Why? Is this night different?

Indian seder

The Mul Yam Kosher restaurant in Kowloon is really excellent. The food is phenomenal, and there are tablecloths and cotton napkins, stem water-glasses. It is a place to take clients. However, it is also phenomenally expensive and costs about twice what the same food would cost in an upmarket Jerusalem restaurant.One can find Haagen Daaz ice-cream and Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies, but for Kosher food, the options in Kowloon are limited.

I’d been subsisting on chocolate, raw vegetables, fruit and crackers in Zhuhai for a week, and wanted to eat something proper. I stumbled across Smrat Pure Veg. an outlet in a market that sells Indian Punjabi and Jain food. The consumerables behind the counter all looked very interesting. I wasn’t sure what the things were though. After ascertaining that it is strictly vegetarian, I asked the vendor what the least spicy stuff he had was. He called over a Sikh who explained that as the food is ready made, it is all rather hot, with lots of chili pepper. He explained however, that they had a restaurant upstairs, where they would cook for me without chili, and less spices.

I followed him to a lift and we went up six floors and through a plain door to an authentic Indian restaurant. The decor furniture and prices were rather more modest than at the the Kosher restaurant. unfortunately I had no idea what any of the dishes were!

Remembering the great BBC “Goodness Gracious Me!” sketch, I explained that I was English and wanted something bland. I let them choose dishes from the menu and, after ascertaining that the cheese was strictly vegetarian without animal rennet, waited for what I was about to receive.

When I arrived, the restaurant was empty. It quickly filled up, and I noticed that everyone else looked rather Indian. I think I had found where the Indian tailors go to eat! Someone photographed me with his smart phone and asked if I liked Indian cuisine. I responded that I didn’t know, but could let him know later.

Whereas Chinese women dress for the climate and wear rather short skirts or shorts, Indian ladies are more like Beis Yaakov seminary students. They don’t cover their hair, but wear full length skirts or trousers, or tunics over leggings, and have sleeves to their triceps.

The waitress brought me some pieces of carrot and cucumber and a bowl with a dip that turned out to be yoghurt with cardamon and various other spices. I was on home ground! On all other nights we don’t dip even once, but on this night, twice! She brought me a fork. Noticing that everyone else was managing with a spoon and their fingers, I disdainfully put it to one side.

There was a picture of the Ben Ish-Chai (or similar) on one wall, and a television screen showing a Bollywood movie on another, which added to the atmosphere. The waitress brought Chapatis and a delicate curry. Chapatis are unleavened bread, that can be used to wrap Paschal lamb and horse-radish super Indian, hot hot sauce (but not in a strictly vegetarian restaurant of course). I suspect that the Indian child on the next table that I was playing Pickaboo with, was born in China. I bet his parents used supper in an Indian restaurant to explain where the family had come from and where it was going, and the miraculous trip on eagles wings across the South China sea.

I ordered a Samosa, and finished with some Indian sweet that turned out to be butter fried balls of semolina (פסולת). Together with mineral water and a coffee, the meal cost about 70 shekels, or $20 US. I have discovered that there is a Buddhist monastery with a strictly vegan Chinese restaurant near the giant outdoor Buddha. Maybe I’ll try that next.

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