So this blog update is about my favorite topic on Earth - FOOD.
During my short vacation back in Mizoram, even though I was extremely tied up with stuff like celebrating Christmas and New Year with friends, family and community, going on a road trip to Kolasib to fish, renovating our roof and appointment at the auto-workshop, organizing a memorial service for a departed friend, going to three different weddings (blog update coming up), visiting the cemetery, CosPlay event and No Vehicle Day etc etc., I did manage to find the time to eat out.
Now even though I'm a big fan of eating out, nothing can beat home-cooked meal. Especially for people like me who stays outside Mizoram 90% of the time, eating authentic Mizo cuisine is a rarity. And that is why I gained 4 freaking KGs during my recent vacation!
In my Quora answer "What do people of Mizoram think about rest of India?" (which by the way, currently has an overwhelming 1,35,000 views, whoahhh!), I mentioned that we Mizos eat just two main meals a day - Breakfast and Dinner. Both are very heavy compared to the light breakfast others have across most parts of Mainland India. This is my breakfast in Mizoram.
The above food is simple, but it is made with love :) I live in a house where mom, my sisters and my nieces are all good cooks, so the only role I play during the process of family meal-time is the part where the food gets consumed :D Boiled smoked pork, roasted smoked pork, vawk lu bawl, bekang chutney, different types of bai, raja mirchi etc are what make Home feels like Heaven.
Also, it is the one place where we can fry bekang dishes like the one below without any fear of neighbours complaining :D :D :P
The same dish repeats again for dinner.
Now we do not have a concept of "lunch" in Mizoram. Instead, we call lunch time as "chhun thingpui in hun" (afternoon tea time) where we drink tea and eat light snacks. In my Quora answer above, I mentioned that one of the "light snacks" we eat is "one plate of noodles". And a couple of people commented, "How can you consider one plate of noodles as light?"
Yes, I apologize for not being clear enough. I forgot to explain that our "one plate of noodles" is much much smaller in quantity when compared to the "one plate of noodles" served at different Chinese restaurants across India. The noodles, or chow, that roadside tea stalls make is extremely simple. It is boiled, fried, and then mixed with a few herbs and sometimes served with egg topping and bawngsa soup.
Here is another roadside tea stall food we ordered – chow and sanpiau.
Sanpiau is basically a rice porridge mixed with different herbs and condiments, and it is very popular in our Mizo community.
Speaking of popular, I once mentioned about a Facebook group called "Where Aizawl Eats", where users give reviews of all the popular restaurants in Aizawl. In that group, members post photos of all the delicious food they had ordered from various restaurants in Aizawl, and from all the reviews I saw, there were these three places I really wanted to go to - Regency, Floria and Aizawl Club.
And fortunately, somehow I managed to find time to visit all three places for the first time during my recent short vacation :)
First up was Hotel Floria - Zamzo Grill & Kitchen.
My girlfriend and I decided to go there on a double date with our friend Thara and his girlfriend Eunice, who also happened to be my niece. Yeah that was not weird or awkward at all. If Thara was not my good friend, I would have never introduced my niece to him back when she was studying in Mumbai a couple of years ago. The first time he asked me for her phone number, I thought, "What a nice friend, he probably wants to buy his buddy's niece a nice coloring book or sketch pen set". Oh I was so mistaken!
Anyhoo, the four of us reached Floria around 7 in the night. I really liked the fact that I could park my car right in front of the Hotel, with the security guard assisting me. And unlike daytime when the place around it was crowded with parked two-wheelers, there was ample amount of parking space in the night.
The entire restaurant upstairs was also very spacious, and we chose the window table that had a very good view of the street below.
I really liked the way they mentioned "Long waiting" for all pizza orders :)
In terms of cost, yeah, the place was quite expensive. Pork ribs at 600 bucks, Fish & Chips at 400 bucks, yup it was definitely more expensive than most of the restaurants I had been to in Mumbai or Pune!
But the ambience and service were good, so I guess it was worth it. Polite waiters who knew the menu inside out, well-spoken and smart, and they did not hesitate a bit when we asked them for their recommendation. For "starters", we ordered chicken pakoda and prawns something, I don't exactly remember the name.
They were both excellent. They also had a very impressive list of mocktails, and I do recommend you try out the lemon one, you'll love it!
