Sunday, October 26, 2008

Separated at birth

Which used to be a regular feature in a magazine called Sunday (1973-1999)

Now am I the only one who thinks this way about THESE two?

This one used his head to good effect recently
This one is a trifle Victorian in his outlook

Friday, October 24, 2008

The writing on the wall

The idyll is a little ragged at the edges right now. I haven’t read a book since Sunday. Seem to be all out of literary enthu. The days are punctuated by tonics, medicines, meals, the occasional movie. Besides, I feel irritable when my body gets slack, and I haven’t had ANY kind of exercise in 3 weeks. It’s been 17 days since I stepped out of the house. Cabin fever is a distinct possibility. Oh damn.

Meantime, all that happens, happens for the best in this best of all possible worlds. After the Singur imbroglio, “Dr.” M. Banerjee and the head of the Left Front agree on something. To wit, that the very basis of a democratic polity is endangered by the Election Commission’s ban on graffiti (better known in devout circles as “the writing on the wall”). Given a choice between, on the one hand, giving your consent and having your walls re-decorated in avant-garde mode, and on the other, NOT consenting and having your features re-arranged in Neanderthal mode, which would YOU choose? The democratic option, of course. The greatest good of the greatest number. It’s so heart-warming when our leaders agree on a matter in the public weal. Leaves me all saahgy wiv emoshun and teary-eyed.

On the other coast, there is a patriotic movement. No, not saffronised bowel movements (though those may be happening in Utkala Desh – more of that later). The Western movement seeks to intensify nationalist sentiments. Think global, act local types. If you start with beating up people who are “Not Us” (and not armed), you may eventually get good at beating up people who are REALLY Not Us AND shooting back at you. Practice makes perfect and all that. Score so far – 4 dead, a few dozen injured, vehicles burnt, man-days lost. All in the great tradition of democracy. I am loving it.

In Orissa, Diwali came some months early. There were bonfires and merriment, there was good religious sentiment which involved killing real people (so much more fun than burning effigies). This has led to Parliament making wise noises (not too loud, since A Particular Religion is still the Religion of the Majority). It has also led to friends (whom I had hitherto considered rational) sending out cyber-whoops on the lines of “THAT will laarn ’em!” Organised religion is such a sweet thing. It must be so comforting for all concerned to read Nice Things about Love Thy Neighbour, Humanity is the Ultimate Creed etc. and then, spiritually uplifted, go out to rape and kill and burn. I love Organised Religion. In my book, it is one of mankind’s finest experiences. You know, in terms of enrichment, somewhere between an acid enema and a boil on the scrotum.

Say after me – I Love My Country. I Love My Faith. I Love My Fellow Man (AND My Fellow Woman. ESPECIALLY My Fellow Woman). I Love Our Peaceful Tradition. And I Love Killing Anybody Who Disagrees.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

By bread alone ... ?

Indian breads. A term that one sees on buffets in snooty hotels, next to a tired wicker basket of sullen black-faced naans and wilting phulkas. So very misleading, as I’ve found over the years. Indian cuisine is a melting pot with inputs from Portugal to Penang, from Isfahan to Istanbul, and if we look close there’s a variety of Indian bread from each region. I have been a bread freak right from my school-days - my rather well-leavened frame often prompted jibes of “double roti” - but I associated the term with buns, croissants, chewy brown bread, golden buttered toast, little realising that the luchi of Sunday breakfast and the paratha that encased my chicken roll were also breads. Even the neer dosa of Kerala and the thalipeeth of Maharashtra claim to be breads, though the former is not made from wheat and the latter is a little like a pancake.

Pucca sahibs­ would probably limit the term to food made from grain flour (usually wheat), leavened with yeast and baked in an oven. Fiddlesticks. Or rather, Ey Mamu! The majority of Indian breads are unleavened, some are fried or even roasted and many are made from rice gruel or even lentil pastes. The more the merrier, say I. Man does not live by bread alone, but (as anybody on the Atkins Diet will vouch) life is pretty bleak without it.

