Thursday, February 11, 2016

Food Diary of a Pure Vegetarian in New Zealand

EATING OUT IN NEW ZEALAND
FOOD DIARY OF A PURE VEGETARIAN 
By
VIKRAM KARVE 

A few days ago  I met some relatives and friends who were planning a vacation to New Zealand (maybe – they were inspired by our recent visit to New Zealand which we enjoyed thoroughly and praised profusely). 

While talking about our most wonderful visit to New Zealand  and describing the awesome scenery, breathtaking sights and stunning views, especially in South Island  the subject veered to food – and I began to describe the delicious cuisine I had enjoyed in New Zealand – and – a lady said to me: “You are talking about non-vegetarian dishes – I am vegetarian – in fact – most of us are ‘Pure Vegetarian’...

“Well – if you are a ‘Pure Vegetarian’ – you are going to have quite a tough time – especially when travelling in the interiors...” I said.

“We will carry some vegetarian stuff from here...” the lady said.

“You can’t carry any foodstuff with you...” I said, New Zealand has stringent Biosecurity Regulations. In order to protect the natural resources, plants, animals and people of New Zealand from the introduction of pests and diseases – New Zealand has strict rules about bringing food or animals into the country. So – if you are visiting New Zealand – as far as you are concerned  in a nutshell – this means that you cannot take any foodstuffs into New Zealand...

“Hey – your wife is a ‘Pure Vegetarian’ – how did she manage...?” someone asked me. 

“Ah  that is a good question...” I said, “I am sure you have seen pictures I posted on Facebook of the delicious food I enjoyed in New Zealand – but – did you see any pictures of food posted by my wife during her New Zealand trip...?

“Come on  you stayed in New Zealand for almost 3 weeks – surely your wife would have eaten something...

“Well – we stayed for quite some time in Auckland – and since our hotel room had a full-fledged kitchen unit – with fridge, microwave, hot-plate and utensils for cooking – our daughter got plenty of vegetarian tinned stuff for us too cook/warm and eat. But – it was during our travels – and – eating out – that my wife had limited options – so – on many occasions – feeling sad for my wife  I had to abandon my vow: “When in New Zealand Eat as New Zealanders do” – and – much against my wishes – I had to eat in New Zealand as Indians in India do...” 

It seemed that the pure vegetarian lady did not believe me – so – I said to her: “I hope you have better luck – but I have posted a piece on blog on the Foodie Travails of a “Pure Vegetarian” in New Zealand  – and – you can compare this with the New Zealand Foodie Pictures and New Zealand Food Diary  – and – this may give you an idea what you are in for...

I am tempted to write a detailed blog post in continuation of my earlier article Foodie Travails of a “Pure Vegetarian” in New Zealand 

However – as they say – A Picture is worth a Thousand Words”

So – let me post pictures of eating out dishes my pure vegetarian wife relished in New Zealand.

I searched the numerous foodie pictures’ I had taken during my New Zealand visit – and – guess what – I found only 12 pictures of the eating out dishes my darling pure vegetarian wife had relished during our entire New Zealand trip of almost 3 weeks.

(Lest you think that my wife ate only 12 dishes during the entire New Zealand visit of almost 3 weeks – let me remind you that – as I told you earlier  in Auckland – my daughter had got plenty of pure vegetarian “tinned stuff” like “Baked Beans/Spinach” etc – bread milk cereals etc – on which my wife managed to survive – and the foodie pictures below pertain to eating out vegetarian dishes only) 

EATING OUT FOOD DIARY OF A PURE VEGETARIAN IN NEW ZEALAND

A few days before we took off for New Zealand – our travel agent called up to confirm our arrangements.

During the conversation – I casually mentioned that my wife was a ‘pure vegetarian’.

The Travel Agent went into a tizzy – saying “it is good you told me – I will immediately book a ‘Vegetarian Jain Meal’ for her on the flight – and – what about you…?” she asked.

I told her that I was a ‘non-vegetarian’.

3 days later we caught the Korean Air flight from Mumbai to Incheon (Seoul).

My wife exchanged seats with me – since she wanted a ‘window seat’.

A few minutes later – an airhostess looked at our seat numbers – and stuck some ‘labels’ on top – near the headrest.

Soon – the ‘meals’ arrived.

My wife opened the foil – she looked at the contents suspiciously – sniffed – and said: “This smells like Chicken…”

I checked the label on her packet – it said:

“Code: HNML
Meal Name: Hindu Meal
Guidelines: Non Vegetarian Indian meal. Neither beef nor veal is used. Yet it contains other types of meat such as lamb, fish, poultry, and seafood…”

I checked the label on the meal in front of me – it said:

“Code: VJML
Meal Name: Vegetarian Jain Meal
Guidelines: Neither meat, poultry, fish of any kind, product with lard and gelatin, nor dairy products and eggs are used. No root vegetables such as onion, garlic, ginger are used. Meals are spicy Indian vegetarian combinations…”

“We exchanged seats – so our meals have got exchanged…” I said – giving my wife her “Vegetarian Jain Meal” – and taking my “Hindu Meal”.

