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   The most interesting Chinese restaurant I have eaten... (August 29, 1986)

The most interesting Chinese restaurant I have eaten in was in Amritsar. It was attached to a hotel. The cook was Assamese and looked chinese enough and the menu had, among other things, biryani and rogan josh. Why it was called a Chinese restaurant. I have not understood.

Outside, in the streets, of Amritsar, there were nothing but restaurants. There was a street with dhabas, selling chicken and biryani with a silver paper on top.

Further up, in Srinagar, afternoon and night I used to eat rice and dal in a small restaurant. And drink tea with Kashmiri biscuits already soaked in it, they called it khulcha chai. In Dalhousie, up in the mountains, I lived on apples; there was apple juice and apple cider and an apple stew and just plain apple.

All along the Himalayan border, the food is exotic. In Kathmandu, it was just after the hippies had left, and the restaurants catering to them were still there with names like Ma’s Pie In The Sky and Harry’s Joe. The food in most of them was indifferent. The Yak And Yeti was slightly more classy and more permanent, once in three days I would eat there, which was all that I could afford.

In the holy settlements of Kedarnath and Badrinath, meat was prohibited and few vegetables were available. Most of the time-come to think of it, all the time-I ate large, oily puris and potatoes. The mountain air and a lot of walking and climbing kept me hungry all the time. One late afternoon, I arrived at Tungnath, 13,000 feet up. There were only two persons staying there, a priest and a shop keeper. There was no food in the shop, I do not know what he and the priest ate. So he hired me a blanket for the night, at, I think, 50 paise, and is slept. In the night, the whole place froze, so I had the shop opened and hired from him another blanket.

In Darjeeling, I avoided eating where the tourists ate. I ate either at the Tibetan restaurants near the post office, or down in the bazar, next tok, I had fried noodles and muton Hotel Denzong. And I drank Sikkimese whisky, which is both cheap and good. The water here, they say, nearest resembles the water in the streams and minerals the alcohol. It was so also in Bhutan, up in Thimpu, where I stayed in a grand hotel that had been built for the coronation of the king and which was slowly going to seed, also the whisky was good and cheap. The same waters and the same distilling processes.

I used to have breakfasts of momos and chilli sauce in a restaurant run by a Tibetan woman. Themomos were stuffed with fatty pork and chillis and would burn the tongue. After eating them, the tea tasted very nice.

 
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