FOOD! Top five foods you need to eat in Kolkata.

So one of the many parts about travelling that I love is getting to experience so many amazing kinds of food! Whether it is hot pot in China, fried chicken in Cambodia, Thom Yum soup in Thailand, Bun Cha in a Southeast Asian country, or ethnic deliciousness in Central Asia, there is many a dish that I have eaten on this trip that makes my mouth water as I think about them. Drooling on my keyboard is probably an electrocution risk right? Not to mention unsanitary. Anyway, the point is that travel provides a great opportunity to not only open your mind to new persepctives and ideas, but to also open your pallette to new flavours, textures, smells, and sensations. I think that it is important for us to be searching for new foods and opportunities to experience dining in whatever culture we find ourselves in. Unlike most of North America, many countries observe eating in a sort of intimate way. A great deal of importance is placed on food. From preparation to consumption and every step in between. Sharing a meal with people can give you great insight into that culture, more so than most other activities. And as eating is a necessity to life you will be more likely to share a meal with them then let’s say get a traditional tribal tattoo or something of that nature. Being in Kolkata for a little over a month now I have been able to experience a lot of different foods and dining experiences. Some of them have been more enjoyable than others, but each tells a different story and holds a unique memory. So below I have compiled a list of the foods that I have enjoyed most!

1.  CHICKEN KASSA AND RUMALI RUTI
   
     So this was one of my first “Indian” meals in Kolkata. My friend, who is a local, took me to a place about a 10 minute walk from my hotel in a sort of strip mall style restaurant area. The chicken kassa is a typical chicken curry in West Bengal, it features pieces of chicken, bone included, stewed in a rich dark gravy made up of numerous spices and chilis, and left to cook for hours to allow the flavours time to deepen and intensify. It is a heavenly chorus of flavour that knows no competitior! Combine this with piping hot, freshly stretched rumali ruti, the chipati’s larger and thinner cousin, and you have got yourself a match that could be featured in a commercial for e-Harmony. It is truly that delightful of an experience! Fun fact: Rumal is the word for handkerchief in the local language, so rumali ruti is kind of like saying “hankie bread.” At least that’s what my friend told me.
Price: The most expensive meal on the list 100 INR – 150 INR depending on your portion size and number of Ruti

2. PANI PURI OR PUCHKAS

    Ah, puchkas. All my instincts told me it was a risk and that I should probably pass on it. But, this time I told my instincts to get lost and I am thankful I did. Puchkas are a delicious little crispy potato chip-like shell with a filling made of potato, chickpeas, fresh cilantro, and various spices. Mixed by hand I should add. Maybe it’s the risk of food poisoning that adds to the experience. Anyway, the shell is broken by the street vendor and filled with potato and then dipped in a dark brown liquid that my local friend only called “sour water.” This process is repeated until you have had your fill and tell the man that you are finished. This may not sound like an appetizing street food however, I assure you that it is indeed delightful! There is nothing quite like standing on a street with horns honking behind you, stuffing your face with puchkas. True bliss!
Price: I think I paid 10 INR for 5 Puchkas or $0.20

3. KATI ROLLS

    Kati rolls. Kolkata’s iconic street food, or so I have heard. Either way, they’re delicious! A piece of dough is flattened and rolled out. Then fried in hot oil on a giant griddle type pan. If you are lucky, this process will be a lot more visually enticing than it sounds. Some of Kolkata’s Kati roll providers are extremely skilled in the tossing and frying of dough as a performance art, it’s quite the spectacle. After the frying, the dough is filled with your choice of toppings, ranging from veggie, to egg and chicken. It is seriously one of the best street foods I have ever come across, and it is only available in the evening, at least as far as I know.
Price:  40 INR – 80 INR or $0.79 – $1.60

