Chennai Kitchen Indian Cuisine

Chennai Kitchen Indian Cuisine

This is what last night’s dinner at Chennai Kitchen here on Pan Road looked like. A few minutes earlier during my evening walkabout, it started to drizzle and I just barely made it inside before a torrential downpour flushed the sidewalks and streets. My place is just a minute and a half down the street, so I’d passed Chennai Kitchen on a daily basis and wanted to give it a go before moving on to my new digs.

I have mixed feelings about Indian food. On the one hand, it’s not something I often long for. But once I do eat it, very rarely am I disappointed. I’ve gotten a little sick a few times, which may explain my anxiety about choosing Indian before, say, Thai or Japanese.

I’ve been to the sub continent few times (but never Chennai/Madras) and love the chaos, colors and vibrancy of India. I was there most recently in April filming a beachfront yoga retreat in south Goa. During my stay, I enjoyed some of the best vegetarian food ever. The curry was spicy but never too hot and everything was always delightfully flavorful. Tasty food on a beautiful beach during a colorful sunset will inevitably add to most dining experiences.

Chennai Kitchen hasn’t exactly spent a lot of time on trivialities like interior design, lighting or tableware. The ceiling mounted florescent panels cast a dim, blueish glow across the small dining room which had four or five basic tables and chairs. But then again, guests don’t come there to appreciate the physical space of the family run restaurant. According to a huge flag hanging from the wall with the TripAdvisor logo on top and the word »EXCELLENCE« printed centerstage, the main attraction at Chennai Kitchen is undoubtedly the food.

As per usual, I asked my waiter (who might well have also been the owner) what dishes returning customers tend to order. He had no problems making a recommendation and ten or so minutes later, the tray you see above showed up. I know he mentioned lentils and tomato soup, and the rice was plain to see. But the rest? Who knows. But it was all very delicious.

fish tacos

Intermittent Fasting

I’m hooked on this intermittent fasting thing. In my current life phase, it seems to be the perfect fit. At its core, intermittent fasting isn’t a diet and therefore it’s not about what you eat – as long as it’s healthy stuff. Not at all. Instead, intermittent fasting is focused on when you eat and by association, how often you feed yourself. It puts a lot of conventional wisdom on its head. Which makes it all the more interesting to me.

I’ve been on a light version of intermittent fasting since I landed on Phuket approximately three weeks ago and have continued whilst here in Bangkok. I’ve lost roughly 4 kilograms of body mass since my arrival 20 days ago. It doesn’t show that much yet since, apparently, when your body burns fat, it starts from the inside and works it way out. Eventually the results of my new eating habits will be visible – even if you don’t own a pair of shiny x-ray glasses.

What I really love about this approach to nourishment is that I can eat more or less what I want, just not as often I used to. Since starting, I’ve been replenishing my body with plenty of water and I munch throughout the day on bite-sized pieces of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts – generally whatever’s plant-based and relatively easy for my metabolism to convert into energy. And I only eat one proper meal per 24-hour cycle. Sometimes I’ll eat lunch, but I tend to feel most content and sleep better after a wholesome dinner.

From what I’ve read, the basic philosophy of this fasting method originates from anthropological studies which have determined that since most of our ancestors (going back all the way to Lucy) lived in cirucumstances where food wasn’t so readily and abundantly available as it is today. To them, skipping a meal was not an option, it was a way of life. We, on the other hand, eat when, what and where we want to. Considering how minuscule many people need to move about physically in order to earn a living these days, and how that’s showing up as increasing levels of severe obesity and subsequent cardio-vascular and diabetes related diseases in some folks and both of which are plaguing the United States and now even folks in Asian countries, you have to be doggone ignorant not to see we need a healthier relationship to what we eat, how often and the amount of food we consume.