(Since I was a novice flier – I was quite amused to learn that “Hindu Meal” meant “Indian Style Non Vegetarian Food” – of course – later – I learnt from veteran fliers that it was ‘standard nomenclature’)

So – here is the first meal my wife at a few moments after we took off and on all flights thereafter – a wholesome “Vegetarian Jain Meal”  



AUCKLAND

Our first meal in Auckland – while we enjoyed Flame-Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken at Nando– “Pure Vegetarian” wife had to make do with Potato Salad




CHRISTCHURCH

We flew down from Auckland to Christchurch by Air New Zealand on Christmas Morning. As we set out for food - we saw that the markets were totally deserted and we saw that all shops and restaurants were closed since it was Christmas Day. 

In India - generally - on festival days - markets/restaurants are kept open for the crowds - but here – in New Zealand - it is different - shops, restaurants - everything is closed for Christmas – even the Air Force Museum at Christchurch is closed on Christmas Day. 

There was only one restaurant open for lunch  Malaysia Delights - so we had no choice but to enter as we were hungry. 

The colourfully illustrated menu had a wide variety of non vegetarian dishes – lamb, beef, pork, poultry, chicken, seafood – but - I could hardly see any vegetarian dishes on the menu. 

In this restaurant – there was plenty of choice for non-vegetarians - various kinds of Oriental Cuisine - but - I was concerned about my “pure vegetarian” wife – what could she eat here?

I scanned the menu – and finally I found one vegetarian dish. It was featured under the section: “Roti/Paratha”: Roti/Paratha with Dhal (Vegetarian) – so - we ordered Paratha with Dhal (Dal) for my wife - and non-veg dishes for us two non-vegetarians - my daughter and me. 

The Dhal turned out to be a curry comprising a mixture of vegetables with lentils  it had a rich texture and attractive colour and looked quite tasty. However  the dish turned out to be very pungent  and my wife could not eat it and had to make do with a paratha (bread) which was extremely well made. 

Yes – that was all my vegetarian had for lunch – a paratha – while we gorged on delicious non-veg dishes.

In the evening - we found two more eateries open - a Fish and Chips place - and Egyptian Kebab House - where there was a veg item on the menu - so we decided to try out the place.

In India - if you order a plate of Kebab (Kabab) - you get a few pieces of roasted meat along with a chutney and a few slices of onions.

However - as we discovered - here - at Egyptian Kebab House - we got a generous plate comprising Kebab Pita-Bread/Rice + generous helpings of salads and sauces.

In fact - the helpings were so generous that none of us could fully polish off the entire Kebab plate - and even a foodie like me stood vanquished by the food.

Believe it or not – I was eating Egyptian Cuisine for the first time in my life – and that too in New Zealand…!!!

Here is a picture of Egyptian Vegetarian Kebab which we ordered for my wife (sadly – she did not like the taste too much)



BED and BREAKFAST” 

While we enjoyed the lavish Breakfast Spreads comprising fruit, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausages, cold cut meats et al – my pure vegetarian “Better Half had to make do with fruit and cereals with milk.



QUEENSTOWN 

Ever since we had landed in South Island – for more than 3 days – my “Better Half” was on a “starvation diet” – surviving primarily on Fruits, Cornflakes and Milk served in our hotel for breakfast (sadly – she could not enjoy the rest of the huge breakfast spread of eggs and bacon, ham, salami, sausages, cold cuts et al)

On our road trips too – while there were excellent non-veg snacks and food readily available – the only pure-vegetarian food we could get was cheese sandwiches. 

(Now – can one eat Cheese Sandwiches 24/7 – day in and day out?) 

Since “New Zealand Cuisine” comprising “red meat” (steaks, ribs, burgers et al) was out of the question – one evening – in Queenstown – I tried to convince my wife to have “Chinese” Veg Fried Rice and Veg Noodles.

But – just as we were going to enter the Chinese Restaurant – our darling daughter came up with a “Googly” – saying – that it was possible – that the food here would be cooked in lard (animal fat).

This dialogue delivered with superb timing put my wife off “Chinese Food” for the entire trip.

In desperation – we walked down to the nearest McDonald’s (just imagine – going to McDonald’s in Queenstown when the iconic Fergburger was just a few metres away).

We were astonished to learn that McDonald’s did not have a “Veg Burger” on the Menu.

Luckily – the Manager – who seemed to be of Indian origin – took pity on our predicament – and rustled up a “pure veg” dish comprising a bun with tomatoes and lettuce inside – which my wife hungrily ate – while we devoured our fulfilling meat and fish burgers.

It was 2 days later – on the evening of the 28th of December 2015 – that – things became “critical”.

