bangalore Travel Guide
Ok, probably not but Taco Bell did just open its first location in India on March 16 and plans on opening 1,000 more Taco Bells, Pizza Huts and KFCs in the next five years.
Located in a mall in Bangalore, the first Taco Bell in India has attracted 2,000 to 2,500 customers every day since it opened, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.
Taco Bell had to take all the beef out of its regular menus, using chicken instead, and it recreated many vegetarian options for Indian customers.
Its "Crunchy Taco--Potato" and "Paneer [cheese] and Potato Burritos" are attempts to give Indian consumers a Mexican fast-food experience without the meat.
India Travel / Airports / Airport News / BLR / → All Tags
After much delay, Bangalore's new international airport is set to open this Saturday. But while air traffic controllers have been busy training, the local government has been strangled by its own red tape, says The New York Times, leaving the city horrendously unprepared to deal with all the new traffic.
The roads and rail links that promised to connect the new hub--which is 21 miles outside of town--have yet to materialize. Even now, crews are scrambling to finish road-widening efforts, the Times reports. Meanwhile air traffic at the old HAL airport in the heart of Bangalore (also known as Bengaluru) has doubled in the past two years. With that airport slated to close and the population booming, India's "Silicon Valley" is looking to be more car-choked than ever.
We took a look at the shuttle schedule on the BLR Web site, which lists nine routes that seem to connect the airport to the city pretty well. Of course the routes won't matter if the roadways are so clogged that nobody wants to ride them. A small local air carrier is looking to capitalize on the situation by running a commuter helicopter service to the airport for $100 per ride. Sounds familiar!
I haven't yet seen a mainstream travel guide that includes Bangalore's enormous recently built Shiva idol as part of the sights to see. Maybe the guides just haven't gotten to it, and maybe its newness counts against it -- all I know is that I would take visitors here before heading to the interesting but overrated Bull Temple, on the other side of town.
The statue -- over 60 feet tall! -- was built by the owners of the Kemp Fort chain of department stores. They placed it behind their Kemp Fort branch on Airport Road. Look for the huge fort-like building as you take your taxi into town -- Shiva's waiting for you in back. -- John Rambow
· Shiva Temple [iExplore]
· Kempfort Shiva pictures [Ken the teaman]
It can be hard to figure out why many of the "classic" restaurants mentioned in guidebooks are in there -- if they ever had any flair, it's usually gone by the time someone thinks to write the place up.
At least one long-standing place mentioned in most Bangalore guides has enough class to make a visit worth it -- Koshy's. More of a coffee shop with a full menu than a full-service restaurant, Kosky's has been in the same spot for over 50 years, since shortly after Independence, and many of the customers appear to have been coming for at least the last few of those decades.
Koshy's smoking section is where the action is -- it's on the left as you enter (the room to the right is a little frou-frou and therefore suspect). In the slightly tatty smoking section, there are a few old portraits scattered on the wall, with fluorescent lights and indifferent fans on the ceiling. At the tables, businessmen, journalists and others argue and make their deals over tea, butter chicken, fresh lime sodas, and Kingfishers.
There are definitely other places with food as good as or better than Koshy's, but few of them are going to give you as good a sense of what the city's like when all the tourists have moved on down the road out of Bangalore.
[Image of Koshy's Patron via RS2802/Flickr]
· Cantonment's very own meeting place [Hindu]
Being a clueless-but-learning foreigner in India means being surprised by things that the locals wouldn't think to mention. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a holiday named Ugadi, but what was going to happen?
Turns out Ugadi is New Year's, which begins during a springtime new moon. This isn't an India-wide holiday -- it's the people in the south India states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andra Pradesh that will be celebrating.
I'm not expecting any Holi-like antics, though. It's a time to get right spiritually, doing things like planning for the year ahead and checking out traditional dance and music. It's also traditional to eat both jaggery (palm sugar) and the bitter flowers of the neem tree -- the coming year, after all, is likely to be a little sweet, and also a little bitter. -- John Rambow
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Pani Puris belong to the immense group called chaats, savory snacks that are usually spiced with a mix that includes cumin, dried mango powder, chili powder, and other exciting ingredients. If you think that snacking was somehow cooked up by the Pringles or Hershey company, then you've got another thing coming -- Indians are dedicated snackers, especially when late afternoon or early evening is here and dinner still seems a long way off.
Pani Puris got my attention at first just because they look so cool -- a bit like an opened-up, crisp soup dumpling. The exoskeleton is formed from fried globes of dough, the puri. After you get handed a plate and fork, the chaatwallah (snackseller) picks up a golfball-sized puri, sticks his thumb in it to make a hole, and then fills the "bowl" up with ladles of tangy liquids. There will also be some mint in there, some chickpeas, and some potato and onion. The exact fillings vary by seller and by region, but one common taste is that of tamarind pulp, making the mess sweet and tangy.
But back to the puri in front of you. The thin little puff can't handle the immensity of goodness within. Its walls are starting to give way -- stick the whole thing in your mouth, try not to dribble on your chin. Spoon up some the liquid you missed, and now it's time for another.
After you finish one or two, the seller will plop another few on your plate. In theory, you could keep this up until you exploded -- it would be a messy end, but far from untasty. As usual with street food, bring small bills and change -- a plate of them goes for about 10 rupees.
Image from Culiblog
It's impossible to overlook the ads here. For one thing, they're always louder than the shows themselves. During HBO's or AXN's frequent movie broadcasts, the ads come in randomly, at times that have nothing to do with the action or the plot. If the ads wait until a scene has ended or when someone's finished being killed, then that's purely by coincidence. That's OK, though, since many of the ads hold your attention more than the movies.