4. PARATHA AND POTATO CURRY

      Another dish that features some type of bread. I could just write about the varieties of Indian bread available, but that is another post for another time. This is one of my favourite breakfast foods in the world! You can save your Corn Pops and your Eggo waffles, this is truly the most satisfying breakfast I have ever had. Three pieces of dough are flattened and fried, the same way as the beginning of the kati roll, these are the paratha, a common form of bread eaten here. These are accompanied by a insanely delicious potato curry that is made fresh each morning. They serve it on a sectional stainless steel plate garnished with fresh diced red onion and a seriously intense mustard sauce. As you try not to burn your fingers you rip off pieces of the bread and pinch the potato between them. It is truthfully one of the most enjoyable experiences this city has to offer. The best, and only spot I have found so far, is near a mall called Metropolis in Kolkata. It’s just a little shack with old bamboo poles supporting a less the waterproof tin roof, but man is it ever delicious!
Price: 17 INR – 35 INR or $0.33 – $0.70

5. LASSI (or LOSI)

    One of the more famous Indian treats, and although technically not a food, it deserves a spot here. Let me first say that before I had a real Lassi I was quite skeptical because I did not particularly enjoy my Lassi experiences in Indian restaurants in Canada . However, since I have had a real Indian Lassi, I have been born again! My friend took me to a place that is famous in his neighbourhood for having the best Lassi in Kolkata. The old man at the shop combines a sort of room temeprature yogurt, (safe) ice cubes, and copius amounts of rock sugar, in an old fashioned blender that I’m sure has been around since the 40’s. After it is blended to his satisfaction he opens the spout and out comes a delicious dairy laden delight that I am convinced is a gift from the heavens. He tops the drink with a piece of what I can oly describe as crust, which souds far less appetizing than it really is, and hands you your prize. It is seriously the best thing after a hot curry, or really anytime. The best Lassi is said to be found at a shop in the Tagore Park area, or at Sonarpur Railway station.  I preferred the shop in Tagore Park, but if you are ever in Kolkata you will have to try them for yourself!
Price: 20 INR or $0.40

Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed hearing about he food at least half as much as I have enjoyed eating it! If there is any sort of cultural topic that you would like to read about I would be happy to do research and write about it! Leave a comment below if you have any suggestions!

Grace and peace,
Caleb

     I vividly remember arriving here in Kolkata. Stepping out of the airport into the hot and somewhat viscous October night air,  and being greated by a symphony of horns, and shouts. I remember waiting for a little over half an hour for someone to meet me so I could find out where I would be staying. I remember finally meeting that person and finding out that they thought I was going to be arriving at a different gate. I remember the bus ride, the conversation, and the arrival at my hotel. And honestly, it feels like it was yesterday, but it also feels like it was a month ago.  My time here has gone by in a blur, it feels as though I am on a speeding train/motorbike/auto rickshaw (really any form of transportation) ride. I have been able to see many different places, meet many different people, try many kinds of food (stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to food), and have had many different experiences. These include sleeping on a cement floor in a church unexpectedly, nearly falling out of an auto rickshaw going 60km/h, putting a chair through a freshly made mud floor, climbing a bamboo ladder that I really had no business being on, and using many a squatty potty. But this time has also felt like a long journey that has only just begun. I have experienced dissapointment, fear, confusion, and sadness. This month has brought hardship and tribulation (big words!). However, in these moments when God can seem so far away I have experienced Him in some powerful ways.