The food industry isn’t exactly resting on their laurels. For decades, they’ve had their eyes set on cashing in on our naiveté and gullibility. We’ve all read about how they’re doing their best to lure us all to eat more by lowering food prices, sneaking in taste enhancers, shelf-life proloning preservatives, sugars and artificial sweeteners as well as mind-fucking us with subversive marketing campaigns amined at persuading us to think that only by eating and drinking »diet” this and »light« that, will we enjoy a truly slim and trim healthy life.

Yeah, I buy into to the Intermittent fasting concept. And I am convinced that in general, we eat way too much, devouring so many calories during our awake hours, that our bodies are rarely given a chance to recover from trying to absorb the good stuff and cleanse out the bad – let alone burn off any excess fat. That is, unless we exercise strenuously several hours a week. But what happens when we for whatever reason can’t do that any longer? Say, due to an injury or age? Will we stop eating excessively? I didn’t.

Now, most people who know me or meet me for the very first time wouldn’t describe me as fat. On contraire, I often hear that I look healthy and in pretty good shape. At least for my age, whatever that means. Yet for many years, I’ve carried around a thick wad of belly fat that despite whatever I tried, I just couldn’t reduce it. I’ve boxed, jogged, played squash, lifted weights and most recently, done a ton of yoga. Nothing helped and I was on the verge of giving up. Heck, I rationed, I’m old enough now to be able to just give in and give up – accepting the way things are – as folks my age tend to do.

It doesn’t sneak in on everyone equally, but for me, once I hit 50, my metabolism went in to slo-mo. And because I didn’t adjust my calorie intake appropriately and didn’t increase or shift my exercise regimen to one that burned off more calories, I started putting on some weight.

As mentioned above, you tend to gain fat (and lose) on the inside first. So I didn’t notice the »acquisition« so much at first. But it’s been five years now and before I left Sweden for this trip, I weighed in at a hefty 78 kg. No, not obese by any stretch. But still about 5 kilograms more than I should have according to my age and BMI. And since I have a light case of rheumatism, unsurprisingly, all that extra weight added to my already aching knees, back, shoulders and neck during most daytime work related activities.

I’m feeling much better now, Dave.

And better yet, I’m getting really close to what seemed a lofty goal. By the end of this month, when I get on a scale somewhere, I should be a bit below 73kg or even less.

The shot above is from yesterday’s dinner at La Monita’s Taqueria in the Sukhumvit area. As much as I dislike that part of town, I’m not so disturbed by it that I can’t hop on a Skytrain and head down there for a basket of freshly made, crispy fish tacos topped with guacamole.
old lady with an analgue phone

Wasabi Complexity

Returned to Tuna Ichiban yesterday evening after my 10 k walkabout. There was a breeze coming off the Chao Phraya river and it ran straight through Silom Road as I walked up towards Saladeng (from Saphan Taksin BridgeI) to my new favorite Bangkokian eatery.

I ordered a very tasty udon noodle soup – which, incidentally, reminded me of the one my buddy Michael served up a while back – with seaweed. I also got a batch of crispy shrimp tempura, crunchy soft shell crab salad and five solid slices of salmon sashimi. Yes, it was a small feast.

As I’m still on my Intermittent Fasting project, this was my only proper meal of the day. So all of my rudimentary senses (touch, taste, sound, smell and, sight) were singularly tuned in and colluded to enhance the dining experience. As you can imagine, everything tasted just fantastic. Normally, I would of had some saké and a bottle or two of beer. But in all honesty, I didn’t miss either.

As I was sitting there with my small plates, bowls and the small rectangular side dish with a teaspoon or so of wasabi in it, I started thinking of the enormous amount of wasabi Tuna Ichiban must go through in week’s time. The place has been packed during both of my visits, so we’re presumably talking about double-digit kilograms of wasabi. And that’s just in one relatively small eatery in city with possibly 250 Japanese restaurants!

