Butter Chicken Battle

My friend Mike introduced me to an Indian restaurant in Tokyo called Moti and a dish called Butter Chicken.  Ever since I’ve been on a quest to find a better butter chicken but have failed.  However, I did introduce Mike to an Indian market in Minneapolis that sells Butter Chicken mixes.  I even purchased a few boxes for him with one condition – that he prepare one rendition of it for Carrie and I.  He followed through on the deal and wrote an excellent piece on his blog about this:  http://mikenmitch.wordpress.com/butter-chicken/.

I’m launching my own Butter Chicken Battle on this trip.  First stop was Moti in Tokyo and it was everything I remembered it being.  Silky, tangy and not overly greasy or rich with high quality ingredients.  It was also complemented by amazing garlic naan.

When we were in Mumbai we hired a driver for a day.  He assumed we would like a “continental lunch” and started to guide us to a spot.  I quickly interrupted him and said we would like an Indian lunch.  He said something like, “oh, yes sir, you will have an Indian lunch”.  He was quite excited – apparently  most tourists stay away from this.  He guided us to what appeared to be one of the nicest Indian restaurants in Mumbai – Delhi Darbar.  Of course I ordered Butter Chicken.  I honestly had low expectations since the quality of ingredients available in India is generally lower than other parts of the world like Tokyo.  This is one of the reasons that most experts say London has the best Indian food on the planet – lots of people from India and very high quality ingredients.

Anyhow, it was a good experience but the Butter Chicken was disappointing.  It was very greasy and the quality of the chicken was low – lots of grizzle.  And we both got a little sick a few days later (Kyle more so than me) and this meal was the probable cause.  So this is probably why tourists stay away….

The latest Butter Chicken was experienced in the largest and most grand shopping mall in the world – The Dubai Mall – at a restaurant called Dean and Deluca that overlooks the Dubai Fountain.  This Butter Chicken was unique – very sweet, almost like a sweet potato.  It was garnished with a splash of cream and was generally quite good.  If nothing else it was a good variation on the standard Butter Chicken but I would not consistently order this variation of the dish.

Pictures of these dishes can be found here:  http://www.foodspotting.com/chrisflynn

The quest continues…..

Dubai via Saudi Arabia

Yesterday was a long day.  We hired a driver to take us around Mumbai for the day.  We had an allowance of 8 hours/80 kilometers and by the time we got back to the hotel we were a minute short of 8 hours and around a kilometer short of 80.  We spent a good portion of the day sitting in our air-conditioned Toyota Camry while the Camry sat in traffic. Again, I can’t emphasize enough how crazy fun it is watching drivers navigate the Mumbai roads.  As a person who loves to drive I have enormous respect for their skills.  I didn’t witness an accident my entire time in India.  Pretty sure there would be an accident every 5 seconds or so if you were to replace the drivers with U.S. drivers.  It’s total chaos with no lanes and a combination of cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, cows, dogs, pedestrians, random speed bumps, potholes and constant noise (mostly honking).  With constant traffic cars pretty much force their way in and hope other cars stop in time.  I would love to give it a try but our driver wasn’t so sure I could manage.  I told him I know how to drive a stick but shifting left-handed would be odd.

We saw all/most of the key sites of Mumbai including Dhobi Ghat (an outdoor facility where they process laundry for much of the city), the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel and Mani Bhavan, the house that Ghandi lived and worked in from 1917-1934, which is now a museum.  Along the tour we had to go shopping on 3 separate occasions – we also experienced this on the DMZ tour.  Tour operators have deals with local shops to steer customers their way.  It’s just part of the package and something you have to deal with – I kind of enjoy it.  In South Korea we had a semi-hard sell on amethyst jewelry.  In Mumbai we had experienced professional salesmen who unsuccessfully tried to sell us Indian rugs from Kashmir.  One guy gave a particularly charismatic sales pitch with a very hard sell.  He started at $1,250 USD for a rug and when my travel partner Kyle said he was not interested he asked at what price he would be interested.  Kyle eventually said $100 and the salesman said “sold”.  Kyle then had to backtrack.  He didn’t bother me as I quickly told him I’m in sales and asked if he went to the same sales seminars I went to.  As I was leaving I told him he was good at his job and he said, “yeah, I know I am”.  Classic.

We got back to the hotel around 7pm and were sleeping by 10pm.  Had to get up at 5:30am for our flight to Dubai via Saudi Arabia.

I’m sitting in the Dammam, Saudi Arabia airport as I type this but will post later tonight when I get to the hotel as the free airport Wi-Fi does not let me upload pics.  We were the only non Middle Eastern or Indian passengers on the plane.  In general we received a lot of attention in Mumbai and so far in Saudi Arabia.  Kids frequently look at me with inquisitive/puzzled facial expressions.  I’ve experienced this a few times before, last time in rural Costa Rica.  I think everyone would benefit from feeling a little uncomfortable as an outsider at some point in their life.  Though I’m not a complete outsider here – I haven’t shaved since I left for the trip and this is in my favor in the Middle East.  It’s very in!

The Saudia flight included a prayer before takeoff.  Aside from that it was pretty normal and the food was good.  I did have an Indian gentleman sitting next to me who looked over my shoulder to look out the window (I had a window seat) for nearly the entire flight.  That got old but I’m guessing it was the first plane he had ever been on so I tried to not let it bother me.  The transfer process at Dammam airport to our next flight was interesting…..a very manual process.  We had to clear around 3 different layers of security and was escorted all around the airport.  But everyone was very nice and it was a fairly quick process.  Lastly, each of the bathrooms here has a place for prayer and each stall in the bathroom has what is essentially a garden hose.  Not sure I want to know exactly what this is used for but all toilets are very wet.  Needed to wipe it down with some towels.  But at least it was clean.

Dubai should be about as opposite to Mumbai as Seoul was, just in a different way.  Should be fun…visiting the only 7-star hotel in the world (self-proclaimed) and the tallest building in the world on Friday.  Should have some good pics….

Update: Just checked into our hotel in Dubai.  BTW, we had a full meal on the hour flight from Dammam to Dubai – barely enough time to eat it.  Unbelievably nice (and busy) metro system.  First appearances are exactly as I expected – Vegas minus the sins (gambling, escorts, drinking, dancing…).  Which makes one wonder why you would go to Dubai.  Truth is you can drink and dance in certain places but not like Vegas.  I will find out tomorrow as it’s Friday night.

Kamla Nehru Park

Kamla Nehru Park

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

Mani Bhavan

DSC00644

Gateway to India

Gateway of India

Taj Mahal Hotel

DSC00683

Day 12

I’m on day 12 of my 34-day around-the-world trip.  So over 1/3 done.  4 cities visited and 8 to go.  I’m lucky to have a personal curator for my TiVo while I’m gone.  We have barely turned on a TV in 12 days…kind of nice.  Just glad that I saw the season finale of Girls before I left.

We leave for Mumbai this evening (Monday).  This is one of our 4 long flights and the only one that I was not able to book an exit row on in advance so hopefully I can get that taken care of at the airport.  Looking forward to watching a few movies – Korean Air has a fantastic entertainment system on their planes.

I just added two posts – Beijing and Seoul.  I also added lots of pictures on my various apps/sites.  Check them out here.  I wonder if the Gophers basketball team will have a coach when I get back and if the Twins will already be out of the playoff race….