First, the Big Question. Is it bread if it’s not made from grain? Check out pashti from Arcot in Tamil Nadu, rice flour dumplings pan-fried in ghee and eaten with chutneys or spicy meat. Or pesarattu from Andhra Pradesh, which is made from moong daal and fried on a griddle. Or, indeed, the entire family of dosai and their variants, from Kerala’s appam to uttapam and neer dosa. If these are dismissed as more pancakes than bread, where would you place thalipeet? The dough for this Maharashtrian favourite may contain – among others - beans, wheat, rice, onion, jaggery, vegetables and spices. It’s kneaded and rolled, unlike a crepe or pancake, but it’s not baked and it isn’t wholly wheat. So is it bread?

Most Indian breads are flatbreads, rolled from dough and roasted over an open fire or baked in a tandoor. In the far north, we have the chewy Ladakhi cambir or khambiri, dabbed with butter and eaten with home-made apricot jam or with tea. Kashmiris, surprisingly, eat more rice but have a wide variety of breads. Tsot and tsochvoru are small round breads, topped with poppy and sesame seeds and traditionally washed down with salt tea. Lavas is a cream coloured unleavened bread, probably derived from the Armenian Lahvash or Armenian cracker bread, a soft, thin flatbread sometimes sprinkled with toasted sesame or poppy seeds.

In the heartland, the humble chapatti is part of Indian history. It was carried from village to village and used as a signal before the rising of 1857. It’s also comfort food for millions, especially when hot off the fire with a dab of butter melting in the middle. It has a number of variants, all round flat unleavened breads made from grains other than wheat. The bhakhri, made from jowar, bajra or even (in Karnataka) from rice flour, is a staple in the western states. The jolada rotti of Karnataka is made from sorghum. Both these variations keep well and are good travelling food, usually eaten with pulse curries (daal, jhunka) or with chutneys such as thecha, a paste of chillies that can set fire to paper at 50 paces. The rock star in this category (or bhangra rapper?) is makki di roti, Punjab’s answer to corn pone. Made from corn (makki) flour, it goes with sarson da saag the way Tristran goes with Ysolde. Or Dharam with Hema. Cardiac specialists owe large portions of their bank balances to the Punjabi habit of serving it with a “liddel” home-made butter, say, a fistful on each roti.

Fried breads are India’s curious celebration of cholesterol. The most common deep-fried bread is the ubiquitous puri, roundels of wheat flour dough rolled flat, moistened with oil and fried till they swell into spherical puffs. The Bengali version, luchi, is made with refined flour or maida and places an even greater premium on light fluffiness. The most decadent zamindars would eat only the papery top layer as a token of their refinement. I can certify that this evokes a general feeling of well-being which is utterly misleading since it is more likely to lead to heartburn and breathlessness. When stuffed with daal or matar paste, the puri / luchi becomes the daalpuri, radhabollobi or kachori (differentiated by the consistency and crispness of the fried dough).

Parathas are the big brothers of puris. They range from the comparatively innocuous ones that are just thick rotis with a gloss of ghee to the utterly sinful sheermal from Kashmir, where the dough is kneaded with ghee, sweetened, re-rolled and baked till it is a meal in itself. Shillong has its own version called the palmia, which is almost a Danish pastry. Another Kashmiri calorie bomb is the baqrkhani roti. More layered, flaky and unsweetened, this is the ideal staple for the Kashmiri wazwan or wedding feast, where the objective apparently is to ensure that the married couple receive an early inheritance. A lighter leavened version is the taftan, which is baked with a hint of saffron and cardamom. The stuffed prontha, heavy with butter and potatoes (or grated cauliflower or radish) is Punjab’s contribution to the Indian breakfast. The Malabari paratha or Kerala Porotta goes a step further – eggs are beaten into the dough and the roundels are stretched by hand and flipped, a little like classic pizza. (The Malaysian roti canai is similar in composition though it is made by rolling and not flipping the dough. Singapore’s roti prata is a standard paratha but made by flipping the dough, a sideshow in hundreds of street food joints.) Bengal has the Dhakai porota. Big, crisp, crunchy, flaky, this fast-vanishing variation is unusual in Bengali cuisine in that it is always accompanied by a vegetarian dish, usually chholaa’r daal.

Some North Indian breads are stand-alones, like the Gujarati khakra and mattha. Light, flaky, almost pastry-like, these are spiced and roasted rather than fried, giving them a long shelf-life and making ideal snacks. Rajasthan’s baati is richer. These baked dumplings are quick-fried for a crisp outer crust and most famously eaten with daal and churma. And of course gobs of ghee. The Bihari version, litthi, evokes nostalgia in a zillion engineering institutions and staff colleges.