The upscaling boggled my mind and by the time I’d finished thinking of how big the vats must be in what is likely a humungous wasabi factory in an smog covered, anonymous industrial city in China, the logistics that go into distributing the zesty, green paste to umpteen sushi restaurants in Bangkok – and how that all trickles down to the tiny dish I had in front of me, I actually wished I’d had a nice cold beer in front of me.

Being a modern day consumer means taking a lot of really complicated stuff for granted. We expect, presume and trust that the lightbulb will turn on when we flick the switch, that the toilet bowl will empty when we flush it and the supermarket will be stocked with our favorite foods and drinks. We blatantly anticipate that  everything that’s part of our daily lives will always continue to be just that. But we give little regard to how the heck it got there or how something works in order to meet our expectations. The story behind, I mean.

And when there’s the slightest glitch, hicup, delay or missed expectation, we whine, get annoyed or worse yet, demand an explanation! It’s as if we weren’t so friggin’ clueless as we really are. I mean, if only we had insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes when we flush the toilet, turn on the light and reach for our organic bananas, we might be a bit more humble and appreciative as to everything we take for granted.

I worked on a project for IKEA several years ago where they were doing their outmost to dig up information on the stories behind some of the company’s older products. Stuff that were still part of the current range. The idea was to spin each story from an environmental perspective. But as it turned out, in most cases, there wasn’t much to go on. Memories had faded and very little documentation existed.

As I was walking up busy Silom Road yesterday evening towards my little rectangular wasabi plate, I walked past the lady above. Since she was using an analogue phone, the sight of her talking on it caught my attention. Though I remember our very first phone number on Alfred Street in Los Angeles (213-651-4215), I can’t recall when it was we ditched our landline in Sweden. Eight years ago? Nine?

Today is a dedicated gallery day with a ton of inspiration abound.

Rattanakosin Bangok

Hot Walkabout

I really love the bustling street life here in South East Asia. Though Tokyo’s one of my favorite Asian cities, its street life pales when compared with Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Bangkok. So many contrasts and interesting things going on.

Yesterday, I went for a 10k walk up Sathorn to the lush Lumpini Park and back via a little grocery shopping at the exuberantly ruinous Villa Market in Saladeng. Like the amateur I am from time to time, I planned my walk during the hottest part of the day and became so sweaty, that my white t-shirt soon turned gray with perspiration and stuck to my body like a second skin.

As I headed out, I immediately reflected on how hot it was. Instead of waiting for the midday heat to relent, I continued, reasoning that if I only pace myself and walk slowly enough, it’ll be ok and I’ll not sweat so much. But I soon realized there were two pivotal flaws with my logic. First of all, I can’t walk slowly and secondly, however abundant escalators are here, there is still no way for a mere mortal to avoid having to climb up a few steep stairs while walking in Bangkok. And even if I treaded ever-so carefully to the top of an overpass, with the temperate at 32 C, not becoming sweaty was never an option.

How the Thais maintain their cool all the while dressed in office outfits and suits, I do not know. They must have developed natural heat resilience genes that help their sweat glands tolerate much higher temperatures when compared with most westerners. You’ll certainly often here Thais complain about the heat, complaining about the weather is a universal thing. But I’ve never seen anyone nearly as drenched in sweat as I was during yesterday’s walk.

I’m going for my first ever yoga class in Bangkok this morning and will take my 10k walk later in the afternoon. When the sweltering heat has subsided a bit. The shot above is from one of my favorite areas in Bangkok, Rattanakosin. Which is also the oldest of the capital’s neighborhoods. More images from this fascinating city can be found here.

Tuna Ichiban Bangkok

Pan Rd & Tuna Ichiban

While Sweden voted in general, regional and local elections yesterday, I was exploring Bangkok again. I’m here to produce a couple of short editorial videos, continue with my »in progress« documentation of the endlessly beguiling area, Worachak as well as practice yoga and wait for Charlotte to arrive.

When we’re in the Thai capital, we usually set up base camp somewhere in the Sukhumvit area. Granted, it’s a convenient part of the city where a lot of restaurants, movie theatres, shopping malls and hotels are located. But staying in Sukhumvit also means having to deal with constant traffic jams, hordes of tourists and a myriad of dubious entertainment venues.

