Monday, July 16, 2012

Paris Chronicles- Food, Cuisines and Importance of Rice

Every culture has an obsession of some kind with food. And everyone believes they are the most passionate foodies.

In my family we discuss what we shall eat for lunch while we are having breakfast, and which restaurant will have dinner in, while we are eating lunch. We reminisce about meals we have had in different places- sometimes across continents, debate incessantly about which place has the best biryani and maintain a historic record about the specialty dishes of every aunt in the family.


Thus it was no surprise that my cousin Heena had prepared a thorough and long list of the must- eat places in Paris. Some were the usual suspects e.g. pierre herme macaroons which were waiting for me in her fridge, Frenchie wine bar where we went in my first evening in Paris and had the most amazing ham. It was also the first time I had foie gras. Have never been a fan, and to be honest am still not. But it is one of the must-try French foods that I could not get around refusing.


And of course I have been eating croissants EVERYDAY. I LOVE bread. Like really love it. And what better place than France to gorge on every kind of bread imaginable. My cousin Kamal and I have this theory that Sindhis eat bread in everything- toast bread, bread pakora (I introduced it to Sanil and he was quiet taken up with it), sel bread (white bread cooked in onions, garlic, tomato and Indian masalas- its the best thing ever), bread and butter pudding- I know it's not an Indian dessert but hugely popular in the sindhi community for some reason. So there has been a bread overload, not that I am complaining. 


On Saturday, we spent the first hour after we woke up, talking through our various options- not of places to visit. But of places to eat, before and after which we could potentially visit places too.

And as we walked around, I realized if it weren't for Heena I would be lost- not literally, actually that too, as unlike me, she can reads maps, which is handy to say the least- I would be lost from a food point of view, as every place in Paris looks so nice. Every bistro, every cafe, every restaurant, every roadside cart looks like it serves the best food there is. But thanks to Heenz we knew exactly where we needed to go.

And I have discovered since that in Paris you can only eat at places which have a long queues. Those are the only ones who deserve your patronage. If they are empty, I just felt sorry for them, but was not brave enough to step inside. Why waste calories on half decent food?


I had pizza cravings, so we walked for miles- yes really miles- to reach Le Soliel de Naples which came highly recommended by Heena's friend, and had the most awesome pizza. And great antipasti too. The waiter asked us where we were from, and when Heena said India, he replied in French that no wonder you both have lovely smiles. And it was followed by the two words I always dread when talking to foreigners about India. 'Shahrukh Khan'. Really?! In Paris, in an Italian restaurant, we have to hear that name. 

I have been listening to French podcast trying to learn basic French like greetings, etc. I should have learnt French for 'I don't like Shahrukh Khan' too. But I really did not think I would ever need it. Then the chef and the waiter told us how much they loved 'cinema Indienne' which was pretty flattering. And right before we left they repeated the same thing, this time trying to do an Indian dance step :)


Now I had been told this, but I found it tough to believe. But now I know for a fact- coffee in Paris SUCKS. Big time. We went to one coffee place that was run by an Aussie- had to be- as it served pretty nice coffee. But nowhere close to the Aussie cafes in Singapore. So disappointing! 


For Saturday dinner we took a picnic to the park near Eiffel Tower and sat on the grass while watching the beautiful Bastille Day fireworks display. We sipped wine, had cheese and crackers and polished off the remaining pierre herme macaroons.

For Sunday breakfast  Heenz took me to one of her favorite places 'Le loir dans la théière' which literally means The Mouse in the Teacup. Inspired by Alice in Wonderland was an eclectic place where we had a great Parisien breakfast sans nice coffee of course.

We then walked around the Marais and I saw tons of falafel places and it smelled so good! So once it started raining I had to have the warm falafel. But we did not have it at the place which had a queue that snaked across the street with an average waiting time of 35 minutes. But instead went to 'world's best falafel which was crowded- as that's a mark of a good place-' and it was pretty great falafel.

After walking around, we rested at a park for a while and then walked to near the Notre Dame to have the must-have ice-cream at Berthillon. On Heena's recommendation I had the salted butter caramel flavor instead of my usually chocolate. And it was divine! And of course in Paris you are not allowed to taste flavors, you just have to buy them!

And in Paris you cannot ask for 'ta pau' or 'parcel' either. Seriously! I have paid for the food and if I can't finish it, why cant I take it away!? But you cant It's bad etiquette and severely frowned upon. 


Now as much as I love bread, and want to naturally try French food in France, and love pizzas and falafels...after 3 days, I need Asian food! 

Actually I need Indian food, but I did not want to be overtly fussy. So I told Heena, even if I could not have Indian, I had to have RICE. I can't believe how the French can survive without rice in their diet. They have no idea what they are missing!!

I made Heena do intensive research and we finally found a Chinese restaurant called Tour de L'Orient- not very innovative when it comes to the name- but it was open on Sunday was walking distance from home and was pretty crowded.

I ate fried rice, sweet and sour chicken and awesome fish which was covered in red chillies. Satisfaction!!

Heena was v amused and has been telling everyone how only I can come to Paris and eat Chinese food. But sorry all. You can take a girl out of Asia, but you cannot take Asia out of a girl. I need rice. Plain and simple. Or fried.

I was writing this post on my way to Nice. And have a list of restaurant reccos from Heena. I will be fine for a few days with that treasured list, but then by the time day 3 is coming to an end, I will need to go hunt for rice. 

When I was walking towards my hotel, you would not believe what I saw? 'Mother India' and  'A Roy Thai'. So no issues getting my rice fix when I need it!

And once I am in Madrid next week,the very first meal I will ask my chachi to make for me is dal-chawal...and aloo tikki :)

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