Leavened sahib bread is not unknown, as the numerous bakeries in Bandra attest. The real legacy, however, is not English but Portuguese. The poder or traditional baker (though the term is also used for the delivery man) is a part of Goan tradition, his honking announcing the morning delivery of pao, soft square bread that fills the stomach and gladdens the palate. Pao, ideal for mopping up the last drops of tongue-tingling curry, is the accompaniment to spicy vindaloo and sorpotel. Mumbai’s pao bhaaji can only be a wan poor cousin! Pokshie and katre are other avatars of pao, distinguished by their shapes (pokshie is also more crusty). My Goan friends swear that the secret ingredient is the use of toddy instead of yeast for leavening. Poie or poee is Goan brown bread, fat, hollow and often “butterfly” shaped so that it can be broken by hand into four pieces. Generations of grandmothers swear that it is “ideal for diabetics”, an assertion supported by modern medical science.

Man does not live by bread alone? Enough already! Pass the butter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stranger than fiction

Some reports are so completely WTF, one can’t comment on them. Like the lead story in The Telegraph today.

Money quote - “She as an unchaste woman had defendant 1 (Tiwari) as her paramour even during the subsistence of her marriage...”

I laugh that I may not weep.

Update: Why is The Telegraph the only paper following this story? Not even the sensationalist TV channels have taken it up. Strange.

Bhairavi for my balcony

It’s still too early for the glow I’m looking for. But in the coolness before full sunrise, the air itself is green, cloaked with the washed-clean fragrance of our trees. I place the jar of biscuits on the balcony table, arrange the book and the phone and the ashtray, draw back the chair and freeze in sudden realisation.
I am becoming my father.
This is exactly what he does when he’s here. The deliberate arrangement of things on the table, placing the chair at a precise angle, one ankle hooked over the opposite knee as he waits for his tea. I’m even drinking tea these days instead of my usual dark fresh-brew. But my father drinks Darjeeling, just so. Not thick milky pau patti.
And he has never in his life worn psychedelic parachute-silk boxers.

On one branch of my krishnachura, the bark has acquired a metallic sheen, more bronze than gold. The sun is breaking free of the horizon’s haze. Seven shades of green come to life over the balcony railing. A tiny bird flutters out of the champa tree, confused by a falling leaf. The sunlight is papery, wrapping itself round the first wisps of smoke from the laundryman’s earthen stove in the next lane. The morning smells fresher, yet more languid than the soggy bouquet of the monsoons. Autumn in Calcutta.
The climbing sun glints into my eyes, batters on the morning coolness, warms my neck until a slow trickle of sweat signals the end of dawn. A bicycle bell drops into the pool of birdsong, I can almost see its ripples in slow motion. Then a rolled-up cylinder of newspapers arcs onto the balcony and lands with a satisfying thwack. My tea arrives.
The day holds promise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

regarding the world with a jaundiced eye?

Outside my window the autumn sun lights up the buildings in the next lane. A squadron of dragonflies does formation flights over the mango tree. Pujo weather, except that the Pujo has come and gone and I’ve spent it right here, flat on my back watching the light change on the trees, listening to the dhaak and the mantra paath in the mandap downstairs. Lots of commiseration from friends for missing the Pujo eats, but what I really missed is the adda in the old red-painted thakur dalan on Ekdalia Road. We sit there every year from shondhi pujo to shnidoor khela, catching up with friends and acquaintances, comparing notes on the year gone by, revelling in the entire milieu of laal paar and chunot kora dhuti and the flock of pretty women bustling to and fro on errands too abstruse to be comprehensible, grinning at the family banter, wondering at how the kids have grown with each passing year, just soaking in the atmosphere. For someone like me, who’s not very big on family ties, it’s an annual immersion in the clan and at the same time, an affirmation of the self.

So this year I’ve missed it. Or most of it. I did get one Sunday afternoon with friends and beer while the sound of knashor ghonta floated up and the ladies fluttered in sudden panic over being late for the pujo. The rest of the time, really, I was just too sick to care.

