Every few years or so, another movie about going back in time to relive your high school years reemerges. The reason why this premise is eternally popular? Everyone wants to fantasize about fixing their youthful indiscretions. Because young people are boneheads. A case in point: me. I once dated a parachute pants-wearing Patagonia-phile who would listen to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” continuously on loop for days on end. Then there was the Gordon Gekko wannabe who could not let a day pass by without spouting a line from the movie “Trading Places”. Or the guy who took food from my plate without asking. Or the one who expected me to pay for everything. Or the one who liked to say “It is what it is.” Awful. Awful awful.
I didn’t know better then. And maybe I don’t know much now (after all, I did marry the guy who said his first gift to me was 50 percent off because he bought it at the last minute). But I do know more than I did before.
I don’t know much about Indian food, beyond the usual — butter chicken, chicken tikka, chicken tandoori, anything murgh-related, really. But there is an entire continent of delicious food I’ve been missing out on, much of it vegetarian. Deep-fried rings of dough made to be dipped in thick bean-based stews; hot discs of bread accompanied by pungent lime pickle and kidney beans; sword-like Indian “burritos” filled with spicy potatoes with a dollop of coconut chutney: these are things I’ve discovered only recently.
Where have these dishes been all my life? Hiding out, far away from the Northern Indian restaurants my family likes to frequent. Hiding out in places like Bangkok’s Pahurat district (also known as “Little India”), where many of the city’s Indian-Thais like to go for a quick bite of comfort food while replenishing their groceries, or picking up bolts of fabric. In a tiny alleyway to the left of Pahurat’s India Emporium (marked by the great samosa cart that I featured in my book) lies Punjab Sweets, a vegetarian Indian hidey-hole that not only sells delectable Indian desserts and sweet snacks, but which also harbors a small air-conditioned dining room hawking all manner of dosas, chickpea samosas, lentil stew with rice, and deep-fried wada with lentil soup. The storefront looks like this:
I found this place purely by accident; while looking for somewhere else, of course. I dragged friends halfway through the city intent on a noodle stand that we had passed by long ago — this is how I know I am slowly losing my mind. But it was for the best. Fading and a little hungry, hoping to take a load off but in no mood for a food court or a hurried bite under an awning at a street corner, we found this literal hole-in-the-wall towards the end of the walkway, and it was suddenly okay that I took us all on a wild goose chase. Slate cleaned. Not-so-youthful indiscretions forgotten. Tomorrow — when I would be older and, ostensibly, wiser — is another day.
(All photos by @KarenBlumberg)