Just like that, the sludge and grime, black pools and diesel air are gone. City ends, country begins and we ride right into it on an un-aircontioned â€œluxury busâ€ with Hindi movies playing on a flat screen. The
By the time we reach Kohora, the sun has set. Itâ€™s hard to get bearings when arriving in a new place after dark â€” but no worries. Our contact, a Nepali man named Keshab, is expecting us. He has arranged everything, and before we know it, heâ€™s shuttling us off in a van to our guesthouse up the road. Along the way, he points to a small building with warm light inside. â€œThis is your dhaba.â€
And so it is: the Pelican Dhaba cum Restaurant. Now, I’m notÂ going to make any lewd comments regarding the preponderance of a particular word that Indians love to use whenÂ a simple “and” would suffice. But this alternate word appearsÂ on signs everywhere — restaurants andÂ bars, pan shops and bakeries, museums andÂ souvenir shops. Make of it what you will. The Pelican, a homey little place with concrete walls and airy windows is the single spot we eat every meal in Kohora. We usually shop around, sample the offerings. But this time Pelican it is, morning and night. Itâ€™s convenient. Itâ€™s friendly. Itâ€™s clean. And the food is superb.
Itâ€™s local food, reflecting the amalgam of cultures in this neck of land where
The Assamese thali comes with dal and eight forms of vegetable, including a subtle pulverized spinach-like leaf, which is simple and pleasing and reminds me of food in the Kelabit Highlands of
And then, the pickle. Our dhaba has a very special chile and mustard-oil pickle â€“ nothing more, nothing less – which is sweet and smoky, and just the faintest touch is enough to set a plate ablaze.