For the main course, I of course went straight for the pork ribs, while the others ordered beef steaks. Being a porkaholic, it was really hard for me to resist when the menu had pork ribs in it :D
The pork ribs was yummy and juicy, and I could find no grounds to criticize. Back at "Where Aizawl Eats" group, one of the main criticisms people had about the restaurant was the fact that they used our Mizo traditional "puanchei" and "puan ropui" as tablecloth. Well, to be fair, they weren't exactly using our original woven puan ropui as tablecloth, but rather the "print version" of it. But yeah, I could see how this would still make a lot of us uncomfortable…
Just as how men don't like it when they go to a woman's house only to find out the curtains on her sitting room has the same pattern and design as the shirt they're currently wearing, I'm sure women won't like it too when they walk inside Zamzo restaurant only to find out the puan ropui they're currently wearing is exactly identical to the tablecloth :D :P
Anyway, with satisfied stomachs, we decided to commemorate our great experience at Zamzo by taking a few photos inside Hotel Floria. The whole atmosphere had a very Christmassy feel all around.
And so that was my first experience at Zamzo Grill & Kitchen, Hotel Floria. And I'm really glad it turned out well.
Next stop on my agenda was Regency Hotel - Magnolia.
I went to Magnolia Restaurant @ Hotel Regency with my sisters, brother-in-law and cousin for the first time on 31st December. And frankly speaking, after having such a great experience at Floria, I was a bit let down at Regency.
The restaurant section was surprisingly very small and congested from the inside. And the tables were placed so close together that there was no sense of privacy - we could hear the conversation of all the other tables around us.
But on a positive side, the food was cheaper than Floria :)
We placed a barrage of orders, ranging from BBQ pork pizzas to beef burgers, club sandwiches, French fries and chicken sausage salad, and they were all truly awesome!
Even though the place was tiny, I really enjoyed the food. And the service was excellent too. The staff were cheerful and helpful, something that made our dining a great experience. Magnolia might be smaller than Zamzo, but in a way, I believe that gave it its own charm of coziness and warmth.
Now I'm not going to rate which restaurant is better since it was my first time at both Regency and Floria, and I only ate a couple of dishes, so all I can say is, both places are really good, do visit them both.
Our bill came to around 2.5k, and since it was my treat, yeah that was the part I didn't enjoy at all :P
Finally, the third place I've always wanted to go to was "The Aijal Club".
As Aijal Club is for members only, the only way non-members can go there is if they are invited for an event. And Lady Luck shined on me as my friend Ramdinpuia invited me to his son's birthday party there.
RD-a and I go way back, as his dad, the late Rev. Chanchinmawia was my LG in Vellore back when I was studying in Montfort School, Yercaud. Apart from that, RDa's a very close friend of my girlfriend and her sister, so the three of us went to the venue together.
Now I have seen many of my FB friends upload photos of their experience at Aijal Club. In those photos, they all seemed to be having a great time, and there were always photos of a large number of chicks dancing or merry making, especially if the person uploading such photos was Francis :D
But when we got there that day, the place was filled with kids, and mothers and fathers running behind their kids. Kids laughing there, kids crying here, kids everywhere. After all, it was a children's birthday party :)
We had a proper "hunserh" and there were many activities for the kids…
The birthday cake was really tasty too…
Being a first-timer at Aijal Club, I really liked the view from the terrace, the way it opened up to the traffic point and tennis court below.
And then, there was the infamous "green room" :) A spacious lounge where people could sit and chill and… you know what.
I was also extremely curious to visit the attached bar @ Aijal Club. Even though the sale of alcohol is now allowed in Mizoram (by government affiliated outlets), the bar at Aijal Club is apparently the only place in Mizoram where alcohol is legally allowed to be served!
And since only members were allowed to enter, RD-a took us in as guests. And so we entered the famous "Velvet Bar & Lounge".
The bartender was very professional too, and we chatted about business and other stuff with him.
The bar opened at 5 PM, and for the sake of remembering the occasion, we had one round of drink at the bar, just so that we could say, "I drank at Aijal Club, legally!" :D And after all, it was RDa's son's birthday party. Even Mami, RDa's wife, joined us.
Years later, when their son grows up and stumbles across my blog post, he's gonna think, "It was my first freaking birthday party, and mummy and daddy left me alone so they could drink at the bar upstairs!!!??" :D
We returned to the green room downstairs, where we "chatted" for a few more hours. Didina too was there, but since I promised not to write about him and his alcoholism on my blog again, I'm not going to mention it here. Love you bro. :)
Finally, it was dinner time. All the "grown-ups" with their children had eaten and left, so it was just "our peeps" eating.