It was “Sankashti Chaturthi” – and my wife was “fasting” the whole day – and she would break her strict fast at Moonrise – which was at 8:54 PM on that night.

So – though ours is an “arranged marriage” – as a “dutiful” husband – it was incumbent upon me to ensure that my “pure vegetarian” wife had a hearty vegetarian meal.

After doing a bit of “research” on some Foodie and Travel Apps on my SmartPhone – I hit the streets of Queenstown – trying to locate a restaurant serving “Pure Veg” Food.

I marched down Shotover Street – past the long queue of hungry foodies waiting for their Burgers at “Fergburger” – and then – I found the place I was looking for – there were 3 “Indian Cuisine” Restaurants in a row – with identical menus (placed outside on a board – as is the fashion there) – and yes – I was delighted to see an array of “pure vegetarian” dishes – including my wife’s favourite “Navratan Korma”.

Of the 3 restaurants – I chose “Tandoori Palace Indian Cuisine” – because  among the 3 eateries – “Tandoori Palace” was the most crowded place and almost all tables were occupied – and – most importantly – the happy looking ‘patrons’ seemed to be enjoying their food as was evident from the “happy” expressions on their faces.

And so – that night – we ate a “Pure Vegetarian” Indian Cuisine Dinner comprising “Navratan Korma” and “Tandoori Roti”.

Here is a picture of the “Navratan Korma” my Pure Vegetarian “Better Half” relished at “Tandoori Palace” Queenstown New Zealand.



Back to AUCKLAND 

So – after a rather frugal time in the South Island of New Zealand – pure vegetarian Better-Half was eager to make up for lost opportunities in Auckland but it was not to be – since – our first eat out in Auckland was at our Hotel Restaurant with some relatives – and while all of us enjoyed delicious non-veg cuisine like steaks and lamb shanks – pure vegetarian Better-Half had to survive on the only vegetarian dish available – a rather bland and lacklustre Veg Pasta which she did not like too much – see picture below:



FINALLY – 3 GOOD INDIAN MEALS IN AUCKLAND

After days of “starvation” – pure vegetarian Better-Half enjoyed 3 good Indian Vegetarian Dishes in Auckland – a Vegetable Korma at Shamiana in Newmarket – Paneer Masala at Ela Cuisine in Elliot Stables – and a Paneer Tikka Masala at Paradise in Sandrigham





Of course – for her “fasting” day – Better-Half picked up some Rajgira Laddu from a “Indian” grocery shop in Sandringham (aka Little India of Auckland)



While we relished the delicious fulfilling non-veg delicacies and top-class craft beers more than once at THE LUMSDEN FREEHOUSE in Newmarket  Better-Half” loved the Margherita Pizza here.



Better-Half” had to make do with Veg Fried Rice (confirmed that it was fried in oil and not made in lard) at SPICY HOUSE while we relished a variety of delicious chinese food



ANTIPASTO at the iconic One Bistro Café located in the historic former Ponsonby fire station – while we enjoyed the cold-cut meats and seafood – Better-Half” nibbled on the tomatoes and green vegetable with breads




POSTSCRIPT (An Afterthought)

Recently – I met a “globetrotter”.

He told me about all the places he had visited all over the world.

“So where did you visit last…?” I asked him.

“Turkey…” he said.

“Wow – so you must have really enjoyed exquisite ‘Turkish Cuisine’ – I am an avid ‘foodie’ – so please tell me – what all Turkish Foodie Delicacies did you eat..?” I asked him.

“Actually – we did not eat much of Turkish Food…” he said.

“How is that possible…? How can you go to Turkey and not eat Turkish Food…?” I asked.

“Actually we went with a “Yatra Company” – on a guided tour – and – since all of us “tourists” in the group were from India – they took us to Indian Restaurants for meals…” he said.

I was amazed.

My friend must have visited so many exotic places all over the world – but – since he always took “guided tours” – he must have eaten “Indian Cuisine” most of the time – instead of exploring the local cuisine.

Why go abroad – if you are going to eat Indian Food there…?


Apart from seeing the “sights” – isn’t exploring new cuisines an essential aspect of travel…? 

There is a saying: “WHEN IN ROME – DO AS THE ROMANS DO”

In my opinion – this dictum applies to Food as well.

When you travel – you must see the “sights” – but – you must experience the culinary delights of the place too.

Yes – an essential aspect of “tourism” is to explore the local cuisine.

So – let me paraphrase the maxim – and give you the foodie version of this saying:

WHEN IN ROME – ‘EAT’ AS ROMANS DO

And – if you are visiting New Zealand – you must follow the dictum:

WHEN IN NEW ZEALAND – ‘EAT’ AS NEW ZEALANDERS DO

But – sadly  if you are a “pure vegetarian” – who intends to visit New Zealand – you may land up following the motto: 

WHEN IN NEW ZEALAND – ‘EAT’ AS INDIANS DO


Happy Travels and Happy Eating


VIKRAM KARVE
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