But being sick isn’t so bad. I can’t remember the last time I spent an entire week at home. One. Whole. Week. Haven’t even stepped out of the front door. How strange. No office, meetings, dinners, cocktails, gym, library. No Saturday-lunch-and-shopping, no let’s-try-that-new-place-for-dinner. No stopping-by-the-office-to-send-off-a-report. Nothing.

Instead … a succession of books. The Kite Runner. Sea of Poppies. A Dibdin. More fruits and fruit juice than I’ve tried in the last ten years – apples, pears, grapes (SUCH grapes!), papaya, grapefruit, custard apples, pomegranates. The Better Half, who normally never enters the kitchen, is cooking up a storm. Watching television – it’s been so damn long since I did that. Or just lying in bed watching the light change, hearing the cheep of sparrows as the sun climbs and the long cawing of rooks as twilight deepens. All sweetened by the additional sound track of VSP pitter-pattering about the house singing to herself, happy that Papa’s not “going to office” for the longest time.

I could get used to this. Far too easy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The more things change

On this blog, I tend to stick to faff, and not just because I’m shallow, superficial and petulant. I (still) have a day job as a civil servant. My conditions of service include certain restrictions on speaking on public issues. But sometimes I just have to let off some steam.

I worked for six years in the industries department in West Bengal. This was on the cusp of the turn-around, when my smart-alec friends equated my department with the Swiss navy. It required a change in mind-set, more so because I was straight out of a district posting. But it was interesting. I spent the better part of two years traipsing around the state and the country with my bag of samples, holding my tongue and patience when faced with supercilious CEOs, putting together “data-sets”, making endless presentations, negotiating with brash investors (the kind who’ve suddenly made the transition from trader to industrialist). And I made a big mistake. I started believing in my work. Not wise for a career civil servant.

I was only a small part of a large team, but I felt good when the results started to show. For a while, we all believed in the change, in the new Bengal. Which is why the Singur fiasco hurts all the more.

The basic issue was the right to property. Can the State take away your private land for a public purpose if you don’t want to sell it? I’d say yes, up to a point. You may not agree with the purpose, but the State has to (theoretically) act for the greatest good of the greatest number. But as I said, only up to a point. And in any case, the compensation for taking away your property should be at least equal to market levels.

What constitutes public purpose? Building a highway (or an inter-galactic bypass – ask Arthur Dent), or a sanitised zone, or even an industrial estate. Is it public purpose if the industrial estate is to be privately owned and operated? On balance, no. The private entrepreneurs can negotiate and purchase their own land. The State should ensure speed and transparency, publish clear estimates of land value, speed up documentation and transfer.

There’s a catch. Once industry starts buying up land, prices shoot up. Fine, pay more – that’s the law of the market. But what if you buy 980 acres out of the 1000 you need, and then get stuck because of 20 acres right in the heart of the project area? Could be any reason – price negotiation, political pressure, sheer cussedness. It’s happened to me, a 200-acre project was stuck for months because of 9.47 acres. So does the State have a responsibility to step in and sort out these problems for a huge private project? In the Singur case, did the State do the right thing by being pro-active and acquiring land themselves?

Perhaps not. But right or wrong, the whole process could have been far more acceptable given greater transparency. Why didn’t the West Bengal government make public at least the broad terms of the agreement with the Tatas? If we can’t see it, we can’t trust it. So up to this point, Govt. acquisition for private use = negative marks and lack of transparency = negative marks. 2-0 against the Govt., so far.

Having made these mistakes, could they still have made the best of a bad deal? Most certainly. By offering compensation at market rates or better and publicising it. They could have recouped the extra expenditure from the Tatas, maybe called it a speed surcharge, development costs, whatever. In a project of this size, one can’t have full consensus. But the Govt. could have more effectively addressed the grievances of the unwilling land-losers. That would have reduced the opposition to the project and the political fall-out.

Now to the specifics. Once the Opposition had made their point about adequate compensation for land-losers, once the Governor had stepped in and brokered a compromise, why did the process fail? First, because of one woman’s insistence that 300 acres of land within the project area would have to be returned to farmers. Bloody ridiculous. Much more honest to come right out and say, take your project and sod off, we don’t want you here. Second, because the Govt. could not deal separately with the Opposition’s demands – a political issue – and their methods, which broke the law of the land. Perhaps a third reason too – despite the huge media criticism of the Trinamool actions, this Govt. has never had any clue of public relations or media management.