Most of the ads are in a mix of English and Hindi. One ad, for a new kind of noodles, ends with the happy slogan "Taste bhi. Health bhi" ("Both taste and health"). The less English there is, the more carefree and entertaining the ads often seem. One of the more riveting ones showed a woman hanging onto a rope over a cliff. Gloating over her was a big evil dude -- going by his big handlebar mustache and other accessories, it was probably the demon king Ravana. As far as I can tell, the lady in peril got out of her predicament by distracting Ravana with a delicious Cadbury candy bar (only 5 rupees! And they're very good).
The English-language ads are rarely as fun as this. They are slicker, though. A major proportion of them are for cell phones, especially the models that cost the equivalent of $200 and up -- not exactly pocket change. Scooters are also very popular subjects -- one ad, for a brand that can evidently only be operated by a cheeky woman, uses a song that asks a little plaintively, "Why should boys have all the fun?" I don't know, but I do know that no guy is ever going to come within 100 meters of that thing.
And then there are the saturation-level ads for Café Chino, Pepsi's mashup of coffee and cola. The scene takes place in the sort of office in which attractive workers can easily dirty-dance with each other. After the semi-sexy guy in the ad is done tussling with the gorgeous Bollywood stars Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, he ends up tamed and covered with lipstick kisses. The ad is annoying in the way that most successful commercials are the world over. I just wish I could get the damn song out of my head.
Bangalore suddenly seems hot, or at least hottish, and not just because some of us are there right now and inclined to believe the hype. The NYT and Wallpaper both ran guides to Bangalore in recent days. The Times article's concern is to pass on the hangouts of the IT folks and other rich people, and also to make it clear that some parts of town bring to mind Silicon Valley, Rodeo Drive, and/or South Beach. This is all completely true, as far as it goes. Wallpaper goes to the designy places too, but it also has room for the city market, the beautiful parks, and restaurants that don't look as if they were designed for the pages of Wallpaper. They also manage to visit a palace and temple or two -- a good idea, no? Our advice is to use the Times to get a club name or two, and use Wallpaper to get ideas about everything else but hotels (those listings are necessarily skimpy). Later this week, we'll give you a few more places that seem like must-sees.
Image of the Leela Palace hotel
· Nightlife in Bangalore [NYT]
· Bangalore City Guide [Wallpaper]
Fresh lime sodas are one of the simplest, most refreshing things you can find on the streets of India. With the tang of lime juice mixed into soda water along with sugar and maybe a bit of salt and chili powder, it's a taste that's easy to like.
The two most common choices are simple: sweet or sour. A sweet one is probably best for a first taste, and they remain my favorite. But be warned -- they make some sugarphobes' teeth ache. You can also find lime sodas flavored with ginger, as well as a lime soda masala. This last one, with a mixture of cumin and other spices, is more of an acquired taste, but it's refreshing and definitely not the abomination that a masala Coke is.
If you're worried about getting one of these sodas off the street because of hygiene, try not to worry too much. Because the drink uses carbonated water and most sellers won't have any possibly iffy ice cubes to tempt you anyway, it's a slight risk that's well work making.
· Lime Soda recipe [Waitrose]
From his observation deck in Bangalore, John Rambow will be reporting weekly on television and other parts of Indian popular culture.
When I first got here, I didn't think that there'd be much TV in English at all. There are a lot more Hollywood movies than I thought there'd be, but it's not exactly Grade A stuff. We end up watching a lot of action and horror movies that we never even heard of back in the U.S. Webs, anyone? How about Octane, in which Mischa Barton and Jonathan Rhys Meyers take turns chewing up the scenery?
The TV is free from anything indie or arty. Vanity Fair (2004) was just on last night, but I suspect that had more to do with how great Reese Witherspoon looks riding an elephant in the film's supersaturated India ending and less to do with anyone's love for Empire waists.
The dosa has got to be one of the India's best street foods. In a place that seems to have invented, or at least perfected the concept of having a quick bite outside, that's pretty high praise.
What you get with a dosa is a thin, enormous crepe folded up to enclose various fillings. The most common variety, the masala dosa, has an outer crepe made of rice and lentil flours. The flours have been fermented overnight, so they have a nice tang that complements the filling: boiled potatoes and onion spiced with mustard seeds, turmeric, curry leaves, and chilies.
Typically, as in the photo above, your dosa will come with a sweet coconut chutney and a small bowl of sambar, a vegetable and lentil soup. The chutney comes in handy for taking away a bit of the heat.
Here in Bangalore, dosa carts are easy to find on busy streets, especially near office buildings -- they ought to be easy to find throughout South India and up through Mumbai. If you're not quite ready for jostling to the front of the line at a street stall, you can also get dosas in lots of more casual, quick restaurants. Don't expect to pay more than 20 rupees or so for one -- the one above cost 12.
This is the second post in a series covering the food I'm eating while staying in Bangalore. For more food and whole bunch more livestock, you might want to check out my personal blog at Bangalore Monkey. -- John Rambow
For the next few months, I'll be based in Bangalore, reporting on what I see there and elsewhere in India. Today's the first in a regular series covering the various things I manage to find and eat. -- John Rambow
A thali (pronounced "tah li") is literally a metal plate with a lip around the edge, but more commonly it's the food you get served on these plates. Such "meals," as the Indians also call these set-price deals, are popular with workers for lunch. And thalis ought to be: they're super-cheap, going as low as 12 rupees (about a quarter U.S.) in some of the really cheap joints, and they're usually filling and good. The exact dishes vary with the region you happen to be in, but whether you're in the north or south, thalis are a good way to sample a bunch of small things.
After being here a couple weeks, I've come up with a cheat sheet to a good first thali experience -- my tips after the jump.