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…..
Seoul’s primary airport, Incheon, is consistently ranked one of the best and most modern in the world. The airport and many other parts of Seoul have a modern European feel. It was a great way to transition from Beijing to Seoul.
I went from the worst place in the world for social media to the best. China blocks it and Seoul is better wired than any city in the world (and only censors objectionable material like porn). Free Wi-Fi in the parks and the hotel provided a Jetpack with 4G LTE to carry around the city (for a small fee).
Seoul is much more like Tokyo than Beijing and I believe South Korea is much more like Japan than China. I would say that Seoul is like a slightly more westernized Tokyo but both cities are incredibly clean and fairly orderly. However I have noticed that cars generally ignore red lights if no cars/pedestrians are in the area. This is kind of how I drive ;).
Yesterday (Saturday) was probably the best day of our trip so far. We got up early to go to the DMZ and see North Korea. We happened to be there on the day that North Korea announced it “entered a state of war” with South Korea. So that was interesting. I met several people in our tour group with interesting stories and Kyle and I ended up drinking beer with an Australian couple who live in Jakarta and have traveled the world for the past 35 years or so. Needless to say they had a lot of stories and insight. I went straight from drinks with the Australians to meet up with Carrie’s cousin Joshua in the university/party/young area of Seoul – Hongdae. It was great to meet Joshua and his group of friends and see the Hongdae area – lots of energy. Today I hiked to the top of a hill where the Seoul Tower is located. It was a much steeper/longer climb than I anticipated but was well worth the effort. At the top is a large complex where locals bring their dates/families on the weekends. Lots of local street food and….wait for it…a Cold Stone Creamery.
Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Mumbai. This will be the second of our four long flights. This one is the shortest of those 4 at just over 9 hours. Mumbai will also be the first city that does not require a jacket. Looking forward to wearing something other than a hoodie.
Before we leave we are exploring a few more neighborhoods of Seoul including the Olympic Village from the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. This has prompted me to list the Olympic cities of our trip:
• 1900, 1924 Paris
• 1964 Tokyo (maybe 2020)
• 1980 Moscow
• 1988 Seoul
• 1996 Atlanta (layover)
• 2008 Beijing
• 2016 Rio De Janeiro
I may make it a new goal to visit every city that’s hosted a Summer Olympics. I only need a few more…
Incheon Airport Express:
I’m behind on my blog and am catching up in Seoul.
The Delta flight from Tokyo to Beijing was probably the best flight I’ve ever been on. The flight was empty (nobody within a few rows of me), I had an exit row, had a great meal and watched two movies (Adam and Away we Go). Thought Adam was an insult to anyone on the autistic spectrum (for poor acting if nothing else) but thought Away we Go was a decent flick.
Tokyo and Beijing are similar cities in one way – they are filled with lots of people. But that’s about where the similarities end. Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world with some of the largest and busiest subway stations in the world but there is always a calming sense of order. People queue up in line and incessantly bow to each other. They are polite and follow rules – like standing on the correct side of the escalator. I watched two businesses men bow to each other for around 30 seconds straight and enjoyed the display. Maybe they are the Minnesota Nice of Asia.
In Beijing people are not so polite. Lines mean very little as people simply rush to ticket windows, subways and anywhere else that requires a wait. People routinely stand in the middle of an escalator and at the top of stairs blocking the way. I was also surprised that people standing near the doors on the always packed subway refuse to get off the train and then get back on to let people in/out. In general most social norms of the western world (among other places) appear to not apply in China. Oh yeah, and there is also a lot of spitting and snot rocketing (if that’s a word) going on.
So in summary, Beijing is not a place I would want to live. Little or der, lots of pollution and no Google or Facebook (at least not without a VPN). The pollution was by far the worst aspect of Beijing followed by Internet censorship. And although some food experts say that China has the best food in the world I did not eat that food.
Now that I have that out of the way I will say that the Great Wall was amazing and I wish we would have had more time there. Also, the Olympic Park area is stunning and great to see in person after watching the 2008 Olympics. I’m very happy to visit Beijing but I don’t need to ever go back.
It’s peak time for cherry blossom tree viewings and today we did a complete circle of inner Tokyo via the Yamanote line to explore the city, view cherry blossoms and eat the street food that goes with cherry blossom festivals. Went back to Ueno Park (visited with Carrie in 2009) and also stopped at Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku and Roppongi. We met Kyle’s friend Chihiro and her fiance for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant and I’m now taking advantage of the last unadulterated WiFi for a few days as we are heading to China (Beijing) tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what they block.
I posted a punch of pics to Instagram, TripColor, Picasa and Foodspotting. Enjoy.
Made it to Tokyo on a very old Delta 767 with no in seat entertainment system – only crappy movies on small monitors. To add insult to injury a flight attendant randomly told me that they usually fly brand new 767s on this route and that he didn’t know why we had an old one. There was an “equipment delay” in Atlanta that slightly delayed our flight so maybe that’s why we got an old plane.
Anyhow, the flight was fine. Lots of podcasts and music instead of movies. It’s great to be back in Tokyo – I wish our light rail made the same cute noises as every station in Tokyo. And I wish we had vending machines on every corner that sold warm and cold coffee in cans. We tried to eat a cheap noodles meal. Option A was closed. Option B required us to order on a touch screen kiosk that was pure Japanese (no English). Every time we tried to order something we got an error message. Of course we had no idea what the error message said. Eventually we were frustrated enough to leave and settled on a sandwich shop followed by a visit to a 100 yen supermarket – their version of a dollar store.
Tomorrow we plan to visit my favorite Indian restaurant in the world – Moti – introduced to me by my friend Mike who lived in Tokyo. I will order the Butter Chicken. Then we are meeting up with Kyle’s friend Chihiro – Carrie and I met up with her when we were in Tokyo in 2009. Hopefully she has a few things planned.
I’ve been up for around 26 straight hours and it’s now just passed midnight in Tokyo. I should sleep well.