End result – the project is stalled, 1000 acres of land are now useless and a few thousand residents of Singur are bankrupt. In effect, the last two months have pi… washed away most of what we worked for in those years. Yet again, vindicates my decision about my last career move. But it still leaves a very bad taste.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hack wok

(Just an example of what I do for pelf. Published under the imaginative title "Wok our way")

In the 1970s, a Calcutta lad moved to Bombay and ended up performing as a limbo dancer. He moved on to work as a chef in Geoffrey’s and eventually set up his own restaurant. Which became, to put it mildly, very popular. Because it took Indian Chinese upmarket. This, boys and girls, was long before you could add a handful of chopped coriander and a dash of turmeric to chicken broth and pass it off as fusion cuisine. The man in question was (of course) Nelson Wang, but his contribution to the culinary map goes beyond China Garden. Nelson Wang gave the world Chicken Manchurian.

Now Chicken Manchurian has nothing to do with Manchuria (and in some versions, sadly enough, precious little to do with chicken). Wang himself has said that he named this mongrel dish after the region of Manchao which is traditionally viewed as barbaric. But the simple expedient of soaking batter-fried chicken dumplings in a spicy chilli soy sauce opened the flood-gates for the million “Chinese” restaurants that now serve “Hakka noodles”, “golden fried prawns”, “sweet and sour chicken” and “four treasure vegetables”. And, of course, everything from chicken to cauliflower “Manchurian”.

This is the essence of what we proudly call “Calcutta Chinese” food – any faintly Chinese ingredients spiced up with large amounts of fresh garlic, ginger, and hot chillies, “like ramped-up curries minus the ground spices”, as New York’s Village Voice put it. It may not be Chinese, but boy, does it sell! And it originated in an eastern corner of Calcutta called Tangra, which is special because it is possibly India’s only Chinatown At least three Chinese eateries in New York named “Tangra” attest to the universal popularity of Tangra style food.

Purists like the formidable Ram Ray, one of Calcutta’s premier foodies, tend to look askance at this version. For them, authentic Chinese cuisine in Calcutta means either the Bengal Club, where the signature dish is the sesame prawn toast, or the Chinoiserie at the Taj. The Pan Asian at the ITC Sonar Bangla, as its name suggests, is not limited to China alone. Chefs Pramod and Harpavan recommend the sautéed jumbo prawns and pine seeds in hot garlic chilli sauce (xiang shong ren xia ren. What, you didn’t want to know?!) and the chien tzu, wok fried vegetables with rice wine and pepper.

The Chinoiserie prides itself on its authenticity – even the chillies for the chilli paste are flown in from China. Kim pao is the Shanghai style duck at the Chinoiserie, spicy and flavourful. They also serve an aromatic crispy duck, but the piece de resistance is the Beijing duck with Mandarin pancakes, served usually with sweet bean sauce but with goy sin sauce available on demand. If you can’t make it to Quan Ju De in Beijing itself, this comes pretty close. (Having tried both, I can vouch for it.) Chefs Lian and Srinivas wax lyrical about their dim sums. Having tasted these, I can see their point. Served wrapped in reed leaves in traditional Chinese fashion, these include the authentic glutinous rice with pork, the yang bao or rasin bread with mildly spiced lamb (which stays fresh and succulent inside the dough) and a real work of art, the hargao or Cantonese dumpling with a shell so thin it’s translucent and one can see the pink fresh shrimps inside.

A number of Taj personnel have struck out on their own, the best known being the Red Hot Chilli Pepper chain. Their fried rice was superb, mainly because they cooked the rice in stock and not water. Nowadays, however, they have had to adapt to the Indian palate rather than stick with authenticity. Perhaps authenticity is affordable at the Chinoiserie alone, where a meal for two would set you back by at least 3500 rupees.

Mainland China on Gurusaday Road also serves dim sums including hargao, but they are closer to the Bengali heart and palate (and pocket!). Their crackling spinach – ideally eaten with honey ginger sauce – is quite wonderful, but they pride themselves on the steamed fish in lemon soya sauce and the jumbo prawns in chilli bean sauce, both innovations by chef Rajesh Dubey. In other words, variations on a Chinese air, to suit the Bangali babus.