This time, I’m staying very local in the lo-fi neighborhood of Bang Rak, where I checked into a tiny hotel that I’d read good reviews about and that sits just off Pan Road – which runs between Silom Road and Sathorn Road.

What’s great about Pan Road is that it provides a unique local atmosphere without much fanfare – or, compromising. More less everything I need is right here or close by. There’s a couple of old school barbershops, two or three foot massage places, a few cafés, a dozen vegetarian restaurants and, the omnipresent 7-11 and Family Mart stores. The popular café and interior design company, Casa Pagoda, has a presence towards the Sathorn end and on the corner of Pan and Silom is the majestic, 139 year old Hindu temple, Maha Uma Devi, known also as Wat Khaek. Life here seems to be lived on the sidewalks, in the open shophouses and along the dozens of rickety snack carts double-parked just below the curb.

I’ve seen a half dozen or so hostels on both sides of Pan Road, next to residential buildings where a diverse range of business is underway in the ground floor shops. The closer to the Hindu temple you get, the more the businesses tend to offer prayer flowers, floral arrangmets and religious knick-knacks.

Pan is my new favorite road in Bangkok and yet another reason why I never tire of visiting this captivating city. But what really gets me excited when I think of Bangkok is still the enormous selection of really good restaurants. I don’t think anyone can even make an educated guesstimate of the total amount of licensed restaurans – let alone all those operating under the radar, so to speak.

As a pescatarian, I’m a little limited, but not disturbingly much. There’s plenty of vegetarian restaurants here, including the popular Broccoli Revolution. And at both of La Monita Taqueria’s two locations, they makes a fantastic veggie burrito stuffed with shrooms, freshly made guac and a bunch of greens. And let’s not forget all the sushi restaurants on the map here. Must be in the hundreds.

Last night, I finally got a chance to eat at what is reported to be Bangkok’s oldest sushi restaurant, Tuna Ichiban (ichiban is Japanese for number 1, but also means something that’s better than the rest). Not only was the food tasty and reasonably priced, the fact that they offered diner seating was an added and most welcome benefit. Especially since I wanted to take a few discreet food shots with Moment’s wide angle lens attached to my iPhone 7+ (of which the results you see above) without having to disturb any of my fellow guests.

I made my dinner selections from two dozen iPad pages after which a young woman from a small army of waitresses hurried to my booth to take my order. Within minutes after she headed off to the kitchen, a new waitress arrived with my first dish. I would easily pay a pretty penny/stang to spend just a few minutes filming in Tuna Ichiban’s kitchen. I’d like to think of it as being extraordinarily well organized, military style. The dishes above: Ichiban Sandwich (salmon), Avocado Lava (tuna) and a plate of mixed nigiri.

Tonight I think I’m going to eat at a well-regarded (on TripAdvisor, anyway) Indian restaurant near where I’m staying that specializes in vegetarian food. Or, I might just go back to Tuna Ichiban – stay tuned or stay tuna:d…


The Right to Choose

I like choice. I don’t need 55 different options, but a few is preferable. The video above from a cool cocktail bar in Malmö might seem off-topic for this post, but it was meant to help visualize choice.

And folks, if you’re in Sweden and carry a Swedish passport, today it’s time to choose. It’s election day in Sweden

I already voted on August 24 when I stood in the polling both and put three ballots in an envelope and then handed it over to a sweet older woman at  Kockum Fritid’s voting office. The lady checked my identity, registered my name on a list and then she put the envelope in a ballot box.

Regardless of what we think of the other parties, we are privileged to be able choose between several and vote for the ones we believe most in.
 Hopefully you will find one or more that represents your opinions and who gets the confidence of your vote.


