Mainland China

Mainland China came into existence in 1994, the first outlet being in erstwhile Bombay. It’s not surprising that this piece of news didn’t reach the majority of middle class people residing in Bengal. Why would they have bothered with accounts of some expensive Chinese restaurant opening in Bombay? I, as a child, was quite happy with our occasional Peping and Chung Wah stints while visits to Calcutta and the ketchup slathered ‘chowmein’ at street stalls. Eating out hadn’t gained popularity, nor had Chinese restaurants popped up like mushrooms all over the city. The China Town or Tangra area in Calcutta still ruled when it came to amazing food and liquor at modest rates. Years passed, Anjan Chatterjee made his mark with Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta, and finally inaugurated the first outlet in Calcutta in the last decade. It was still inaccessible to a student like me with its posh location and exorbitant prices. It was only when I left home ten years ago, the Western concept of eating out slowly imbibed into my being. Mainland China was still beyond my reach with its à-la-carte prices that could slash my wallet brutally. I’m not sure about the year of inception of a buffet or ‘set meal’ (as referred in the China buffets all around US & UK) in Mainland China, but I was over the moon that the bill could fit in my wallet in lieu of some great food. Summing up my experiences of over five years at Mainland China outlets in three Indian cities hitherto.

The Decor

One of the most attractive features of Mainland China (MC) is the decor. I’ve been to four different MC outlets and the decor is always soothing, oriental, calm and soft to the eyes. The entrance of every outlet has been a mishmash of designer wooden panels as dividers that impart a feeling of passing into a private space. The lights are dim and tables are very strategically placed, so that you don’t overhear conversations, get irritated by inane people nearby or stumble into someone else while filling your plate from the buffet counters. Seats are quite comfortable and tables are adequately spaced to fit in your satchel or purse. The decor at each outlet I’ve visited fetched a big thumbs up, and here’s a glimpse of my favourite piece at any eatery, the ceiling lamp.

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

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5 Reasons You Should Try Haleem This Eid

Haleem. It means Patience. And rightly so. Food that takes longer than eight hours to cook must be great in taste. That’s what I had thought when I first heard of Haleem in Hyderabad. Being a foodie and a Calcuttan, I should have heard of it earlier, but I hadn’t because middle class folks like us residing in Calcutta and suburbs didn’t indulge into niche Ramadan delicacies. Secondly, Haleem is way more popular and available in Hyderabad than our bhaat-maachh loving Calcutta. I have tried Haleem and gradually have become a kind  of connoisseur for the wholesome dish. If you still haven’t tasted this divine food, here are a few reasons why you should.

Irani Haleem at Sarvi Restaurants, Hyderabad

Irani Haleem at Sarvi Restaurants, Hyderabad

1. History – Did you know Haleem dated back to 10th century when it was called Harisah in the Arabian lands? According to historians, the recipe for Harisah has been found dated 10th century and it was a popular dish among the Arabs. It was introduced to the Hyderabadi Nizam’s soldiers by the Arabs and later got modified into Haleem.

2. Heritage – Harisah or Harees was sold throughout the year as a snack in the bazaars, in some faraway land like a fairy tale. Today it is reduced to being available just in the month of Ramadan in India and Pakistan. The rarity of the dish has made it more popular and exotic, with people like me waiting all the year just for a taste of Haleem in the holy month of Ramadan. While Hyderabad has conserved and enriched the authenticity of Haleem, other cities have created their own runny versions, a few very weird at that too.

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