Last week, I decided to call my friends over a dinner at the Taj in Mumbai to celebrate by two years of extended life after the Angioplasty.
The Taj Mahal Palace & Taj Mahal Tower are a striking blend of nostalgic elegance, rich history and modern facilities.
Masala Kraft is the specialty Indian restaurant at the Taj Mahal Palace. The cuisine uses ground spices and traditional recipes with a blend of culinary innovations. Masala Kraft features an array of menus including the Masala Mumbai Tiffin.
I booked a large table where we could accommodate 8 of my Page 3 friends. Everyone arrived in time, well dressed and perfumed.
“Good choice of the restaurant”, my friend who lives on the Nepean sea road said, placing the napkin on the lap
Friend from the Italian Consulate asked for a wine list. After some discussions with the waiter (sounded in Italian) she ordered a bottle of Barbera. This versatile wine of Italian origin but now widely produced in California is not as popular as Merlot. But it contains very high levels of resveratrol and offers similar health benefits, according to a comparative study. The grapes used seem to contain very high quantities of another phenolic antioxidant called trans-piceatannol.
“I am ordering red Barbera, in case you are tempted to. Research does suggest that red wine could help in blocking the formation of fat cells. This is because of the presence of compounds called Flavonoids in red wine, which inhibit the oxidation of LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) otherwise known as bad cholesterol. Flavonoids are plant compounds called polyphenolic antioxidants that come from the seeds and skin of grapes. But I would not recommend as the evidence on the benefit of red wine to the heart is not still conclusive and the debate is ongoing”. She asked the waiter not to place wine glass on my table. “Have a ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) instead”. She sounded a bit apologetic.
“Come on – not for Dr Modak, my Dr friend from Jaslok Hospital said. “His HbA1C level is already at 7.5 and he needs to stop eating anything with sugar”.
The term HbA1c refers to glycated hemoglobin. By measuring glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), clinicians are able to get an overall picture of what our average blood sugar levels have been over a period of weeks/months. For people with diabetes, like me, this is important as the higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. To be good, you should be close to 6.
“Let us examine the Menu” said my doctor friend putting on the glasses on as if he is reading a pathology report. He turned the pages of the Menu and hit straight on the Healthy menu page. “For you, I will recommend one of the mains from here” He said. I looked at the Healthy menu and thought that these mains were not interesting.
“Well, I am going to start with Kombadichi Kadi (a rustic chicken curry with coconut). My cholesterol is good – so no worries” said the Pathologist.
I felt envious but realized that all my friends were seriously taking care of my health. They sounded really concerned.
I said” Let me then order the Masala Mumbai Tiffin – Veg version. It looks tempting”
“Oh No, Dr Modak, that’s not good for you. The tiffin starts with Farasan(made out of chickpea flour – fried and crispy) and ends with Shrikhand (fermented reduced milk with sugar)! Terrible for you given your health condition” Said my friend who is regular at the Mumbai Marathons. “Instead I will recommend that you take a soup like Tomato and Santre ka Shorba (Tomato soup with Orange) that is healthy and will fill your stomach. For me, I am asking for Laknavi Seekh (coarse lamb mince skewered kababs from Lucknow)”
My mouth was watering when he spoke about the kababs. I took a deep breath and sighed.
“This kind of soup is no good for you Dr” said my friend from Times Now in a tone that as if it was a breaking news. These folks put a lot of salt (unknowingly) and that can upset your salt balance. Its OK for people like us – but certainly not for you. I wouldn’t recommend”. I could see that he probably had a bad experience of having such soups in the past.
“Ok then why don’t I hit straight to the main and ask for Lasooni Palak (spinach tampered with garlic) with a combination of two phulkas (puffed Indian bread with home ground wheat)” I fought back.
“Good choice, garlic is good for the heart and Palak contains iron and helps in raising the hemoglobin” My friend who runs a Yoga clinic at the Lokhandwala complex said.
“Well, in that case I will ask you to eat only Lassoni Palak without any phulka. Wheat contains gluten and that’s not good for you” said my friend who just arrived from the United States after a long stay of 30 years. “We are sharing a Masala Craft Paraat Pulao with Jheenga (curry layered with aromatic basmati rice with prawns)” He said this in an American accent and looked at his wife who readily nodded. I felt jealous
“Perhaps it may good if you have just have two pieces of Nachni Phulka (puffed Indian bread made with red millet) with matki dahi (yogurt in a clay pot). The person who least spoke all this time now said. I think he retired from Indian Administrative Service (IAS). These folks generally speak the last or have the last word.
“I won’t recommend this option Dr Modak, this means you will only have 600 calories. Not good given your total recommended intake of 1800 . You must not starve”. My friend who was regular at the Gold Gym on Linking Road retorted. “Well in my case I am going to order hot Gulab Jamun Yogurt (dumplings of reduced milk soaked and baked with sweetened yogurt). By the way, I work out over 2 hours every day”
Wow, I realized that all my friends were going to have a great time at the Masala Craft (at my cost) and me, the host, was going to be starved.
To end this ping pong of advices, I asked for Kashmiri Khahwa tea (a blend of green tea leaves with saffron strands with cinnamon barks and a cardamom pod), saying that I actually have an upset stomach. This led to some more discussion.
“You can have two full cups Dr. Its very healthy” My friend with Italian embassy said in a comforting tone while sipping the red Barbera.
When we ended our dinner, I said good bye, thank you and good night to all my friends. When I was sure that everybody had left, I walked to Bade Miya behind the Taj that serves delicious street food. After reading some adverse Trip Advisor reports on the poor hygiene in company of stray dogs, I had avoided visiting this otherwise famous place. But today, I was desperate.
Mohmed Gaus, the co-owner greeted me “Dr Modak, long time no see! We thought we lost you!!”. He yelled at the boy and said “Please get our esteemed guest, a plate of Seekh Kebabs, Butter Chicken and two Roomali Rotis – the usual”
“It’s not unhealthy for me I suppose?” I asked Mohmed.
He smiled and said “So far you enjoy eating Dr Modak. Life is too short to live”
Was he right?
I thought of asking my well-wishers when we would meet next
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