First: I would just like to say how happy I am that you can still buy local strawberries. They are the best.
Second: Thank you so much for everyone’s suggestions regarding how to get over this cold! I took several readers’ advice (as well as my mother’s) and finally went to the doctor. Diagnosis: viral bronchitis. Treatment: nothing. I just have to cough this thing away, which apparently could take 4-6 weeks. Armed with cough syrup, plenty of ginger, and honey lozenges, I bet you I can beat it in two. HA!
Three: I already broke the promise I made to myself not to eat sweets this week, but it was a job-necessity. Here’s why:
Yesterday my friend Dana and I decided we’d try out Red Mirchi Restaurant, only to discover Red Mirchi Restaurant no longer exists. Now in its place is an Indian shop filled with marinating meats. I’ve never been into a butcher shop that smelled so good. Still in the mood for Indian, we wandered over to the nearby Himalaya Sweets and Restaurant, at the corner of Cambie and No. 5 Road. This plaza also houses Tandoori Kona, where I went for Indian on Day 3.
Himalaya offers both an a la carte menu, as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet for under $12. This not only appeared to be more popular, but they pretty strongly encourage this option.
Buffets tend to scare me a little, and this is only the second I’ve opted for since being in Richmond. One thing I found encouraging was that they didn’t have dozens of hot dishes on offer; there were about ten, including rice and vegetables, as well as fresh naan and a salad/sauces bar. The buffet included platters of sweets, which are made in house and also sold from behind a long, sugar-filled counter.
We took a little bit of almost everything: rice, daal (stewed lentils), alu gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), chana (chickpeas), mixed vegetables, kadi (yogurt curry), alli mutter (peas and potatoes), chicken curry, and butter chicken.
My favourites were the alu gobi and butter chicken, which may seem like a cliche, but it was spicier than usual and I liked that. The potatoes in the alu gobi were soft and flavourful, and the cauliflower still had a bit of crunch to it.
I found the yogurt curry to be a bit bland, but a drizzle of tamarind sauce and chunk of fresh naan took care of that. It took awhile for the bread to come out, but when our friendly server brought us our own basket, we ploughed through it. It was charred and soft – obviously cooked in a proper tandoor.
All in all, the hot entrees wouldn’t win awards, but they were pretty darn good for a buffet. This is also THE place to bring your spice-loving teenagers with endless appetites.
The next part – dessert – was an adventure unto itself. I’m usually way too full after eating Indian food to think about ordering more than chai, but since they were included in the price….
In the year before I started my program at UNISG, I went to Italy and worked as a wwoofer on various farms. At one of them – a goat farm where I spent 5 weeks herding 80 stubborn goats – my hosts were named Elisa and Gabriele. Elisa was an excellent cook, and having travelled in India, she often made Indian-inspired dishes. There was one snack she would make that I always assumed was purely Italian, however. It was made of browned butter, chickpea flour, and sugar, which were all cooked together on the stove before being spread into a pan. It would set into a nutty, dark brown, fudge-like sweet, which we would break into chunks and snack on throughout the day. Since I spent hours traipsing after goats, my appetite was especially out of control, and I ate a LOT of laddu in my time there. Even though the name didn’t sound particularly Italian, I never once questioned its Tuscan origin. They do love their ceci, after all!
Elisa and Gabriele were loosely Hare Krishna, and while they were never pushy about it, there was always a standing invitation to join them at the temple if I wished. I went on several occasions, and found it interesting each time. There was always a free, homemade vegetarian meal for anyone who wished to eat afterwards, and I was fascinated by the role of food in Hare Krishna culture. On one occasion, we went for an important festival; hundreds of people were in attendance, and there was dancing and music before a giant cake was revealed. Actually, it wasn’t quite a cake, but rather an edible scene depicting Krishna rescuing a village from a flood. It was round, two layers, at least a metre in diameter, and utterly remarkable. There were edible fields, rivers, villagers, cows, fences, farms, houses, flooding waters, and atop it all, Krisha there to save the day. People continued to dance and sing around the cake, which had taken a group of ladies three days to make. All I could think was “I can’t believe I didn’t bring my camera,” and “this is not like church. This is not like church at all.”
After the ceremony, everyone was fed dinner, and the ‘cake’ was cut for dessert. I got a wedge of river and field (score), with several chunks of candy on top. I bit into one, recognized its taste, and said “Hey! This is the snack Elisa makes!” Only then was it pointed out to me that laddu is Indian, not Italian. I realized that few other Tuscans were whipping up batches of laddu to eat after their ribollita. I felt like one very silly goat-herder indeed.
So, did I find laddu amongst the desserts at Himalaya? You bet. It’s that little caramel-coloured square in the photo above. Was it as good as Elisa’s? Absolutely not! This one was too sweet. In fact, Dana and I had a hard time stomaching most of the desserts, though that’s not to say they were bad. We were just entirely unaccustomed to the flavours and textures. I asked the man behind the counter about how they’re made, and he said they’re almost all milk-based. Milk + sugar + butter and various other ingredients, with different preparations resulting in the varying squares we sampled. There’s a lot of artificial colours used, which are a bit unappealing, but here’s what we DID like:
The jalebi were bizarre-looking twists of bright orange, deep-fried, syrup-soaked batter. They’re sticky, fun to eat, a bit crunchy, and of course, sweet.
The gulab jamun look like donut holes, and are also soaked in syrup. I’m pretty sure eating just one of these could induce diabetes, and I’ve been known to eat….uh….many more than one in a sitting.
There’s a rather infamous story of me having to pour dish soap over a container of leftover gulab jamun just to stop myself from eating any more. That’s a testament to my terrifyingly high tolerance for cardamom-spiced deep-fried dough. They were excellent at Himalaya, and now Dana’s a pretty big fan, too.
It’s strange to go to a restaurant in Richmond called “Himalaya,” and be reminded of your Tuscan farm family. But that’s one of the beauties of food, isn’t it?
Elisa, Gabriele, Priscilla, Irene (et Michele!), baci da Richmond. xo
Cash and cards accepted
A wide variety of vegetarian options are available