Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fine Dining - Roadside at the "Chicken and Fish Corner"


Since I arrived in India I have been sharing my experiences with the wonderful food I have been eating......and about how careful I have been to eat at places that have been recommended by Ramesh or other trustworthy sources.

India is a culinary smorgasbord......from a Five Star fine dining experience,International Chain Restaurants like TGI Fridays, McDonald's and KFC, local restaurants serving great Indian home style cooking (where we typically eat)..... roadside eateries called "Dhabas", or simply an entrepreneur who finds a place on a sidewalk to set up shop and cook and serve hot food.

If you ever pick up a book or visit a website on the topic of traveling in India, all of them will stress that it is best to "always drink Bottled Water" and try and stay away from eating food served by "street vendors". The food may look wonderful, but unfortunately, food sanitation practices are not stringently followed by street vendors.

Last week I traveled to a city named Amritsar.....the home of the very famous Golden Temple......and only 30 kilometers from the border of Pakistan.

We met with two potential clients; one hotel that is well under construction and another client who has a vacant piece of land that he is interested in developing a hotel on.

Our meetings were back to back .....and combined with our flight that was delayed by 5 hours due to fog in the morning, there was simply no time for visiting any of the interesting sites in and around Amritsar.

One benefit of traveling with colleagues is that they are "in the know" or know whom and what to ask those who are "in the know".

Amritsar is known for many things, but one thing in particular is their food....or the technique of how it is prepared.

As it was nearing time for dinner, some inquiries were made on a great place to get some "Amritsari Fish".....the information was delivered in Hindi....directions exchanges.....all I was asked is "if I wanted to try some fish"?

Not knowing where we would be eating, we said goodbye to our clients and the driver whisked us away to what is considered the best place in Amritsar for fish......the "Chicken and Fish Corner".

The name says it all......no fancy marketing....no brainstorming sessions, no marketing plan.....no agency hired to create the perfect name or brand for him.....he set up shop on a corner in Amritsar to cook Chicken and Fish.......simple....brilliant....call it what it is........no confusion....."Makhan Chicken and Fish Corner"......

I don't know what kind of fish it was, other than "river fish".....don't know what spices/seasonings he used.....didn't see a Certificate from the Health Department....no chairs.....no table.....cars, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, dogs, cows and whatever else was on the streets replaced the waiters and other diners one would find in a restaurant.....the background music was not piped in and fancy.....it was horns and barking and the sound of engines....and more horns.......after the first bite....I didn't care......

It was incredibly some of the best fish I have ever had in my entire life.

It was also the first time I had eaten street food.....the risk was known to me ....I didn't get sick...... the reward was delicious and priceless.....

I wondered how successful we could be at a hotel.....with this team from the "corner" in a well lighted kitchen, surrounded by Stainless Steel, chef's hats and jackets......food handling training, guidelines, procedures, time clocks, and on and on.

Then I remembered......the following sayings....."don't mess with success" and "keep it simple".

When I am back in Amritsar......do you have any idea where I will be dining and what I will be eating?

Bon Apetit!

2 comments:

Erika said...

Are you still alive today?? I'm sure it's just like having a "lucky dog" in the french quarter!!!! Except you were sober!!!

Katie said...

Hi Lloyd, this is from Budget Travel magazine re India:
People keep telling me I'll get sick during the trip. Is this because of bad hygiene or exposure to new foods? Is there any way to avoid it?
Stomach upsets abroad are most often due to bacteria in the ecosystem that are different from what we encounter at home. Contaminated food is less often to blame. Some doctors believe that pro-biotic dietary supplements, such as yogurt, can help ward off turista, so ask your internist for advice. That said, don't be afraid to try new foods while you're in India. People often make the mistake of assuming it's safer to eat at ultraclean-looking restaurants than to buy food from a street vendor. The truth is, while the restaurant might seem spotless, you can't see the state of the kitchen. But if you pass a guy making fresh samosas in a clean boiling vat on the sidewalk, you can confidently join the line at his stand. Just-cooked hot meals are your safest bets.

I'd eat that fish!