The food was served buffet style. Edit: A foodie member from "Where Aizawl Eats" had just informed me that the attached restaurant at Aijal Club is "Curry Pot" restaurant. Thanx for the info, Hruaia Punte.
I liked the chicken + potato gravy the most.
And with that, I accomplished my dream of visiting three of the most popular eating joints in Aizawl.
Apart from those places, we also stopped briefly at Pemarin @ Millennium Centre. The main reason why we went there was because the place belonged to my good friend and school classmate Hminga. Apart from being close family friends, I had always wanted to see him in action at work. And yup, when we got there that day, he was busy as hell at the manager's desk. That was sooo unlike the Hminga I used to know years ago. "Useless Mizo" was what we used to call each other back then :D
He warned us that there was a long queue waiting and we might get our order late. We didn't care as we were just there to check out the place. I ordered mixed chow and DP ordered chicken chow, since she's an SDA and can't eat pork :)
And of course, Aizawl being a tiny place, we ran into many friends at MC. One of them was our dear friend from Mumbai Ben, who ended up at a table right next to ours! :D
Speaking of MC (Millennium Centre), this vacation period had been a foodie's delight @ MC as there were food stalls all around the complex. We hogged a lot, especially the momos at every stall, and frankly speaking, none of them could beat the ones made by "Blue Haven".
Blue Haven momos were awesomely yummy and soft. Their chutney was freaking spicy too, just the way we liked it. Momos from the other stalls weren't as great - some of them felt a bit too thick, while others tasted stale. And so we came up with our own theory on why Blue Haven had such better momos - because their restaurant was right across the street and they could get fresh supplies anytime. I'm sure we were not very far from the truth :)
Unfortunately, we didn't take any photos of the food. But like I said earlier, Aizawl is a very small place. While we were sitting in front of MC enjoying the food, some of my friends from misual.com took our photos secretly and sent it to our WhatsApp group! Imagine our surprise when we were just sitting there and suddenly I received a notification on my phone, and it was our photo! And we looked around everywhere but found no sign of the photographer. Kinda creepy too. This is the kinda stuff that makes a "Scream" type of thriller movie, if you really think about it! :D
Another new place we decided to try out was this Naga restaurant at Kulikawn.
The name of the restaurant is "RANSAM", and my friends who love Manipuri and Naga cuisine highly recommend it.
The menu looks quite affordable too, especially if you compare it with other Naga restaurants like Delhi's "Nagaland's Kitchen" and "Dzukou Tribe Kitchen".
Again we met people we knew, like Amy who ended up there with her family. Turned out, it was her cousin who owned the place, and so instructions were given to the chef to treat our order with utmost care and priority! :D
DP ordered the Chicken with mushroom and bamboo shoots. That came with rice.
I of course ordered pork ribs again :D
I was quite disappointed because it was not ribs :( I complained and the waitress apologized, but it looked yummy anyway and so I gobbled it up. :P
For the sides, we ordered egg salad, which was presented beautifully. And of course we also ordered the "Akhuni" chutney. Comon, you can't just go to a Naga restaurant and NOT eat Akhuni. Akhuni is love, Akhuni is life :)
Closer to my house at Chaltlang, I decided to try out this restaurant that my sister had been talking about for some time now - Matthew's catering.
Since I was spending a lot of my time with our rickety old Wagon R at the workshop, I stopped at the restaurant which was just nearby, and the food was really good. I had mixed chow, and I'd rate it 5/5.
Eventually, during my short vacation, I never went to any of the regular places I used to go to, like Cozy Den, Octangle, Curry Pot (the restaurant at Khatla), David's Kitchen, Aizawl Masala etc. This time it was more about checking out new places I hadn't been to before, based on the recommendations of "Where Aizawl Eats" FB group. I also didn't find the time to visit new restaurants such as "Red Pepper" that came up where "Silvermoon" used to be. Maybe on my next vacation. Overall, it was a very satisfying and memorable experience indeed.
But of course as I have mentioned at the very beginning of this post, nothing can beat home-cooked food. Like for example, enjoying a bowl of freshly prepared chicken soup with large pieces of meat at my girlfriend's house is a feeling no restaurant can substitute :)
Even simple desserts like pudding tastes even more sweet in the company of good friends and loved ones
And of course here is something you won't find easily in restaurants or even at this Mainland part of the country - a bowl of passion fruit, mixed with salt and chilli powder! Sllurrrrpppppp! After a heavy meal of smoked pork, this is the perfect "dessert" to have. And it does wonders for the digestion too.
So until then, Aizawl. Do keep eating and enjoying until we meet again. Cheers.