     I was reading the other day in Romans 12 where it talks about the “Marks of the True Christian” and a piece of it struck me as like an “Oh I get it.” moment. I am not saying that I “get it”, but this particular verse made an impact on me. The verse that I’m talking about is Romans 12:15. It says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” It was a really cool passage to read in the context of that being a mark of the true Christian. If this is a mark of the true followers of Christ, that means this is a mark of the true Christ, right? If this makes us more like Christ than it must have been what Christ was like. This verse brought so much comfort in the knowledge of the empathetic side of our Heavenly Father. The phrase “God knows just what we need” gets used a lot today, and I agree 110%, but I always thought that had to mean he would bring us out of our hardship or struggle. He always had to lighten the mood and make things better, because, He knew we needed that. But on this day I saw this phrase in a new way. God does know exactly what we need, and sometimes we just need to be able to bear our soul and cry out to Him that we are in anguish. Psalm 51 speaks about the sacrifice of the Lord being a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So in my struggles I decided to do that, and let’s just say it involved some salt water flowing from my eyes, but in a manly way. As I laid in my bed with tears in my eyes, unable to sleep, and just all around bummed right out I experienced a part of God that I had been missing out on. It was as if He was sitting there on the bed beside me shedding tears with me, and feeling the same hurts that I was feeling. It was as if He had put His loving arm around me and said “I know buddy, it sucks.” There was no grand revelation that He would make it go away, or that things would get better. There was no magic formula of how I could ease the pain or the struggle that I was feeling, but there was empathy. And in this struggle, in that moment that is what I needed.

GlobeTREK Update: I am a month and a bit into my internship! Things are going decently but there are a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out so prayer for doing that with wisdom and discernment on my side and my partner organizations side would be much appreciated! Also, some of my team members were having some difficulty with their visa situation but it looks like everything is sorted! So PTL!

Thanks for reading friends!

Grace and peace,
Caleb

Coffee, coffee, coffee, and the Word.

I started to slide down the side walk, and naturally, out of fear and confusion, my first reaction was to run faster. As I felt that I was finally back on solid, not inclined, ground,  I looked back to investigate the cause of my slippery adventure. I found that a combination of Clark’s Desert Boots, which if you have ever worn no that they have about as much grip as your grandmas freshly waxed hardwood hallway, and mud had been the key contributors. I wiped a drop(s) of sweat from my face, thanked the good Lord that it was only mud, and continued my journey. I rounded th corner and spotted the cafe that I had been looking for and made my way towards my cliche millenial-Christian hideaway. Recently, I have found great comfort in reading the bible. I have found the words of Christ, and the apostles that followed, more compelling and engaging than ever before, at least that I can remember. Phrases that I have read many, probably hundreds of times, have somehow changed and mean so much more to me. Likewise, coffee shops have been somewhat of a safe haven, I am in one currently, as I seek to “escape” or take a break from the craziness of this city. I know I sound like a hipster, and I guess I am a little bit. Anyway, I have been experiencing a renewal of sorts. Things that seem mundane or ordinary in my comfortable “first world” life, have been brought to new light and have taken a new form it seems. Writing for instance, something that I have looked at with disdain (often because it is associated with an 8-10 page paper due in two days that has not yet been started) has been something that I have found great joy in, and more than that, something that I have been able to spend time with God doing. Recently I have taken to rewriting some Psalms in my own words, call it plagiarism if you want but, I enjoy communicating with God in that way. Yes, in an ethically-unsound way, get over it. But the thing that has been the most refreshed in my life is the joy of devotion. As any good Christian kid knows you “enjoy” devotions and spending time with God is “fun.” But in the same way that every good Christian kid knows this, they also know that this is just not true all the time. However, recently the “fun” has come back! But it’s different,  it’s more of a constant, steady joy rather than an exciting hit you in the face kind of experience. It has been really cool to experience the consistency of time with God, and finding joy in those times. I find that it’s in these times when my my heart is most open to what God has to teach me. In these times that I find are very challenging, God has been leading me on a tremendously thought provoking and perspective changing journey. I am excited to see where it leads as it continues! It makes me think a lot about God’s character. Especially, the inexhaustible nature of it. I often get caught up in the action of devotions or worship, trying to make my actions fit into this mould of who God is that I forget that God doesn’t fit in our mould. There is so much about God to discover and experience, but I often shut myself off to that. In this I miss out on that refreshing experience, I miss out on God opening me up to a new experience or a new perspective that could be amazing and life changing.