Given the fact that democracy is failing in many countries today, the election in Sweden also fills a symbolic function.
By voting, you show that we believe in a free and open society, which in turn sends a very clear signal to the rest of the world that in Sweden, we safeguard our democratic right – and civil liability – to choose who we best think represents our views on how to manage Malmö, Skåne and Sweden in the future.
Tne

The Bikram Challenge

This morning I completed my Bikram Yoga challenge! I reached my goal of 10 consecutive days of 90 minute Bikram Yoga classes. To some, it might not seem that impressive. But anyone who’s ever practiced hot yoga will for sure know what I’ve been going through for the last week and a half.

Some bodies are easily bent. Like Tora in the video above that I shot earlier in the year at Altitude Meetings Black Box. But after 10 days here at Kata Hot Yoga, I’ve made surprisingly huge strides. Which in turn has translated into less aches and better overal posture.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Speaking of Greek food, which I appreciate as much as I do Thai and Spanish cuisine, here’s a photo of a classic crispy Greek salad on a gorgeous blue plate that I took during an assignment trip to the breathtakingly beautiful island of Santorini.

When I was living in Göteborg/Gothenburg back in the 1980s and 90s, during the period when I was painting, I’d venture from my apartment at least one a week to “Saluhallen” – an old classic food hall and market where I’d buy Greek Kalamata olives, feta cheese and a loaf of Hungarian sourdough bread at a small shop called Alexandras – owned by a fellow that went by the nickname of Elvis. Adjacent to the food hall was a warehouse where a company sold vegetables at wholesale prices. I’d return to my kitchenette where oil paints and unfinished canvases waited, with all the ingredients I needed to make myself a nice big Greek salad and a bowl of hummus. It was a simple life.

Back to Santorini.

I believe I’ve posted something about this before, but when we we’re there in 2016, we shared much of the sights and attractions with hundreds of Chinese tourists. Curious as to what so many folks from China were doing on Santorini in October, we asked around a little.

The explanation from a waiter at one of the restaurants we ate at a few times was nothing less than extraordinary. According to him, the island had for about a year or so been enjoying a tremendous boom which had in fact extended the tourist season with three months. The boom, the waiter continued, was thanks to an extremely popular romantic movie in China that ended with a young couple getting engaged or married on Santorini.

Personally, I’d never seen so many variations of selfie sticks or, gleefully smiling Chinese tourists, for that matter, as during our four days in Greece. More images from that trip here.

A collection of my work related food and drink photos can be enjoyed once you click here.

Bikram Yoga Film

Bikram Yoga Film

Slept well last night, despite having had a few too many Greek dishes at »Odysseus« a few blocks from here. Saran, Saam and their cute daughter Asia had never tried Greek food before, but genuinely enjoyed all of what Dimitri presented to us.

As I filmed during most of this morning’s class for an editorial video about hot yoga, I’ll be getting my 9th session done during this evening’s 7:00pm class. I’m still a little bewildered by how fast the instructions are delivered in Bikram Yoga. The total opposite of every other kind of yoga I’ve tried. In some of the standing poses – like the Eagle and the Tree – poses I am now after a week of practice able to hold with some dignity – the rapidness of instructions creates turbulence in my concentration which in turn nudges me off-balance from time to time.

However counter intuitive it may seem, I suppose it’s the combination of 26 poses, the intense heat, soaking humidity and verbal firestorm that will all work together to help me eventually summon the required laser focus I need to improve my postures.

Filming in a hot yoga studio was, as one might imagine, sweaty. I was there for about an hour using three different cameras (two stationary, two movable) and audio via a Zoom H6 recording unit. But it wasn’t the heat that presented the greatest challenge today. It was the mirrors. Trying to find angles and perspectives that didn’t reflect my image in the background somewhere, was not easy. But then again, who wants easy, anyway?


Kung Fu Pizza

When I was a kid growing up in the US, there was this tremendously popular western series called, »Kung Fu« that had a huge following among me and my friends. The show’s gauntly character, Kwai Chang Caine, was a wandering apostle of Chinese philosophy with a black belt in Kung Fu. He was portrayed by a the actor David Carradine.