The premier fish dish, however, is served by Josephine Huang of Eu Chu. Tucked away on the first floor behind a petrol pump on Ganesh Chandra Avenue, this eatery, started in the 1910s by Mr. Huang’s grandmother, is a cult among Calcutta foodies. Josephine’s steamed soya fish is different from the usual Calcutta Chinese. A whole young bhetki is grilled in a sauce of rice wine and ginger with black beans, then served with scallions, chives and Chinese parsley. Her signature dish, Josephine noodles, is a mixed platter of pan-fried, slightly crisp noodles and mixed meat in an egg-based sauce with a hint of soya. Not found in China, perhaps, but very good indeed. Eu Chu (meaning Europe) is also one of the last bastions of a Calcutta favourite, chimney soup. This was most famously associated with How Hua on Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street as was), but that venerable institution, alas, has given up the ghost. So now Josephine Huang will serve your chimney soup made to order, with the unique flavour imparted by the charcoal grill in the centre.

The standard Tangra fare these days is more Shyambazar than Shanghai, more Patiala than Peking. The more popular eateries – Kafulok, Beijing, Golden Joy - are full of Bengali clans clamouring for what is essentially Bangali food with noodles added, spiced with cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Some dishes even feature yoghurt! Dishes are by default served with generous helpings of gravy, although they can also be ordered "dry" or "without gravy".

There’s a short-hand to interpreting the menus here. Chilli means hot and batter-fried, Manchurian dishes (even cabbage Manchurian!) come in a sweet and salty brown sauce, and Szechwan dishes come covered in a spicy red sauce. Large portions, strong on the palate, but not the taste of China. If you want that in Tangra, you have to seek out Kim Fa (The Old Man’s Place or Old Man Kim’s, though the ancient proprietor’s real name is Hsien). This little eatery serves beef belly in fermented lime with vegetables, or fried and served with rice wine – hot favourite with the local Chinese population. You can also get whole roast suckling pig, Chinese style, but this requires an order to be placed two days in advance. One day to marinate it, one day to cook it slow. I must make special mention of Auntie Chung and her husband, who don’t run a restaurant but cater a fabulous ten-course spread at Chinese weddings. Starting with roast pork, this gastronomical orgy also includes steamed chicken, authentic four treasure vegetables or chow ka tan, fried fish in a hot and sour sauce, seafood and meat dumplings with fried bread, sui mai, mushrooms with shark’s fin, and kwang, which is scallops with egg and carrots. Possibly a test of the newly-wed couple’s powers of endurance!

Calcutta’s Chinatown was earlier centred round Tiretti Bazaar in the heart of the trading district, and the Chinese breakfast there used to be the stuff of legend. These days it is a pale shadow, with a few straggling stalls set up in the early morning on the sidewalk behind Poddar Court. Most of them sell greasy fried abominations that are neither Chinese nor appetizing, but some still offer good sui mai (though I’d steer clear of the prawn), noodle soup, moon cakes or nyat biang, and variations of the Chinese fried bread, bao, best eaten with kongee or “rice soup”. Not haute cuisine, but substantial and very cheap – you can eat your fill for fifty rupees.

There used to be some family-run restaurants in this area too. I still remember the foo yung rice and kup tai mei foon (rice noodles with what I thought was pork liver, turned out to have kidneys and heart as well!) in Tai Wah on Synagogue Street, but it’s closed down now. Chin Wah in the next lane is still open, but it’s just a more wholesome version of the sidewalk stalls outside Writers’ Building that peddle “chow mein” during the lunch hour. In fact most of the Chinese eateries of the 70s and 80s are now closed or made over. Peiping on Park Street was the place to go to once upon a time. They served a wonderful breaded pork chop that, for strange reasons, was labeled “French” on the menu. Gone with the wind, alas, as is the quality food at Jimmy’s Kitchen near the Theatre Road corner which once claimed to have invented sweet and sour chicken. (The essential ingredient, of course, is pineapple chunks). Over on Central Avenue – sorry, C.R. Avenue now – the venerable Chung Wah still retains its unhurried charm and the same staff who served my father. Their Mandarin crab and chicken rice in oyster sauce are not only flavours of the past, they are also delectable examples of Calcutta Chinese cuisine.

Which only proves my basic point. Chinese food as she is ate in Calcutta may taste more of the Indian karhai than the classic wok, but it is still a unique culinary experience and well worth trying.