting of ingredients such as green chillies, ginger and garlic. I guess I could call it an official introduction to my cultural (or rather, stomach) shock here in India!

The author Danfeng Wu is a Chinese native from Shanghai who just graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Math. She is now working in Mumbai for Mahindra & Mahindra. She just started a Chinese blog about her life in India (http://blog.sina.com.cn/luvwu). The Chinese version of this particular blog entry can be found here: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_63ffa38c010186g9.html

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