The soft-spoken Caine used proverbs and aphorisms to solve conflicts that arose along his lonesome journey across the American Old West to find his half-brother. But where his fortune-cookie wisdoms didn’t persuade the antagonists, his lightning fast fists and feet certainly could – and some butt would be kicked in each episode.

Second only to reruns of “The Wild Wild West“, “Kung Fu” was a favoite I’d watch almost daily. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of when Caine was a young boy in rural China. Each episode would have at least one of those flashback scenes – seemingly shot with a soft lens or one that had been covered with a thin layer of vaseline – where a mentor at the Shaolin Monastery in Hunan Province where he was raised, would instruct the young Caine, referred to as »Grasshopper« in martial arts. More importantly, at least from my point of view, the mentor would emphasize that it was crucial the young apprentice be mindful of everything going on in his life; socially, emotionally, spiritually and, yes, culinarily.

For some reason, “Kung Fu” popped into my head while twisting and turning and bending my body to get to the correct configuration during one of today’s more gruelling poses.

It was my eighth consecutive Bikram Yoga class today and I suppose I momentarily lost my ability to concentrate at a 100% level. A while later, as I was regaining consciousness from Savasana (the dead body pose), I started to feel really hungry. I’d not eaten anything prior to the class and it was now almost 10:45. A wide range of food ideas started flowing over me. One of the first was pizza. I figured I could be generous and perhaps treat myself to a few slices of freshly baked pizza pie. If for no other reason, than to commentate my weeklong accomplishments on the yoga mat.

Like the next guy, I love pizza. Most people do. Pizzas smell good and if you’re lucky, they taste great, too. And a pizza is still a relatively inexpensive option when dining out.

Finding a really good pizzeria, you know, where the crust is thin, the dough chewy and the sauce zesty, can, however, be a big challenge. Quite frankly, I’ve not eaten many really good pizzas in my life and very few in Sweden. Pizzas do the job, fit the bill and fill you up…but it’s sort of the old emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Nobody seems to acknowledge (or, worse, care!) that generally speaking, pizzas are flavorless and made half-assed. Not even the most reputable pizzeria in Malmö makes a pizza worth an honorable mention – despite the wood-fired oven the owners claim makes their pizzas so fantastico. Honestly, they suck. A pizza is only as good as when there’s been some mindfulness poured into the dough, sauce, seasoning and toppings. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. People that run pizzerias, wherever in the world, seem only to be in it for the money. There is no passion. No mindfulness.

As I was slowly walking out of the yoga studio, sweaty as can be and still not sure what to eat (or, where), I came to the realization and conclusion that it would be extremely counter-productive to eat a pizza for lunch after a 90 minute workout. It would be like eating a half a loaf of bread.

On my up the stairs to my apartment and shower to cool off, I reasoned that if I’m going to be seriously mindful about what I eat, I need to look at the face value of my choices. And when it comes down to it, what is pizza if not baked bread covered with tomato paste, fermented milk (cheese) and whatever toppings. And as fulfilling as that may be, there’s actually very little nourishment in a pizza. It’s comfort food. Plain and simple. Sure, a pizza is usually easily accessible, you stuff your mouth with it, feel full and content (at times, painfully so) – and then a few hours later, whatever’s left of the pizza leaves your body without having done much for it.

Long story short (too late, I know), I ended up going back to the same place I’ve been eating at for the past week. A corner restaurant where I am served by the same sweet waiter (an older guy with a super-high pitched, Mickey Mouse voice), order the same exact dish (stir fried vegetables with tofu and steamed rice) and leave the same tip (10 baht).

Tonight, together with an old friend and his family, I’ll splurge a little and celebrate my culinary mindfulness – at Dimitris organic Greek restaurant.

The pizza above comes from a shoot I had for Smarta Kök earlier this year.