Kathmandu had been, for lack of better words, a life affirming experience. Opening the door to the taxi, departing the Suwal Mansion was a difficult decision. I felt so grounded, I truly did not want to leave.
The airport was predictably chaotic. And the line for immigration was both snakelike in length and snalelike in pace. An hour later I finally made it through immigration and security. I had to run to catch the bus which had thankfully waited for me on the tarmac. I boarded the plane and did the usual routine of showing my boarding pass to the stewardess. I gave her an inquisitive stare when she pointed me to the first, big, cushy chair on the plane. A second look at my boarding pass confirmed I was in fact seat 1A. Many fellow travelers will be aware of the fabled “upgrade”, much discussed, but rarely experienced. Not only had I been upgraded to business class, but I also had the window seat facing the Himalayas on one of the most stunningly gorgeous flights in the world. What had I done right to deserve this?
I was acutely aware that India was going to be more chaotic, more dirty, and more frustrating than Kathmandu. I had formulated a rough plan for destinations, but hardly had a set itenerary. I had booked a hotel in new Delhi, without doing much research, aside from a glance at tripadvisor. I would soon learn that this was to be a rather terrible decision.Pahar Ganj, by the quick skimming I had done on the internet, was referred to as the “backpacker area” of New Delhi. I was soon to learn that the term “backpacker area’ held two completely different meanings between Southeast Asia and India. The street was a psychedelic maelstrom of rickshaws, neon, and burnt out hippies sipping tea in darkened alleyways.
My hotel was central to this madness. I stepped out of the taxi, as he helped me with my bag from the trunk. I reached for my wallet… “No! don’t show any money here! We must go inside the hotel first.” The words “Welcome to India” were all too apparent in my mind. My time in Delhi was interspersed with frustration, boredom, and thankfully one night of enjoyment. I had reconnected with an old classmate from Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok who was a Delhi native. Arjun and I were not particularly close when studying in Bangkok, but our mutual love for food, along with his hospitality, and willingness to show me another side of Delhi made for a great night.
After a walk through a park, we headed for a few drinks, and discussed the gastronomic options of the evening. I had read about a famous reataraunt, Karim’s, which was located near the oldest mosque in India.
We parked in a makeshift parking lot, “fly by night parking” as Arjun referred to it. The restaraunt was a few blocks down the road, and we were soon immersed into a street scene which seemed right out of Pakistan. Aside the largest mosque in India was an Imam bellowing political rhetoric relating to the upcoming elections. If nothing else, i knew this was going to be an extremely authentic meal.
Karim’s was celebrating it’s hundredth year in business, and as we walked in the dimly lit hallway,
the first thing we saw was Karim’s great grandson overseeing the preparation of an array of various curries in large silver cauldrons.
Karim’s serves strictly Halal food, and the clientele, hundreds of people on any given night, are predominately strict Muslims. The cover of the menu was a picture from Time magazine, which named Karim’s as one of the best restaraunts in Asia.
The menu itself only consisted of 3 simple pages, which in my opinion is always a good sign, as any restaraunt that tries to create too many dishes, often fails in upholding quality. One item that immediately stuck out from the menu was Goat Brain Curry. I jokingly suggested it to Arjun, who said he was a big fan. We ordered a huge array of meats, breads, kababs and of course goat brains. Up until this point I had been quite careful about what I had been eating in India, but considering this restaraunt had been in business over 100 years, I was pretty confident that I would be safe.
The curry itself did not differ in appearnce from any other. The oily orange-brown sauce covered up the real treats within. With the confidence instilled in me by the beer earlier that evening, I scooped a spoonful onto my chapati (indian flat bread) and lifted the previously semi-conscious matter into my mouth…. I had no idea what to expect, aside from the vaguely disconcerting description of “creaminess” which I had previously read about…. I say this without any boastfulness that accompanies eating exotic foods, GOAT BRAIN IS DELICIOUS! I put aside any mental (hehe) associations, and just savored the texture and flavor. I’ve since been trying to find a worthy comparison to relate the texture to. The best I can come up with is…. a mixture between Foie Gras and Ricotta Cheese…. I am so sorry as I know this will not contribute to many of my readers partaking in brain curry in the future. All I can confidently say is, if you are in Delhi, please do not pass up the opportunity to visit Karim’s, and if you are even the least bit adventurous, go for the brain curry. Live a little